Posts Tagged George Clooney

I Will Miss Bernie Sanders

bernie-sanders-having-birdiesandersI will miss Bernie Sanders and the air of hope and optimism he brought with him during this Primary season.

After all the capitulations of the Obama Administration to Republican demagoguery in general and to the GOP in particular; after all the nay-saying and “no we can’t do it after all” crap and over-compromising to the point of actually compromising one’s core principle and thereby essentially allowing Republicans to set the tone and direction of national policy and debate, it was great to see someone who inspired real change;  who wasn’t just another god-damn politician looking out for himself and his bottom line, perpetuating the same failed policies that further no one but the greed and avarice of the one percent.

Republicans have set the bar so low that it really does not take much to exceed it. This country has moved so far to the Right, that both Obama and Clinton would have fit well into the Reagan administration instead of FDR’s. The Republicans are so awful, that they make people like Clinton and Obama look good and liberal, rather than showing them as the moderate Republicans they really are. Republicans who have turned  not being a fascist into a standard which politicians like Clinton aspire to (“Hey vote for me, at least I was not THAT  horrible.”),

Seeing people come together, being fired up, having hope for a better future for all Americans, was inspiring. I think a lot of even cynical people felt that there was finally a political leader who wasn’t telling us what we wanted to hear becasue it was politically expedient,  but who, behind closed doors, just went on with business as usual. Someone who finally got it and who strived to make it happen, even if he knew it was hard. It was great to see someone who isn’t running a capitulation campaign,  where you aim really low so you can at least get that done (which is sort of the message I got from Hillary Clinton, in a nutshell). 

A lot of Clinton’s supporter believe that Sanders’ supporters live in a fantasy world where everything is free and they don’t have to work for it.  We were and continue to be dismissed as a bunch of pie-in-the-sky dreamers, detached from reality, who don’t know any better, versus Clinton who repeatedly prides herself in her pragmatism and no-nonsense attitude.

But we are not blind. We understand the political process perfectly well.  We understand that the President isn’t an elected king and that he has to work with Congress and lawmakers to make things happen. We understood the value of compromise. We know that this is going to be an upward battle requiring effort, a thick skin and hard work. And we knew that Bernie Sanders was not going to waltz into the White House, swing a magic wand and make it all happen.

But winning is only half the battle. The appeal of the Sanders movement is about achievability as much as it is about inspiration and believing that one must and can work toward a movement for greater equality, fair wages, universal  healthcare, and an end to corporate control of our political system. That in and of itself is half the battle.  And if you can’t even envision that, just like Clinton cannot and won’t envision it, then why do you even fucking want this job? Why do you bother?

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In fact, I have often wondered why given her defeatist pragmatic attitude Clinton even wants this job. She is rich enough so it is not like she has to work. And how much more money can one person need and want?

Is it for power? Prestige? To be the first woman President? Bragging rights?

I look at her track record and I look at her during this Primary season and I don’t see a public servant, I don’t see someone who wants to bring about change and reform. On the contrary, what I see is a neoliberal, Wall Street-funded, status quo-perpetuating, multimillionaire  militarist.

It is a shame. We had the chance to elect an utterly honest man who has not spent  the last 40 years enriching himself at the expense of the American people. Unlike Sanders’ positive and hope filled message, this so-called victory by Clinton brings with itself an air of hopelessness and despondency that weighs down my heart.

The masses of people being gullible sheep who vote against their own self interest is nothing new, but it never ceases to amaze and appall me when I do witness it.  Sanders is a man who, going by his tax returns alone, is  broke compared to his multi millionaire colleagues in Congress. He and his wife made less in one year ($204k) than  Clinton makes in one speech to Goldman Sachs. He didn’t vote for every war he could vote for,  he was not being sponsored by banks and corporations while also receiving endorsements by the likes of the Koch Brothers and war criminals like Henry Kissinger. Unlike Clinton he has not spent the bigger part of his career aligning himself with the powerful and wealthy against the powerless and poor.

Yet who do people vote for? Hillary Clinton. A woman who  wore a $12,000  Armani  suit while giving a speech on income inequality.

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As a woman and feminist I am supposed to feel really elated and happy here. It is a historic moment for the United States to finally have a woman Presidential nominee and probably also President. However, I feel nothing but disappointment and despair. I look at the next six months with a heavy heart and know that she will win the General Election, too, given that the person she is running against is not really a viable candidate, or even a opponent, but more like a troll. So in a way Clinton will be running unopposed come this November.

Of course, Hillary Clinton is qualified and experienced for the job. Nk doubt in my mind she is brilliant. However, it is not her qualifications that are in question here, it is her priorities. She is bad for America and this historic moment of finally having a woman on the command chair is overshadowed by the fact that Clinton is not the Progressive she claims to be.

