bernie sanders

Oprah Winfrey: The Corporate Democrat’s Choice to be the Next Presidential Candidate

The corporatist, Clintonite wing of the Democrats has looked at the success of Donald Trump, and drawn precisely the wrong lesson from it. They concluded that after a millionaire reality TV star won the Republican nomination and then the presidency, what they had to do was field their own millionaire TV star as a candidate. And in this instance, they’ve decided that this candidate might be Oprah Winfrey. The idea’s gone over well too in the press on this side of the Atlantic. The ‘Opinion Matrix’ column in the ‘I’ newspaper quoted two newspapers raving about what a wonderful idea this would be.

In this clip from The Jimmy Dore Show, Dore and his co-host, Ron Placone, talk about why Oprah would be a terrible candidate. There’s a lot in there, but essentially the argument is very simple.

They quote a long article from the Guardian, one of the few newspapers, which doesn’t think it’s a good idea to choose Oprah. This points out that the problems afflicting ordinary working Americans come from the very nature of free market capitalism. People are becoming poorer and more insecure because of the destruction of what remained of the American welfare net, outsourcing, privatisation, low wages and job insecurity. All of these need to be tackled.

But this is precisely what Oprah will not do. She’s another neoliberal, who believes that it’s not the system that needs to be changed, but you. If you look inside yourself, you can improve your place in society, and rise up to be anything you want. It’s a reassuring message for some people, as it tells them that America is still the land of opportunity. Even though it isn’t, and hasn’t been for a very long time. Way back in the 1990s there was little difference between social mobility in the UK and the US. An article commenting on this in the Financial Times made this point, and argued that what gave American society its attractive power was the myth that it was, that ordinary people could still move up to be president, or a company director, or whatever. This is now no longer true, and in fact there’s greater social mobility in Europe.

This explains why Oprah’s so attractive to the corporate elites. She’s a black woman, so if she got the presidency, it would be a symbolically liberal gesture. Just like Killary and her team were arguing that the election of Clinton would be a victory for all women. Even though Clinton has done and would do nothing for America’s working people, and especially not women, who do the lowest paid work. It was all identity politics, with Killary claiming to be the outsider because she was a woman. Even though she’s in the pocket of Wall Street and other corporations, and as thoroughly corporate and corrupt as any of them. But if you didn’t back her, and instead chose Bernie, who actually stood for policies that will benefit America’s working people, you were automatically smeared as a ‘misogynist’. This included women voters, who, La Clinton declared, were only doing what their husbands and boyfriends told them.

The same’s going to be the case with Oprah Winfrey. It’s more identity politics, even though identity politics didn’t work with Clinton, and they probably won’t work with Oprah. Winfrey offers ordinary working Americans nothing, which is presumably why the corporate press in Britain was raving about what a good candidate she is. All the billionaires now owning papers, who don’t pay tax in this country, are presumably salivating at the thought of another president, who’ll do just what business leaders tell them.

As for what effect her presidency will have on Black Americans, you only have to look at Barack Obama to see that this prospects aren’t good. Despite all the racist screaming from the Republicans that Obama was an anti-White racist, who was planning to exterminate White Americans, Obama in many ways was a completely unremarkable, corporate politico. And he did precious little to solve the various problems facing Black communities in America. Oprah will be exactly the same, only the poverty will be worse. Economists have looked at the decline in the household wealth of working Americans. This has declined drastically. But the decline in White household wealth is nowhere as severe as that experienced by Black families. It’s been estimated that in a few years, their average household wealth will be $8.

Oprah has nothing to say to that. Absolutely nothing. Except that people should look inside themselves, believe in themselves, work hard and then magically their dreams will come true.

Except we live in a harsh, cruel neoliberal corporate hell, rather than the dream reality held out by corporate shills like Killary.

And domestic poverty isn’t the only reason why Oprah would be an awful president. She’s another hawk in foreign policy. In this clip from the Sam Seder’s Majority Report, they comment on a piece in her show where she promotes the invasion of Iraq, repeating the lie that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction.

Hussein didn’t have any weapons of mass destruction. There was no connection between him and Osama bin Laden. It was a Likudnik and Neocon lie to invade Iraq, steal their oil and plunder their state industries. The result has been chaos and mass death, carried out not just by Sunni insurgents, but also by the mercenaries under General McChristal, who was running death squads against the Shi’a.

If Oprah gets in, there’ll be more wars in the Middle East and elsewhere, as the American military machine keeps demanding more conflict and more funding.

Now I’ve nothing against Oprah Winfrey personally. She’s glamorous, intelligent and a genial TV host. But that’s all she is. In terms of policies, she offers absolutely nothing to ordinary Americans, except more corporatism, bigger profits for the rich, and more poverty and exploitation for the poor, including and especially Black Americans. And as far as foreign policy goes, she’s a danger to world peace. The Iraq invasion destroyed one of the most successful secular states in the Middle East, where women were safe to hold jobs outside the home, into a sectarian bloodbath. All for the profit of multinational corporations.

But I don’t doubt that if ordinary Americans don’t vote for her, the Democrat propaganda machine will vilify them, just as they smeared everyone who voted for Bernie against Killary. If you don’t vote Oprah, they’ll scream, you’ll be a racist and a misogynist. And no doubt Blacks will be told that they’re all ‘Uncle Toms’ and ‘housen****ers doing what Massah tells them. All while the Black, female candidate doesn’t care a jot about doing anything practical to help working Americans with their real problems, but just promotes the neoliberal myth of American social mobility. While seeing that the corporate rich get even richer, of course.

