Friday, April 28, 2017

It's Not About The Money-It's About The Injustice

In response to the widespread indignance over Barack Obama's having taken $400,000 from the Wall Street firm he'll soon give a speech to, Trevor Noah made a very good point in Obama's defense: "So the first black president must also be the first one to not take money afterwards?"

Noah then made an even more keen observation: "Instead of focusing on how Obama can make so much money from Wall Street for a speech, maybe we should be asking why Wall Street has so much money to give people for a speech: the loose regulations, the intensive lobbying and favorable — you know, the truth is, we can't get into all of this, there's too much, there's too much else that's going on that we have to talk about today." I'd like to get into it a lot more, actually, because there's a lot more to it than what Noah and the other liberals we see coming to Obama's aid on this Wall Street speech issue are saying.

The main defense they like to use seems to be that Obama has a right to take speaking fees, Wall Street firm or no Wall Street firm-sure, $400,000 is a lot for one speech, but why not let him make some money? This argument, similar to the one they like to use whenever a Democratic candidate takes corporate donations of "money makes the world go round," misses the entire reason so many aren't pleased with the situation.

Personally, my attitude wouldn't be any different if Obama's speech had paid a dollar, or if he somehow didn't have a legal right to make money in this way. Because as long as he's being rewarded by Wall Street, there is something deeply unjust about the whole thing.

I'm talking about the fact that, in accordance with Noah's righteous calls for focusing on the deeper problem of Wall Street greed, the resentment from progressives and others about Obama's compensation from the banks has everything to do with said greed. Obama and his party, whose financial relations with the major banking firms go a long way back, can be held responsible for virtually all the excessive power Wall Street currently holds. Obama, along with a crucial amount of other Democratic senators, voted to pass Bush's unnecessary and financial control-consolidating Wall Street bailouts in 2008.

Then, no doubt partly at the behest of the Wall Street insiders within the Obama administration, they took basically no action aside from Dodd Frank. They didn't prosecute the bank executives responsible for the crash, and most importantly they didn't undo the Clinton Wall Street deregulations, which are largely behind the crash in the first place. The results of this were disastrous.

Despite Democrats' (not even accurately founded) back-patting about the unemployment rate having gone below 5% under Obama, the recovery has been what I like to describe as a tower made of toothpicks. The housing bubble has blown right back up, along with the massive overestimation of stock and bond prices. This, coupled with the unprecedented financialization of the economy amid Democrats' failure to break up the banks, along with the record federal debt amid Democrats' failure to sufficiently raise taxes on the wealthy, has created grounds for a new economic crisis. And a crisis that's not far off at all, judging from the bursts in parts of the housing bubble that have already begun to appear.

To be fair, this next crash will also largely involve a reckoning with various larger forms of accounting fraud that society is tied in with too deeply for Obama to have fixed, such our dependence on a petroleum economy. But the reality is that a repeat of 2007-2008 is coming right up, and had Obama and Friends enacted the necessary reforms this crash wouldn't be anywhere near as bad. We also wouldn't have had the resurgence of the GOP and the election of Donald Trump, thus making those reforms here to stay, but that's a different story. My point is that while Noah also protested in his Daily Show rant that change doesn't start with Obama, at a crucial point in history, it did. And the unwillingness of Obama and his party to act at that point has had consequences we'll soon see the full catastrophic scope of.

And now Obama is being paid by the same financial institution whose industry he partnered with for eight years to transfer money away from the lower classes, and which is about to evaporate the money of said classes before quite possibly making another profit through new Wall Street bailouts. You see now, Trevor, why some aren't applauding with your show's audience at that?

In regards to this, along with the countless other hypocrisies and injustices that the Democratic Party has been involved with since its leadership's neoliberal transformation around forty years ago, I doubt the producers of the Daily Show or many other pro-establishment liberals will acknowledge there's a problem. Whatever Noah's personal views on Obama's legacy and the Democratic establishment, he and the rest of the beloved late night liberal comedy crew serve major media institutions that are more than fine with seeing these problems ignored or, better yet, re-framed in a positive light. Thus, it's no wonder Noah was allowed to briefly advocate for standing up to the rigged banking system in the quoted segment-as long as he deflects attention from the root causes of said system, him criticizing Wall Street itself is evidently nonthreatening to the oligarchy.

