Tuesday, 28 June 2011

A lot of people in this world are queer

One cannot stand on a corner for five hours at a Gay Pride march and street party, as I did Sunday, without seeing that the drive for homosexual emancipation has tapped into something enormously human and, until recently in historical terms, very much hidden: that our biped species occupies a spectrum of being that only vast amounts of social pressure can squeeze and cram into the usual categories of race, gender and desire. I conclude that the effort exhausts both wielder and object because its official suspension Sunday was extremely energizing.

The endless stream of individuals who seized the streets of Manhattan produced in this observer an intoxicating sensory overload and undermined any attempts to define ‘male’ and ‘female’ with precision, much less ‘gay’ and ‘straight’ (and forget ‘black’ and ‘white’ or even ‘brown’). Genital equipment aside, there were as many expressions of butchiness and femminess as a city of 8 million + suburbanites + tourists can display. Full of beans and attitude, the hordes of mostly youthful celebrants demonstrated with their insouciant day-long promenade that we have learned and long maintained a far too narrow view of what makes us who we are.

For this reason I believe that the establishment of full marriage equality for same-sex couples in New York State, passed into law last Friday, signals a game-changing moment, a moment in which the genie has escaped the lamp, probably for good. While opponents’ worries that granting rights to gay partners will somehow damage traditional marriage is pretty silly, in another sense I believe they are onto something: regular old hetero marriage will never be the same. Die-hard segregationists also feared that the provision of full civil rights for ‘Negroes’ would change the meaning of being white, and they were right. It did.

I was sent photos of the recent gay-lesbian-whatever rights march in Santiago [right], where I personally witnessed the early shoots of a similar movement for emancipation in the late 1980s and ‘90s. These are scenes repeated all over the world (despite considerable ongoing repression), and they communicate to my eye a powerful human desire to burst the constricting bounds of a false conformity. Neo-nazis in Russia and evangelical Christians in Uganda may campaign against the impulse for this freedom, but they would do as well to ask rivers to change course or plants to stop seeking the sunlight.
[left: San Salvador/Denver Post]

Nonetheless, these reactionary creeps can do a lot of damage, and the African variety isn’t getting anywhere near the negative attention that they deserve. The incipient visibility of gay and lesbian people and organizations in Senegal, Ghana, Uganda, Cameroun, Zimbabwe and Malawi has been accompanied by a ferocious reaction. The tales are quite horrific.

A Ghanaian legislator told gays to leave the country or face ‘lynching’. A court in Malawi sentenced a male couple to 14 years in prison for holding a ‘marriage’ ceremony. Camerounian gays are abanoned upon arrest and cannot even get a lawyer as none dare to defend them. Tabloids print pictures of ‘known homos’ on their front pages, in one notorious case, leading to the murder of Ugandan activist David Kato [pictured].

The Arizona-based Family Watch International (FWI) run by professional harpie Sharon Slater is hard at work trying to get Africans to adopt their wacko version of Christianity and urging an anti-gay Kristallnacht to drive their point home. For example, one of the worst cases is Uganda where local hate-mongers allied with FWI decided to whip up a homosexual death penalty bill, only halted by a worldwide firestorm of revulsion. FWI is led by homo-rehab nutcakes like Slater who promise their dazzled African partners ‘scientific information’ on how gays can be made to mend their evil ways.

But lest we attribute this madness only to the sun-addled Arizonans, recall that Obama BFF and inaugural preacher, Rick Warren, has also had a hand in this repugnant activity, all of which was stimulated by the foreign aid cash that was shoveled into Africa along with unhealthy dollops of Christian proselytizing through Bush II’s AIDS program called PePFAR.

Ironically, the African pols most eagerly lapping up these holy horse-droppings whine incessantly about protecting ‘African culture’ from the human rights groups, completely oblivious to the fact that they are being spoon-fed a grossly colonialist ideology from their fairy godmothers of the Christian right.

Another irony of the anti-gay crusade in Africa is the role gay men played in bringing to light the African AIDS crisis in the first place and in lobbying for the billions in aid and medicines that have flowed to the continent since. It must be a bitter experience for long-time gay activists and AIDS industry officials in Geneva and in the aid-donating capitals of Europe to see the beneficiaries of their solidarity sink into crazed demonizing of tiny gay advocacy groups.