Torygraph Pushing for NHS Privatisation

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 13/01/2018 - 11:15pm in

I found this nasty, grim piece from the Telegraph quoted in ‘The Opinion Matrix’ section of today’s I, where the newspaper reprints extracts from the rest of the press. It shows the Torygraph’s hatred of the NHS, and its determination to push for its privatisation.

The piece is headlined ‘Nation is infatuated with the NHS’, and runs

Regarding the National Health Service, we have become like an abused partner who cannot tear themselves away as a nation, we know something is wrong but we can’t admit the truth. Such is our love affair with this failing institution that even the smallest of reforms are shouted down. Politically it’s virtually impossible to propose the funding shake-up required.

A Royal Commission has been suggested but you’ll never get cross-party support for meaningful reform, for the left, the NHS is too useful a weapon. And so we beat on, until eventually the system breaks, or indeed as would occur under Labour, the system breaks the economy itself.

This was written by Jeremy Warner, and the piece comes under the headline A Tax on Healthcare. It’s on page 18 of the I, for Saturday, 13th January 2018.

In fact, the NHS is by far the most efficient, cost effective healthcare system than the American system of private healthcare. The Americans spend massively more on their healthcare service, which certainly doesn’t cover everyone in America. According to Bernie Sanders, 40,000 people die every year because they can’t get medical care. And until the Tories took over, it compared very favourably with the other healthcare systems in the rest of the Europe, which receive considerably more funding. Way back in the 1979, a committee of inquiry concluded that there wasn’t any problems funding the NHS. They expected funding to increase naturally to cover expenditure. As for the comments about the ‘last Labour government’, the knee-jerk response of Tories with no other form of defence and nothing else to say, under Labour the NHS was in budget. I’m not a supporter of New Labour and its healthcare reforms, because Blair really did want to privatise the NHS by opening it up to private industry, just like every Thatcherite politico before him. But he did keep it in budget, which is far more than can be said for the Tories, and specifically Andrew Lansley and Jeremy Hunt.

If the NHS is failing now, it’s because it’s being deliberately run down by the Tories, who desperately want to introduce a system of private health insurance like America. This won’t make healthcare more efficient. By contrast, private healthcare is far less efficient than state medicine in dealing with illness. Private health companies do not like dealing with the disabled and long-term sick, and so the people, who find it easiest to get health insurance are the well. In other words, those who need it least. Private hospitals are smaller than state-run hospitals, and vastly more inefficient due to the costs of management, advertising, legal departments and so on. All of which can be a real surprise to Tory drones, used to believing all the crap that private enterprise is more efficient than state industry.

The Tories have no interest in improving state healthcare, despite the specious lies Jeremy Hunt has said about how they ‘treasure’ it. They want to privatise it for the corporate profit of their friends in big business. And this clearly includes grasping newspaper magnates like the Torygraph’s owners, the weirdo Barclay Twins.

This little piece shows the determination of the Tory party to privatise the NHS, and the lies they’re using to justify it, all while Hunt and May deny that they are doing any such thing.

Conservative Lady Claims Labour and Momentum Supporters Responsible for Misogynist Abuse – But Is This Real?

There was a bit in the I today, reporting a speech made in the House of Lords by a female Tory peer, in which she broke the taboo against saying the ‘C’ word. She said it as an example of the misogynist abuse, which she claimed was coming from Labour and Momentum supporters. Mike’s already covered this issue over on his blog, pointing out that it’s been condemned by Jeremy Corbyn. Mike’s fully behind the condemnation, saying that death threats and other abuse have no place in civilised politics, and we shouldn’t lower ourselves to the Tories’ level. Which is absolutely correct, though looking at the incident, I wonder how much of the abuse, and the good lady’s outrage over it, is actually genuine.

Remember, one of the accusations that the Blairites tried to use against Corbyn and Momentum was that they were all terribly misogynist, and subjecting to poor, middle class corporatist Blairite women to vile abuse. This was taken over wholesale from Killary in the US, and her attempt to demonise Bernie Sanders’ supporters. In fact, the ‘Bernie Bros’ she claimed were responsible for all this abuse didn’t exist, and on examination neither did the misogynist abuse the Blairites were claiming came from Corbyn’s supporters. But clearly the tactic has made an impression, and it’s become part of the right-wing narrative that Corbyn’s supporters are all terrible misogynists, as well as anti-Semites. None of which is true.

It also seems to me something of a diversionary tactic. This is the week that Toby Young came under fire as May’s appointment for the universities’ regulatory board, because of the highly offensive nature of comments he’d made and written. These really were sexist and misogynist. There were Tweet after Tweet in which Young commented on the size of women’s breasts, including those of Claudia Winkleman, whom he told to ‘put on weight’. As for a photograph that seemed to show him touching a female celebrity, he also Tweeted that he had his ‘d**k up her a**e’. Labour’s women and equalities minister, Dawn Butler, rightly condemned Young’s comments as vile and misogynistic, and demanded Young’s removal from the post.

Which makes the Honourable Lady’s comments about misogyny from the Labour left, and how it was turning women off politics, seem somewhat contrived. It looks as if she was trying to take attention away from how terrible Young, and those like him in the Tory party are, by making a similar claim against Corbyn and the Labour party.

