Corporate Welfare Bums

The phrase “Corporate Welfare Bums” was coined by Canadian NDP Leader David Lewis in 1972.

J. P. Morgan just got a gift of $225 million from the local government to locate an office in Jersey City. Corporate welfare. Somewhere in Jersey City a single mom with two kids is thinking, I should ask the government for some money if I agree to locate my ass at the McDonald’s drive-thru window.

J.P. Morgan had profits of $18 billion last year. The government had evidence that J. P. Morgan was complicit with the Bernie Madoff ponzi scheme: while claiming the trust of investors and partners they did nothing to ensure that their money was being handled in a legal and responsible manner. To forestall more serious criminal proceedings they agreed to pay out about $2 billion in fines. They would have you believe that they didn’t really do anything wrong, and the agreement with the government allows them to claim that they didn’t really do anything wrong– they just like to hand over $2 billion dollars to the government occasionally, because it makes them feel good.

If you were a bank robber or a burglar, wouldn’t you wish that you had the option of paying a large fine every time you were threated with imprisonment? J. P. Morgan’s President and CEO and Board Members can phone almost any politician and arrange lunch. You can’t. So pick up your mop and get back to work.

Vanity Fairy

“Do I see myself as a feminist idol? No. I don’t see myself as anything.” Baba Wawa in Wanity Fair. (Barbara Walters in Vanity Fair, 2014-05)

“Dayan’s widow, Raquel, would wear to her husband’s 1981 funeral, a dress that belonged to Walters”.

Now that’s journalism. (Vanity Fair)

“I was one of the first who did political interviews and celebrities… and now everybody does it”.

Yes, all of your celebrity wannabe friends.

Please don’t let anyone deceive you into thinking that the media made a bigger thing out of Barbara Walter’s “tree question” than it really deserved. It deserved to be mocked, in spades. Barbara Walters was a pushy, inane, abominable, celebrity hostess who did more damage than you can possibly imagine to journalism in American. She almost single-handedly invented tabloid journalism. She mastered and promoted the mutual masturbation style of interview, wherein the interviewer asks soft questions and the subject calmly answers them with lies and half-truths and the interviewer generously moves on to the next earth-shattering issue: single or queen-sized bed? When was the last time you cried? Would you cry now for me, please? Just a tear or two.

Trust me: we forgive torturers who cry.

It works wonderfully and you will see even the New York Times marvel at the guests she was able to land.

Of course she lands famous guests: she gives them all a glorious opportunity to answer their critics without difficult follow-up questions, like, “(this specific person) claims that your secret police arrested and tortured her for several months. Are you saying it didn’t happen? Is Amnesty International lying?”

She even let at least one of them edit her own interview (Barbara Streisand, having imposed a condition no real journalist would have agreed to), though I cannot imagine why Streisand thought it would even be necessary.

No person is too obscenely trivial or unimportant as to not deserve an interview with Barbara Walters, from the Khardasians to Beyonce (yes, screw it, Beyonce is trivial) to– the ultimate and most telling triviality of all: Donald Sterling’s girlfriend: V. Stiviano. To Barbara Walters, they are all, Kings and Presidents, Dictators and porn stars, Khardasians and Secretaries of State, equally important, equally interesting, and equally glamorous.

Now the revisionists appear but I can’t understand why. Everyone has always known she was a joke. Everyone has always known that by offering to pose her own dim-witted self-serving harmless fuzz ball questions, she allowed controversial figures to pad their own images, pretend to be accountable, without offering up a single wit, not a moment of honesty or authenticity.

Vanity Fair embarrassingly, shamelessly, with the utmost servility, describes her as reading whenever she is sitting on a plane, and arranged a photo to show bookshelves behind her. Vanity Fair neglects to mention that when she made her meteoric rise to “stardom” in the 1970’s at ABC News, she was the very first co-anchor to…. wait for it … no, it’s not that…. to be a non-journalist. She was the first to be chosen for her ability to entertain, not to enlighten, and the other journalists knew it, but, judging from Vanity Fair, you would never know it.