The good news is that as of the last couple years, every time one of the Democratic establishment's spokespersons has made power-serving statements like the ones mentioned, a consequential facet of the population has reacted by doing something to enact change. And 2016 Democratic primary election theft or not, their efforts are working quite impressively. After a month and a half of Medicare for all supporters leaderlessly pressuring House Democrats to support the H.R. 676 single payer bill, 98 out of the 193 said Democrats are now co-sponsoring it; according to the research of one Warren Lynch, Berniecrats have mostly taken over thirteen state Democratic parties; and as membership in the Democratic Socialists of America has grown rapidly in recent months, so has the electoral success of candidates who share its agenda.

So the types of progressives who aren't cheering on this objectively unfair spectacle of an ex-Wall Street president taking Wall Street money appreciate the concern of the Daily Show's corporate string-pullers, but we're not adopting their cheery attitude about it, not to mention about the monumental flaws in our economic and political systems that it represents. And when extreme financial concentration soon results once again in economic disaster, we expect many of the remaining loyal Democrats, who will suddenly find themselves scarcely able to pay for basic needs let alone cable to watch The Daily Show shortly after Obama left office, to join us in working towards the creation of a society that works for all of us.

But hey, Obama has a right to make money.

Friday, April 21, 2017

The Democratic Establishment's Strange Behavior

Foreword: I recommend you read this linked article before continuing.

The Washington Post put out a column yesterday, titled Bernie Sanders' strange behavior, which expressed some adamant concerns over the need for unity among the Trump regime's opponents. But the Post, like the Democratic Party establishment that it represents, is not really helping in regards to that cause.

Over the last few years, the DNC and its media gofers have at times offered some odd comments and actions for a group pushing for party unity.

To wit:
  • They actively conspired within the DNC leadership to interfere with the 2016 Democratic presidential primary, and at one point considered painting Bernie Sanders' Jewish heritage in a negative light as a way to hurt his campaign.
  • They went far beyond just considering interfering in the democratic process, having rigged or allowed their allies to rig the Democratic debate schedule, the major media coverage, and even the voting system itself against Sanders.
  • After nakedly attacking Bernie Sanders in both personal and ideological ways on a notable amount of occasions, the Washington Post and other pro-Democratic establishment publications like it ran a similarly disingenuous and hateful campaign against Jill Stein and then Tulsi Gabbard. They're currently working on a Bernie smear campaign 2.0, with pro-establishment liberal columnists having started to frequently put out articles attacking him and his supporters as "purists," "Russian agents," etc.
  • Speaking of which, McCarthyism, McCarthyism, McCarthyism, and-wait for it-McCarthyism. 
But the most puzzling development this week is their reaction to Sanders' deciding to keep Georgia special election candidate Jon Ossoff candidate at arms length. When Sanders hesitated to endorse Ossoff (which he's done today) no doubt partly because of the favorable treatment Ossoff is receiving from the DNC and the DCCC in comparison with their abandonment earlier this month of Kansas Berniecrat James Thompson, establishment Democrats acted strangely outraged that someone they know stands against them in almost every way would be wary of jumping on their latest public outreach effort.

"It's an odd statement to make about a guy who has been running in such a high-profile race and in whom Democrats have invested so much money and blood, sweat and tears," reads said Post article about Sanders' bizarrely sensible statement on Ossoff.

Establishment Democrats qualify this baffled response to Sanders' behavior by the fact that they don't seem to really know much about what he stands for and what his mission is, so perhaps it should be taken at face value-that they truly don't know enough about Sanders to view his actions correctly. But it's an odd thing for them to do in regards to a guy who they've so happily claimed to want to be like.