Now I share Mike’s and Corbyn’s views on such abuse. It’s clearly not acceptable. But I can understand the rage behind it. If people are sending hate messages to the Tories in May’s cabinet reshuffle, including Esther McVile, some of the anger is because they feel powerless. This government has done everything it can to humiliate and degrade working people, and particularly the sick, the disabled and the unemployed. Thanks to Tory wage restraint, jobs don’t pay. There is rising poverty, and move people are being forced to use food banks. At the same time the Tories are engineering a crisis in the NHS so they can eventually privatise it and force people into a private insurance-based system, like America. Where 40,000 people die each year because they don’t have medical coverage. The unions, with one or two exceptions, have been decimated, so that working people are left defenceless before predatory and exploitative bosses. And the benefits system has been so reformed, so that claimants can be thrown off it for even the most trivial of reasons. All so that May and her cronies can give their corporate backers even bigger tax cuts, and a cowed, beaten, compliant workforce.

In this situation, I think people have every reason to be angry. Especially when it comes to Esther McVie. When she was in charge of the disabled at the DWP, she was directly responsible for policies that threw thousands of seriously ill people off benefits, on the spurious grounds that they had been judged ‘fit for work’ by Atos and then Maximus. As a result, people have died, thanks to her policies. Personal abuse is unacceptable, but people have every right to express otherwise how loathsome she is, and how she is manifestly unsuited to have any responsible post dealing with the vulnerable.

If people are angry, and they can’t find any other way to express their anger, then it will turn into abuse. I don’t know how much of the abuse the Tory lady claimed is real, but if it does exist, it’s because the Tories have left people feeling powerless, and feeling that they have no other means of expressing their anger and fear.

And I also find it highly hypocritical that this woman, who is rich and entitled, should accuse those below her of abuse. Quite apart from the fact that I’ve no doubt that you can find similar comments expressed by the Tories on their websites, Tweets and blogs, various Tory grandees have in the past made their contempt for working people very clear. Such as the infamous comment by one of them – was it Matthew Freud? – that the homeless were the people you step over when coming out of the opera. The Tories are very well aware how controversial the appointment of these new cabinet ministers are, especially Esther McVile, the minister in charge of culling the disabled, as she’s been described by Mike and others. It looks to me very much like part of the purpose of this accusation was to silence genuine criticism of the grotesques, bigots and corporatist horrors with which May has decided once again to fill her cabinet.

I therefore have strong doubts that there was misogynist abuse directed at Tory women, or if there was, whether there was any more than usual, or the same amount of abuse directed at female Labour MPs. If you want an example of really vile abuse, take a look at some of the comments the Tories have made about Diane Abbott, which manages to be both misogynist and racist. It all looks very much like a ploy to stop people noticing the vile abuse coming from Toby Young and the Tories, by repeating the lies spewed by the Blairites in an attempt to silence justifiable criticism of May’s murderous new cabinet appointments.

The Kids Aren’t Alright

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 08/01/2018 - 8:12pm in

A crucial new work of generational analysis explores how society turned millennials into human capital.

Jimmy Dore Show: Obama and Killary Back Trump’s Embassy Move to Jerusalem

More geopolitical arrogance and stupidity, but this time it’s from the Democrats.

A few days ago Trump caused astonishment and outrage around the world by announcing that he was planning to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. As The Young Turks have explained, this is immensely controversial as Jerusalem is also a holy city to the world’s Muslims and Christians, who will resent all of the holy sites being under Israeli control. However, it’s done to support the Likudniks and other Israeli right-winger, who want Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel. And it’s also strongly supported by the Christian Zionist right in America, who are looking forward to the restoration of Israel, and an apocalyptic war between Good and Evil, seen as America, Israel and Christianity versus Islam, which will lead to Christ’s Second Coming. Jerusalem is also claimed by the Palestinians. It was taken from them by the Israelis, but the city still has a large Arab population.

In this piece from The Jimmy Dore Show, the American comedian and his co-hosts, Steffi Zamorano and Ron Placone, discuss Trump’s decision, and how its being supported by key leaders of the Democrats: specifically Chuck Shumer, the leader of the Democrats in Congress, Barak Obama and Hillary Clinton.

The clip begins with a series of quotes from Arab and other Middle Eastern leaders condemning the move. These include Manuel Hassassian, the leader of the Palestinian delegation, who describes it as an attack on the Palestinians, and also the Middle East’s Muslims and Christians. El-Sisi, the current military strongman ruling Egypt, also condemns it, as does Erdogan, the Islamist president of Turkey. Erodogan states that he was almost going to cut off diplomatic relations with Israel in retaliation. As Dore points out, Turkey’s America’s ally.

Dore also points out that the move is against America’s best interests and only serves Israel. And Israel is beholden to America. Last year, Congress voted to give it $38 billion of military aid. This is a country that has single-payer healthcare. But Americans can’t have it, because it’s too expensive. The money has to go to Israel to keep their military awash with cash. On the other hand, if America didn’t support Israel, what other country would stand up for them? No-one.

But you expect the Democrats would be different. But they’re not. Chuck Schumer has said that he was pressing Trump to move the embassy to Jerusalem, and took the president to task for his indecision. There’s also a clip from Barak Obama, in which he declares Jerusalem to be the indivisible capital of Israel, and supports moving the American embassy there. If you look at the signs around the podium, it’s clear that he’s speaking at an AIPAC gathering. AIPAC is the main, pro-Israel lobby group in the US. And then there’s a quote from Hillary Clinton, from all the way back in 1999, in which she states she wants the American embassy moved to Jerusalem.