In Barbara Walters’ own delusional universe, the real journalists like Morley Safer and Peter Jennings criticized her because she was a woman, not because she was a hack.

What kind of a reporter was Barbara Walters? How did she manage to score that exclusive interview with Bashar al-Assad? Her amazing — I don’t know what people even think she has– whatever? Or the fact that she helped an Assad aide to obtain an internship at CNN and enroll in Columbia University. But whoa nelly! It’s not as if she held back on Assad: are you a mean dictator? No, not at all. Then show me your glamorous palace and your beautiful wife.

Curtis Sittenfeld, in a particularly gruesome and nauseating aside, insists that you know Walters is great because you can’t not watch– you have to see it, to the end. I am very happy to admit that I watched parts of  several Barbara Walters interviews early in her career and never, ever came back. I looked away as quickly as possible.  Not for Monica Lewinsky, or the hugely embarrassing– mortifying– Obama interview, or Castro, or Sadat, or anyone else she trivialized over the past thirty years.

When she asks Bill Gates if his feelings were hurt because he was referred to as a “nerd”, you have to ask yourself if she has the slightest clue of what a nerd is or what a computer is or what Microsoft is or what Bill Gates is, but you just know that Bill Gates will never mind being asked if his feelings were hurt because Barbara Walters thinks people call him a nerd.

Some Trivia

The pope has decided that he will no longer use the pope-mobile. Hallelujah.

How Vanity Fair scores so many lengthy articles on celebrities: read this piece or any other piece they have produced. Fawning, worshipful, admiring, suck-ups.



In the astonishing case of Brig. General Jeffrey Sinclair, a woman claimed to have been sexually assaulted by the general.

During the process of prosecuting Sinclair, it emerged that Sinclair and the woman had been conducting an affair for three years. The general was married. Adultery, in the army, is a serious offense, but it is not a criminal offense outside of the army: it is grounds for divorce. In any case, prosecutors dropped the assault charges after the credibility of the woman making the charges was shattered: personal e-mails showed that the affair was more than consensual. She badly wanted him to divorce his wife and marry her.

There was an outcry. Injustice! Yes, I agree, a person who knowingly lies about a serious matter like that should be punished. She almost caused General Sinclair to be court-martialed and imprisoned for life. You read that right: in the military, sexual assault can lead to a life sentence. So people are naturally outraged.

Except that she is not the target of her outrage.

They are outraged that General Sinclair “got away with it”!

Now, you may or may not agree that the woman should be punished for lying to prosecutors, but to continue to insist that General Sinclair should be punished for carrying on a consensual affair is absurd. The chief army prosecutor in the case, Colonel Helixon, upon discovering the complainant’s dishonesty, moved to have the case dismissed, as he should have. But his superior officers, aware of the growing public controversy– Senator Kirsten Gillibrand was demanding a change to the way the army handles cases of sexual assault– ordered him to press ahead with a case he did not believe in. He was so troubled by this, he threatened to withdraw from the case, and seemed to have some kind of mental breakdown. He did eventually withdraw but his successor, Colonel Stelle, came to the same conclusion and conceded that he would be unlikely to win a conviction if the case went to trial. This time, the brass acceded to his recommendation to withdraw charges against Sinclair.

That is not an insignificant fact: the prosecution believed that a judge would not believe the charges against Sinclair. In other words, there was strong evidence that it was nothing more than a consensual affair that had gone sour, and when it was discovered, the supposed victim realized that she herself could be charged and punished unless she insisted that she had not consented, that she had, in fact, been raped. And, what the hell, the General only seemed interested in sex. She wasn’t having his way with him anymore.

It is possible, if not likely, that she was motivated by revenge.

Incidentally, Senator Gillibrand, a Democrat, has received a 100% approval rating from the National Rifle Association. She describes herself as having one of the most conservative voting records in the state of New York, when she was a Congressional Representative.

A rather fawning profile of Senator Gillibrand in Vogue. Apparently “her eyes flicker with joy” when discussing gay rights, according to author Jonathan Van Meter.

