Welcome to DU! The truly grassroots left-of-center political community where regular people, not algorithms, drive the discussions and set the standards. Join the community: Create a free account Support DU (and get rid of ads!): Become a Star Member


arendt's Journal
arendt's Journal
July 8, 2016

A "limited hangout". The best DC Kabuki since Fitzmas.

A limited hangout is, according to former special assistant to the Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency Victor Marchetti, "spy jargon for a favorite and frequently used gimmick of the clandestine professionals. When their veil of secrecy is shredded and they can no longer rely on a phony cover story to misinform the public, they resort to admitting—sometimes even volunteering—some of the truth while still managing to withhold the key and damaging facts in the case. The public, however, is usually so intrigued by the new information that it never thinks to pursue the matter further."

- Wikipedia, Limited Hangout

The Clintons have always been blessed with Republican opponents who are unbelievably stupid, who completely overplay a modestly decent hand and lose. Sometimes I think they have to paid off to be so stupid. The GOP never learn that trying to dirty up the Clintons just gives them more armor against such charges in the future. What the Clintons do to Republicans makes Muhammed Ali's (dog rest his soul) rope-a-dope look clumsy. And, "oops, they've done it again." The email denouement leaves the GOP and the FBI with egg all over their bodies, with any investigation of Hillary for any reason politically pre-empted worse than a Russian nuclear first strike.

The problem I have is that, when this happened to Cheney, when Fitzmas was a flameout that barely got Scooter Libby (whom know one had ever heard of before his indictment), DU was appalled. Go back and look at the disappointment, the conspiracy theorizing that was posted on this very board during 2006-7. Now, turn the volume of GOP rage down by a factor of ten and compare it to Fitzmas. Let me refresh your memory on Fitzmas.

By March 28, 2006, some bloggers were reporting that on the basis of interviews with people close to the Plame investigation, indictments against Rove or National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley were imminent. However, by mid-June 2006, it was announced that no charges would be brought against Rove. In early April, The New York Times ran a front page story linking Libby to a leak, supposedly ordered by Dick Cheney, that Iraq had been attempting to acquire uranium in 2002. By the thirteenth of the month, many media outlets, including the New York Times, retracted this story,...

Robert Novak's testimony in Libby's perjury trial made it known that the two senior administration sources he cited in his article were Richard Armitage and Karl Rove. A month later Armitage claimed Fitzgerald had instructed him not to go public with this information. Journalist Michael Isikoff received confirmation from Rove's lawyer and from lobbyist Richard F. Hohlt that Rove was also faxed an advance copy of the article revealing a CIA covert agent's identity several days before it was published.
- Wikipedia, Fitzmas

Democrats thought their champion, Patrick Fitzgerald was going to indict Rove and Cheney for revealing Valerie Palme as a secret agent. (Just an ironic note: Fitzgerald was appointed by none other than....Jim Comey.) Instead that got some nobody who's sentence was commuted by W.

So, for the purpose of understanding what the GOP are likely to say and do, use Fitzmas times ten to gauge their feelings. And, unfortunately, there are actual Democrats and former terror prosecutors who share the GOP's sense of betrayal by Comey.

They say that Comey made a complete muddle of this. They say he should have indicted because laws were broken. Instead, they say, he rewrote the law; then he smeared HRC. This couldn't have gone better for HRC if she written the script herself: She is exonerated and the FBI look like thugs. From now forward, any time someone asks anything about Hillary's emails, the answer is: Comey, Comey, Comey.

The talking points are: believe the exoneration from the FBI, don't believe that the scandalously unprofessional charge of "extreme carelessness" means anything at all. Heads she wins; tails he loses. Talking points don't care that laws were twisted both to smear her and to protect her. Try explaining those twists to anyone with less than a J.D. in a ten second soundbite. Not going to happen.

I don't have a J.D.; but, unfortunately, I am one of those damn "purists" who thinks that we ought to obey black letter law, whether we are GOP or Democrat, whether we are whistleblowers or office holders. So, just for the record (which shall never again see the light of day), let me list some comments by Law Enforcement officials:

1. Andrew McCarthy – former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, who led the 1995 terrorism prosecution against Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman
and eleven others, obtaining convictions for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing:

In essence, in order to give Mrs. Clinton a pass, the FBI rewrote the statute, inserting an intent element that Congress did not require. The added intent element, moreover, makes no sense...

2. Former prosecutor (and Clinton supporter) Chuck Hobbs:

With Comey indicating that over 100 emails analyzed by his agents contained some level of classified information, and with him further indicating that Clinton used her private servers in areas where “hostile actors” could have easily accessed her account, as a former prosecutor, I would think that a prosecution should be forthcoming; such would be the logical conclusion considering the facts that Clinton agreed not to break the law and that she broke the law either knowingly or negligently.

Comey’s comments constitute a form of legal sophistry in that prosecutors did not need to prove that Clinton intended to commit a criminal act. Comey and staunch Clinton apologists keep providing cover by adding that element — intent — that simply is not needed. Indeed, under federal and state laws, negligence roughly means an “indifference” or careless attitude toward the proscribed conduct and with Comey calling the conduct “extremely careless,” an argument can be made that Clinton was grossly negligent in her acts.