Some of the demagogy around homosexuality even blames the bedroom behavior of local gays for a country’s economic and social problems, a sort of homophobia as the new century’s version of classic European anti-Semitism. Michelle Goldberg writing in The American Prospect two years ago noted that ‘the rhetoric of homophobia recapitulates the tropes of classical Jew hatred. . . . a subversive internal enemy with dangerous international connections. . . . having an almost occult power [and who] represent modernism and cosmopolitanism’.

The African homophobic campaigns are great fun for the evangelicals because they can witness and cheer from the sidelines at shit they would never get away with at home—stale accusations about the recruitment of children, yellow press outing campaigns, etc. Though one can’t dismiss the damage these godly missionaries can inflict, after Sunday’s celebration I can’t help thinking that in the long run they’re fighting a losing battle. I don’t see Africans as different from New Yorkers in any meaningful way, and I trust that there are many thousands of people in Durban, Lilongwe and Dar-es-Salaam eager to be who they are, given half a chance.

While the Bible-thumpers, facing defeat at home, eagerly push a more vulnerable African continent toward their version of medieval bliss, biped humanity in all its disastrous glory pulls in the opposite direction.

Saturday, 25 June 2011


New York State has reversed the tide of sexophobic reaction and passed marriage equality for same-sex couples. The triumph was a tribute to the sharp political skills of our new governor (Cuomo) and his enthusiastic support—not just lip service and weasel-words—of the equality issue. It also showed the impact of steady lobbying and persuading work by the gay advocacy groups, which managed to overcome their fractious conflicts of two years ago when the same-sex marriage bill suffered a thumping defeat. A lot of conflicted legislators came around on the issue after hearing stories and anecdotes from articulate spokespeople, many of them directly affected by the legal limbo gay partners face. Mayor Bloomberg’s billions didn’t hurt either.

I also sense that our society has absorbed something about the basic unfairness of treating couples differently and the insidious impact of such discrimination on youth. My own state senator, Dominican-born Adriano Espaillat, explained his Yes vote with reference to the suicide of Tyler Clementi in his district and just a few blocks from where I live, the lad who jumped off the George Washington Bridge after his date with a guy was streamed live over the Internet.

Espaillat also noted that his office received over 600 messages of support for the bill and fewer than 100 against it.

Commentators are already declaring the New York action a game-changer because it came about through a legislative act, not a court decision. Although Vermont and New Hampshire were admirably ahead of their time, New York is just a much bigger and more influential state. I can already see the city caterers gearing up to throw Adam and Steve a high-society wedding worthy of being splashed across the gossip magazines.

The emergence of a solid bloc of same-sex marriage states is also a good reminder of what a disaster the Clinton presidency was on the issue. We have good old Bill to thank for signing into law the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that permits individual states not to recognize same-sex marriages performed in others. Clinton ushered into being a permanent dual track of legality in which partners have to consider whether to take a job in Texas or Wisconsin and abandon the protections they enjoy in Boston or D.C.

Clinton could have vetoed that bill and fought against it, but he was more concerned about his political future. Then we all witnessed the presidential election of 2008 in which Joe Biden and Sarah Palin peaceably agreed that marriage should not be extended to same-sex couples.

Obama continues this tradition of catch-up, intoning nice-sounding phrases about non-discrimination while allowing himself to ‘evolve’ on the marriage issue. Luckily for gay and lesbian couples, their organizations did not wait for the passage of geologic time so that Democratic pols could evolve into something more useful. They went about their work and scored impressively.

Thirty years after the New Right turned the horrors of homosexual emancipation into a rallying cry to mobilize Reagan voters and build a Christian base for Republicans, the utility of that enemy is fading away. It’s no accident that abortion and taxes are occupying a more prominent role in the Tea Party universe—even the Bible thumpers aren’t all that convinced that the world will end because a couple of elderly ladies can visit each other in the hospital and gay lovers can stamp on the champagne glass at Fire Island.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Follow the money

Cigarettes are going to look pretty gross soon as the tobacco control movement gathers momentum. Packs will now be required to include disgusting pictures of the products’ effects, which probably will contribute more to reducing health costs than a half-dozen Obamacares. One expert on a tobacco control e-mail list that I read opined that the icky pictures, replacing those cool, green Kool packages and flashy Marlboros, would generate distaste and shunning from the store clerks forced to sell these products, further de-normalizing this centuries-old practice of legalized mass drug addiction for private profit.