Rape Culture

The Pentagon poll defined sexual assault broadly enough to include a slap on the behind-and half of its self-reported victims were men. Cathy Young,

It is such a touchy topic. Why? Because there is a very well documented history of men dismissing rape as something trivial and victims as complicit. If a professor or an employer or a soldier was accused, his colleagues and compadres rallied to his defense. Defense lawyers were allowed to make suggestive forays into a woman’s sexual history. There was a cultural adherence to the idea that it was impossible to rape a truly unwilling woman, and the shame of it all. In conservative nations today, that attitude yet prevails.

There has been progress, though not enough, on these issues, But there also been excess, to the point where some feminists openly assert that any woman who claims to have been sexually assaulted should automatically be believed, which, in defiance of the facts, many seem to insist on in the Sinclair case (left). And yet we continue to have cases where women clearly lied and men have been falsely accused, reputations destroyed, lives upended. And too often, these lies have been excused and the women or girls who made the false accusations have suffered no consequences.

I am more than a little perplexed by the number of women, including prominent politicians like Kirsten Gillibrand, who continue to insist that the woman in this affair must have been assaulted, no matter what her credibility issues. Some even insist that, whether she was “assaulted” or not, any relationship between two people who have unequal power or authority is inherently abusive. Does this mean that it is impossible that two people in such positions can be mutually attracted to each other or have a mutually consensual relationship?

Or is this all about the adultery? Our moral repugnance at the thought of two adults having consensual sex.

These peoples’ jobs, by the way, is to kill people. When pilots recklessly bombed their own (and Canadian) troops in Afghanistan, all was forgiven, even when other soldiers warned them that the target was questionable. When they bombed a wedding by mistake killing more than a dozen old men, women, and children… It was understandable. Boys will be boys. War is hell. And when helicopter pilots murdered a group of civilians in Iraq, including a Reuters reporter: well, you just don’t understand the pressures these boys are under. They were just doing their job. We’ll give each victim’s family 2000 big U.S. dollars.

But when two of them touch each other and kiss and bring each other to physical ecstasy? THIS must be stopped.

And when it is revealed that the affair was more than consensual– well, it can’t be consensual, really, because he was her commanding officer. She couldn’t possibly have said no, or reported him immediately. She could wait three years (until it became apparent that he was not going to leave his wife for her, and that he had other girlfriends).

One letter writer in the New York Times says: “Excuse me? Wives are raped by their husbands all the time.” I’d be curious to know what she means by “all the time”.

This is a model of “justice” which essentially works out to this: a woman can start an affair with a superior officer any time she pleases and, no matter how she behaves in this relationship, always retain the option of suddenly deciding that she has been assaulted and forced into sex. She thereby is able to excuse her own behavior, which, under the Military Code of Justice is also illegal (if the sexual partner was married) and destroy her lover, economically, socially, and psychologically.

This is obscene, but it appears to be the standard that Gillibrand and others are demanding.

The Redefinition of Rape

Other Notes

Real Wisdom, from the NY Times article above:

At the same time, students need to be told clearly that if they are voluntarily under the influence (but not incapacitated), they remain responsible for their sexual choices.

The Model A Ford

The phenomenon of Rob Ford really cries out for a new explanation of politics and scandal and democracy. We have a politician who has committed numerous egregious offenses and he continues to poll about even with his most serious challenger. Everyone professes shock and outrage but most voters don’t care. A typical comment by a Ford supporter: “The media make too a big deal out of it.” It has become, of course, impossible to pretend the media is lying. So it’s just “not that big of a deal”.

Anthony Wiener had to resign his congressional seat because he sent women pictures of his crotch– and persisted in lying about it after the evidence was clear. Eliot Spitzer, a very effective State Attorney General who showed he was willing to take on the big brokerages and banks– all by his lonesome self– had to resign because he admitted seeing an escort. Wiener and Eliot clearly gave up too early. They clearly were wrong to look ashamed and embarrassed. They should have given the media the finger. They should have said, “that’s my persona life and none of your business.”