This shows very clearly that the corporatist, Clintonite Democrats as corrupt, arrogant and dangerous on this issue as Trump and the Republicans. But followers of Dore’s show probably won’t be particularly surprised by this. Dore has made a number of videos pointing out the corruption and imperialist agenda of the corporate Democrats, including Killary and Obama. Obama carried on the privatisation and welfare cuts of Bush and the Republicans. He also expanded the wars in the Middle East from two to seven. But he got away with it because he cloaked it all in vague, progressive rhetoric. All that stuff about ‘hope and change’. Dore doesn’t mention it, but race was also a factor. Obama was America’s first Black president, and his election was hailed as a breakthrough for Black people. When he was elected there were celebrations in Africa, and the Nobel Committee gave him a peace prize. Just like they did to Kissinger. But despite the stupid, vicious rhetoric from lunatic Republicans about how Obama hated Whites, and was planning to kill them all in concentration camps, Obama was solidly Conservative in his policies, and did precious little for Blacks. Poor Whites have seen their incomes and life expectancy drop, and Black life expectancy has risen. This has resulted in the racist fringe shouting about ‘White genocide’, and mobilised them in support of Trump. But Black income has dropped even further than poor White, and it’s been projected that in a few decades the average Black family will have absolutely zero wealth.

As for Hillary Clinton, she has shown herself to be every bit as militaristic, imperialist and hawkish as the male politicians and generals that surround her. She fully supported the Iraq invasion, and when Obama was in office was ramping up tensions with China and Russia. Susan Sarandon has commented on interviews that if she’d won the election, America could well have been at war by now. I think Sarandon’s right. As for the reason’s for the new Cold War against Putin and Russia, some of this is an attempt by Clinton to deflect attention from the way she and her coterie stole the presidential nomination away from Bernie, and her massive ties to Wall Street. But it’s also been suggested that it’s also rage by American capitalism against Putin, for making Russia economically independent after they had poured so much money into the privatisation of the economy under Yeltsin.

It’s glaringly obvious to just about everyone how massively stupidly dangerous the current Cold War with Russia, because of the potential for it to develop into a real war. And there were NATO generals predicting that it would. One of them even published a book claiming that by May this year (2017) we would be at war with Russia. Such a conflict could easily become a nuclear war, resulting in the destruction of all life on our beautiful, fragile world.

Mercifully, we aren’t at war with Russia. But the fact that Obama and Hillary were keen to stoke tensions with Putin shows how dangerous they are. Just as their support for Trump moving the American embassy to Jerusalem.

Obama, Hillary and Schumer are unfit for office. Their support for America’s imperialist wars, the new Cold War and the transfer of the embassy to Jerusalem are a positive threat to world peace. And the Arab and Muslim leaders who denounced the move are right: it shows absolute contempt and disregard for the feelings of Arabs and Muslims.

It’s been shown that much of the support for terrorist campaign against the West in the Middle East comes from anger at the repeated western military interference in the affairs of the Middle East – the invasions and the overthrow of Middle Eastern leaders, when they are perceived as an obstacle to western political or commercial interests. The Iraq invasion is one example, but so too is the overthrow of Mohammed Mossadeq, the last democratically elected prime minister of Iran. He was overthrown because he dared to nationalise the Iranian oil industry.

Trump’s decision has sparked riots and protests throughout the Middle East. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if it also doesn’t serve to provoke another wave of terrorism directed against us. But I very much doubt that Trump, Killary, Obama and the other major political figures will comment on the way western imperialism is stirring up anti-western sentiment in the Middle East. Instead we’ll just have more discussion about the nature of Islamism – which is indeed part of the problem. And the islamophobic right will start ranting about how it’s all due to something intrinsic in Islam itself, and that Muslims hate us because of our freedoms.

Schumer, Obama and Hillary’s support for Trump’s decision serve yet again to show how corrupt the corporate Democrats are. They have to go. A growing number of Americans want a third party, which will really represent American working people. And the Democrat elite’s support for the transfer of the embassy to Jerusalem is further evidence that a third party is needed, if the Democrat party can’t be reformed and the Clintonites and corporatists cleaned out.

Protests Planned Nationwide as Vote on FCC’s ‘Catastrophic’ Plan to Kill Net Neutrality Looms

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 08/12/2017 - 8:00am in

by Jake Johnson, from CommonDreams.org With the FCC set to vote on chairman Ajit Pai’s plan to kill neutrality in just over a week, a diverse coalition — ranging from consumer protection organizations to progressive lawmakers to Harvard professors — is denouncing the FCC’s proposals and scheduling nationwide protests to combat the agency’s move to let massive telecom companies “cash in on the internet” at the expense of consumers. Ajit Pai may be owned by Verizon, but he has to answer to Congress, and lawmakers have to answer to us, their constituents.”Evan Greer, Fight for the Future This is the free speech fight of our generation and internet users are pissed off and paying attention,” Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future, said in a statement. “Ajit Pai may be owned by Verizon, but he has to answer to Congress, and lawmakers have to answer to us, their constituents.” Since Pai revealed his plan to gut net neutrality rules just before Thanksgiving, public outrage has continued to grow—even as corporate media outlets have …

K Street Taxpocalypse

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 05/12/2017 - 3:46am in

Neglect founded on hypocrisy regarding the deficit implications of giant tax cuts is not new for the GOP.

No, Toksvig, Sometimes Testosterone-Fuelled Jokes are the Only Appropriate Response

Sandi Toksvig, the presenter of Qi, former presenter of Radio 4’s News Quiz, and various game shows on BBC TV, was in the I last week. She and her same-sex partner, a BBC radio presenter or manager, are the founders of the Women’s Equality Party. She came out to say that there ought to be an equal number of women on panel shows to stop men telling ‘testosterone-fuelled’ jokes.