Here's a tellingly strange response to Sanders' Ossoff statement from Daily Kos Elections' David Nir, as quoted from two of his tweets the other day:

"Bernie Sanders isn't helping—he's hurting. He should either endorse Ossoff and raise money for him, or keep his silence."

"On second thought, Sanders shouldn't endorse Ossoff. He should just remain silent and not hurt the efforts of those of us helping in."

Perhaps the strangest thing about this is that the Democratic establishment isn't vouching for the progressivism of more eagerly Sanders-endorsed candidates like Montana's Rob Quist, even as they're doing so for another Democrat of pretty questionable credentials. That would be how unlike Quist, Ossoff does not seem to support a $15 minimum wage despite running in one of the poorest states in the country.

As notes, Ossoff does want to raise the federal minimum wage from its current slavery status of $7.25, but not explicitly to $15, and only to the loosely defined extent that it's "indexed to cost of living." Indeed, there's a lot in that for progressives to be suspicious of.

Yet establishment Democrats defend their full-on support for Ossoff by noting the terrain on which Democrats are trying to win. Ossoff's more ardent supporters like to say he's simply doing the best he can to advance progressive goals while running in an area that's highly conservative, but partisan labels aside, those in the overwhelmingly impoverished southwest would probably receive a platform of populist economic reform very well.

That entire justification-we can't step outside the perceived mainstream of the political spectrum, or else voters will dismiss us as fringe-can be applied in the minds of establishment Democrats to seemingly every situation, even the one of Ossoff in the radical change-eager south. Sure, they like to reason, the majority of the country is behind Bernie Sanders on virtually every issue, but he and candidates like him just can't win because he's a "socialist" or a "radical."

It all makes the Democratic establishment's decision not to back Thompson, Quist and others even more conspicuous. Perhaps they're much more concerned, as their behavior over the last four decades or so suggests, with helping their corporate and wealthy donors than the voters they need to succeed. But they're really contradicting themselves here, creating divisions where they say they want unity by continuing to favor oligarchy-friendly candidates and goals over most of the electorate that they're counting on to bring them back into power.

Whether this is all a series of wayward comments and actions or something more targeted at Sanders' brand of progressivism, it's unlikely to help Democrats "come together" very soon. And the current Democratic leadership, perhaps unsurprisingly, is proving a questionable messenger for that cause.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

This Is How We're Going To Break The Democratic Establishment's Control Over The Anti-Trump Movement

Things are looking up. Bernie Sanders' poll numbers are at all-time highs while his opponents wallow in increasing unpopularity and public distrust. Political involvement among young people and those in among the progressive majority in general is quite possibly higher than it's been for a generation. As a result, despite the U.S. government's behavior being ever more militaristic and authoritarian, corporate power and economic inequality in many ways being at record levels, and the climate being on the brink of catastrophe, society is looking a lot like it's on track to overcome all these obstacles.

And then, on April 19, 2016, the revolution is dealt a big setback.

Largely because of the voter suppression and electoral fraud that occurred in the 2016 New York Democratic presidential primary on April 19 (which, by the way, were so substantial that even the New York Times was prompted to report on them), the nation's political trajectory was sent into an unprecedented tailspin last year. But even as Bernie Sanders' supporters are making enormous gains in turning the situation around by essentially doing outside of presidential politics what they were doing this time last year, the power structure has the potential to pull off the 2017 equivalent of stealing the New York primary.

Yes, they can do it again, and they can do it even more stealthily than last time. By co-opting the anti-Trump movement, and at the same time aligning themselves with Trump and Friends in regards to the goals they share, the neoliberal Democrats, the Deep State, and their many allies in the corporate media are essentially smothering the effectiveness of the effort to defy the Trump regime. In other words, without genuine progressives in charge of The Resistance, a lot of focus may be put on things like Trump's tax returns and unpleasant personality, but things like his wars, neoliberal policies, and infringements upon civil liberties will get dangerously insufficient attention seeing as the Democratic establishment very much shares these parts of Trump's agenda.