Ford has an achievement: any new scandal will be ineffective because everybody’s heard just about the worst things you can hear about a politician. So a new video shows him smoking crack? Duh! We knew that. And he makes obscene comments about a female challenger for mayor? Ha ha, what a character! He’s drunk and stupid and belligerent? Attaboy! He’s our very own Don Cherry– except for the drunk part.

As someone pointed out on CBC radio today, there has not been a broad-based, resonant cry for him to resign from other politicians, which is curious. It was explained that Kathleen Wynn, of the provincial liberals, can’t go after him because she will need some of his supporters to win the next election, which is imminent. Tim Hudak, the opposition leader, and Harper, the federal prime-minister, won’t go after him because, first of all, he is a fellow conservative and he helps raise money and move volunteers for the cause, and, secondly, there are relationships going back to his father, a long time Conservative Party operative.

There is something akin to the Goebbels “Big Lie” theory here, except that nobody really believes it’s a lie. They just don’t care. Ford has been famously attentive to the concerns of his constituents (he has always made a point of responding to phone calls and messages), and who wants to pay more taxes? Who doesn’t believe that you could cut jobs and outsource without consequence? Who doesn’t fantasize standing up to the bureacrats, those smart-assed educated elite snobs who make me feel as stupid as Rob Ford?

What is remarkable to me is that Ford, like a New York mob leader in the 1950’s, seems confident and smug and contemptuous of the establishment. We think he knows there are rules about conduct and behaviour and attitude and we think he knows he has broken them, but I think he really believes that well behaved intellectuals and managers and politicians are all frauds and that the style and manners of the elite are nothing more than tricks of the trade, charades, and kabuki theatre: now my serious, solemn mask, now my bemused mask, now my congenial sympathetic mask. That’s why he likes to say, I am what I am. What you see is what you get.

So my fantasy is not that all the Rob Fords in the world get their due: but that some day we may get a liberal Rob Ford who sets out to do for working people what assholes like Rob Ford and Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter have been doing for years for the investor class.

Obama’s Biggest Mistake

If we do turn into a police state some time in the future and everyone is feeling safe and secure and watched, Obama will not be remembered as a hero of that movement: there are no heroes of that kind of future. No one will brag, in the future, that they were so frightened of terrorists that they acquiesced to the erosion of one of our most fundamental of civil liberties: the right to not be watched.

They will be ashamed. We know this because neither George Bush or Obama or any other leading politician was willing to campaign on a platform that included the idea of instituting massive warrantless surveillance of every U.S. citizen.

But if America comes to its senses in the next few years and realizes just how awful the consequences of the surveillance state is, Obama will certainly be regarded as a jerk, who made one of the worst decisions in U.S. Presidential history, who suffered the most profound failure of imagination of a Democratic leader since Lyndon Johnson forgot to end the Viet Nam war after he realized it could never be won.

Yes, Obama will be known as the Lyndon Johnson of the 21st century, a smart, dynamic leader who made numerous good decisions and one or two incredibly horrible decisions that permanently scarred the perception of his administration. Johnson achieved many remarkable things, including landmark civil rights legislation and anti-poverty programs. But he could not bear to make himself vulnerable to conservatives who would paint him as a coward if he did the right thing and withdrew from Viet Nam. He sent 55,000 Americans to their deaths to pay for his ego. Obama could not bear to make himself vulnerable to conservatives who would accuse him of having blood on his hands if any Americans died in a terrorist attack which, in their fantasy world, could have been prevented with the NSA’s massive surveillance program.

This is not an exaggeration or hyperbole: 55,000 American young men died because Lyndon Johnson couldn’t bear the thought that Republicans would call him a coward or a defeatist. And that is the essence of Republican politics: they didn’t require that Johnson put on a backpack and boots and go into the jungles of Viet Nam and shoot a few Viet Cong to prove his manhood. No, no, no, because Republicans would never send themselves there to do that. No, what they demanded is that he be big and brave and send someone else to get shot at and killed and maimed, so he could sleep at night knowing his manhood was secure.