But another commentator raises a creepy side note: the government’s endorsement of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) as the best, if not the ONLY, way to go if you want to quit, thus boosting a huge potential market for the pharmaceutical companies who market these products.

The fact of the endorsement is beyond debate: all the packs will be required to list the government’s 1-800-QUIT-NOW line, at which callers will be browbeaten with the official line that NRT will enable them to quit, and only silly, stubborn, foolish people will try to do it on their own. This discourse rather echoes the ubiquitous line from makers of statins that you ‘can't kid yourself’ into thinking that cholesterol can be lowered through diet alone.

The official web site, www.smokefree.gov—which carries the logos of HHS, NIH and the National Cancer Institute at the bottom—says that ‘NRT can double a smoker’s chances of quitting smoking’.

This ‘fact’ has been duly ‘demonstrated’ by the gold standard of ‘science’ today: the randomized, blinded, placebo-controlled trial. All pharmaceutical products have to go through this lengthy testing process to earn the almighty (and lucrative) government seal of approval. In such trials research participants are randomly assigned to study arms and observed over a period of time to see who responds more favorably. NRT does okay in these tests.

But as one indignant cessation campaigner points out, this suggests a serious abuse of scientific method: smokers going into the trial will immediately recognize whether they are getting a dose of their drug or a useless sugar pill. It’s like a study pitting a heroin substitute against nothing and ‘discovering’, lo and behold! that the people getting their artificial dopamine stimulation don’t head out every night to score.

The real test of effectiveness is whether NRT users do better over an extended period than people quitting cold turkey, and there apparently is considerable evidence that they do not. I don’t pretend sufficient familiarity with that scientific literature to judge, but it wouldn’t surprise any person with a working brain that powerful economic interests might be quite happy suppressing such knowledge so that they could better sell their products to millions of smokers anxious to quit.

You’d think that a crucial debate of this sort would have attracted some attention to the policymakers involved and a critical eye from reporters as to whether or not they are appropriately neutral arbiters of the evidence. A 2007 Wall Street Journal article [Kevin Helliker, Feb 8, 2007, ‘Nicotine Fix: Behind Antismoking Policy, Influence of Drug Industry’] headlined the unsurprising fact that the head of the federal panel in charge of setting government policy runs an academic research center funded in part by NRT producer companies.

But four years later, nothing in the news coverage of the recent announcement of the nine new pictorial warnings suggested any controversy at all. John Polito, the cold-turkey advocate, writes on his site:

We cannot blame a profit-driven industry for designing clinical trials so as to vastly inflate the worth of worthless quitting products. What should deeply trouble all of us is that our government, whose own real-world findings are contrary to industry marketing, refuses to expose obvious industry shell games.

Polito then wonders ‘how hard the pharmaceutical industry pushed to get the 1-800-QUIT-NOW message on all cigarette packs and the full extent of its financial influence in designing [the] telephone counseling scripts’.

[NB: The Health Canada Web site referenced in the graphic image at the top does not push NRT as essential for quitting the way the U.S. government version does. Curiouser and curiouser.]

Friday, 17 June 2011

Battle for not just Brooklyn

Battle for Brooklyn is a documentary about a real estate development project (Atlantic Yards) in the heart of that borough that involved the usual combination of venality, procedural tricks, phony promises of jobs and housing, truly appalling race baiting and all-around steamrolling of any participation by local residents in the reshaping of their city. The result, years later, is that downtown Brooklyn will have a basketball arena and some tacky chain stores and that’s about it, all at the cost of huge tax subsidies from us to a bunch of already filthy rich people.

The film is a fascinating look at how the big boys do things, and it leaves one even more cynical about the elections that purport to give us an opportunity to make our voices heard. Ha ha ha. When they want something, they don’t shilly-shally around listening to poor schmucks like us.