And as the specter of a Trumpian bout with fascism provoked by a world war and/or terrorist attack looms closer than ever, with Trump and the Deep State's newfound mutual enemy Russia continuing to issue far more blatant threats towards the United States than usual, ending this fake resistance movement is an urgent need. There's no hope for defying the regime, after all, without a sincere and united effort behind that defiance, and this goes not just for the ineffectual "McResistance" movement but for the currently elitist and politically inept Democratic Party.

So how do we take The Resistance away from these narrow and ulterior motive-filled interests? Easy: by simply letting those interests make their intentions so blatantly narrow and ulterior motive-filled that they ultimately drive away their initial supporters.

Throughout these last eight years, with the epic electoral failure of corporate Democrats post-2008 and the rise of a progressive movement within the Democratic Party whose victory could only be prevented last year through actual electoral fraud, the traditional Democratic bosses have been confronted with the harsh reality that Americans aren't going to support predatory capitalism and real-life Orwellianism whether an R or a D is involved. So since the virtual collapse of the Democratic brand on November 8 last year, they've decided to transfer their political investments into another letter: "A" for anti-Trump movement.

For some this bait-and-switch of theirs has been apparent from the start, but a great deal continue to assume anything "resistance" is good news. But as the months have passed, allegiance towards the leaders of the McResistance has in many ways started to drop-and not so much because of what anti-McResistance commentators like me have done, but because of what those McResistance leaders themselves have done.

The first self-induced partial tear-down of the McResistance facade began in February, when progressives responded to the fact that more than a dozen Democratic senators had been voting for all of Trump's cabinet nominees by starting a PAC called We Will Replace You. Its goal was to primary any Democrats who cave into the Trump agenda. This organization, unlike groups like Justice Democrats and Our Revolution, was impossible for establishment Democrats to denounce as GOP-helping "purity testers" without exposing themselves as the true obstacles to countering the Trump agenda, because it only went after Democrats who were acting as direct assets for the president. Thus, I've encountered otherwise devout Democratic Party loyalists who fully agree with We Will Replace You's objectives, because the last thing they want is to be a Trump enabler.

Of course, that hasn't stopped the Democratic establishment's most zealous defenders from attacking the effort to remove Trump-helping Democrats, as exemplified in a slightly unhinged column from a few days ago that stated supporting We Will Replace You is "suicidal." But its message falls on liberal ears that are currently distracted by the second big "I'm not on your side" announcement from the leaders of the  McResistance: the voicing of support from top Democrats for Trump's Syria strike earlier this month. While I've witnessed some incredible incidents of liberals wishing Hillary Clinton were president as Trump ordered the attack, the fact that Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, and droves of other party bosses including Clinton herself support Trump's action has no doubt caused a lot of anti-war liberals who like to think Democrats share their foreign policy views to stop and think.

And as this general unraveling of the old political order which is 2017 drags on, the McResistance will only  further unravel as well. Virtually no rank-and-file Democrats, however much they think they can count on their party's leadership now, will stand for public figures who call themselves members of "The Resistance" while helping Trump and GOP carry out their dangerous agenda. When Democrats like John Kerry and Hillary Clinton voted for post 9/11 Bush proposals like the Patriot Act and Iraq War, the former was nearly defeated in the 2004 primary by the (more) principled Howard Dean and the latter lost the 2008 primary to the (at least marginally) more principled Barack Obama. And the backlash this time towards Democrats who are unwilling to counter a Republican administration bent on autocracy will, it seems, be far greater.

Then again, don't let my somewhat anecdotal case for the Democratic base's intolerance of Trump-enabling party leaders make you become complacent. I could be wrong about the McResistance being so politically vulnerable, especially considering the formidable propaganda machines its string-pullers have in place. To be safe, let's do all we can to expose the hypocrisy and inadequacy of this "resistance" movement whose top members so often do the opposite of resisting, and of this Democratic Party that claims to represent an opposition to Trump while acting as his greatest asset.

