Monday, August 14, 2017

Thoughts on Charlottesville

The alt-right hate groups who caused so much terror, death and destruction in Charlottesville over the weekend are horrible enough. And then there's the extreme center's castigation of what they derisively and falsely call their "alt-left" counterparts.

White supremacists shouting anti-black, anti-immigrant and anti-Semitic slogans had converged to protest the imminent removal of a statue of confederate General Robert E. Lee on the grounds of the Virginia university founded by slave owner Thomas Jefferson. They were confronted by democratic socialists, anarchists and other social justice groups who'd traveled to the quiet college town to show solidarity and bear witness. 

There has to be a reason that police stood by and let the two groups battle it out in the streets before they finally intervened. It was to give the TV audience watching at home the opportunity to see that "both sides do it." Lookee here, folks, socialists are the same thuggish thing as fascists! So before one young woman got killed and many others injured by a road-raged young neo-Nazi, the violence was dutifully portrayed as a  "clash" between two equally unruly groups. If an alt-right man threw a punch, and a leftist defended him or herself, it was caught on camera so that both could be chided for resorting to violence. Maybe they would just cancel each other out in the eyes of the great moral majority, and go home so that the proper anti-Trump resistance of the Democratic-Neocon alliance could get on with the more seemly outrage and virtue-signalling. 

Although centrist criticism of the leftist counter-protesters has now become suitably muted in light of the fact that one of them - a white female Bernie Sanders supporter, no less - was actually killed, the liberal punditocracy had been saying the exact same things which they are now criticizing the shocking Donald Trump for saying: that "many sides" act egregiously.

Right before Saturday's terror attack, corporate Democratic groups were actually goading young leftists, mocking them as probably too cowardly and basement-bound to ever don a pink pussy hat and join the astroturfed Clintonoid "resistance" movement against Trump. Writes Shuja Haider of Jacobin:
The morning before the rally, Mieke Eoyang, vice president of the National Security Program at centrist think tank Third Way, tweeted, “If the Bernie Bros wanted to make a show of force on behalf of progressive values, Saturday in Charlottesville would be a good time.”
Neera Tanden, president of liberal think tank Center for American Progress, turned disdainfully to her left later that day. “We have actual fascists marching with torches. Maybe everyone on the progressive side could focus on the enemies of progress in front of us,” she tweeted. “We’re ready for you to join us Neera,” one young activist responded. Tanden’s response was to ask him to condemn “those on the alt left who want to join with the fascists.”
If it had been Hillary Clinton supporters who were attacked by a Nazi sympathizer with a vehicular weapon, I think it's a good bet that their biographies would be cause celebre for a massive outpouring of corporate news coverage and fundraising appeals. But the New York Times, to name just one, never even mentioned in its bio-piece about the murdered Heather Heyer that she had been a Sanders supporter. It doesn't fit their prescribed identity politics Narrative. As a matter of fact, in a separate Tweet, Times reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg remarked that "the hard left seem as hate-filled as the alt-right."

Meanwhile, down at the more staid Netroots Nation's annual convention, which wound up over the weekend, the agenda was The Russian Infiltration of Our Democracy™️. The prescribed resistance at the Atlanta meeting was not against fascism, but against any and all criticisms of the Democratic Party's Russophobic propaganda. If I were a conspiracy buff, I might even suspect that the NSA and the CIA have infiltrated what used to be an independent group of progressive activists and bloggers. From Politico: 
The question of alleged Trump campaign collusion with Russia looms especially large here. In the hallways and on side panels, activists and organizers are resisting the guidance of party leaders who worry about overplaying the Russia issue at the expense of others that may matter more to voters. The message from the grass roots? We’re not going to stop talking about President Donald Trump and Russia.
“Not only is it a false choice, it’s a really limited choice,” said Democracy for America Executive Director Charles Chamberlain of the common refrain that Democratic candidates and groups ought to focus on issues like health care rather than the investigations. “I get it when people are frustrated when they feel like all they’re hearing is, ‘Russia, Russia, Russia…[but] it actually isn’t a distraction: It’s actually critical for our democracy.”
Chamberlain wasted no time, therefore, sending out an email blast in which he used Donald Trump's remarks about Charlottesville as the perfect fund-raising hook. How quickly Russia is forgotten! Now we should give this Democratic veal pen group money to show how united we are in (artificially narrow) righteous indignation against Trump's failure to call out white supremacists. It is absolutely critical for the Democratic Party to co-opt the same events that it deliberately chose to ignore in favor of Russia, Russia, Russia. (Not least because their backfiring pro-Clinton propaganda has seemingly infected so many "grassroots" minds to the point of no return.)

Hate and righteous anger are being falsely equated by far more sources than just the odious Donald Trump. As usual, the establishment is bursting its seams with its own, glibber versions of the same old platitudinous jingoistic boilerplate. (Love Trumps Hate; This Is Not Who America Is; Let the Healing Begin; Thoughts and Prayers; War Is Peace, etc.)

That being said, the emboldened, no-hoods-needed neo-Nazi movement is absolutely being aided and abetted by Trump's dangerous rhetoric, more bullhorn than the usual right-wing dog whistle. He is simply using the resentments of bigoted young white men the same way he is using the plights of the coal miners and the veterans and the fragmented labor unions: to further cement his own power. An administration composed of Wall Street bankers, bloodthirsty generals and fascist ideologues is his dangerous way of triangulating against traditional institutions, not least of which are the United States Congress and the entire federal court system. The courts have thus far balked at his unconstitutional directives and desires, the Congress not so much. So where there's gridlock, there's at least a little hope left for what is still left of our democracy.

Meanwhile, membership in the Democratic Socialists of America is skyrocketing. As a result, there are already worrying signs of infiltration by establishment Democrats, who'd also tried to co-opt the Occupy movement before the camps were torn apart by Democratic mayors, and the solidarity splintered, and the co-optation rendered moot.

While supporting such measures as universal health care and standing up to Trump-inspired fascism, there is, tellingly, nothing on the DSA website about resisting American wars and imperialism. 

And what is the American military's aiding and abetting of multinationals high on capitalistic crack but fascism? What are the bombings and occupations of faraway countries and their darker-skinned people anything but racism?

*****

Note to readers: I'll be away, so few to no postings in the next two weeks. I'll still be checking in regularly to moderate and publish your comments.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Sounds, Furies, and Nothing-Burgers

Just hours after publishing my previous post on the media going crazy over the dearth of news coming out of Trump's New Jersey golf club, he obligingly made them even crazier by seeming to threaten a nuclear attack on North Korea. Or, as he colorfully put it, "fire and fury like the world has never seen." That would presumably include Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and it definitely surpasses the Mother of All Bombs which he recently dropped on some old CIA tunnels in Afghanistan.

Trump apparently believes mainstream news reports hinting that North Korea already possesses full nuclear capability, which it does not. He should really be more careful about all the news he consumes on CNN, which is going even crazier than usual ginning up the fear and paranoia in its viewing audience.  According to the latest polls, more than half of Americans now believe that a preemptive attack on North Korea would be just fine and dandy.