The doc doesn’t pretend to anything resembling neutrality, and it’s weakened by the filmmakers apparent disinterest in probing the motives and psychology of people who were bought off by the developers in one way or another and who joined the chorus of racially-tinged boos aimed at the activists who spearheaded the opposition, including many whites but also heroic local black leaders like City Councilwoman Letitia James. That would have been useful for people trying to apply the lessons learned to future battles, which are a constant of modern life pretty much anywhere on our urbanized planet.

That said, the movie is a devastating reminder of complicity at the top when the dollar sign is mightily involved and how little labels like ‘Republican’ and ‘Democrat’ matter in that ionospheric realm. It shows perhaps a precursor of battles to come as this supposed dichotomy between the ‘right’ and ‘left’ parties in advanced democracies shrinks further as is occurring today all over Europe.

Consider, for example, this indignant manifesto from one of the occupiers of Madrid’s main square, the Puerta del Sol, to a TV reporter who told those protesting ‘not to question democracy’. It is entitled, ‘Yes, We Question This Democracy’.

Yes, we question this democracy. We question this democracy because it fails to support popular sovereignty: the markets impose decisions for their own benefit and the parties in Parliament are not standing up to this global fact. Neither in our country nor in the European Parliament are they fighting to put an end to financial speculation, whether in currency or in sovereign debt.

We question this democracy because the parties in power do not look out for the collective good, but for the good of the rich. Because they understand growth as the growth of businessmen’s profits, not the growth of social justice, redistribution, public services, access to housing and other necessities. Because the parties in power are concerned only for their own continuation in office, making deals to stay in power and leaving their electoral programme unfulfilled. Because no politician
has to live with what they legislate for their ‘subjects’: insecurity, mortgage debt and uncertainty.

We question this democracy because it colludes in corruption, allowing politicians to hold a private post at the same time as public office, to profit from privileged information, to step into jobs as business advisors after leaving office, making it very profitable to be a politician. . . .

We question this democracy because it is absurd that the only way to ‘punish’ a party is to vote for another one with which one does not agree. We question this democracy because the parties in power do not even comply with the social provisions of the Constitution: justice is not applied equally, there are no decent jobs nor housing for all, foreign-born workers are not treated as citizens.

Excuses are not good enough for us. We do not want to choose between really existing democracy and the dictatorships of the past. We want a different life. Real democracy now!

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Dare thee not!

So the Weiner is toasted, and Dominique Strauss-Kahn is wearing an ankle bracelet. Isn’t it odd that you can torture people, start wars, rob the entire known universe of its cash, all with relative impunity and that the only acts that are REALLY, REALLY unforgivable involve your dick?

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Go Greeks!

With the utter failure of democracy to (1) rein in financial markets worldwide thus generating an ongoing economic catastrophe or to (2) force the perpetrators of these financial shenaningans to share in the burdens of repairing the damage, only direct action is left. Bravo to the people of Greece for pouring into the streets Egyptian-style and refusing to allow their country to be swallowed up by the banker squids.

It has been evident even to a casual outside observer such as myself without the benefit of a PhD in economics that the Greek economy could never escape from the country’s insane debt. This crushing burden, roughly similar to the permanent debt peonage forced on black sharecroppers in the post-bellum South, was built up through a combination of local fecklessness and international collusion by French, German and British banks aided, need we add, by the scam-artistry of Goldman Sachs.

In his annals of Alexander the Great’s conquests around the Mediterranean and beyond, Arrian relates how the invading Macedonian hordes would lay siege to a resisting city, slaughter its defenders and carry off its treasures. That’s pretty much what the European Central Bank has in mind for Greece today—its latest ‘solution’ to the debt trap is for virtually any Greek public asset of value to be sold off to privateers, all while no bondholder forfeits a single centime. If that doesn’t pay the bills, perhaps the ECB could arrange for surviving Greeks to be sold into slavery.

We have seen this all before. Latin America was forced into a similar process of wealth transfer through debt, which only ended when the endless extraction became untenable and destabilizing. The process included lengthy and complex negotiations in which all parties, including creditors, had to agree to give up something. But the European Union, whose 27 members cannot decide what size table to sit around, shows no signs of finding its way toward a solution of this sort.