We can turn both said movement and said party into a genuine force for good, and if the leaders of the McResistance keep capitulating to Trump as they of course intend to do, our job will be easy.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

It Isn't Working, Mr. Brock

You can leave it to a "liberal" corporate media outlet like Time Magazine to report on something like the launching of David Brock's "Brietbart for the left" organization in an all-too positive way. And that's what Time did. In January, a Time article titled Liberals Plot Revenge As Donald Trump Assumes The Presidency issued some statements about Brock and what he represents which were so appropriately inaccurate that they inadvertently helped me get a firmer grounding in my conviction that Brock and Friends are not advancing a good cause.

Foremost among them, aside from the sketchy classification of Brock as a "liberal" after his aggressive promotion of a highly corporatist and militaristic candidate, was the evident appraisal of the fact that Brock wants revenge through leading what he called a Brietbart for the left. If Brock and other Democratic elites really cared about bringing about a bright future in the face of the Trump regime's rise, they would not be seeking any kind of revenge, let alone trying to emulate the tactics of the infamous alt-right institution Brietbart as a means to do so; they would humbly own up to the role they played in Trump's victory, leave all the grudges and cynicism of 2016 behind, and apply a positive, productive strategy to improving the political situation.

But to Time's strange approval, that's the last course of action which occurred to them in the aftermath of the 2016 election. Not taking a hint from the near-universal rejections Brock is these days being met with from both the Sanders and Clinton wings of the Democratic Party, Brock and his allies, which pretty much just include Hillary Clinton and her top donors and aides, are attempting to continue all the worst aspects of the 2016 Clinton campaign for the long haul. In addition to Brock's "Brietbart for the left" organization itself, which merely employs all the usual cynical partisan hackery, he and the gang are making their in a word deplorable online troll campaign from last year Correct the Record into a permanent operation, having moved all of their now more bitter and motivated than ever employees onto the payroll of Brock's organization Share Blue.

Through this platform provided by Brock, Share Blue's rank-and-file members to this day carry on the proud traditions set down by Correct the Record, setting up numerous fake accounts that typically consist of safely anonymous profile pictures which frequently descend upon unsuspecting opponents of the Democratic establishment to spread propaganda and/or simply stir up confusion, negativity and conflicts.

"In addition to profile pictures depicting Brazilian soccer fans, they use the old HRC primary slimes against Bernie over and over again," reports Amy Sterlin Cacil on the practices of Brock's new troll army. "So, why are these people being paid to do these things? It runs counter to any marketing or community-building advice imaginable. The answer is clear. They don’t want people to communicate. They want people to be isolated, fearful, or simply disgusted with social media and politics, in the exact same manner as an abusive partner wants to isolate, demoralize and control the person they falsely say they love."

It was at this point in the writing of the original version of this article that I composed a rant against the perpetrators of this operation whose unhinged nature was altogether unnecessary and that I decided to delete after taking it up with the first person I showed it to that wasn't as angry as I am at these adult bullies. (Caitlin Johnstone recently experienced something similar, having half-jokingly titled her latest article on the Brock team's tactics ShareBlue Is Now Saying That 'Bernie Bros' Were Actually Paid Russian Trolls. Hold Me Back.) But after sufficiently venting my outrage at the shameful behavior of Brock and Friends (an outrage which Johnstone has reportedly managed to express with "a strange, guttural sound somewhere between a trumpet full of water and a goat getting kicked in the balls"), I've come to the conclusion that to get so worked up about the Brock trolls in the first place is to perfectly play into their hands.

Let's zoom our focus way beyond the unpleasant minutiae so far mentioned and look at what's been lately happening to the actual political system: in at least a hundred small ways, it's seemed, Bernie Sanders' political revolution has won victories since the election. And the fact that these small gains have happened at least once every week for the last five months or so is starting to show on a big scale. Between the many, many elections of Berniecrats to positions in local Democratic parties that have been occurring since Bernie's movement kicked into gear, as I illustrated in my last article, they've pretty much taken over three state Democratic parties in the first three months of this year. The Green Party is making gains as well, with Green congressional candidate Kenneth Mejia having recently gotten more votes than his Republican competitor, making the Greens the new second largest party in Los Angeles.