Propaganda absolutely works. Never underestimate was passes for intelligence in generous chunks of the consuming population, a large sub-chunk of whom don't even know where the Korean peninsula is on the map. Even so, 72% of those questioned in a CBS poll declare themselves to be "uneasy" about the situation after watching the requisite approved programming. This programming includes breathless reporting from Hawaii, complete with nuclear warning siren soundtrack. CNN's Wolf Blitzer acted downright disappointed that officials from the American military base/possession of Guam are so sanguine in the face of North Korean threats. The island's governor seemed more interested in touting Guam's tourism industry than in ducking for cover. Come on over, the water's fine.*

If you were thinking that the press and the Democratic-Republican-Neocon alliance would be condemning outright Trump's inflammatory rhetoric, you would be thinking very wrong. The general consensus is that although The Donald indulged in verbal conduct unbecoming a president, he is nevertheless deserving of praise for bellicosity extremely becoming of the American Empire itself. Trump may be more neon-con artist than ideological neocon, but as long as he gets with the program, some of his harshest critics are suddenly letting bygones be bygones.

Relentless Trump critic Senator Lindsay Graham, for one, is suddenly mellowing out in near-ecstasy at the mere prospect of more American aggression, even if it would cause the deaths of many thousands, perhaps even millions, of people:
 Graham said the president’s remarks are in line with the only reasonable approach to dealing with the Kim regime and that many of those criticizing the president have had previous opportunities to deal with North Korea and failed to do so. A North Korea armed with a nuclear missile capable of striking the U.S. is unacceptable, Graham said, because “I don’t believe our missile defense systems are that good.” 

As such, Graham said the U.S. must be prepared to strike North Korea if it obtains such a weapon, a step some believe the Kim regime has already taken, or if it attacks the U.S. or its allies.
“His rhetoric yesterday, I think, is a change that is probably necessary. Everybody who spoke before him failed,” Graham told Hewitt. “Every smart person on TV who talks about what Trump should do, when it was their turn to deal with North Korea, they failed miserably. There’s no place for him to kick the can down the road.”
What philosopher Alain Badiou once wrote about the French right-wing populist Jean-Marie Le Pen applies just as well to the bloviating overreactions to Trump's bombast:
"He is like the hideous spectacle of what one is oneself, but taken to its extreme, or proclaimed rather than hidden.... Do these people really like deprived immigrants, workers, sick Africans, war fraternities and enthusiastic political adventures, that is, everything that stigmatizes their electoral nightmare? There is nothing to warrant believing it. Instead, just as they have always done, moderate profiteers veil the chronic violence that shelters them from the real world, and the vast anonymous masses with proclamations of love. But when someone declares, in all its rawness, the very thing their comfort presupposes, the thing they consent to in silence, or through lies, they cry out that enough is enough, and they won't have any part of it."
This is also true of the liberal outrage over Trump's admittedly cruel immigration policy. Despite his inflammatory rhetoric over "bad hombres" and the like, it was in fact the more debonair and glib Barack Obama who set a deportation record the likes of which the United States has never seen.

As reported in Politico this week, the deportation rate has slowed down under President Trump. 
From Feb. 1 to June 30, ICE officials removed 84,473 people — a rate of roughly 16,900 people per month. If deportations continue at the same clip until the fiscal year ends Sept. 30, federal immigration officials will have removed fewer people than they did during even the slowest years of Barack Obama's presidency.
In fiscal year 2016, ICE removed 240,255 people from the country, a rate of more than 20,000 people per month.
In fiscal year 2012 — the peak year for deportations under Obama — the agency removed an average of roughly 34,000 people per month.
Obama knew when and how to keep his mouth shut about his real agenda and accomplishments (deportations, bombings, arms sales to despots, drone assassinations, corporate giveaways, sweetheart deals with Wall Street criminals) while still talking a good humanitarian game. Trump keeps braying out the inhumanity which has been the de facto policy of the United States all along. It makes the important people feel very uncomfortable, at least until the desired result - war, war, and more war - is achieved to everyone's comfort and complicit satisfaction. 

 ***
In other news, (H/T annenigma) the New York Times was forced to issue a correction to its blockbuster front page scoop that Trump might try to block the release of a scary "new" report on climate change. It turns out that the report in question has been available online for the past eight months.  As I wrote the other day, the newspaper weirdly slanted the story around pure speculation into the president's thought-processes. The report itself was just a hook all along, with its actual content achieving only secondary importance. Now we know why. It's not the climate change that they really care about - it's keeping the anti-Trump media hysteria alive. Facts not fitting the prescribed Narrative be damned.

The Times recently got rid of its entire copy-editing desk, which used to go over every story with a fine-tooth comb before publication, looking for errors in both fact and grammar. Oops.

*Update, 8/12: In a phone call with Guam's governor on Friday, Trump also touted the island's tourism industry, much to the pseudo-shock of CNN and the professional indignados of the media-political complex. What, they never heard of disaster capitalism before?

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Might As Well Face It, They're Addicted to Trump

The New York Times is so obsessed with Donald Trump that it headlines a scary new report about climate change, not as a scary new report about climate change, but as about the clear and present danger which The Donald represents in possibly - possibly! - withholding his official imprimatur.

Frankly, given that any document bearing Trump's signature is suspect on its face, his failure to sign the new report might actually be a very good thing. It will get a lot more attention without his outsize paw-print obliterating the fine print. It'll be a lot like the lists of condemned books and films that the Catholic Church used to display in the vestibules. Before even hitting the holy water font, we'd make a beeline for the latest report. We were that eager to learn what was forbidden us, and then we'd promptly perform our own extended searches in the public library and in newspaper movie listings to gobble up all the forbidden fruit we would not otherwise have known about.

So what is it that Trump allegedly doesn't want us to see? Get out of our way!

Since the media apparently has forgotten how to cover any story without inserting a Donald Trump angle into it somewhere, anywhere, they are nevertheless persisting in doing him the honor of making everything all about him.

"Scientists Fear That Trump Will Dismiss Climate Change Report" blares the Times and most other news agencies today. Therefore, fear not the premature dying of yourselves, your children and the planet. Worry instead that Trump is so magical that his mighty Tweets will a) speed up the process; and b) convince everybody that they are not sweating more than usual during this Summer of Hell.

Who knew that such a doofus could be so powerful as to actually control our thoughts? Methinks the mainstream media doth protest too much, especially seeing as how the actual report has successfully eluded Trump's slimy grasp. So much for the totalitarian suppression of facts under this fascistic regime, which has thus far proven itself mighty inept in the barn door-closing department.

The media is really having a hard time of it now that Trump is vacationing so far away in exotic New Jersey. They're so used to being the supporting actors in his show that performing their anti-Trump soliloquies minus the comforting backdrop of the press briefing room is jarring. They're scrambling to insert Trump into stories which have nothing much to do with him or for that matter, with us. They assume that the American public is as addicted to Trump trivia and drama as they are.

