Fear Hillary’s ideology, not her email servers

Hillary Clinton  fans are crying foul because she was accused last week of carelessness by James Comey, the FBI chief. They should be breathing sighs of relief.

Imagine how Hillary  would have fared if she wasn’t joined at the hip with the secrecy-obsessed Barack Obama, whose administration doesn’t look kindly on government employees who mess around with classified information — unless they’re in with the in crowd.

As Glenn Greenwald noted:

Had someone who was obscure and unimportant and powerless done what Hillary Clinton did — recklessly and secretly install a shoddy home server and work with top-secret information on it, then outright lie to the public about it when they were caught — they would have been criminally charged long ago, with little fuss or objection.

But I’m with Bernie Sanders, who months ago declined to make a big deal about Hillary’s emails. There are so many more important reasons to wince at the idea of Hillary as president — for starters, her warmongering history as secretary of state; her reciprocal love affair with Wall Street banks and corporations like Walmart; her promise to task Bill Clinton with “revitalizing the economy, because he knows how to do it.”

I know, anybody but Trump, but who really thinks Hillary will be a force for good, given her nostalgic attachment to the discredited neoliberal policies that ultimately benefit no one but the rich and powerful?

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Britain’s PM seeks to ‘steady’ the Titanic

Here’s David Cameron using an unfortunate nautical metaphor to announce his resignation after a majority of Brits voted this week for the Brexit:

I will do everything I can as Prime Minister to steady the ship over the coming weeks and months, but I do not think it would be right for me to try to be the captain that steers our country to its next destination.

That would be a neat trick, steadying the Titanic now that it has already hit  the iceberg. Britain is going down, thanks to Cameron and his fellow austerity freaks who thought the way to weather the recession was by imposing further hardships on the poors while helping the rich get richer. And who stupidly assumed most Brits, especially in the poorer parts of England, would vote to remain in the European Union, even though they needed someone or something to blame for the fact that their quality of life is, at best, stagnant.

Last year a British journalist put his finger on the problem while poking fun at The  Sunday Times so-called Rich List:

The Rich Listers are over 100 per cent better off than they were 10 years ago, this despite most of the decade being taken up by the worst recession since the 1930s. By contrast, the average Briton is only as well off as they were before the financial crisis (by some measures they may be worse off). If things have improved for the rich over the last decade, over the last year, they’ve really powered ahead. To join the Rich List this year, you need £100m, a rise by £15m since 2014.

Cameron is on the same ship with Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and other neolib Democrats in America who know the natives are restless but think they can still win elections by fooling them into believing renewed prosperity is just around the corner.

Stating the obvious, Hillary is damn lucky she’s running against the boorish and blatantly bigoted Donald Trump rather than against a smarter demagogue who would know how to more effectively capitalize on the hypocrisy and cowardice of the Dem establishment.

Posted in globalization, Great Recession, Obama | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

‘Network’ redux, starring Bernie and Barack

Bernie Sanders met with Barack Obama at the White House today. I’m picturing the scene in Network (only slightly altered here) where Mr. Jensen lectures Howard Beale on how the real world works:

You are an old man who thinks in terms of nations and peoples. There are no nations. There are no peoples. There are no Russians. There are no Arabs. There are no third worlds. There is no West. There is only one holistic system of systems, one vast and immane, interwoven, interacting, multi-variate, multi-national dominion of dollars. petro-dollars, electro-dollars, multi-dollars… rubles, rin, pounds and shekels.

It is the international system of currency that determines the totality of life on this planet. That is the natural order of things today. That is the atomic, subatomic and galactic structure of things today.

There is no America. There is no democracy. There is only IBM and ITT and A T and T and Dupont, Dow, Union Carbide and Exxon. Those are the nations of the world today… We no longer live in a world of nations and ideologies, Mr. Sanders. The world is a college of corporations, inexorably determined by the immutable by-laws of business. The world is a business, Mr. Sanders!

Bernie, thunderstruck by Obama’s eloquence, will look up at him and say, “I have seen the face of God.” Obama, smiling from on high, will reply, “You just might be right, Mr. Sanders.”