The banksters raise a great hue and cry about the horrors of default—that Greece simply declare itself incapable of paying out on its sovereign bonds—but this outcome seems to me highly desirable to inject a bracing dose of reality into the conversation, even or especially if it collapses a French bank or two. There is much talk of a Lehman Brothers-style crisis, a meltdown and all the rest, and in a highly leveraged, unregulated financial system run by devious gangsters, severe instability is always a possibility.

But the alternative is to allow the obscenely wealthy to keep shifting the burden of their incompetence onto the state (i.e. taxpayers) indefinitely while any gains accrue only to them. Elections, which result in a back-and-forth between members of the political class all in thrall to these banker gangs, are irrelevant. It’s time for the pitchforks, come what may.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011


Goody, goody, we’re now set for 18 months of mindless posturing pretending to be a political debate. The Republican challengers launched the festivities with their pre-New Hampshire reality series complete with ‘this or that’ questions like, [Do you prefer] Elvis Presley or Johnny Cash? Not one presidential contender drove a truck through the huge opportunity to briefly impersonate an adult and say, ‘That question is silly and beneath the dignity of the office to which I aspire’.

Not that one of these bozo bipeds couldn’t end up in the Oval Office. The excessive confidence of the Obamaoids is fading in inverse proportion to the stickily high unemployment figures and Obama’s caving to the banksters in March of 2009 is now proving deadly just as dissidents warned at the time. Instead of taking the historic opportunity to pull the financier-rentier class back in line and subordinate it to the working economy, Obama and his A-team of enablers (Geithner, Summers and the rest) handed them the store in exchange for promises to bring back productive employment. That hasn’t worked out.

So now we have the prime-time spectacle of demented goofballs like Herman Cain and Michelle Bachmann actually saying true things, like broken clocks that are correct twice a day. When Obama makes happy-talk by calling employment problems a mere ‘bump in the road’, Mitt (the Hair) Romney can score easy points with his ad of depressed workers taking issue with that rather heartless statement. By refusing to place blame on the perpetrators of economic catastrophe with his disastrous let’s-hold-hands-and-sing bipartisan fantasy, Obama now has to shoulder sole responsibility for the current state of affairs.

A large portion of the finance/economy blogosphere, which I enjoy reading as a curious consumer, has been on Obama’s ass for his entire term for excessive optimism, dissembling and delight in the cozy confines of the banksters’ back pockets. As Yves Smith lays out today in a full airing in her blog Naked Capitalism,

‘Obama’s repudiation of his campaign promise of change, by turning his back on meaningful reform of the financial services industry, in turn locked his Administration into . . . working fist in glove with the banksters, supporting and amplifying their own, well established propaganda efforts.

‘Thus Obama’s incentives are to come up with “solutions” that paper over problems, avoid meaningful conflict with the industry, minimize complaints, and restore the old practice of using leverage and investment gains to cover up stagnation in worker incomes. Potemkin reforms dovetail with the financial service industry’s goal of forestalling any measures that would interfere with its looting. So the only problem with this picture was how to fool the now-impoverished public into thinking a program of Mussolini-style corporatism represented progress’.

The depressing part of the story is that Smith is quoting herself, having written that in March of 2010, and the takeover of our productive economy by the cash-extraction industry has only gotten worse in the year since. Despite the wall of liquidity being thrown at the TBTF banks, lending is sluggish, small businesses (the ones that create most employment) are squeezed and the underlying balance sheets remain dangerously shaky.

If a major new upheaval occurs, which is likely with the Europeans’ problems and the still-untapped sewer of legal fraud lying beneath the nation’s foreclosure industry, the bank behemoths will be back at the government warehouse demanding more.

Based on past performance, Obama would respond to a new Wall Street crisis by giving the banks everything they ask and then politely inquiring if they feel better now, thereby providing a new opportunity for corporate shills like Romney, Bachmann and Pawlenty to charge forward as defenders of the little guy.

These are the unsavory choices provided by our creaky democracy today.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Live by the soundbite. . .

There is a story about Anthony Weiner’s role in the legislation providing medical assistance for 9/11 first responders, the so-called Zadroga bill, that provides a neat counterpoint to the circus he’s now starring in. Weiner is famous for going ballistic and blasting the Republicans from the well of the House when they cynically blocked the measure as needless gummint spending.