Due to the lack of any real news emanating from Trump's golf club during these dog days of summer, the Times was even impelled to publish a piece in which four - four! - of its critics "weigh in" with snarky suggestions on what he should watch on TV during the next couple of weeks. (Hint: one of the shows centers around the obsessive-compulsive disorder of its protagonist. Pot/kettle much?)

The newspaper has also started publishing a regular feature curating all the late-night show jokes about the Trump show. I read in today's Times that last night one of the hosts quipped about Trump making a peace deal with some golf course gophers. I'm too lazy to go looking for the links link myself, so Google it if you must.

Times columnist David Brooks is so obsessed by Trump that he devoted a full column to how obsessed he is by Trump. At least it's funnier than the gopher story. An excerpt:
Now a lot of people are clearly still addicted to Trump. My Twitter feed is all him. Some people treat the Trump White House as the “Breaking Bad” serial drama they’ve been binge watching for six months. For some of us, Trump-bashing has become educated-class meth. We derive endless satisfaction from feeling morally superior to him — and as Leon Wieseltier put it, affirmation is the new sex.
According to a recent Harvard study (which somehow has also mysteriously escaped the all-powerful Trumpian clutches), the mainstream media devotes almost half of all its space and air time to Trump.

From Poynter:
The report portrays a media that was initially solicitous to Trump, later more critical and, now, distinctly combative. And, all along, he was fascinating and clearly a positive influence on ratings and circulation, especially on the digital side of elite newspapers.
"Our studies of 2016 presidential election coverage found that Trump received more news coverage than rival candidates during virtually every week of the campaign. The reason is clear enough. Trump is a journalist’s dream."
"Reporters are tuned to what’s new and different, better yet if it’s laced with controversy. Trump delivers that type of material by the shovel full. Trump is also good for business. News ratings were slumping until Trump entered the arena. Said one network executive, '[Trump] may not be good for America, but [he’s] damn good for [us].'"
The report serves as a window, too, onto the mentality of journalists — in ways that might ruffle Fox News and other exemplars of conservative conventional wisdom in portraying the "mainstream" press as driven by liberal bias.
"Although journalists are accused of having a liberal bias, their real bias is a preference for the negative."
Trump is so ridiculously easy to cover. All that reporters need to do is set their alarms to beat the competition to the early morning Tweets. Barring that, they can regularly stick their microphones right into his obliging face when they're not passively lapping up all the creamy leaks gushing from anonymous sources both within and without his administration. I wouldn't be surprised if some of the leaks were coming from The Donald himself. He has, after all, been known to impersonate his own publicists. 

If Trump is impeached, indicted or resigns, the media will be deprived of the best drug it ever took and the best drug it ever dealt. The crash and burn will be epic, especially when we all wake up to the early morning mug of the oh-so-sober and oh-so-dangerous Mike Pence.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Krugman: You Can Have Single Payer Health Care When You're Dead

Despite the palpable spike in my blood pressure whenever I read something by Paul Krugman, nevertheless I persisted.  And the ensuing pounding sensation in my ears this morning did not disappoint.

In a piece ironically titled "What's Next For Progressives?" the star New York Times pundit suggests that we stop being so damned unicorny and fight for universal pre-K as a worthy substitute for the impossible dream of maintaining our lives and livelihoods when we get sick or hurt.

Not that he personally has anything against a single payer health insurance system, of course. It's just that such a program would be too hard to sell to anti-government Deplorables.  It's just that a public program would put all those private insurance executives and claims adjusters and rent-seeking lobbyists out on the street. Or should I say, out on The Street?

No, it's simply that the desperate people insanely clamoring for a single payer program are unreasonably forcing Democratic politicians to take a litmus test for purity. Making candidates promise Medicare for All would essentially be inviting them to lie, and goodness knows, they don't want to also be faced with a lie detector test should they have the amazing good luck to win any more elections on their feeble incremental platforms.

On behalf of the Clinton-Obama wing of the party, Krugman chides:
So it’s time for a little pushback. A commitment to universal health coverage — bringing in the people currently falling through Obamacare’s cracks — should definitely be a litmus test. But single-payer, while it has many virtues, isn’t the only way to get there; it would be much harder politically than its advocates acknowledge; and there are more important priorities.
What could possibly be more important than life and good health, you may ask?

Why, saving the predatory insurance cartel which helped save Obamacare by altruistically pushing back against Republican repeal, of course! Blue Cross/Blue Shield saved the day for Blue Cross/Blue Shield. Let's give three cheers for the oligarchy.

Also more important than the lives and well-being of 330 million American citizens is the convenience of those who currently obtain their insurance through their employers. No matter that a program like HR 676 would require no effort, automatically enrolling everybody, Krugman claims to be worried that transitioning from private to public would cause a massive outbreak of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder among the current beneficiaries of for-profit coverage.
Moving to single-payer would mean taking away this coverage and imposing new taxes; to make it fly politically you’d have to convince most of these people both that they would save more in premiums than they pay in additional taxes, and that their new coverage would be just as good as the old.
This might in fact be true, but it would be one heck of a hard sell. Is this really where progressives want to spend their political capital?
As economist Robert Frank and others have demonstrated, this premiums vs. taxes argument doesn't hold water. But Krugman not only refuses outright to discuss the specifics, he dismisses them out of hand. He doesn't tell his readers that for one thing, administrative costs for a government run insurance program would only be two percent of the total budget, as opposed to the six percent costs of running a for-profit system. Further reducing costs would be the government's ability to negotiate lower prices for drugs and other services. And most important, a Medicare for All plan would be virtually repeal-proof. If everybody enjoyed the same benefits, the divide and conquer politics of resentment would be a thing of the past.

So Krugman pulls the old bait and switcheroo. If centrist Democrats (he calls them  "progressives" solely for purposes of propaganda) can't deliver on single payer health care, perhaps they'll get some political mileage from pretending to care about Our Children. Krugman has suddenly discovered that "we" neglect the nation's children. But rather than suggesting a living wage and/or guaranteed income for their parents, an increase in food assistance, a federal jobs program and subsidized housing, he tosses out the crumbs of pre-K and paid parental leave.

My published response:
Health care is either a basic human right, or it isn't.

Incremental improvements to, and more public funding of, our for-profit predatory health care delivery system are not going to cut it. A system in which some lucky people are insured and some are not is, in fact, the very antithesis of social and economic justice. It's health care apartheid.

Whatever happened to "justice delayed is justice denied?"

Krugman maintains that it would be "too hard" to educate people that paying premiums, via taxes, to a centralized government-run Medicare for All-type system is fairer and cheaper than paying premiums to private corporations whose CEOs make obscene salaries and whose wealthy investors suck profits from the pain of ordinary people.

Krugman is squandering an enormous opportunity from his popular perch in the op-ed pages to do some of this educating himself. Of course, his claim of "impossibility" is not true at all. According to most polls, between half and two-thirds of the American populace already support a single payer system.

So he should have titled this piece "What's Next For the Plutocrats Running the Place?" As established by Gilens and Page in their Princeton study, it's the rich donor class which despises the idea of true universal health care.