P.S. Just joking, Bernie will never be a neolib convert. But he will hold his nose and back Hillary, if only because the Republican alternative might be even scarier.

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Hillary’s incremental con game

Who says the system isn’t rigged?

Today, with the primaries still going on and the Democratic convention more than a month away, the Associated Press anointed Hillary Clinton the presumptive nominee.

In fact, AP and other mainstream media organizations have treated Hillary as the presumptive Democratic nominee from the start, even though millions of Bernie Sanders fans are appalled by the idea of a ticket headed by a woman who, along with Barack Obama, embodies everything that has gone wrong with the Democratic Party since good old boy Bill Clinton took office in the  1990s.

It’s no accident that Hillary’s defenders already sound like Obama apologists. They say she’ll work to reverse income inequality, fight for workers’ rights, rein in Wall Street’s greedy boys, bolster Social Security, reform campaign financing, make health care for all a priority, avert environmental disaster, and so on, but in an incremental fashion, unlike that fire-breathing socialist Bernie Sanders, who would make progress impossible by scaring away the non-existent Republican moderates needed to push progressive legislation through Congress.

Look at how well the incremental approach worked under Obama, a guy who never picked a fight with Republicans without making major concessions before the first shot was fired. A guy who “reached across the aisle” so often he might as well have got up and taken a seat among the Republicans. Who swears the economy is recovering even as fewer and fewer people  earn a living wage. Who chose Timothy Geithner for Secretary of the Treasury in 2009, signaling his support for the Wall Street crooks who had recently destroyed the economy. Who expressed solidarity with organized labor while campaigning but turned his back when google-eyed Gov. Scott Walker was crushing private-sector unions in Wisconsin.

And so on. For me, the most egregious example of Obama’s incremental — i.e., do-nothing — approach to reform was health care. He never considered pushing for a single-payer health care option, even at a time when Democrats held the majority of seats in both houses of Congress. As a result, most of us in what used to be called the working class are still stuck with paying way too much for too little coverage from the  corrupt and inefficient private insurance companies at the heart of the need for reform.

Incrementally, many well-meaning people will realize they voted against the party of the working class, Bernie’s party, forged during the New Deal years. But by then it might be too late to stop Hillary and her masters from destroying what’s left of that party — incrementally, of course.

P.S. As Yogi Berra said, it ain’t over till it’s over. Maybe Bernie can at least force a platform fight at the convention and start a movement to abolish superdelegates and other undemocratic features of the nominating process.

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Cynical coda of ‘Mad Men’ finale: Coke is the real thing

An acquaintance of mine posted this question on Facebook last week: “Does anybody else find Mad Men‘s writing to be vapid, direction glacial, acting somnambulatory, and the cultural references boring?”

I asked my friend Swamp Rabbit if he’d like to respond, knowing he’d had plenty of time to watch TV while in rehab these past few months. “You jokin’ me?” he said. “I got a life, Odd Man. Got no time for TV.”

So I posted an answer of my own: Yes, I suspect most discerning viewers who followed Mad Men noticed that the writing sagged a bit near the end of the series, that the writers’ depiction of the cultural milieu of the 1960s was sometimes laughably superficial.

So what? TV is a diversion. The most you can hope for in a TV series — in this case, a TV serial — is writing that’s good enough to occasionally generate scenes that illuminate the human condition. The same is true of most long novels. Viewers will encounter a lot of filler, no matter how good the writing, but they continue watching a serial for the same reason readers persevere with a long novel. They become emotionally invested. They stick around for the story-telling and, in particular, to witness how their favorite characters behave at critical moments.

I didn’t watch all of Mad Men, but I was a fan. The show had an unusually charismatic lead character — Don Draper, played by Jon Hamm — a quirky supporting cast, and a thoughtful head writer, Matthew Weiner, who focused on the world of commercial advertising to dramatize the socio-economic forces that metastasized into contemporary American culture, such as it is.