I didn’t read the article, just the headline, so I might be misjudging her. But I found it odd that she could say this, after she very publicly gave her endorsement in the elections last year to Hillary Clinton and Theresa May. Because they were both girls going after the top job. It didn’t matter that Killary has earned her nickname because she’s a vicious warmonger, who has never met a war she didn’t like, and fully backs the American imperialist machine. And if you want to see the kind of horrors that has inflicted on the peoples of the Developing World in the decades since the Second World, I strongly recommend you look at the videos Abby Martin has made about the subject over at The Empire Files.

But warning: you need a very, very strong stomach for some of this. It doesn’t dwell, but neither does it shy way from describing the sexual mutilation of women and men, and the rapes committed by the South American Death Squads trained by the American military at the base formerly called the ‘School of the Americas’.

Both Killary and May are, in terms of their policies, profoundly anti-woman. They have nothing to offer working people, except more poverty, exploitation and disenfranchisement. And women perform the lowest paid work, and so are at the sharp end of this. Both Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn actually have better policies for women, and are probably better feminists, despite both being men. Which is why Killary and his supporters in the Labour had to manufacture accusations of misogyny against them. As well as attacking women, who weren’t going to vote for their fave female candidates as ‘traitors’.

Which shows how much respect these self-proclaimed, middle class corporate feminists really have for women and their ability to make their own minds up.

If you want something closer to proper feminism, you could have voted for the Green Party. It’s presidential candidate was Jill Stein, a medical doctor. Part of her platform was Medicare For All. She made the point that women particularly needed it, and was seen discussing the issue with a group of ladies in one of her political broadcasts. I put it up here, so it should be on this blog somewhere.

Likewise the British Green Party. They were, briefly, the left-wing alternative to the Labour party when it was run by the Clintonite fanboys, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, then followed by Ed Miliband, who still adhered to their policy of trying to copy the Tories in the hope of winning over swing voters. The Greens are very hot on feminism and equality. I don’t whether it’s still true now, but they used to have a joint female-male presidency, where both a man and woman were in charge of the party together.

But this would have been a bit too radical for Toksvig and go. They want a nice, respectable type of feminism. A feminism that gives women access to the top jobs, but which otherwise leaves the class structure intact. A type of feminism that won’t frighten true-Blue Conservatives with terrible visions of boiler suited lesbians with degrees in sociology telling kids they should be bisexual. Or whatever stereotyped nonsense the Scum, Heil, Torygraph and Star are trying to push.

Now the argument that there should be a better gender balance on panel shows is a good one, and it can stand alone. It doesn’t really need a ‘because’. You can simply make the point that women are half the population, and so should be given half the places on these game shows. To support it, you need only to say that there are very many talented women, who are being passed over because of gender bias, or who provide a different, fresh point of view.

Toksvig’s statement that they’re needed on the panel shows to stop men telling ‘testosterone-fuelled’ jokes is in some ways strange, and actually rather reactionary. It’s misandrist, in that it sees men as being rather nasty, and who can only be restrained and civilised by women. It’s also very curiously old-fashioned, as if Toksvig hasn’t quite come round to understanding how women can also be lewd, crude and coarse.

In general, women do prefer a less coarse type of humour, though that’s true of a fair number of men as well. And I think that an awful lot of men, who don’t like that kind of humour being made in front of their wives also really object to it themselves, but as we’re supposed to be roughty-toughty blokes we aren’t supposed to show it. So we project it onto the memsahibs and use them as an excuse.

But women can also be very coarse. I’ve known women, who were far cruder than I was, and every bit as vulgar as any man. I’m not saying all women are like this. But it’s true of some. And there is the feminist argument that says that women should be free to do so, and talk explicitly about sex, without being condemned as whores.

And since the 1990s there have been any number of female comedians telling very sexually explicit jokes. Or further back, if you count Joan Rivers. The female led, and directed film Bridesmaids won critical acclaim the other year, but the crudity of its humour was remarked upon and did cause some controversy. I also remember a review of evening of stand-up comedy by the gay community in London. This feature a female comedian traumatising the men in the audience with a monologue about her cervical smear. Well, it was the 1990s, the age of Topless Darts and other crimes against television. You can also go and look at Absolutely Fabulous if you like. It’s witty, funny and very well done. But much of the humour is based about sex, and it doesn’t shy from talking about issues that would have Lord Reith spinning in his grave, like homosexuality. One of its heroines, Edina is a man-hungry, champaign-swigging selfish monster, while another of the characters, who runs a PR agency, uses the type of language that would make a docker blush. And when BBC 3 was still around, and orienting itself as da yoof channel, some of the programmes presented by women had coarse language in their titles. Like ‘F*ck Off, I’m a Hairy Woman’, which was presented by a female comedian attacking the beauty industry that demands women pluck and shave their bodies.

But there is also the argument that sometimes, very harsh, cruel, dark humour is the only appropriate response to a particular subject.

For example, there’s the late Bill Hicks, and Frankie Boyle, both known for their bitter political humour. Hicks’ humour was sexually explicit, and could be quite foul. There was an element of homophobia there, particularly when he told his audience that George Michael was gay, and if you ladies loved him, then you were too. But in coarser language. Some of it was simply about porn, the inauthenticity of contemporary rock stars, and getting drunk and stoned.

But he also used his vicious wit against Reagan’s super-patriotic America. In one monologue, he described Reagan’s Attorney-General Ed Meese as a serial killer, who would one day cut his wrists in the bath. Then they’d find the skins and clothes of all the children he’d murdered in his attack.