The only "progress" the billionaires care about is the progress of their own wealth and their own dynasties as the chasm between rich and poor grows wider by the day.

The rest of us can't wait. Single Payer or bust.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Let Them Eat Birth Control Pills

"Could we just have some birth control down here?" sniffed Mayor Michael Bloomberg's enormously wealthy and enormously tone-deaf schools chancellor in 2011 after touring an overcrowded building in one of New York City's poorest neighborhoods. Cathie Black was also so enormously unqualified for her job that Bloomberg was forced to assign another person to do her actual job for her. Unlike the oligarchs and family members in Trump's administration, however, she only lasted a couple of months before her mayoral pal reluctantly threw her under the proverbial limousine.

Especially with Donald Trump and the Republicans in power, it's getting increasingly hard out there for the good rich to get America's increasing numbers of poor women to stop breeding poor children - for whom both the good rich and the bad rich have been slashing food assistance, housing aid, subsidized child care, cash grants,  and other safety net programs over the past four decades.

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof gives it another concern-trolling try anyway in his latest column about how "Americans" are letting mothers die at a greater rate than in all other civilized countries.  To find out why "we" are letting this happen, he parachuted down to Houston to hang out with the president-elect of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists..
My day with Dr. Hollier underscored that there’s one very simple and inexpensive starting point: Help women and girls avoid pregnancies they don’t want. “You can’t die from a pregnancy when you’re not pregnant,” Dr. Hollier noted.
Almost half of pregnancies in America are unintended. And almost one-third of American girls will become pregnant as teenagers. (Meanwhile, President Trump slashed $213 million in funding for teenage pregnancy prevention programs.)
The underlying message of Kristof's piece is that if you are poor and pregnant, you have done something wrong. You either got pregnant out of your own carelessness or laziness, or you got pregnant because Donald Trump cut off your birth control. Nowhere in his piece does he highlight an underpaid mother who gives birth to a planned, loved and much-wanted child.

 He does describe one Latina woman who went off the pill for just a few months as now "bulging" with a full-term pregnancy.

Because he chose Texas, maternal death capital of the nation, he naturally highlights his column with another high-risk mother with a Spanish surname who has already undergone three C-sections. Cue the xenophobic outrage, cue the Kristoffian scolding. We've got to keep those culture wars alive!
 Some of you readers are thinking this is outrageous irresponsibility. But we should also look at society’s irresponsibility in failing to help all women and girls get access to long-acting reversible contraceptives, or LARCs.
Kristof has just given cover to the actual policy-makers of our de facto oligarchy. Aside from the eminently detestable Trump and his cabal of dour misogynists, the names have been changed to protect the guilty. From "we" and "America" he shields all the other power players behind the anodyne "society." Kristof just cannot or will not admit that the rich political donor class running the place are loath to part with even a small part of their wealth to help take care of the less fortunate. And those less fortunate include every man, woman and child whose well-being plummeted even as the top One Percent scraped up 94% of all the wealth recovered since the 2008 economic collapse.

Kristof is pulling another Cathie Black. In essence, he writes that policy-makers should address the shameful maternal mortality rates in this country, not by protecting mothers and children throughout their lives, but by actually reducing the motherhood rate itself.

Washington Post columnist Catherine Rampell  (Phillips-Andover Prep/Princeton Legacy) puts it even more bluntly. Notice all the neoliberal buzzwords in just this one little paragraph:
But giving low-income women more control over their own fertility also promotes economic security, educational attainment, income mobility and more stable environments for American children. Not to mention deficit reduction (two-thirds of unplanned births are paid for by public insurance programs, which is why government spending on family planning has a high return on investment ); and abortion reduction (40 percent of unplanned pregnancies end in abortion).
  There's a name for this: Eugenics-Lite. True, it's a lot more nuanced and politically correct now than it was in the original movement's heyday in the 20s and 30s, when the poor, minorities and the "feeble-minded" were often sterilized against their will. Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood, herself had a love-hate relationship with the eugenics movement. To its credit, Planned Parenthood does not sugarcoat her history, even going so far as to condemn a speech she once gave to the Ku Klux Klan.

Although women are rarely sterilized against their will, it does still happen to incarcerated women, and was an especially widespread egregious practice in California prisons until quite recently.

Women lucky enough not to be in jail for the crime of being poor or addicted or indebted are urged instead to get with the program of "investing" in long-term contraceptives, the better for our betters to "empower" us. They proudly point to their own special selves as inspirations, for having had the good sense to make financial sacrifices, to control themselves and delay having their own children until they were very firmly established in their careers. Best of all, they carefully chose partners who are as intelligent and as well educated as they are. (For more on this philosophy, see my post, Pity the Poor Upper Middle Class).

In other words, if you're working your butt off at $9 an hour in front of a Walmart cash register, don't count on ever getting financially secure enough to become a mother. Even the "controversial" bill proffered by the most liberal Democrats for a $15 dollar minimum wage is not nearly enough for one person to live on, let alone a mom and child.

Today's liberal class is telling underemployed and underpaid women that they can feel safe and prosperous simply by getting an IUD inserted into their wombs. This is as insulting in its own smarmy way as sadistic Republicans telling us that we have no choices and no right to any medical care at all.

Here is my published response to Nicholas Kristof's column:

Nobody is more hateful or dangerous to women than a man worried about his own virility. Thus does Donald Trump anxiously monitor his testosterone levels at the same time he goes about demeaning women in a hundred different ways.

There's a big fat Texas redneck just beneath that Rogaine-enhanced New York comb-over. Why else pick a doofus like Rick Perry as energy secretary? Low-T anxiety, that's why. Don't mess with Trump and his ilk, ladies, or they'll find more ways to mess with you than cutting off your birth control.

The only part of the human life-span they care about is the nine months we spend in the womb. After that, it's hasta la vista to the Have-Nots.

Meanwhile, Kristof's antidote is unnecessarily weak. Rather than increased "access" to contraception and prenatal care, what we really need is Medicare for All, or single-payer health care. Sadistic states like Texas would then be helpless to turn back the clock, given that fully 100% of the population would be contributing beneficiaries.

Despite having some of the highest maternal (and infant) mortality rates in the "civilized" world, the US also has the highest per capita medical costs. The mortality rate is also rising for middle-aged women, while general life expectancy for Have-Nots who reach the age of 60 is less than it used to be.

Being pro-life must also include improved housing policy, living wage /guaranteed income, subsidized child care, enhanced food assistance, strong public education, and an end to our destructive wars.

Monday, July 31, 2017

What the Hell Happened?


Her Real Self

You may have heard that Hillary Clinton's "highly anticipated" new book is due out in September, so set your countdown clocks to Zero Hour and get buzzed on all the buzz. From what little has officially leaked out so far, Hillary will portray herself as a circus acrobat with no other safety net than her stash of hundreds of millions of dollars:
 In "What Happened," the former Democratic presidential nominee will discuss the roles of former FBI Director James Comey and Russia in her loss to Donald Trump, according to sources familiar with the book.
“In the past, for reasons I try to explain, I’ve often felt I had to be careful in public, like I was up on a wire without a net. Now I’m letting my guard down," Clinton writes in an excerpt from the book's introduction.
Why the declarative title What Happened, as opposed to the interrogative What Happened? Or for that matter, What the Hell Happened? 

In an exclusive interview with Sardonicky, Hillary explains it all in her own words. (The following remarks were lightly edited for something resembling clarity.)
  I chose What Happened because it sounds so authoritative. Put a period on it, it's done... by me, Hillary Clinton. Nobody puts Baby in the corner. What, you were expecting Great Expectations or something? No cobwebby old Miss Havisham jokes from the haters of the vast right wing conspiracy, thank you very much.  Plus, if I made my book title into a freaking question, I would then be forced to answer it, not to mention inviting more tiresome debate. But if you really insist upon knowing, the only possible answer is: Shit Happened. To me, Hillary Clinton, not to the citizens of this country. I will do just fine with my long walks in the woods and my slugs of fine wine.
Of course, if I really wanted to be truthful, I would call it Bullshit Happened. And if I wanted to be really, really truthful I'd put it in the present tense: Bullshit Happens. After all, I am the one writing this book. And since the unproven trope "Russia Meddled in My Campaign, a/k/a Our Democracy" will be a main theme of my book, I will probably leave out the part where my DNC operatives mysteriously refused to let the FBI investigate our computers, lest evidence of an Inside Job destroy our whole Putin-Did-It narrative. Especially now that this narrative threatens to start World War III.
 If I wanted to be really really really truthful, I would also admit that I am paying (depending on sales and if he's very lucky) one of my former speechwriters to write my book for me. We've been flying back and forth between coasts at regular intervals to collude, I mean collaborate.
 And I wasn't about to call it Something Happened, because that is a brilliant, albeit forgotten, novel by Joseph Heller. Although it is fiction, it is way, way more honest than anything I could ever bullshit my way through, even if my very life depended on it. As a matter of fact, if you read Heller's book, you will discover that his satiric observations on bullshit come bleakly and uncomfortably close to who I am and how I ran, or didn't run, my campaign. For example, in the following section, Heller perfectly captures how Team Clinton put way too much stupid faith in polls giving me a 99% chance of winning, and how we relied on outdated demographics and algorithms instead of paying attention to people's real problems:
We had no way of knowing whether the information on which we based our own information was true or false. But that didn't seem to matter; all that mattered is that the information came from a reputable source. People in our market research division were never held to blame for conditions they discovered outside the campaign that placed us at a competitive disadvantage. What was, was - and they were not expected to change reality, but merely to find it if they could and suggest ingenious ways of disguising it. To a great extent, that is the nature of my own work, and all of us worked closely with the sales department and the public relations department in converting whole truths into half truths and half truths into whole ones.




  In any event, Something Happened (!) is far too exclamatory and singular, and it implies that only one bad thing happened to spoil my victory dance. Since I am Hillary Clinton, and I have whole shitloads of blame to lob at so many people, my book will be about the many many horrible things that happened to the singular woman who is me, Hillary Clinton.
 Unfortunately, the title A Singular Woman has also already been taken. It's the biography of Obama's mother, Ann Dunham.  I am also thinking of blaming her, simply for having spawned the first man with the effrontery to steal the presidency from me. But you'll just have to wait for September when the book comes out to find out how much ink I will actually spill on direct Barry-blaming. (Hint: my publicists have already planted the story that No Drama Obama deliberately ignored RussiaGate before my publicists thought to invent it mere days after I lost my second election, to Donald Trump, whom my publicists had planted in the press as one of the Pied Piper candidates it would be a cinch for me to beat.)
 But Goldwater Girl that I am, and for purposes of the austerity (for others) which has been my whole life's work, I am sticking to What Happened, Period. It gives out the perfect whiff of control and personal agency while also passive-aggressively absolving me, Hillary Clinton. of any accountability for my decisions. It also leaves enough space on the book jacket for a photo of me for a possible second and last printing. For now, though, we're going with the appropriately stern plain vanilla look. My publicists were leaning toward that now-iconic silhouette profile, which sends the message of a singular woman who holds her nose very proudly in the air so as to avoid actually looking at such things as middle class voters. So stay tuned. There may be multiple covers available to mirror my multiple reinvented public personae. One thing I can promise my readers is authentic high grade glossy paper milled from genuine dead trees.
Meanwhile, since I'll be heading out to the Vineyard and/or the Hamptons in the next couple of days, you won't see me in the woods around your neighborhood. But not to worry. I will be hard at work putting the finishing touches on the galleys. I will work my heart out for you, and continue my SuperPac fundraising for other centrist Democrats as they tout their new inspiring slogan, A Better Deal.
As my beleaguered millionaire pal Nancy Pelosi said just the other day, it's not the Democratic Party's de facto agenda of steak for the wealthy and crumbs for the poor that matters - it's the way that they put out their message. "We'll be making not a course correction, but a presentation correction," she announced.
It's not the economy stupid after all. It's the propaganda stupid.The main course of the feast for the Haves will stay exactly the same.
That is such a profound observation by Nancy I might even fit in my book somewhere, most likely in the acknowledgment section. That's the part, after unloading brick by brick my entire shitload of blame, where I air-kiss my myriad donors, celebrity fans, and enablers. It will take up at least a third of the entire book. This will give my memoir the appearance of intellectual heft and thereby justify my charging an outrageous sum of money for it.
We corporate Democrats are walking a mighty fragile tightrope these days. The danger is getting swept away by our own virtue-signalling.  When "they" go low, we go so high that we get oxygen-deprived sometimes. I don't mean to say that's a bad thing, because our enthusiasm for tiny incremental solutions becomes so contagious that it usually infects enough of the people at least some of the time. We only lost about a thousand national and state seats in the past decade, after all.

So as I so coyly teased in my leaked preface, we always run the risk of completely losing our balance performing such a multitude of verbal stunts as we seek public office. Especially when one is as clumsy as I was/am in the trickery department. And, channeling Joseph Heller again, when we lose sight of the fact that our bullshit is bullshit, we start relying too heavily on our version of the truth. We forget that the Big Lie has to be constantly honed to achieve maximum effectiveness. We get lazy and sloppy and self-satisfied, even after we lose one here or there. We nobly walk in the woods of our estates and guzzle our Chardonnay and attend many Broadway shows to prove to other wealthy members of our class that we're okay and smarter than the average bear.
Nonetheless. we have trouble distinguishing between the private positions we share with our patrons and donors and colleagues in the global finance capital cartel and the public positions we share with the hoi polloi. We become focus-grouped and poll-tested and trial-ballooned out of all rationality and meaning. We get so confused, that when we do get caught out in a lie or a grift, we have the chutzpah to channel Honest Abe and compare our paid speeches to Goldman Sachs with Lincoln freeing the slaves.
 We become mere ghosts, diminished to dictating our bullshit to ghostwriters.
Of course, that is far more honesty than my reputation as Warrior Victim Queen could ever possibly bear. 
Did I forget to request that this conversation be off the record? I did? Well knock me over with a Scaramucci feather! When I wrote in my teaser of a preface that I'd be letting my guard down and forgoing the safety net, I must have mistakenly meant what I said for once in my life.
What the hell.?!.?!