Obama’s motivation is similar: he can’t bear the idea of being soft on terrorism, so he is extra harsh, assassinating targets without the slightest process, due or otherwise, and refusing to act against administration officials who conducted torture and arbitrary seizure and imprisonment– and there are a lot of really repulsive former administration officials in that category. He just couldn’t bear it. But nobody says, “I can’t bear to prosecute people who look like me and live like me and work in the same buildings”. They say, “it would be too complicated, too difficult. It would raise constitutional issues. Executive privilege. They had good intentions. It would set a bad precedent. It would tie up prosecutors for ages”. The same reasons they give for not prosecuting individuals at the big banks and brokerages who clearly defrauded Americans of billions of dollars.

What makes it all even more stunning is the fact that so many people in the Bush administration — conservative Republicans all!– were absolutely convinced that the program was illegal and unconstitutional. Many of them even resigned posts at the NSA rather than participate in a program they absolutely believed was wrong. The Bush Administration persecuted them, sending the FBI to search their homes and confiscate their home computers and terrorize their families.

And then the Democrat, the liberal progressive Democrat, comes into office and not only tolerates the continued violation of the constitution– he increases it! He goes further. He even approves the assassinations of Americans living abroad.

The contrast between Obama’s complete and abject surrender to the paranoids who run the intelligence services and his campaign speeches is heart-breaking. It is heart-breaking because he raised the hopes of people who believed passionately that it was possible to bring decency and good sense and wisdom to the White House by electing this elegant, articulate, visionary young senator. Raised those hopes so high, and then crushed them.

So even if some politician launched a campaign for the presidency next year and vowed that he would stop the NSA from warrantless spying on every American, you could never believe that he would actually do it. He might believe it himself for a while, but then there would be a moment when he realizes he might actually win the election, and a meeting in the White House before he takes office, and he would be surrounded by high-ranking officials in the intelligence gathering community and they would solemnly insist that Americans will die and he will be blamed if he doesn’t immediately reverse himself, and a moment at home alone at night when he considers a headline blaming a terrorist attack on the inadequate manhood of the man in the hood.

Are you listening, Rand Paul? He says what Obama said, but I can picture Michael Hayden sitting in an office while an aide discusses Paul’s vision of a surveillance-less future… and laughing.

More on the NSA warrantless surveillance program.

How the FBI really protects Americans from “terrorist threats”.

Canadian law on “unreasonable” search and seizure.

brilliant documentary on the NSA’s warrantless surveillance programs.

Very, very depressing to see that the New York Times had the story about the secret surveillance program and was about to publish it when the White House called senior editors and the publisher to a meeting and used the old “blood on your hands” canard to convince them not to publish.

South Carolina is considering a law prohibiting law enforcement agencies from collecting GPS data from cell phones without a warrant.  This is a news item.  It should not be.  It is absurd that any state should pass a law to protect a right that is already guaranteed in the constitution (the prohibition against unreasonable search and seizure).

I read about this this evening– in Reddit, I believe– and then I couldn’t find it in any news source anywhere.  Maybe it was an error.

Whose Political Correctness

One of the most brilliant achievements of the right in the U.S.– like it or not– was convincing some people that “political correctness” consisted mostly of liberals browbeating conservatives and censoring conservative opinion. Yes, it’s a brilliant achievement, because while there definitely is some left-wing suppression and censorship, all you have to do is consider patriotism, national anthems, flag pins, war protests, peaceniks, environmentalists, and so on and so on to realize that political correctness is and has always been the issue par excellence of the right.

Nobody censors more and more often than conservatives, whether it be books in schools, or dramas at a theatre being built in the new World Trade Center, or cutting off the microphone when a Democrat wants to ask a question at a committee meeting, or destroying evidence so it is impossible to appeal capital crime convictions, or preventing the appointment of a person to the office of Surgeon General because she once expressed concern about the number of gun deaths in the United States: conservatives adore censorship and suppression of dissent.

But it is always a great strategy to accuse your opponent of your own most cherished practices.

Condoleeza Rice and the Temple of Doom

Condolezza Rice backs out of commencement address at Rutgers University after students protest.

I am sure Fox News will seize upon this story as another example of the hypocritical left suppressing free speech when it’s speech that they don’t like. They eat this stuff up, because it’s exactly what they do and they are embarrassed by it and nothing eases embarrassment more than finger-pointing.

And Fox News will, of course, act as if no conservative university or institution ever cancelled or banned a speech by someone they didn’t like. When is Bob Roberts University going to invite Noam Chomsky to give an address? And they will act as if a majority of reasonable students and faculty at Rutgers wanted to hear Rice and their wishes are being denied by a minority of rabblerousing environmental extremists and peace activists.

If what we had at Rutgers, was a case of a conservative woman invited by a group of students and faculty and offering a speech expressing his or her views and another group of students who didn’t want to allow people to hear that speech, I would agree with them. And, at some level, that is what is happening, and it is disgraceful. But that’s not the essence of this issue.

I recently discovered that an organization I work for has helped arrange a video-conference in Toronto that will feature, among others, Laura Bush as a guest speaker. Laura Bush? That celebrated authority on …. what? Libraries?

Well, we know what her expertise is: on being married to a mediocre former president who led his nation into two ill-advised wars that still haven’t ended and nearly destroyed the world’s economy. When she was chosen, what criteria was applied: people will want to see her, because she is a celebrity. Someone who is famous for being famous.

So I would be quite happy to organize a rally to protest the selection of Laura Bush as guest speaker at this event– if I cared enough about it. But my protest would have nothing to do with her political views and everything to do with the fact that she is ridiculously unqualified to proffer her expertise on anything other than, perhaps, being a librarian (which she was before she married George Bush). It is an offense anyone’s sense of decency and fairness and class to see celebrities proffered as “experts” on anything.

Condoleeza Rice has a few more credentials: she is a mediocre former secretary of state whose performance was also decidedly mediocre. In particular, she heartily commended the incredibly costly and disastrous invasion of Iraq based on rigged evidence. She had no major foreign policy achievements, no great influence on anyone except other mediocrities who sided with her conservative ideology. Her views on the cold war and the Middle East were worst than uninformed: they were ignorant. But George Bush liked to work out with her and so she acquired significant influence in the White House.

So, she wouldn’t be worthless as a guest speaker, if she were to comment insightfully on the workings of the State Department during the later years of the Bush Administration. But I very much doubt that someone with her record is going to want to provide the audience with anything but self-serving spin.

Why was she chosen? I would guess that there would be several reasons none of which would include the possibility that she was a smart person with a lot of interesting things to say about foreign policy, international relations, or peace in the Middle East. More likely, the reasons would range from the fact that she is well-known (a celebrity), that she served in high government office (including a stint on the National Security Council for George Bush Sr.), that she wrote books on foreign policy, that she was a black woman serving in an administration dominated by white men, to the fact that Chevron named a 129,000 ton supertanker after her (after she helped them score some oil fields in Kazakhstan).

But part of the selection process relates to the whole culture of elites, of celebrities, of speakers’ bureaus, of self-promotion and mutual self-interest.

Rice was not selected by students and faculty because they were interested in what she might have to say, but by President Robert Barchi, who then gets to host her for a luncheon and have his picture taken with her and introduce her to his wife, and tell all his friends that, as he was saying to Condi the other day….

So the students are quite right to protest. Why is Barchi using the University’s resources to gratify his own vanity, instead of selecting a speaker who can help further the educational mission of the school?

Rice will agree with a selfie because that is exactly what this is all about and she understands that. She understands perfectly that she is not going to receive thousands of dollars to provide “intellectual property” that has a value because it either has no value or can’t be transcribed into a selfie.

Her selection was an “honor”. The first thing she would have said in her speech was how “honored” she was to be there. But the honor was not given by the captive audience forced to sit there and become part of the obscene tableau of famous people collaborating in the arrangement of tributes to themselves: many students and faculty rightly found the entire idea distasteful.

The students and faculty should have played a role in selecting the commencement speaker, and if they had chosen Rice, any protesters would have been their problem. They are right to stand up and ask, “why are we honoring a woman who is most famous today for endorsing a war that is now widely regarded as a monumental mistake and disaster?”

Why are we being forced to be part of this shabby little theatrical exercise?