And the fact that both the Democratic Party reform and third party approaches are extremely difficult to succeed in presents a relatively minor setback to the political revolution. As the increasing economic inequality-provoked societal trend towards revolt against traditional institutions and leaders culminates with the white working class' recent souring of their false messiah Donald Trump, an awakening is taking place that's already started to force change within the political system. Republicans, who have already joined the majority of other Americans in mostly supporting climate action and higher taxes on the 1%, are now stepping on board the push for universal health care as well according to a recent poll that says more Republicans support single payer health care than not.

This emerging consensus among the American people that neoliberalism needs to be counteracted has already made the passage of Berniecare into a near-term prospect, and as I've illustrated, the recent rise of single payer health care is just the first of the supposedly radical ideas we'll see enacted in the months and years to come.

In short, a paradigm shift is taking place. And yet for the past year, the benefactors of the old order have been working quite literally round the clock to trip the potential creators of this shift up in the most petty and psychologically damaging ways possible. I, like pretty much every other Berner, have encountered and admittedly been affected by the online foot soldiers in Brock's sadistic project. I've more than occasionally come across the purposefully offensive and confrontational rantings of the Democratic establishment's social media shills, complete with the still running attack lines against Sanders supporters and the ironic accusations of people like me being secret paid Putin trolls. And they've also more than occasionally gotten under my skin as their composers intend. But no matter how much the Brock trolls have gone on the attack, they haven't prevented me from getting off the social media threads that they like to hijack and doing the work needed to make the political revolution successful.

And the fact that trolls have such a limited ability to waste the time of their target audience is what's resulted in so many other members of the political revolution having lately gotten to work as well. The establishment's direct online trolling efforts are, in a word, failing, along with its more subtle recent effort to discourage the revolutionaries by trolling them with bizarre assertions from the corporate media about them having been mislead into opposing Clinton by Russian trolls posing as Sanders supporters. None of this is stopping us from donating to the various burgeoning Sandersist organizations, contacting our should-be representatives about things like single payer health care, and in most cases successfully seeking elected office. If anything, it's making us more active, with me and virtually every other Berniecrat being motivated to fight back against the cause of the Brock trolls whenever we see them issuing their smug statements about us being destined to fail.

As the insurgents mobilize, the oligarchy is desperate to mount an effective counter-campaign, and because it knows it can't ever put together a grassroots operation, it's invested in fighting its opponents with deceptive and (it hopes) revolutionary behavior-discouraging statements made from online comment sections and Washington Post editorial pages. But revolutionaries are made of sterner stuff than any snide paragraph can overcome-we've signed up to combat the most powerful forces in the world, after all-and the trolling isn't getting to me or pretty much anyone else. And if you feel like it's getting to you, take my example; you, not the trolls, and certainly not the pro-establishment "liberal" article writers, have all the power over what attitude you have and which actions you take.

I'll conclude by quoting this message to Brock and Friends, as put out on March 31 by one of the political revolution's rank-and-file members Don Ford:
So, I feel like apologies are in order...
I'm sorry that my plan to take over the Democratic Party by maintaining our work in the primary into the party organizations is working...
I'm sorry we took over a county party today that makes up 2/3s of Oregon.
I'm sorry [the] New Mexico takeover was so effective it hit the news.
I'm sorry that Arkansas just elected a Berner for state party chair...
I'm sorry to all the internet trolls who got paid to stop us but were ineffective. I'm sorry that you spent millions and we did it on pennies.
I'm sorry because it has to be crushing to find out that whatever plan you are working on isn't as effective [as you thought it would be].
I'm sorry that people were out of the loop and missed the first wave of information not given out on Facebook. We all only have so much time.
As we continue to sweep hand counted paper ballot elections across the country it has to be crippling to find out we did it without your help.
It's not too late, and never will be. In the end, the work we are doing is for everyone whether you want it or not.
I just hope you can recognize the success and enjoy the fruit it bears.
The Revolution is a leaderless swarm coursing through the veins of all 57 states and territories...
Our victory is only a matter of time and staying the course.
Remember, they only win if we surrender.