Friday, July 28, 2017

The Gray Lady Flinches

The New York Times did at least three interesting things today.

First, they censored star liberal columnist Paul Krugman, whose piece trashing Senator John McCain was posted almost simultaneously with John McCain becoming the deciding vote to kill TrumpCare, or as it's more commonly known, Skinny Bill. Krugman's column suddenly and mysteriously disappeared from its usual prominent spot on the top right home page.*

No matter that Krugman's observation that McCain is a fraud is true, or that the vote was obviously made to give cover to another misanthropic GOP senator whose reelection chances in his miserable state would be endangered if he gave his donors even the appearance of liking poor people. The narrative of today is John the Maverick and John the Brave Dying Warrior. And Krugman's opus simply didn't fit.

So the next chapter in The Narrative will probably be another righteous call for bipartisan "moderates" to make Obamacare even more friendly to those who stand to make continuing profits from it. More efficient and subtler legislation to punish regular people will, no doubt, have Fighting John McCain's name on it somewhere, and a signing ceremony might even be orchestrated to coincide with the funeral. Because let's face it, had John McCain voted for Skinny, his chances for a banal, interminable, bipartisan Reagan-esque sendoff in the Capitol would be skinny to none. 

This is not to say I don't still think that Paul Krugman is an opportunistic shill for the corporate wing of the Democratic Party, and a boring one at that. Despite his professed zombie horror of Republican antics, he has studiously and callously ignored the overwhelming popular clamor for Medicare For All. He really boxed himself into a corner last year when he lambasted single payer proponents as a bunch of unicorn-seeking, jammy-wearing Berniebros who wouldn't know a cost-benefit analysis from a hole in the wall.

***
On to the second thing that made the New York Times flinch today: the FBI arrest of Debbie Wasserman Schultz's (D-FL) IT guy as he tried to flee the country with millions of dollars in ill-gotten cash. The very fact that this story is mainly being covered by right-wing and/or independent media and ignored by the mainstream is cause enough to doubt its importance and veracity, says the mainstream media.

The Times is no exception, and right in the headline it announces that the only reason it's touching this nothing-burger at all is because Donald Trump is making a big deal over it. And despite its horror of all things Trump, the Gray Lady is never so flinch-ridden as to wantonly ignore the advances of Donald Trump!

 Granted, I don't know the facts of this story myself -  nobody seems to - so I'll just take the opportunity to make fun of how reporter Nicholas Fandos bends over backwards to defend DWS. Even though Imram Aman was arrested and charged with bank fraud, the case linking him to cyber-spying is still ongoing - therefore, according to the Gray Lady's little gray cells, it naturally follows that it has to be built solely on alt-right fantasy. Really, people! If the savvy Times has no evidence, how can there be any evidence?

The newspaper is treating it as a kind of inverted RussiaGate, where of course no evidence is ever needed and where no arrests or indictments need ever come to pass in order for it to qualify as unfake news.

Anybody involved in a crime who has access to or works for either DWS or Hillary Clinton is simply all the proof you need that the vast right wing conspiracy is still out to get them. If a crime or investigation is even so much as reported by a right-leaning outlet, Fandos implies, it cannot by definition even be a crime:
To hear some commentators tell it, with the help of his family and a cushy job on Capitol Hill, Mr. Awan, a Pakistani-American, had managed to steal computer hardware, congressional data and even — just maybe — a trove of internal Democratic National Committee emails that eventually surfaced last summer on WikiLeaks. It helped that the story seems to involve, if only tangentially, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Florida congresswoman who is the former chairwoman of the committee and an ally of Hillary Clinton’s.
Something's happening here, but what it is ain't exactly clear, so Fandos muddles on: 
Some basic facts appear to be clear. Mr. Awan had been employed by the House of Representatives as an I.T. specialist since 2004 and his wife, two brothers and a friend began similar work in subsequent years. Over the years, he contracted to work part time for more than a dozen Democratic members of Congress, including Ms. Wasserman Schultz. The work, Mr. Gowen and congressional staff members said, was mostly run of the mill: setting up new phones and computers, fixing printers, helping aides and members reset passwords.
After the authorities briefed lawmakers about the investigation this spring, the legislators began to cut ties one by one, citing concerns about appearances or an abundance of caution.
Ms. Wasserman Schultz held out, arguing that until there was credible evidence, she saw no reason to terminate a longstanding work arrangement.
Debbie is such a kind and beneficent employer that she didn't fire Awan until the FBI had him in cuffs. She was forced to do it. Wasserman Schultz, who has previously had no qualms about the government's targeted assassination program, mass deportations and incarceration of immigrants in private prisons in her own state, is suddenly concerned about due process for an employee with access to sensitive data having been under active FBI investigation for months.

Fandos describes Debbie as the poster child for right/left conspiracy theory victimhood. He even implies that despite solid evidence to the contrary, she did not really manipulate the primaries to favor Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders.

And just because Awan worked for the chairperson of the DNC doesn't mean he crossed the line from his official job in Congress:
Xochitl Hinojosa, a spokeswoman for the Democratic committee, called the suggestion “laughable.”
“He was never employed by the D.N.C.,” she said. “The U.S. intelligence community has concluded that Russia was behind the D.N.C. hack.”
Case closed. Minds slammed shut. All the intelligence you'll ever need comes to you courtesy of the CIA, the NSA, and the FBI. And if you say otherwise, you're a Russian stooge if not a Kremlin collaborator. 

***

And now, third and last, but not least: how can the Gray Lady cover Trump's new potty-mouthed communications jerk without making foul language the centerpiece of its actual story?

Delicately and flinchingly, of course.

Although the headline of the article by gossip columnists Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman teasingly intimates an "uncensored rant," all we initially get is more censorship. You'll have to use your imagination (or click on the link in the lede) if you want to know exactly what the Gray Lady considers to be "vulgarity-laced language." Either that, or plod through a lot of moralizing before finally getting to the rant itself.

 To delay the inevitable and give their squeamish piece that exalted Times flavor, the writers insert some gratuitous Biblical imagery as a form of proper foreplay. Before being informed that the Mooch brags about masturbatory gymnastics, we are asked to delay our titillation and ponder this: Is Scaramucci Cain, or is he Abel?

Do we care? Because if the Times can't blast out dirty words with the same gusto and at the same frenzied rate that it dishes its standard Trumpian dirt, what journalistic good are they? Their click-bait cred will only suffer if they censor.

*Update: Krugman, after several hours M.I.A., revised his column in a way that doesn't clash too severely with The Official Narrative, and it has been duly restored to its original pride of place on the home page. As long as crusty old McCain "did the right thing in the end," all is right - and I do mean right -  with the Media-Political Complex. 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Trump Bans Transgender People From Military

Cue the outrage: Donald Trump has decreed that transgender people will no longer be allowed to don the uniform of the proud American military. He did so not by executive order, but by tweet.

This, according to the Huffington Post, is a "stunning reversal" of the benign policy of Barack Obama, who'd humanely allowed all genders the joy of operating joysticks to anonymously kill thousands of innocent people as the unfortunate collateral damage of his tolerant targeted assassination program.
The move was wholly unexpected. It’s not clear why Trump decided to announce such a significant policy change via Twitter or when it would take effect. His timing is also odd: He shared the news in the midst of Senate Republicans’ high-stakes fight to repeal Obamacare this week.
Trump claims he made the move after consulting with military experts, despite the Pentagon lifting the ban on transgender service members in 2016 after an exhaustive review of its military readiness policies.
“Our mission is to defend this country, and we don’t want barriers unrelated to a person’s qualification to serve preventing us from recruiting or retaining the soldier, sailor, airman or Marine who can best accomplish the mission,” then-Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said. “We have to have access to 100% of America’s population for our all-volunteer force to be able to recruit from among them the most highly qualified — and to retain them.”
Note that while Trump's order is decidedly gratuitous and craven, issued only for reasons of attacking his predecessor, demeaning transgender people, pandering to homophobes, and privileging weapons over medical care, it comes just one year after Obama himself had finally decided to do the liberal, "honorable" thing. Obama's belated nod to transgendered troops was one more political ploy to brand both his legacy and his side of the War Party with a cynical window-dressing of human rights logos. His gesture came far too late to ever become fully implemented. If Obama really cared about transgender people, he wouldn't have allowed such inhumane treatment of whistle-blower Chelsea Manning before he, for his own legacy-burnishing purposes, finally granted her some long-overdue clemency.

Right-wing Republicans naturally are giving Obama some much needed cover by condemning him, not for war crimes, but for what they stupidly perceive as the contamination of good Christian soldiers by transgendered troops:
 “I applaud President Trump for keeping his promise to return to military priorities ― and not continue the social experimentation of the OObama era that has crippled our nation’s military,” said (Family Research Council) president, Tony Perkins. “The military can now focus its efforts on preparing to fight and win wars rather than being used to advance the Obama social agenda.”
I mean, America can't go around invading countries and maiming and killing people without the traditional levels of hormones and sets of chromosomes, can it? Bombs are so much deadlier and drones are so much more accurate when virile men are at the controls. 

Next thing you know, the crotch grabber-in-chief will do another horrible number on Obama's legacy and ban women from combat.

Trump is very likely peeved that he can't do much more to coddle his fellow predators in the military, however. Despite statistics showing that military rapists usually go free while their victims suffer retaliation, Obama steadfastly refused to take sexual abuse cases outside the chain of command. This was despite overwhelming evidence that rapists in the armed services are serial offenders: they go on to commit their crimes over and over again.

So I don't think Trump would ever go so far as to ban women from joining the military. The prey must always be at the ready for the convenience of what he oafishly calls "my military."  

But never say never. Forced by a GOP Congress into choosing between his precious Wall and the rights of historically oppressed American citizens, it seems that he'd rather maintain fear of an Outside Other than honor his campaign promises to what many people still view as an Inside Other: the LGBTQ community being only the latest scapegoat. Chelsea Manning is right. Donald Trump is a consummate coward.

I'm afraid that it will be a cold day in hell before some future president tweets out an order cutting the Pentagon budget by 90%, putting an end to all the wars and the largest military force and largest arms dealer the world has never known.

Ultimately, it will be irreversible climate change that puts an end to everything, with the latest psychopath in the White House becoming the least of the planet's last gasping worries.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Kushner Does Seinfeld

Just because it looks like collusion, sounds like collusion, stinks like collusion doesn't necessarily mean it's collusion. At the very worst, as Jared Kushner laboriously intoned in a bland prepared statement, his meet-up with two or eight or ten Russians was standard canoodling procedure.

 Since no actual quid pro quo has been established, it was simply a variation of the misunderstood Seinfeldian nose pick.


In case you're not a fan of that other hit TV show about narcissism and nothing, that was the episode where Jerry's girlfriend thinks she sees him picking his schnoz at a traffic stop. He insists that he was only scratching the side of his nose and not actually digging for gold. Can a person not twiddle? "I did not pick. There was no pick.  I did not pick!" Seinfeld insists. "It was clearly on the outer edge of the nostril!"




"I did not collude. I did not collude!" Jared insists. (He's way too bland, boring, and well-bred to perform an actual indignant snort.) "All of my actions were proper in the normal course of events in a very unusual campaign.




If innocent nose-scratching can be mistaken for gross picking, so too can mere proximity to shady characters be misconstrued as something shady. Outer-edge schmoozing in the process of digging for Hillary dirt is perfectly normal when one is embroiled in such a rarity as an oligarchic carnival barker having the chutzpah to run for national elected office. It was only side-digging, folks! Appearances happen. So if you see anything untoward, you obviously need an eye exam as much as Jerry Seinfeld's accusers do.

(And if you, like me, thought you heard Kushner say in the above clip that he likes to work on imported matters rather than on important matters, then he'd probably tell you that you need a hearing aid as well as glasses.) 

Just as Jerry denies that he was seeking a bodily channel for his wayward finger, Jared scoffs at the notion that he'd ever use a back (ugh) channel for his own wayward habits and acquisitions. As a matter of fact, he drawls, he was so bored by the whole meeting that he couldn't even find his own way out of the hole he'd dug for himself. He's had people to clean up after him his whole life. Therefore, he admitted, he had to frantically email an underling to come up with an excuse for him to leave.

 What a clever, stand-up guy.

Since Jerry Seinfeld never takes questions from the audience during his stand-up routine, Jared Kushner followed suit and left the stage immediately upon completing Monday's deadpan performance before the Washington press corps. If you think he bombed, it's your fault. All that your lack of appreciation does is "ridicule those who voted for him." He was talking about his father-in-law, of course, not about his own prissy unelected and unqualified self.

What a snotty little prince.

And not to nitpick or anything, but it turns out that White House adviser Steve Bannon happens to own a stake in Seinfeld reruns. Since Bannon and Kushner don't get along, though, I doubt if there was any collusion in Jared's shameless appropriation of Seinfeld's self-protective dialogue.

As Jason Alexander, who played Jerry's sidekick George Costanzo, observed: "So Steve Brannon makes residuals on SEINFELD. I know there's a joke there somewhere but right now I only find it sad."

Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Great Walls of America

In the Age of Trump, the word "wall" immediately conjures up the image of a 3,000 mile-wide monolith protecting America the Pure from hordes of immigrants and terrorists eager to steal our jobs and murder us in our beds. That this wall is and always will be just another Trumpian con job means absolutely nothing to his dwindling but loyal base of fans. You see, it's the thought that counts. It makes the dispossessed feel safer, just knowing that their renegade leader is mouthily gung-ho for yet another barrier between Us and Them.

Not to be outdone in the paranoia department, though, the Democrats and their neocon associates are also trying to sell us on a wall. Their version is a barrier in cyberspace that would keep out all the disinformation which, they say, emanates from Russia and its co-conspirators in the independent American media. Absent a democratic social agenda that would improve the lives of ordinary people, the Democratic Russophobes warn us to ignore our own lives and our own lying eyes. We should just admit that our brains have been infected by "fake news" so insidiously and for such a long time that we finally committed the ultimate atrocity: we unwittingly denied the presidency to Hillary Clinton. 

If this all sounds disturbingly Kafkaesque, you're not being paranoid. You're facing the reality that we live in a country where gas-lighting is now the default governing strategy on both sides of the Duopoly. Franz Kafka, who creatively used metaphor and parable to warn of the totalitarianism knocking at the European door almost a century ago, was a big critic of walls and barriers of all kinds. He probably wouldn't be too surprised that the same thing is now happening in the United States.

  Not for nothing did his last novel - Amerika - remain unfinished.

But in his posthumously published short story, The Great Wall of China, Kafka combines the very best fantastical formulas of both Trump and the Democratic Neocons. Notwithstanding their theatrical campaign of insulting tweets and counter-tweets, these two entities are disparate only on the surface. They actually complement each other in the core agenda of diverting our attention from our own worsening quotidian problems.  Despite opinion polls showing that people are more concerned about their own health care than they are about the avalanche of tiny pebbles clumsily posing as blockbuster scoops from the New York Times and the Washington Post, the media-political complex is relentless in warning us we should worry more about the "constitutional crisis" of the rolling palace coup than about scrounging enough money together for next month's rent or insurance co-pay.

A new Bloomberg survey shows that although only six percent of the population is primarily concerned about Russia-Trump, the mainstream media is devoting more than half of all news coverage to McCarthyite scare-mongering. 

Our "official" menu choice has thus devolved into two flavors of paranoia: Muslims and Mexicans entering the country, or the Russian takeover of our democracy. In other words, they're building a wall separating people from their own thoughts as well as from each other.

The main efficacy in the selling of a wall, Kafka observed, is that it is always a work in progress. It always has gaps. Holes are necessary, because not only do they create even more fear and paranoia, they engender a sense of purpose and national/party solidarity. If these dream walls ever did get finished, we'd end up feeling too safe for comfort.... for the comfort of our rulers, that is. 

For them to maintain permanent control, they extend their walls' purpose to not only to keeping the Enemy out, but in dividing and conquering those who actually labor on the project The lowly workers are kept far away from both the middle managers and the elite architects who do the actual planning and thinking. And if something goes awry, guess who gets the blame?

Kafka explains how class structure as a method of control and fear is built into the human psyche from childhood:
"I can still remember quite well us standing as small children, scarcely sure on our feet, in our teacher's garden, and being ordered to build a sort of wall out of pebbles; and then the teacher, girding up his robe, ran full tilt against the wall, of course knocking it down, and scolded us so terribly for the shoddiness of our work that we ran weeping in all directions to our parents."
It doesn't get any better when these educated young people grow up and can't find a decent job paying a living wage. Kafka accurately described the cutthroat world of neoliberal meritocracy as the class-based division of labor - since time immemorial, we are either the designing few, or we rank among the many servants of the builders and designers.

The challenge to the elite rulers, therefore, is to be seen as keeping their promises, merely by keeping up the spirits of the people on the receiving end of their lies. This is the sweet spot where hope is invoked. Kafka describes how "piecemeal" wall-building is used as a ploy to keep those who toil for the elites both enthusiastic and pliant.

 When people are exhausted and losing faith in the system, rulers will throw them a crumb and then a deflection. The following passage in Kafka's story mirrors the media-hyped euphoria surrounding the signing, and subsequent successful defenses, of the extremely limited kludge known as Obamacare. It's also apropos of the falsely-touted (fake news) withdrawal of American troops from the still-occupied and ever more destroyed country of Iraq:
"Accordingly, while they were still exalted by the jubilant celebrations marking the completion of the thousand yards of wall, they were sent far, far away, saw on their journey finished sections of the wall rising here and there, came past the quarters of the high command, and were presented with badges of honor, heard the rejoicings of new armies of labor streaming past from the depths of the land, saw forests being cut down to become supports for the wall, saw mountains being hewn into stones for the wall, heard at the holy shrines hymns rising in which the pious prayed for the completion of the wall."
If there's anything that rulers require, it's the unity of the populace who must be taught to settle for "piecemeal" solutions as they wave the flags and watch a lot of TV and attend many sporting events. No matter that our two establishment political parties appear to be falling apart at the seams; they were only populist fronts for the oligarchy in the first place. They'll happily subsist on the gold dust of their destruction until such time as they rise and thrive again.

As Kafka recounts in his parable, the elites are even able to absolve themselves when their ill-conceived Tower of Babel, built as it is on the ill-conceived Wall, is also never completed. It's definitely not their superior intellects which are to blame. After a thorough investigation by the designated experts, not only is nobody held accountable, they have the chutzpah to praise themselves for their insights.
"... The tower failed and was bound to fail because of the weakness of the foundation. In this respect at any rate our age was vastly superior to that ancient one. Almost every educated man of our time was a mason by profession and infallible in the manner of laying foundations.... How could the wall, which did not form even a circle, but only a sort of quarter- or half-circle, provide the foundation for a tower? That could obviously be meant only in the spiritual sense."
 This is creepily reminiscent of John McCain insisting, after the financial system crashed in 2008 and millions of people lost their jobs, that "the foundations of our economy are still strong." It's eerily similar to former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan airily explaining away the Wall Street-generated subprime mortgage crime spree as "irrational exuberance." It faintly reeks of Barack Obama excusing war criminals by "looking forward, not back" and praising CIA sadists as well-meaning "patriots" who suddenly were trapped into "torturing some folks." When Donald Trump then babbles incoherently in compulsive tweets and opines that he has the right to pardon himself, it's not really all that extreme, once you stop and think about it.

There are other examples too numerous to mention of the boilerplate official excuse that "mistakes were made" to explain away such atrocities as aggressive war, torture and mass incarceration. There is never a lack of experts and pundits to roll out one Kafkaesque explanation after another to absolve the criminals residing in the very highest echelons of public/private power. Thus are we chided by the president's apologists never to take Trump's tweets literally, and by Democratic apologists to believe that 30 million uninsured Americans still enjoy universal "access" to health care, along with the promise that building walls against any number of Others will make our lives a happy, serene heaven on earth.

It's no surprise that Woody Guthrie's famous protest song "This Land Is Your Land" has been bowdlerized into a feel-good patriotic anthem taught to American schoolchildren. This supplements the teachers who are increasingly forced into toppling young people's towers of creativity and independent thought via for-profit standardized testing and curricula designed by corporations.

Here's what the Kafkaesque "High Command" doesn't want you to hear or sing or think:
"There was a big high wall there that tried to stop me;
Sign was painted, it said private property;
But on the back side it didn't say nothing;
That side was made for you and me.

In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people,
By the relief office I seen my people;
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking
Is this land made for you and me?

Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me."