Weiner cleverly channeled the frustration many of us felt at the time at the gigantic targets the forces of reaction were providing but at which no Democrats, including especially one B. Obama, would take aim. He directly shamed and smacked the GOP in a way only the Limbaugh-driven Republicans dare to do in our sado-masochistic political culture.

One can opine on whether or not this take-no-prisoners tactic was correct or wise—I personally thought it long overdue. But the incident shows how Weiner’s combative posture as a free-lance hot dog (sorry, couldn’t resist) worked, how his willingness to elbow his way into the scoring zone made him a love/hate object. He reportedly didn’t contribute much to the collegial process involved in constructing the Zadroga bill and left what New York colleague Jerold Nadler called ‘thousands of hours’ of negotiations to others. But when the opportunity arose for a devastating soundbite, Weiner had the killer instinct to snatch it. So it was Weiner on the morning news shows battling the Republican dragon, not Carolyn Maloney, Nadler or other NY pols you’ve never heard of.

It’s an effective way to get ahead, and Weiner distinguished himself among the crowd by his full-frontal attacks. Given Democratic spinelessness and their eagerness to please the very right-wingers who disdain them, he provided welcome relief. But when you alienate friends and enemies alike by shoving everyone aside en route to the cameras, it’s got to be pretty lonely when the cameras are not showcasing your opinions but rather your pants down around your ankles.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Law for all

Whole cities in Mexico can’t hire a police chief because he (or she in a few cases) will be promptly sliced and quartered by the drug traffickers and the pieces placed on the town battlements for all to see. That is, unless he is willing to accept a huge bribe to look the other way and help keep out the competition. Hm, that’s a tough one: would you like 20 thousand dollars or to have your nuts doused in alcohol and set on fire?

We may shudder at these stories of awful things occurring far away, but the protection of what we enjoy as a modicum of rule of law closer to home is also under sustained assault, albeit on a far lesser scale. General indifference to lawful/lawlessness is a deeply-held biped trait, as far as I can tell, unless and until said injustice touches one personally as the torture debate has re-proven. But there are a few faint signs of resistance that are encouraging.

Here in New York we are regularly witness to all sorts of police misconduct, which just as regularly results in no punishment for the official perps. However, the latest scandal involving ticket-fixing threatens to do the boys in blue some serious damage, not because any one is particularly surprised or even incensed at the practice, but because it finally undermines a precious enforcement commodity—trust.

A Bronx jury recently acquitted a guy [above] charged with drunk driving after learning that the charging officers regularly fixed traffic tickets for their friends. So much for the ticket-fixing = ‘professional courtesy’ theory bruited about by defenders of the practice—a jury quite reasonably concluded that if police can make a legitimate charge go away with a wave of the wand, they could also drum up an illegitimate one for someone they don’t like quite as well.

Some of the juror comments were devastating: ‘completely corrupt’; ‘They have no integrity’. ‘They don’t even deserve a badge’. This development must be sending chills up and down prosecutorial spines all over town. How easy it will be for defense lawyers to discover that the testifying cop has engaged in this routine practice and blow virtually any case out of the water?

The Daily News says the Bronx DA’s office is frantically offering plea deals to keep ticket-fixing cops off the stand. At least one murder case has been lost over the suddenly un-credible cops problem.

It is also no accident that surprising love-bomb from a jury occurred in the Bronx, a majority black and Hispanic district. That’s where the youngsters bear the brunt of the city’s 600 thousand annual ‘stop and frisk’ actions in which cops since Giuliani have been permitted to harass minority men relentlessly as part of the over-played ‘broken windows’ theory of crime prevention. One result is that the city has racked up vast numbers of marihuana arrests, which saddle minority youth with a criminal record for life.

One lesson, if anyone at NYPD is in the mood for higher ed, seems to be that official impunity, two-tiered justice and effective policing don’t really mix.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

You da Man

I do not care about Anthony Weiner, his career or his dick. But there is something breathtakingly insane and yet utterly predictable about all three.

There is a certain kind of alpha male attracted to the modern political game—neurotically ambitious, chronically sleep-deprived and disagreeably fixated on winning, whatever that might mean at a given moment. They’re the kind of guys who are comfortable on the cable news scream-shows and also fanatically dedicated to the gym, which they shoehorn into their 20-hour days.