Since a lot has been made of the fact that the emails were "not properly labelled", I would like someone to explain to me what happened to the charges/evidence that HRC told someone to (paraphrase) "cut off the headers and send it to me"? What happened to the charges that the emails were "born classified", as anyone who has had a high level security clearance should know? What happened to high-level classified CIA info being sent in by Sid Blumenthal? Does he get a pass too, because it wasn't properly labelled? Was any of that addressed in the Comey media circus?


Now, here is where it gets really brilliant - limited hangout brilliant. If Comey had just let Hillary go, there would have been a lot of talk about how he "caved", about all the lose ends I just mentioned. But, by stepping all over his own dick on camera, no one is talking about caving. The unforced, mega-error that Comey made is the "new information that so intrigues the public that it never pursues (the original) matter seriously". What Comey did was unprecedented, unprofessional, and just plain wrong.

Either Comey is just another unbelievably stupid GOPer, or he was influenced. We will never know, because it is the perfect hangout. Comey becomes the patsy. Listen to some legal minds:

3. Former FBI Assistant Director Chris Swecker:

I’ve been involved in the criminal investigation for the FBI of Congressmen, Senators, and officials of every description …. I cannot ever remember any FBI director – or any FBI official – coming out with a referral and the substance of a recommendation. So that it in itself is highly, highly unusual.

4. Matthew Miller, who was a spokesman for the Department of Justice under Attorney General Eric Holder, called Comey’s press conference an

absolutely unprecedented, appalling, and a flagrant violation of Justice Department regulations.” He told The Intercept: “The thing that’s so damaging about this is that the Department of Justice is supposed to reach conclusions and put them in court filings. There’s a certain amount of due process there.


There you have it. Well played by Comey. The best performance at the inside-the-beltway Kabuki Theatre since Scooter Libby took the fall for Darth Cheney. Comey's performance is a thing of beauty. It all depends on what his definition of "negligent" is. He is the pinata that will never break for the Democrats.

Maybe people who think that HRC can do nothing wrong think this whole bit of Kabuki is great. The rest of us are thinking, what if that was Cheney or Bush or (worse) some future rightwing gangster who broke black letter law and got off. We cringed when the Bush-Cheney DOJ made a mockery of the rule of law. We should cringe at this demonstration that the law today is whatever high officials (i.e., Comey) say it is, not what is on the books.
June 13, 2016

The Big Picture: Wall St. is the Tsar of America

Almost 15 years ago, I wrote Kinder Gentler Apocalyptic Nationalism(KGAN), in which I argued that America's politics had devolved to exceptionalist tribalism.

one could argue that tribalism represents the wave of the future for a kinder, gentler totalitarianism in a celebrity-saturated, networked, globalized world where individuals are increasingly rootless and superfluous. A world into which America is leading the way.

In spite of Norman Rockwell-style homage to the rooted-ness of residents of small towns, America has always prided itself on its rootless-ness; but we called it "mobility". The majority of Americans' ancestors came to this country less than 150 years ago; and the migrations from farm to city, and then from city to suburbs, kept people in motion…The average American family moves every five years, oftentimes across country. Their ties to place, to relatives, to history are tenuous. Suburbia is a repetitive franchise ghetto.

That piece pointed out the similarity of KGAN to the Pan-Slavism of the late 19th century, as described by Hannah Arendt:

...the tribalism of the pan-movements (of the late 1800s) offered a new religious theory and a new concept of holiness. It was not the Czar's religious function and position in the Greek Church that led Russian Pan-Slavs to the affirmation of the Christian nature of the Russian people, of their being...'the Christopher among the nations' who carry God directly into the affairs of this world. It was because of claims to being 'the true divine people of modern times'...

The tribalism of the pan-movements with its concept of the 'divine origin' of one people owed part of its great appeal to its contempt for liberal individualism, the ideal of mankind, and the dignity of man. No human dignity is left if the individual owes his value only to the fact that he happens to be born a German or a Russian…

- H. Arendt, "Origins of Totalitarianism"

1. Where we are today

Fourteen years later, we have gone a long way down the road to KGAN. Wall Street (WS) is now the Tsar of America. It is an absolutist autocracy, a god-on-earth to which all must bow down and obey, just like the Slavs bowed to the Tsar. If the Tsar wrecks the finances of the country, the country must rescue it, because the Tsar is never wrong.

Just as the Tsar appointed and dismissed at will all of the high officials of Russia, today only politicians and bureaucrats vetted by and loyal to WS get appointed to critical positions in government. High-ranking officials, approved by WS are above the law. No one ever even came close to prosecuting Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, John Woo, or Alberto Gonzales. General Petreus got a slap on the wrist and a sinecure job at the JFK school of government (demonstrating the bipartisanship of loyalty to the Tsar). The investigation is still open on HRC's email and Clinton Foundation behaviors, but I predict another bipartisan acquittal. In another similarity to Tsarism, right-wing cretins (e.g., Gohmert) are tolerated or even encouraged for their loyalty to and heartless defense of a cruel system.

WS has always controlled our foreign policy (see any of the books by Steven Kinzer). That is why nominal Democrats continue to appoint GOP holdovers to run the Defense Department. Other politicians approved by Tsar Wall St. use economic sanctions and credit money created out of thin air - even as the country runs perennial, massive deficits - to operate an expansionist foreign policy that constantly gobbles up little countries on our periphery. If financial neocolonialism fails, Tsar Wall St. calls upon the military-intelligence complex to remove the obstacle to the greater glory and Messianic mission of WS. See Libya, Ukraine.

There are parallels to foreign policy exclusivity in Tsarist Russia. After the 1905 revolution, a parliament (Duma) was created. But it had no say in a foreign policy and soon, no power at all:

It was Witte himself who insisted on the exclusion of the Duma from the whole area of military and foreign affairs…It was not so much that (Emperor) Nicolas broke his word as that he qualified out of existence. It was a process which marched happily with the resurgence of Imperial confidence after the smashing of the Moscow rising and the success of the many punitive expeditions throughout the Empire.

- Edward Crankshaw, The Shadow of the Winter Palace

WS has used its financial control over both political parties to gut representative government in America. Thanks to designed-to-fail Third Way candidates, a corporatized propaganda media, and voter disenfranchisement, the GOP now control the majority of state governments in America. In those states, laws are literally written by ALEC, a political operation founded and nurtured by the Koch Brothers. Many of those states are basket cases, devolving to the peasant status desired by our oligarchs. At the Federal level, the legislative branch has been paralyzed by exceptionalist fanatics, causing power (especially military power) to accumulate in the Executive Branch and a rightwing-stacked judiciary. (BTW, neutering the legislative branch is straight out of the neoliberal playbook for transforming government.) Of course Tsar Wall St. has control over the executive.

2. How did we get to today?

2.1 Technology

The internet and its early adoption by the financial industry are the equivalent of the Industrial Revolution. The internet threw up a new elite of hedge-fund managers and internet billionaires whose "contribution" was often no more than a few thousand lines of code. But, code that promoted the privatization of government functions or the dissolution of inconvenient regulations (Uber) while centralizing control in private companies was well-worth such rewards. The unequal distribution of the profit from this government-nurtured technology aside, the technology itself increasingly destroyed the middle class by either replacing their jobs with machines or providing the communications equipment to outsource their jobs to India or China.

The result is the equivalent of the "clearances" of the Industrial Revolution, which turned farmers into farm laborers and sent the surplus population to the cities to be exploited as factory workers. In a short twenty years, the internet has turned the middle class into the "precariat". Meanwhile, the corporate media is praising the "job creators" in the Wall St. looting class.

2.2 Spying and secret warfare

The technology also enabled the increasing intrusiveness of state security, checking everyone's email and creating Kafka-esque situations like the no-fly list. And, like every other new technology, the Internet has set off an arms race. The Stuxnet worm was but the first bullet in what will inevitably become a barrage of net warfare that will shred economies which have been frog-marched into trashing the time-tested robustness of physical record-keeping and hands-on process control. Edward Snowden pulled back the curtain on the overweening ambition of America's spy agencies. Undoubtedly, the Russians and the Chinese have similar programs. The hubris of introducing millions of security holes in our commerce and manufacturing while ramping up offensive net warfare makes you question the sanity of our elites.

Another sea change begun in the Bush-Cheney regime has been the escalation of rightwing violence, both outside the government and inside it. Just as Tsarist Russia had been in the grip of random political assassinations by the left for thirty years, America has seen a rise of anti-government violence from the far right. (Witness the resurgence of militia movements upon Obama's victory.) But the right's actions are either downplayed or turned into free publicity for various rightwing causes (see the Malheur occupation).

Not so on the left. Despite there being no genuine leftwing movement espousing violence in today's America, it is supposed leftists who are constantly being warned against "supporting terrorism" (a charge that can result in a jail sentence or asset forfeiture for the most ephemeral connection). Until last year, this charade was only supported by a constant string of stupid patsies entrapped by FBI and DHS stings.

Not coincidentally, the Tsarist secret police were infamous for the use of agents provocateur:

It was the Socialist Revolutionaries' Combat Section which was in the years to come to be responsible for the long series of killings which astonished the world. And the most remarkable aspect of the whole bloody process was that for the greater part of the time the head of the Combat Section was the notorious Yevno Azev, who was also an agent of the secret police, the Okhrana. Azev managed to penetrate the S.R.s so deeply that he himself can hardly have known when he was acting as police agent, when as revolutionary. Time and time again he would plan the assassination of this or that official, only to warn his comrades of the police in time for them to pick up his comrades the conspirators.

- Edward Crankshaw, "The Shadow of the Winter Palace".

Of course, we now have the self-radicalized terrorist (i.e., bitter loser who decides to go out in a bang of violence, justified by whatever ideology comes to hand). Too bad we can't connect the dots that it was US actions that created ISIS and its extremely sophisticated media outreach. Too bad we can't connect the dots about our unbelievably lax attitude towards semi-automatic weapons. To even begin to connect those dots is to be labeled a conspiracy theorist or a gun grabber.

Still, it is hardly surprising that US foreign policy today is justifiably rife with accusations of false flags. The disclosure of one CIA plot after another, the complete farce of Iraq's WMDs, the use of NGOs to destabilize counties, the use of nasty intermediaries like the Saudis or Turkey to camouflage our role - all of this has made anyone who follows politics instantly skeptical of pin-the-blame-on-the-bad-guy media campaigns. Adding to the rightward tilt, Obama has been the biggest prosecutor of whistleblowers ever, using a dusty law from 1918. Silencing the whistleblowers is the perfect companion tactic to running a secret foreign policy.

Meanwhile, in the rest of the world, America is increasingly perceived as an out-of-control bully that uses drones to kill people in countries where America has no formal agreement to operate. Our NGOs have been kicked out of Russia and China, accused of funding destabilization campaigns. We continue to press for military solutions to all foreign policy problems, even as that pressure wrecks our economy, and destabilizes Europe with refugees. Even as the deliberately misapplied austerity "solution" to the recession of 2008 continues to destroy country after country, we stay the course.

3. Where we are headed.

The illusion of freedom will continue as long as it's profitable to continue the illusion. At the point where the illusion becomes too expensive to maintain, they will just take down the scenery, they will pull back the curtains, they will move the tables and chairs out of the way and you will see the brick wall at the back of the theater.

― Frank Zappa

Well, the American people can see the brick wall. Starting with Selection 2000, continuing through the forced use of easily-hacked e-voting, and ending up in the mass disenfranchisement and voter suppression on display for years, it has finally become clear to the vast majority of people that our so-called democracy is now a mug's game. Finally - eight years after the crash, seven years after Citizens United, and five years after Occupy Wall St. (OWS) - they are rebelling. Even if the Trump half of that rebellion is the kind of inchoate rage that I predicted:

A large segment of the U.S. population has lost touch with reality and have become willing participants in the orgy of apocalyptic nationalism. In a phrase, they have "gone tribal"…we are talking about a new tribe of powerless peons who lick their masters' boots and scheme their pathetic little get-rich-quick schemes, oblivious of the carnage inflicted in their name.

The new tribe of Americans should be called the Tribe of Kramden, after the famous, all-American loudmouth and idiot of the golden age of TV. We keep being told that the 1950s was America's best moment. Well then, Ralph Kramden must have been the exemplar that we most want to represent our tribe.

The Sanders campaign was the other half of the 2016 spontaneous revolution from below. No one saw it coming, but conditions made it inevitable. Both the left and the right see the brick wall.

3.1 One more similarity to Tsarist Russia

I ask your forbearance with my extended Tsarist Russia analogy. America today is like Russia in about 1910. I would liken the period from the crash of 2008 through the OWS protests against it, and their complete shutdown as an extended, non-violent equivalent to the Russian revolution of 1905. Yes, that revolution failed, but at a cost ultimately fatal to the Tsarist government when World War 1 put immense stress on a rotten system that everyone had given up on.

OWS, and especially the caging of protestors on the bridge to Brooklyn, bear a striking, but non-murderous, resemblance to a major event in the 1905 revolution - Black Sunday. Black Sunday was a peaceful demonstration to present a petition to the Tsar at the Winter Palace, organized by a priest, Father Gapon, whose organization was (typically) approved and funded by the secret police.

Most of the demonstrators lacked even an inkling of an idea of the inflammatory nature of their pleas: they thought they were prostrating themselves before the Tsar and begging him for his protection…(Gapon) knew his march was illegal, but officialdom and the police had had every opportunity to warn against it and had not done so. On January 8 Gapon himself informed the Government of the nature, time, and route of the proposed march. And nothing happened…

There were to be five columns of marchers…the authorities knew their routes…No attempt was made to break up the columns and divert them early in their march. The troops were so disposed that they would come into collision with the marchers only when each column was nearing the Palace Square…As they marched, the city police actually cleared the way for them and held up traffic, while onlookers made the sign of the cross and bowed as the icons went by…It was not until the columns were within sight of their goal…that they found their way barred by cordons of troops and police. They were ordered to stop…but came on, even when the order to fire was given - not over the heads of the crowd but into it...

In this way, a peaceful demonstration was transformed into the first act of a revolution. For (Emperor) Nicolas now began to lose his magic for that mass of simple-minded workers who were not caught up in the revolutionary movement but simply looked to the Tsar for succor. A monarch cannot allow his personal guards to shoot down in droves in front of his own house an unarmed assembly of working men, to say nothing of harmless onlookers, and continue to be revered as the source of all wisdom and kindness.

- Edward Crankshaw, "The Shadow of the Winter Palace".

For a history buff like me, it is a wonderful bit of deja vu that OWS was kettled and smashed literally in front of Wall St. Of course, in the 20th century, first world democracies learned not to shoot peaceful demonstrators because it is bad publicity.

4. In closing

Just as Tsarist Russia was a dead man walking in 1910, today's Wall St-run US is also. OWS, coming on the heels of the infamous bailouts and lack of prosecutions for WS, was a moment where many people lost faith in the governing paradigm of ruthless capitalism. It was when the terms like "the 1%" and "too big to fail" became common currency, even if nothing was done about the problem. Nevertheless, the ruling neoliberal order was shored up by Obama, and continues to drive our country into debt servitude, environmental destruction, and military expansionism. Like Tsarist Russia, the establishment of this country is simply too large and too powerful to be diverted by mere retail politics or demonstrations. Like Tsarist Russia, it will continue to bulldoze its way along the well-worn path of oligarchic looting until, eventually, the wheels come off.

But we aren't there yet. It will probably take either another four years of political chaos - guaranteed no matter whether Clinton or Trump is "elected" - to screw up the country and the planet badly enough to bring an end to the neoliberal autocracy's grip on the country and the planet. OTOH, it looks like another economic crash is in the cards. Such a crash, on top of the un-repaired destruction from the 2008 crash and the increasing weakness of our economy, could become a WW1-level event. Finally, both candidates have a propensity for military solutions and could simply bring the planet to an end with nuclear war.

In any case, it is events, big events, which will determine the future, not corrupt, deck-chairs-on-the-Titanic, electoral politics. With this post, I personally walk away from "mainstream" politics in America. It is a bought-and-paid-for joke. A consolidated corporate media. Two political establishments awash in Citizens United legalized bribery. Dynastic politics in a democracy. Corrosive tribalism in the form of "identity politics". I'm with Chris Hedges, if you want to accomplish anything real, you will have to do it by demonstrating in the streets. I will vote, knowing full well that

If voting made any difference they wouldn't let us do it.

― Mark Twain

May 22, 2016

The Media Show Trial of Sanders Supporters Continues

What has happened since NV is much more than a one-time lie. This is a propaganda campaign orchestrated in the corporate media, backed up by on-line trolls, and generally presented as "reality". The lie is being repeated incessantly on comedy shows. Other names for this are "The Big Lie", "total immersion propaganda", and the Show Trial (favored by Stalin).

I saw them, two little paperback brothers, the UK or Criminal Code, and the UPK or Code of Criminal Procedure, on a newsstand in the Moscow sub…I read them today touched with emotion. For example, the UPK — the Code of Criminal Procedure:

"Article 139: The accused has the right to set forth his testimony in his own hand, and to demand the right to make corrections in the deposition written by the interrogator."

Oh, if we had only known that in time! But what I should say is: If that were only the way it really was! We were always vainly imploring the interrogator not to write "my repulsive, slanderous fabrications" instead of "my mistaken statements," or not to write "our underground weapons arsenal" instead of "my rusty Finnish knife."

- Alexander Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago

This "re-writing" is exactly what we are seeing after NV:

Booing and cursing after being shutdown by rules violations is rewritten as "violence".

Actual violence by an HRC supporter - who was arrested, BTW - vanishes from TV coverage. The corporate media certainly does not ask HRC to apologize for that high-profile actor. But anonymous plebs who really did nothing but yell? Bernie MUST apologize.

Zero evidence of chairs thrown, physical violence, or arrests of anyone is rewritten as "a riot".

Sen. Boxer flipping people off (video DOES exist) is rewritten as "I was in fear".


This campaign season is done with politics. It is now down to propaganda, whichever side can shout the loudest and longest. After the primaries, prepare for an absolute shitstorm of propaganda. Do not expect to be enlightened.

As Jacques Ellul said:

"It is sometimes said that two competing propagandas cancel each other out; if, however, one regards propaganda not as a debate of ideas or the promulgation of a doctrine, but as psychological manipulation designed to produce action, one understands that these two propagandas, far from canceling each other out because they are contradictory, have a cumulative effect. A boxer, groggy from a left hook, does not return to normal when he is hit with a right hook; he becomes groggier

........Jacquess Ellul, "Propaganda, the Formation of Men's Attitudes", pp 181-2


May 19, 2016

The Great Recession, the Rust Bowl, and the New Okies - The Grapes of Wrath Redux

Today, eight years after the Crash of 2008, we are witnessing a somewhat less brutal echo of the desperate decade of the Great Depression. The echo is only "somewhat less brutal" due to the few bits of New Deal legislation that remain intact, not yet having been stripped from the books by the rabid government haters and profiteering privatizers.

The Okies

As the title indicates, I want to talk about the striking similarity of the economic inequality between then and now. I do not want to be distracted by arguments about which group today is in the most desperate economic straits. So I am going to use the "Okies" of the Great Depression to examine what is happening to all desperate unemployed people today.(Footnote 1) "Okie" started as an insult, like "mick", "kike", "wop", etc. The stereotypical Okie was an ignorant hillbilly who was lazy and liked to drink and fight. Sound familiar? Today we hear that millenials are lazy, stupid, expect too much. Bernie Bros are "violent". According to TPTB, expecting to find work to pay off your student loan is expecting too much.

Disparaging an Okie wasn't about race: Oakies were white. It wasn't about gender: they treated men, women, and children with equal cruelty. The sneering was about MONEY. The same kind of sneering directed at "losers" and "moochers" today by stone-hearted neoliberal ideologues.

Like most terms that disparage specific groups, it was applied by the dominant cultural group…what native Californians failed to realize at the time was that these Okie migrant farm workers had not always lived in the conditions that the Dust Bowl left them in. In fact, often these families had once owned their own farms and had been able to support themselves.

- Wikipedia Okie

The Dust Bowl was a natural/manmade (Footnote 2) disaster that happened in the midwest at the same time as the depression. To the Okies, it was like being hit by a car after your house burned down. After half a decade of families going broke, farms getting foreclosed, and health getting worse from breathing the dust that hung like a pall for literally years, people had enough. (Can you say "enough is enough"?) They were either already evicted, or they abandoned their worthless property. They packed their worldly possessions into their cars and trucks and struck out for California, which handbills touted as a land of opportunity and jobs. They wound up as migrant labor.

The Rust Bowl and the mirage of the sharing economy

In America today, the former Rust Belt has gotten even worse, as factories and jobs continue to be shipped overseas en masse, as entire states are bankrupted (and their infrastructure left to rot or be privatized) by radical rightwing economic theories, put in place by right wing gangsters like Scott Walker and Sam Brownback. Those people (young, old, of all races and genders) who have had enough of the thirty year long Rust Bowl - people whom I shall label the New Okies - have heard that the "gig economy", a.k.a. "the sharing economy" was a wondrous place where you could find jobs, and by sheer hard work become rich.

Of course, if you have a degree from Stanford and billions of free cash (see "unicorns") from the Venture Capital industry, these fairy tales might come true. But if you are trying to make a living as an Uber driver or renting your house via AirBnB, or cooking meals for EatWith - or any of the other illegal-on-their-face schemes to simply vaporize regulations and reimpose completely unregulated capitalist predation - you will find yourself working for chump change.

Meanwhile, as a customer of these unregulated businesses, you may be raped or robbed by an Uber driver, you may get bedbugs from your "hotel room", or the rentor may suffer vandalism, theft, or violence, or you may get food poisoning or hepatitis from a "take-out joint". If you try to sue Uber, they dump all the blame onto their "independent contractor", thereby dodging any legal liability. Such are the wonders of unregulated capitalism.

The conditions of the workers

The "sharing economy" is really a share-cropping economy - in the same league with the migrant camps that the Okies were forced into upon arrival in California. The gig workers are just another variation on migrant workers, waiting desperately at the collection point for some strawboss to pick them out of the lineup for a day's work.

Because of the minimal pay, these families were often forced to live on the outskirts of these farms in shanty houses they built themselves. These homes were normally set up in groups called Squatter Camps or Shanty Towns…Due to this lack of sanitation in these camps, disease ran rampant among the migrant workers and their families. Also contributing to disease was the fact that these Shanty Town homes that the Okie migrant workers lived in had no running water, and because of their minimal pay medical attention was out of the question.

- Wikipedia

In the "somewhat less brutal" Great Recession, the New Okies live in their parents' houses, try to piece together some dead-end jobs, try desperately to pay off non-dischargable student loans, and generally watch their lives slip through their fingers. They are forced to postpone starting families. Even with ACA, healthcare is precarious. The 2010s, in some ways, more cruel than the 1930s. Many of the New Oakies have college educations. They can look things up on the Internet. They did the things they were told should give them a shot at a good life. They know what they are missing. They know they have been robbed.

The Grapes of Wrath

The New Okie generation has yet to have a movie of the quality of "The Grapes of Wrath"(GoW) to describe the organized wretchedness imposed on an entire population for the benefit of a few landowners, and to appeal to the public for justice.

Steinbeck wrote: "I want to put a tag of shame on the greedy bastards who are responsible for this [the Great Depression and its effects]."

The non-existence of such a movie is hardly surprising. Hollywood wouldn't make any money from such a movie, given the movie audience are 12-year old boys who like sex and violence. Besides, who can afford to go to the movies anymore?

The movie version of GoW itself was self-censored, leaving out some of Steinbeck's more devastating critiques:

the producers decided to tone down Steinbeck's political references, such as eliminating a monologue using a land owner's description of "reds" as anybody "that wants thirty cents an hour when we're payin' twenty-five," to show that under the prevalent conditions that definition applies to every migrant worker looking for better wages.

"Steinbeck was attacked as a propagandist and a socialist from both the left and the right of the political spectrum. The most fervent of these attacks came from the Associated Farmers of California; they were displeased with the book's depiction of California farmers' attitudes and conduct toward the migrants. They denounced the book as a 'pack of lies' and labeled it 'communist propaganda

The Grapes of Wrath

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss

In the end, the Okies were rescued by war work in California factories. We could do the same thing with an alternative energy buildout plus a massive infrastructure restoration program. The problem is such work is not going to materialize under today's political leadership. Not under "pragmatic, incremental" Hillary. Not under lunatic Trump.

Understanding that that is reality is why there is a vast anti-elitist sentiment afoot in America today. It crosses all political boundaries. People know they have been robbed - robbed by Wall St. and the WH bailout, robbed by the constant outsourcing of jobs, robbed by Draconian drug laws and massive bills for jails, robbed by diverting half the budget to endless no-win wars that enrich the elite and starve the public infrastructure.

Just as in the 1930s, people are at their economic breaking points. Although right-wingers are willing to support demagogues like Trump and theocrats like Cruz, there are many left wing folks doing the equivalent of labor organizing. I say "the equivalent of" because organized labor has been absolutely shattered by forty years of union-busting laws, union-busting corporations, and union-busting neoliberal ideology. We have strikes without unions (Market Basket), job actions without unions (Fight for $15). We have guerilla pro-worker agitation as an asymmetric strategy against the overwhelming firepower of corporate law.

Where is this all going? I make no prediction about the future; but I see nothing but trouble if we, as is likely, stay on our present course. Just one final point:

The title (Grapes of Wrath) is a reference to lyrics from "The Battle Hymn of the Republic", by Julia Ward Howe:

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord:

He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;

He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:

His truth is marching on.

These lyrics refer, in turn, to the biblical passage Revelation 14:19–20, an apocalyptic appeal to divine justice and deliverance from oppression in the final judgment.

Whatever happens is going to be YUGE.


1. Please, please. I am not disparaging the Okies themselves, or the current cohort of totally screwed over people whom I will call the New Okies. I respect the struggles of impoverished workers at all times and in all places. Okie is merely a label. Today, Okie is a badge of pride ("I'm an Okie from Muskogee.&quot Of course, someone could raise the dreaded flag of identity politics to reduce this entire thread to a food fight. I can't stop that; but I can say up front that it is nothing but ratfucking.

2. I say partially manmade because the Southern great plains were too arid for sustainable farming, which had only begun in about 1880 during a wet spell. Fifty years on, mother nature returned to the normal climate and stripped the soil off the parched fields.

May 19, 2016

How is thanking people and admitting I screwed up "disruptive meta"?


The definition of disruptive is "complain". I did not complain. I said nothing negative about anyone, except myself. When people said I had been alert stalked, I said no. I deserved it.

I also offered a mathematical definition of "stochastic", which was asked for after I had been locked out of the original thread. How is that "disruptive".

It is truly stretching the definition of "disruptive" to thank people for the #1 greatest thread on the board, and for trying to clarify the definition of a mathematical term.

Please explain the arbitrary application of the rules here. The rules say "complain". I did not complain.


I am going to LOCK this thread as Disruptive meta.


Threads complaining about Democratic Underground or its members; threads complaining about jury decisions, locked threads, suspensions, bannings, or the like; and threads intended to disrupt or negatively influence the normal workings of Democratic Underground and its community moderating system are not permitted.

PLEASE note that this is a late night hosting decision. As such, few hosts have weighed in, and it is possible that later more could log in and this decision could be reversed.

If that happens, I will unlock this thread. If not, it shall remain locked.

Thank you.
May 10, 2016

Maybe Progressives Should Go On Strike

I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat.

- Will Rogers

The Democratic Party used to be a Big Tent, and party leaders used to develop compromises to keep people inside the tent. There used to be plenty of room for dissenting opinion and horse-trading. The leadership used to be impartial during primary races. That is why I used to be a first-class member of that party. The party used to be an active promoter and supporter of organized labor.

These days, the Democratic Party is run like a business. Hillary is the CEO. Debbie Wasserman Shultz is the COO. Wall St. is the CFO. And the rest of us are supposed to do what we are told, like workers without a union or a minimum wage law. Case in point, Democrat Obama never set foot in Wisconsin to stop the smashing of the unions there. We workers/voters are supposed to have no alternative and to like it. In these circumstances, I am not a valued party member anymore. I am just a greasy mudsill. That realization has caused me to write this diary in language that union members, and most working Americans, will intuitively understand.

Slave Wages

The Progressive workers (aka the activist base) keep asking what they are getting in return for their work for the party, e.g., organizing, contributing, voting. (Bernie Sanders is behaving like a polite shop steward, taking grievances to management within the established labor-management framework.) The embarrassing and unspoken answer is that the party "pays" them (to use a metaphor that good neoliberals will understand) chump change. Obama and the Clinton's give pretty speeches to the Rotary Club, much as Robber Baron factory owners did. Then they turn around and enrich the C-level (i.e., themselves) via ever more neoliberal and neocon policies. They campaign to the left and govern to the right.

The Clintons inserted neoliberalism into the Democratic Party. Neoliberal policies (especially corporate coup d'etat "trade" deals) are explicitly anti-union, anti-regulation, and anti-worker. Some are even anti-social because, according to Margaret Thatcher, "there is no such thing as society". To neoliberals, workers are not an equal partner or a stakeholder. Workers are a cost to be minimized by outsourcing or underpaid immigrant insourcing.

Hillary Clinton has both been endorsed by neocons and appointed them to key positions in the State Department. Neocon policies pour our resources and our lives down the drain to generate a revenue stream for the MIC - the conglomerate which is the owner of both political parties. They endanger our country by inflaming and inviting blowback from our "good guy" terrorists.

Again with the B-school speak: what is the bottom line here? Well, when your self-proclaimed union boss admits taking tens of millions dollars in speaking fees from management, when you are denied honest bargaining and paid crap wages, and when your work is used to pay for Pinkertons to suppress you, it is only natural to think about striking. It's the only recourse you have left. Of course, party leaders know that and have preemptively deployed the classic strikebreaking tactics: the lockout and scabs.

The Lockout

A lockout is when a business closes its doors to its own workers in order to either drive unemployed workers into penury or in order to bring in scabs. The DNC closed the doors the minute they realized that the Sanders candidacy was not a joke, and could not be ignored or ridiculed away. Since that realization, the DNC has actively obstructed Sanders access to decent debate schedules; blocked Sanders access to voter rolls over a manufactured "violation"; refused to reconsider an early primary calendar that favored one candidate; actively ignored massive and repeated voting irregularities; and, in a blatant instance of partisanship and potential illegality, is running a slush fund for Hillary (the Hillary Victory Fund) to circumvent campaign finance rules. The DNC and their media shills (like the odious David Brock) have been demanding that Sanders quit months before the delegates have been selected.

The fact that Sanders brings Independents into the party is not looked upon as a feature. To management, more informed, motivated workers mean nothing but trouble. Better to lock them out. Hence the insistence on maintaining registered-voter -only primaries with gotcha registration rules and computerized voter suppression via last minute registration changes.

The lockout's latest move is to blatantly and unapologetically pack the convention committees with pro-DNC appointees, completely ignoring the fact that literally half the delegates will be voting against the DNC candidate. Here's a news flash: the DNC should not have a candidate. They are supposed to be neutral until the convention has decided the party's direction.


As has been demonstrated for months, Sanders is not penurious. He out-raised Hillary for several months running. He has all the money and workers he needs to run his campaign and get his message out via non-corporate media outlets on the internet. So, the lockout has failed, even though it continues. In response, management has now decided to call in the scabs.

People said that Hillary should reach out to the Sanders voters to try to get them on board. Instead, she has reached out to REPUBLICANS. She wants more money from Wall St REPUBLICANS to support her neoliberal and neoconservative policies. She wants these conservative-to-reactionary scabs to replace the progressives in the Democratic Party. That way, she will be able to drum the progressives out of the party IF she wins the GE.

Quite clearly Clinton has told the progressives to drop dead. She thinks she doesn't need us because she has GOP scabs to vote for her.

The Strike

In response to these latest behaviors from the DNC camp - confirming everyone's previous suspicions - Progressives, out of sheer disgust, edge ever closer to sitting out the election, much as exploited prison laborers have gone on strike:

Alabama Inmates on Strike, Say They Will "No Longer Contribute to Our Own Oppression"
"We will no longer contribute to our own oppression," Kinetik told Solitary Watch. "We will no longer continue to work for free and be treated like this." People incarcerated at the prisons are paid $0.17 to $0.30 an hour to perform a variety of functions.


The first indication of the strike has been the "Bernie or Bust" campaign. Nuf said.

The next indication has been the active promotion of Hillary's vulnerabilities by Democrats - the constant posting of the fishy to outright illegal behavior of Hillary as SoS. That started with the illegal, easily hackable private server and the emails that vanished from it. Now it has extended into the pattern of pay-to-play contributions to the Clinton Foundation immediately preceding an action by Hillary as SoS.

Why the hell should Progressives run interference for the Clintons on these shady deals? It is just more triangulation: Clinton does something to get the GOP mad at her/him, the GOP goes with their typical behavior: ham-handed overkill, and then the Clintons run screaming to the Democrats to save their ass. We have all seen this bullshit act before. The enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend. But, since we have never seemed to learn that in the Middle East no matter how many countries we burn to the ground, I am not sanguine on the chances of people seeing through the Clintonian fog machine.

The Pitfalls

The problem with the strike is that while it may succeed in bankrupting Clinton, Inc., it could merely cause those assets to be bought at bargain basement prices by Trump, Inc. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. If lame duck Obama doesn't do it after the election, either one of these corporate entities will sign off on on the TPP, TTIP, or other democracy-killing "treaties" that basically let corporations veto laws, even laws that are on the books. Then, workers truly will become disposable commodities and striking will be treated like in the Gulag - with forced labor, exile, and executions.

The Progressives are in a horrible spot. Neither Trump nor Clinton is acceptable to them***, but there is no viable third party alternative. Going on strike in the General Election guarantees either Clinton or Trump. I am all for building a progressive party. However, that is like saying the anti-aircraft missiles will be ready in two weeks, but the bomber with the H-bomb will be over the target in two hours.

We need, right now, a coalition of people who oppose corporate rule, the complete militarization of our society, and the ongoing looting by an un-prosecuted gang of Wall St. crooks. It would seem that is still, just barely, a majority in this country. The problem is finding a candidate that both extreme liberals and extreme conservatives can both hold their nose and vote for. The strike needs a leader that is solidly supported, or it will be smashed.

So far, all I've got is Jimmy Carter. He's been president. He is very Christian, in the best sense. He is too old to be ambitious. He is already on record that America is an oligarchy.

Your suggestions to the union organizing committee are welcome.

*** or to a lot of sane people, not necessarily only in the Democratic Party:

We can’t vote for either one: On world stage, Clinton and Trump present different, but serious, dangers


Profile Information

Gender: Do not display
Current location: Massachusetts
Member since: 2002
Number of posts: 5,078

Journal Entries

Latest Discussions»arendt's Journal