Weiner and his co-writers juggled a lot of sub-plots, some compelling and some not so much, and they seemed in early episodes of the final season to not know how to successfully resolve most of them. But give Weiner a lot of credit for how he handled what looked like the total crackup of his enigmatic anti-hero. In the final show’s final scene, Don Draper, after hitting bottom, is shown having an epiphany while chanting “Om” in a meditation group at some New Age-y spiritual retreat. His epiphany involves conceiving what will become a famously insipid TV commercial (circa 1971) that uses touchy-feely cliches to sell Coca-Cola, “the real thing.” Mad Men ends with the showing of the actual TV commercial.

I’d thought Don might kill himself or be killed in some sordid way, or maybe even find redemption in a good cause. Instead, he apparently is reborn as a sleazier version of his former self, selling a nutritionally empty icon of a spiritually bankrupt culture. The real thing.

Not bad for a TV show.

Posted in arts, fiction, history, humor, mainstream media | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

Happy Ides of March, and watch your back!


If you want to get into the spirit of the occasion, give your friend a big smile and a high-five as you cross paths, right before you sneak up on him with knife in hand. Works even better when you conspire with your friend’s other friends and take turns stabbing. An individual backstabber is likely to be perceived as selfish, not to mention treacherous, but a group of backstabbers seems purposeful and, well, group-minded.

And keep in mind that backstabbing is only fun when the victim seems genuinely surprised by the first knife thrust. That’s why Julius Caesar is such a great role for certain actors. It calls for magnanimity as well as arrogance. And gravitas, of course. Louis Calhern is well-cast in the old film version of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, the one with Brando as Antony. Rex Harrison is a grand Caesar in the movie Cleopatra, but he sometimes seems on the verge of belting out “Talk to the Animals.” The best Caesar on film is Ciaran Hinds in the HBO series Rome. The man has gravitas and is too sure of himself to heed warnings. He looks convincingly shocked that his friend and protege Brutus is among the conspirators. And the writers were smart enough to leave out the unnecessary et tu.

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Let’s rate news analysts on their track records

Too late, Friedman. You scored Minus 15 on Iraq alone. You're fired.

Friedman, you scored Minus 15 on Iraq. You’re fired.

The New York Times recently issued a “Libya is falling apart” editorial. As Glenn Greenwald noted, The Times failed to mention it was an enthusiastic supporter of U.S. air strikes that helped topple Moammar Ghadafi and destabilize Libya to the point where ISIS now has a foothold there. In fact, after Ghadafi fled, The Times went so far as to publish a front-page news analysis headlined “U.S. Tactics in Libya May be a Model for Other Efforts.”

Swamp Rabbit read Greenwald’s story and chuckled. “Glad them Times analysts are on the case. Without ’em, we might know what’s really goin’ on in the world.”

He scratched his mangy hide and added, “‘Scuse me fer bein’ so dumb, but how come they don’t just own up when they’s wrong?”

Good question. You would think The Times would not only own up to colossal errors of judgment but also fire the people responsible for such judgments, or at least demote them to the SundayStyles beat. But you would be wrong. Bill Keller, Thomas Friedman, the editorial board and so on are still going strong.

It seems the only real sin you can commit on the news side at The Times — at least when it comes to U.S. foreign policy — is to refuse to blindly accept the government’s version of events leading to military actions. Inaccuracies are acceptable, especially when a story is breaking. Corrections are made later, sometimes, after the bombs are dropped and thousands are dead and the government’s rationale for its large-scale act of destruction has been exposed as fraudulent. This is true not only at The Times, but at all mainstream news outlets.

We talked solutions. The rabbit proposed a self-policing system for the media run by some more-or-less reputable rag, maybe the Columbia Journalism Review. Stories written by Times staffers would automatically link to their other stories on the same subjects. Staffers would gain or lose points according to how accurate their stories turned out to be. Their ratings would be listed next to their bylines. For example, a reporter or pundit who was wrong on WMD in Iraq and U.S. tactics in Libya would merit a Minus 2. He or she could gain back points by admitting, in print, to their errors. Anyone who fell to Minus 10 would be fired.

“That’s ridiculous,” I said. “Who’s going to stick his neck out writing a report that might get him fired?”

The rabbit spit on the frozen swamp and said, “That’s the point, Odd Man. How else you gonna keep liars and fools out of the news business?”

Posted in humor, Iraq war, liar, mainstream media, New York Times | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments