Short of writing, following and studying the news is my primary profession; the latter nourishes the former. I swim in headlines, drown in text, and too often choke on nonsense. It’s fascinating, but not fun … and while much of the news these days makes me hedge the yawning chasm of despair, every once in a while a story will come along that quite simply makes me want to run my head through a plate glass window.
The Washington Post provided the latest example of pure, mind-bending awful. You’ve certainly heard by now that California is enduring the worst drought since God wore short pants. Governor Brown has initiated severe water rationing as a result, and according to the Post, the rich folks aren’t taking it very well. “Rich Californians Balk at Limits: ‘We’re Not All Equal When It Comes to Water,'” reads the headline. The lawns and pools on their estates, their flower gardens and private golf courses, all will be affected.
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“What are we supposed to do,” said one aggrieved party, “just have dirt around our house on four acres?”
There you have it, friends. George Orwell – “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others” – was a true prophet. In a state where the aquifers are almost empty, the water that’s left has been tainted with fracking waste thanks to the profit motive, and the poverty-burdened migrant worker community which basically supports the state’s economy only sees green when they work the fields or get their meager pay, the über-wealthy are worried about the lushness of their lawns.
For reasons some may argue are not entirely fair, the Post article about those preposterous people helped crystallize a few things as I encompassed the rhetoric contained in Secretary Clinton’s big campaign speech this past weekend. Despite her long history of association with these kinds of people, Mrs. Clinton on Saturday deployed the sort of populist bombast that one might have heard at an Occupy Wall Street rally not so long ago:
We’re still working our way back from a crisis that happened because time-tested values were replaced by false promises. Instead of an economy built by every American, for every American, we were told that if we let those at the top pay lower taxes and bend the rules, their success would trickle down to everyone else.
You see corporations making record profits, with CEOs making record pay, but your paychecks have barely budged. While many of you are working multiple jobs to make ends meet, you see the top 25 hedge fund managers making more than all of America’s kindergarten teachers combined. And, often paying a lower tax rate.
Prosperity can’t be just for CEOs and hedge fund managers. Democracy can’t be just for billionaires and corporations … The financial industry and many multi-national corporations have created huge wealth for a few by focusing too much on short-term profit and too little on long-term value, too much on complex trading schemes and stock buybacks, too little on investments in new businesses, jobs, and fair compensation.
Interesting, that … especially the stuff about hedge fund managers and CEOs and billionaires and fair compensation. Heady stuff; she sounded for all the world like Elizabeth Warren, or Bernie Sanders.
Yet a peek at her donor list is revealing. The roll-call of Mrs. Clinton’s top twenty campaign donors is topped by Citibank, and includes Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch and Credit Suisse Group … basically, a cohort of the worst people in the United States, the ones who gamed the system by buying politicians like her and then proceeded to burn the economy down to dust and ash while making a financial killing in the process.
The hood ornament on President Obama’s second term agenda, the positively nauseating Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and fast-track authority for same, has been much in the news of late. The deal was dealt a blow by Congress some days ago, but the argument is far from complete. Mrs. Clinton’s silence on the topic is deeper than what one would hear in deep space. However, in her 2014 book Hard Choices, she positively waxed loquacious:
One of our most important tools for engaging with Vietnam was a proposed new trade agreement called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which would link markets throughout Asia and the Americas, lowering trade barriers while raising standards on labor, the environment, and intellectual property. … It was also important for American workers, who would benefit from competing on a more level playing field. And it was a strategic initiative that would strengthen the position of the United States in Asia.
This from the candidate who, while First Lady in 1996, trumpeted NAFTA as “proving its worth” even as it was kicking the guts out of the national economy, who was forced just two years later to admit that it was “flawed,” and that “we didn’t get everything we should have got out of it.” The TPP deal is NAFTA with a jet pack strapped to its back, and candidate Clinton – silent now on the matter as she peddles her newly-printed populist papers – has been pushing it since her days as Secretary of State.
…and then there’s this:
No other country on Earth is better positioned to thrive in the 21st century. No other country is better equipped to meet traditional threats from countries like Russia, North Korea, and Iran – and to deal with the rise of new powers like China … As your President, I’ll do whatever it takes to keep Americans safe.
Monday gave birth to another headline that very nearly cost the world another plate glass window. “CIA Torture Appears to Have Broken Spy Agency Rule on Human Experimentation,” proclaimed The Guardian. Now, “Human Experimentation” is one of the most dreadfully weighted phrases in the language; I make no comparisons, level no accusations, and lay no specific blame on Secretary Clinton for the rank barbarism of the last fellow to sit in that round room on Pennsylvania Avenue she now seeks with such expensive vigor.
That being said, this breed of aggressive language is worn, tired and on occasion acutely dangerous. It is boilerplate rhetoric deployed by politicians seeking votes from a populace that has been indoctrinated into the church of permanent war. It is the verbal equivalent of kissing babies at rallies, and just as facile … and note well: The wave of torture, and even human experimentation if the reports bear out, we inflicted upon so many was undertaken and accomplished by people who told themselves in the dark of their own personal night that they would also “do whatever it takes to keep Americans safe.”
When Mrs. Clinton voted to pass the Patriot Act, she was doing “whatever it takes to keep Americans safe,” according to her guiding lights. When she voted to approve the invasion and occupation of Iraq, she was likewise doing “whatever it takes to keep Americans safe,” again according to her guiding lights. Now, she wants to hang those lights in the White House.
Candidate Clinton’s words over the weekend matched with chiseled precision the populist wave that has been washing over the country ever since those first few brave Occupy Wall Street souls sat down in Zuccotti Park, refused to budge, and re-introduced the nation to a dialogue which made them realize just how badly they’ve been getting screwed.
In my humble opinion, her actions, her history, and most importantly her friends in the financial industry, give glaring lie to this sudden eruption of populist fervor. She railed against all of the entities that are tearing the country to rags on Saturday, and then cashed their checks when her pals at the bank opened for business on Monday. That is the sharp truth of it, and all the YEAH BUT REPUBLICANS arguments can go pound sand. When Secretary Clinton and the most terrifying GOP candidates on the skin of the Earth share the same donor list, the (D) after her name doesn’t matter a dime.