But Reagan was responsible for backing Fascist Death Squads in Central America, who committed horrendous atrocities. And so there was a point when he said that he’d pay ‘an extra nickel, just to have little brown kids not clubbed to death like baby seals’. It’s shocking imagery, but it was true. And he was one of the greatest protest voices in the media against such horrors in the ’80s. Channel 4 actually gave him his own show. I don’t think we’d be that lucky now.

Now on to Frankie Boyle. Boyle’s humour is too dark, extreme and tasteless for many people, irrespective of their gender or sexual identity. He was a member of Mock the Week, a satirical panel show presided over by Dara O’Briain, but was too extreme for the Beeb. But there was a point to his dark, vicious jokes. What got pulled from one episode was a joke he made about calling up the Ministry of Defence, and getting ‘the Department of N*gger Bombing’. I don’t doubt that this was pulled because it contained the ‘N’ word, which is highly offensive coming from Whites. But arguably, Boyle was quite right to use it, and right about the joke. He explained to Richard Osman at the Edinburgh Television Festival one year that he made it, because he had read about comments from British generals during the Empire’s heyday that said they were all about ‘bombing n*ggers’. He was factually correct. And it was a curt, but pithy remark on contemporary western imperialism under Bush and Blair. Or whichever mass-murderer was in power then.

It was offensive, but it was an accurate reflection of an even more offensive reality.

So while I can see where Toksvig is coming from with her comments, I think she’s wrong to condemn all dark, weird and brutal humour, simply because it offends her delicate sensibilities. Sometimes you need the extreme and tasteless to reveal and comment on an even more horrific reality. One that Toksvig, it seems, with her backing of Killary and May, wants to deny exists, or is perfectly comfortable with.

Never Mind the Titles of Her Books, the Slave Auctions Show What Hilary Really Thinks of Africans

This came to me the other night, after I’d already posted one rant about Killary. But even if it’s a bit too much coming after the earlier posts, I still think it’s a valid point worth making.

Killary was going around the world last month trying to flog her book, What Happened?, in which she tried to blame everyone else for losing the election to the orange racist. It was all the fault of RT and Putin, WikiLeaks, Bernie Sanders, Jill Stein, misogynist men and ‘treacherous’ women. And not because she herself was a greedy, corporatist warmonger, determined to keep Americans poor and deny them a proper welfare state, with free healthcare, because she’s in the pocket of Wall Street and the other big corporations. Nope. It had nothing to do with any of that.

Killary was Obama’s Secretary of State when he sent the bombers in to level Libya and aid the Islamist rebels in overthrowing Colonel Gaddafi. Gaddafi was a brutal dictator, no question – but under him the country was free from foreign domination. It was the most prosperous country in Africa, and its people had the benefit of free healthcare and free education. And while Gaddafi had no qualms against using the Islamists to assassinate his rivals in Africa and the Arab world, he kept them on a very short leash. They could not try to spread their warped vision of Islam in Libya, and attempts by them to interfere in Libyan politics were very definitely not tolerated. Gaddafi’s own ideology was a mixture of Arab socialism and Islam, but it was in many respects a modern, secular state where women enjoyed a greater degree of freedom and equality than elsewhere in the Islamic world.

All that was destroyed when the Islamists took over. There are now at least two parliaments in the country, which is split by civil war. And this week I’ve posted several stories about the revelation that the Islamists have been holding auctions of Black African migrants as slaves. When they haven’t massacred them, along with other Black Libyans. Whole Black towns have been massacred. One of these was Tawergha, which had 40,000 people.

But when Gaddafi was overthrown, Killary was giggling about it. ‘Yeah, we got him!’ she enthused. There are photos of her with the Islamists holding up a sword with one of them. That’ll come back to haunt America, just as the Islamists Reagan and Thatcher proudly promoted as our friends in the fight against the evil Soviet Empire morphed into al-Qaeda, and launched 9/11. The Islamists aren’t our friends, and are the enemies of every civilised person on this planet – non-Muslim and Muslim.

It also helps put the lie to the image Killary was trying to promote twenty or so years ago as a modern, non-racist woman fully comfortable with American multiculturalism. Back when her husband was doing his best to run the country according to the principles of Ronald Reagan, rather than FDR, she wrote her own book outlining her political philosophy.

It was called It Takes A Village, and was her attempt to present herself as a font of folksy wisdom. At the centre of the book was her daughter, Chelsea, and the book was about how she and Bill cared for her, and how they intended to give her nice, positive, left-ish values. It supposedly took its title from an African proverb: ‘It takes a village to raise a child’, thus showing the Clinton’s collectivism and commitment to benefiting everyone. It was also, you may bet, given the title to show how anti-racist she was, how pro-Black and fully integrated into the global village Marshal McLuhan used to bang on about. Never mind the fact that Africans and western experts in African cultures have never heard of the proverb. You can imagine Hillary thinking how this would present her as the embodiment of Black ‘earth mother’ wisdom, like some of the images of the strong mothers in the projects, trying to raise their kids well in spite of grinding poverty, absent fathers and the looming threat of gang culture and violence. No doubt she also saw with the title an opportunity to get on one of the shows presented by Black female celebrities. You know, like Oprah Winfrey. Or perhaps an appearance with Whoopie Goldberg. I’m not sneering at either of these two celebs. They’re great presenters and performers, who’ve given a lot of people a lot of pleasure. The only person I’m sneering at here is Hillary. Because it looks opportunistic and very cynically calculated.

Private Eye more or less said so at the time when they reviewed the book. And I think they’re right. Hillary started her career as a ‘Goldwater Girl’, supporting the pro-Segregation candidate Barry Goldwater. In the 1990s she talked about the threat of ‘super-predators’ at the time when it was almost solely used to describe young Black men. She also framed the drugs legislation that resulted in a massively disproportionate number of Black men going to the slammer for drugs.