Weiner is a good exemplar of this class of weirdos who now run our lives. They also appear very frequently in the Obama White House, and no doubt in the prior version as well. They are usually dangerously pumped up (note how Weiner accented his firm man-titties for the camera), overworked and either constantly on the verge of hysteria (Rahm Emanuel) or so eerily self-controlled you suspect they are part Vulcan (Geithner). These are the guys capable of designing an education advocacy program with the perverse, twisted title, ‘Race to the Top’, suggesting that they think the main reason to learn things is to show off to everyone how superior you are. The Weiner debacle illustrates something not often acknowledged among us: THERE IS SOMETHING WRONG WITH THEM.

It’s easy to suppose how the disease progresses among these types: they have early successes, are smart and aggressive, learn ruthlessness and are attracted to others like themselves, which reinforces their worst tendencies. They achieve a measure of status and suddenly are surrounded by people sucking up to them (sometimes literally), thereby convincing them that their original intuition—that they are extremely special—is correct. From there it’s a quick slide down the psychological precipice to sensations of invincibility, hubris and catastrophe.

Despite the finger-pointing at Weiner for not knowing how to reel it in, our culture reinforces this profile and constantly rewards those who fit it. We pretend to think we find them appalling when for the most part we can’t imagine being dominated by anyone else.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

DoJ pursues Edwards, forgives Yoo

Which is worse? Funneling campaign money to your secret floozy to keep the news of your love-child out of the news? Or torturing people?

The Obama Justice Department has shown itself quite zealous in putting the screws to a political nobody who came dangerously close to making Sarah Palin vice president. (Imagine if his sexual peccadilloes had emerged after he had become the nominee.) He is a thoughtless, irresponsible, narcissistic human being as fully outlined and described in excruciating detail by his former top aide, Andrew Young, in The Politician.

That said, I find it morally loathsome that the Justice Department should dash after this guy with a felony indictment when it is itself criminally eager, on the express order of President Obama, to ‘put the past behind us’ on the systematic torture regime created by the Bush-era criminals. It says something, had we need of further proof, about who the real enemies of this White House are: liberal Democrats who stray out of line.

Torturers and their ilk are okay.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Employment sucks

The country’s latest jobless figures are out confirming the uneasy buzz in the econ/finance pages that the supposed ‘recovery’ that has made bankers (but few others) so happy may be sputtering out. Job creation totaled a pathetic 54,000, not nearly enough to absorb the new workers entering the force. Obama’s re-election mantra for disaffected supporters like me will be all about how ‘change’ takes time, so don’t be so whiny. But what if change is indeed happening but in the wrong direction?

Obama refused to countenance a New Deal-style public works or job-creation program when he was freshly in office and could have jammed something through over the howls of outrage from rich white guys. Our prez consistently has caved to the deficit panic people who hate his guts and allowed well over a million jobs (1.3 million according to this guy) to disappear in the government sector as state after state hits the fiscal wall. Sharp spending cutbacks at a time of diminishing demand used to be considered dumb policy, something that fatally discredited Herbert Hoover and aggravated the 1930s Depression. But oddly, it’s back.

Meanwhile, Europe is also in the grips of the new financial oligarchy, now doctoring periphery countries like Ireland, Greece and Portugal with the same poison that was once forced down the collective throat of people in Uruguay, Indonesia and Zambia: slash government spending, privatize everything, drive the powerless into abject poverty and declare the economy ‘healthy’. It’s working about pretty much as well now as it did in the 1970s. Britain’s recovery from the recession is now in doubt, and the debt-peonage being shoehorned into the defenseless Greek islands is a scandal. The new measures will guarantee that holders of German and French bank bonds will cream off any surplus produced by workers there for the foreseeable future.

I don’t read anything in the economics pages that suggests the people in charge really think any of this will work to restore economic health. But I gather that that is not really the goal—rather, the IMF-OECD-Treasury-Goldman fino-political bankopoly is determined to keep the cash flowing into its bottomless pockets at whatever cost necessary. We are witnessing a class war waged by experts with Barack O as Confuser-in-Chief.