And now there’s the revelation that the Islamists she backed have been murdering and enslaving Blacks. And that CNN knew about it all three years ago, but kept silent, because they’re reporters were embedded with the same terrorist groups.

Which raises the question: did Hillary know? It’s hard to believe that, as Secretary of State, she didn’t. Or if she didn’t, she dam’ well should have known. She was in charge of giving them support. She would – or at least should – have been briefed about what these characters are like. It wouldn’t have been hard. There are a fair number of scholars of Islam, both Muslim and non-Muslim, who could have told her exactly what they were like, as well as ulema – Muslim clergy – who could have told her how the Islamists violate the precepts of their religion.

But clearly, she didn’t want to know. All she cared about was getting Gaddafi out. This was because he’d defied the American Empire, and was going to jettison the petrodollar for the Gold Dinar. America wouldn’t be able to use the profits from the oil industry to refinance its debts, and the whole country would go bust. Plus, the Republicans’ friends in Likud wanted Libya destroyed, along with six other African and Middle Eastern nations.

And so Killary has shown herself quite willing to turn a blind eye to the horrors committed by these monsters. Well, what could the world expect from the woman, who stood on her soapbox at the presidential debates, and raved about how happy she was to know, and go on holiday with Henry Kissinger. Yeah, Kissinger. The man who’s rightly been described as the world’s biggest unindicted war criminal, responsible for the spread of Fascism, bloodshed, mass murder and torture across Latin America and South Asia.

Never mind the title of her book. Killary has harmed Black Americans, and promoted the murder and sale of Blacks in Africa.

J. D. Vance, neoliberalism, and Trumpalachia

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 01/12/2017 - 1:00am in

2016_Presidential_Election_-_Electoral_College

Dwight Billings—Professor Emeritus of Sociology at the University of Kentucky, preeminent scholar of Appalachia, and occasional contributor to this blog—just completed a chapter for a collection of critical responses to J. D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy, edited by Anthony Harkins, which will be published by West Virginia University Press. He has kindly agreed to allow me to publish extracts from his chapter in this guest post. 

Once upon a time, there was “a strange land and peculiar people.”* It was a mythical place known as “Trumpalachia.” J. D. Vance, author of the best-selling book Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, has been widely acclaimed as its foremost explorer, mapmaker, interpreter, and critic. Countless readers have turned to his book to understand the appeal of Donald Trump to white working-class voters. But Hillbilly Elegy is not a “Trump for Dummies,” nor is it an elegy for Appalachia. It’s an advertisement for capitalist neoliberalism and personal choice.

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Vance’s main argument in Hillbilly Elegy is that Appalachians and their descendants in the Rust-Belt have been “reacting to [economic decline] in the worst possible way.” He notes that “Nobel-winning economists worry about the decline of the industrial Midwest and the hollowing out of the economic core of working whites” but more important, he contends, is “what goes on in the lives of real people when the economy goes south.” There is nothing wrong with that question of course, but Vance’s answer points in the wrong direction. In his opinion, the problem boils down simply to the bad personal choices individuals make in the face of economic decline—not to the corporate capitalist economy that creates immense profits by casting off much of its workforce or the failure of governments to respond to this ongoing crisis. The real problem, he says, is “about a culture that increasingly encourages social decay instead of counteracting it.”

Vance’s bottom line is: “Public policy can help, but there is no government that can fix these problems for us. . . These problems were not created by governments or corporations or anyone else. We created them, and only we can fix them.” Vance’s fix, the usual neoliberal fix, is fix thyself. There is of course nothing new here in Vance’s recycling of worn out culture of poverty theory. Hillbilly Elegy is the pejorative 1960s Moynihan report on the pathology of the black family in white face and a rehash of Charles Murray’s more recent Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010.

When the Wall Street Journal endorsed Hillbilly Elegy, it commended the book for its stress on the values of “religion, discipline, and family,” but chiefly lauded that fact that “most of all [Vance] wants people to hold themselves responsible for their own conduct and choices.” The stress on personal choice and accountability is a central theme in the ideology of neoliberalism. Hillbilly Elegy’s alignment with it is surely another reason for the book’s sales success.

Capitalist neoliberalism encompasses a broad range of ideas, practices, and policies. Its diverse economic, political, and cultural projects promote, among other things, deregulation, privatization, the outsourcing of public services, fiscal austerity, global trade liberalization, supply-side monetarism rather than demand-side stimulation, financialization, marketization, anti-unionism, and massive taxes cuts for the superrich and corporations. At the individual level, it stresses personal responsibility for one’s own wellbeing

But wait. Things get a little more complicated. Vance isn’t saying that his hillbillies are perfect neoliberal subjects—just that they should become so. To get ahead, they must fix themselves but what holds them back is a dysfunctional ethno-regional, Scots-Irish culture. Here is where the two tracks of Hillbilly Elegy come together, or perhaps tensely collide, Vance’s personal memoir and his cultural one. One the personal level, Hillbilly Elegy is about the good choices Vance made that he believes allowed him to escape poverty. On the cultural level it is about good choices that “others in [his] neighborhood hadn’t” made because of their ethnic heritage. Never mind that the book’s premise about what Scots-Irish culture in Appalachia or elsewhere is based on stereotypes that have long been refuted, or that its demographic claim that the Scots-Irish ever constituted a majority of the Appalachian population is simply not true. Hillbilly Elegy is at once an advertisement for the neoliberal promised land of zombie-like entrepreneurial souls and an elegy for a dying but not yet dead-enough Scots-Irish regional culture that doesn’t really exist.

***

Undoubtedly, efforts to understand voters’ choice for Donald Trump led many readers and much of the mass media to Hillbilly Elegy, probably the single factor that most directly contributed to the book’s phenomenal sales. (The New York Times hailed it as one of the most important books to read for understanding the election.) Despite its ultra conservative slant—Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell recommended it as his favorite book of 2016—many of its readers were political liberals according to an analysis in The Economist based on Amazon book sales. Readers of Hillbilly Elegy were far more likely to buy books like Mark Lilla’s Once and Future Liberal, Nancy Isenberg’s White Trash, and Arlie Russell Hochschild’s Strangers in their Own Land rather than rightwing books such as Ann Coutler’s In Trump We Trust, Eric Bolling’s The Swamp, or Mark Levin’s Rediscovering Americanism. One hundred and fifty years of stereotypes about Appalachia and elitist stereotypes about poor people as “white trash” (shown by Isenberg to date back to the early colonial era) help to explain the why liberal readers might find J. D. Vance to be a plausible guide to the current political scene as well as a analgesic for any qualms over inequality and injustice in the United States.

Appalachia became what I call “Trumpalachia,” a media-constructed mythological realm, backward and homogenous. Appalachians were still “yesterday’s people” as they were described in the 1960s, but now it seems they had grown bitter, resentful, rightwing, and racist. Its supposed “cultural issues with racism, sexism, and homophobia” took center stage in liberals’ diagnosis of its pathology. “A perfect storm of economics, creeping conservatism and outright racism” was said to have spawned its turn to the right after decades in the Democratic column. Hillbillies were said to be in despair over their “perceived and real loss of the social and economic advantages of being white.” The Guardian described them as part of “a backlash from white, working-class voters frustrated by their relative decline in status in America—symbolized, in part, of course, by its first black president.” “America is no longer white enough” for these voters wrote a New York Times columnist. “To these people, Trump’s ‘Make America Great Again’ is not the empty rhetoric of a media-savvy con artist from Queens but a last-ditch rallying cry for the soul of a changing land where minorities will be the majority by the middle of the century.” Another stated: “Let’s put this clearly, the stressor at work here is the perceived and real loss of the social and economic advantages of being white.” Above all, white Appalachia came to be represented as “a tinderbox of resentment that ignited national politics.”

Appalachian voters did of course resoundingly support Donald Trump in 2016, and like non-metropolitan voters elsewhere, for a variety of reasons. For many, Hillary Clinton’s unfortunate remark that she would put “a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of work” was decisive. But there is more to the story than this. When asked to explain why Trump was so popular in Appalachia, J. D. Vance explained: “The simple answer is that these people—my people—are really struggling, and there hasn’t been a single political candidate who speaks to those struggles in a long time. Donald Trump at least tries.”

But that’s not true. Bernie Sanders did, and he beat Hillary Clinton in every county in West Virginia and almost all the counties in Appalachian Kentucky including all its coal counties in the presidential primaries, yet the national media gave this almost no attention at all. McDowell County, West Virginia probably got more media attention than any other place because while Obama had won a majority of votes there in 2008, Trump won by 74 percent in 2016. Significantly, however, Sanders won twice as many votes as Trump in the primary election there. When he was not on the ballot, however, 73 percent of McDowell’s registered voters simply stayed home and did not vote at all. Sanders strong support suggests to me that a significant number of voters in the coalfields and the wider region were prepared to vote for a more progressive candidate in the general election had one been available, not one indebted to Wall-Street.

***

In the meantime, J. D. Vance has gone on to shore up his rightwing credentials. He has been discussed as a candidate for high political office and has established a non-profit organization in Ohio to fight “opiate abuse, save families, and create a pathway to the middle class.” Recently, he wrote the preface to the Heritage Foundation’s “2017 Index of Culture and Opportunity,” a Koch-funded reiteration of the culture of poverty thesis. In line with the Koch brothers who put their vast money behind down-ticket Republican candidates rather than Donald Trump, Vance reports that he loved but was terrified by Trump and voted for a conservative write-in candidate instead. Nevertheless, he was promoted by alt-right extremist Steve Bannon as a candidate for head of the Heritage Foundation. Vance is misguided, but he is no Steve Bannon. Given his depiction of hillbillies as a distinct race of disadvantaged white ethnics, however, it’s perhaps not surprising that Bannon, who called Hillbilly Elegy “a magnificent book,” would try to recruit him as a potential “ally.”

The top echelon of the super rich in America has never been wealthier, while the income of deeply indebted American wage earners has been stagnant for decades. Millions of people in the United States are forced to live in poverty, and millions more suffer from economic insecurity and severe hardship. Now is no time for identity politics and shibboleths about self-sufficiency and personal choice.

In “The Afterlife of a Memoir,” Aminatta Forno advises: “Write a memoir but only if you are sure you want to live with the consequences everyday for the rest of your life.” The great danger and ultimate tragedy of Hillbilly Elegy is not simply that it perpetuates Appalachian stereotypes. It is that it promotes toxic politics that will only further oppress the hillbillies that J. D. Vance professes to love and speak for.

 

*Appalachian readers will be familiar with the phrase “strange land and peculiar people” as an early instance of the “othering” of Appalachia. See Henry D. Shapiro, Appalachia on Our Mind (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1978).

Tagged: Appalachia, Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, hillbillies, J. D. Vance, neoliberalism, Trump, United States

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