Clinton is not running (at this time or any other) to help the American people, who have been nothing short of brutalized by corporations and the politicians that do their bidding – including Clinton – or to make America a better place. She’s running because the Presidency is the biggest prize in the world, and she wants that prize. Trump is running for the same reason–bragging rights.

If she wins, and she will win, her presidency will then be focused–again–not on the people, but on doing just enough to secure a personal legacy and a place in the history books as The First Woman President.

Someone who accepts nearly a million dollars in speaker fees from Goldman Sachs to congratulate them on a job well done and who goes to fundraisers were people spend nearly $400,000 on a plate, and someone who has a track record of voting for all the fraudulent wars this country has been engaged in for the past five decades and Wall Street bailouts and policies aimed at furthering the 1% at the expense of everyone else, someone who has already said that there will never, ever be universal health care and free – or at least affordable -education and meaningful student loan reforms for all, not just special interest groups – is not someone who should be running on the Progressive ticket.

For the record, Goldman Sachs does not pay HRC $250,000 per speaking engagement for nothing. Those rich people in the aforementioned dinner organized by George Clooney don’t spend nearly $400,000 a seat to help poor people. This is an investment and those people will  want a return on their investment; a return which doesn’t include you or I.

Clinton is a moderate Republican, paid and endorsed by big banks to convince the middle class to be happy with the old deal. And this past Tuesday, middle and working class America agreed by making her their nominee.

 

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Another 1%er Event

It is becoming increasingly more evident that regular folks in this country, you know, your average taxpaying, working middle-class stiff, the ones that are keeping this economy and country, really, going – from their occupations as teachers, in the service industry to non-profit work etc., do not matter very much.

I said it before and I say it again, but for the one percent that run this country, middle class folks seemingly are nothing more than readily sources of warm bodies when you need to engage in another war for profit under the guise of security.

They are a a source of tax revenue to support and underwrite the 1%.

If, as a one percenter, they have done a good job choosing the two lousy candidates for them and then giving them the illusion that they have a “choice” on the day they go out and cast a vote (see Citizens United)  then they are a “vote” to help “elect” your candidate and if you have done a really good job, as Republicans have with their voter base, you not only give them the delusion that they have a choice between candidates but you actually get them to vote for the very candidate, and thus against their own self-interest, you put on the ballot.

Everytime there is a cut in government spending, the middle class and the poor, of course, have to make sacrifices and see the programs and policies that benefit and protect them slashed and reduced,  not the wealthy and thus the architects of our economic system that keeps the wealthy tax exempt under the guise that they are “job creators” while repeatedly requiring that cuts to government spending (because of lost revenue due to those tax exemptions) come from those very middle class protecting programs.

While the white collar criminals of Wall Street and the banking system got bailed out instead of imprisoned for the crimes they committed, poor people, and thus Wall Street’s direct and indirect victims, are sent to jail for essentially being poor.

And when our so-called leaders and politicians open the doors to let America “in” for a night of celebration, laughter good times and appreciation, the only ones invited to the table, literally, are members of the 1%.

It is, after all, no coincidence that the yearly White House Correspondent’s Dinner (WHCD)  resembles a Hollywood red carpet event and that everyone in that event, except those serving food and beverages, are members of the one percent. 

It is sad to know that the average American is not on the President’s radar even when he  decides to decide to hang out with the public. 

Instead of inviting over some of those hard working average American citizens, the ones that did the grunt work and got him elected, to shake hands with and thank them for their truly thankless jobs and positions and pressure in society, he instead surrounds himself with top members of the elite cracking jokes.

It is ironic that on the one hand we’ve got the Occupy Wall Street movement, with demands for equity and relief for the middle class, the 99%, – an event and movement the President and his wife endorse, while on the other hand any event of any significance in this country, including this Dinner, is hosted and populated by the wealthy and privileged, the 1% only.

The 99% only seem to matter in as much as they make for great talking point or otherwise help score political points and not because anyone really actually cares about changing the current paradigm, the current dysfunction with respect to structural exploitation and institutionalized greed in this country that have allowed the 1% to accumulate more wealth than the rest of us combined.

There are thousands of people who dedicate every day of their lives to not only public service but to their townships, counties, states and communities in general – one way or another. They are the backbone of America, they are the people the President allegedly works for and leads. They are the ones who, through their hard work, such as teachers, champion the very causes this Dinner is to honor and uphold – yet the only ones who once again get to benefit from all this, even if just in a celebratory manner, are rich people; the 1% – literally – as everyone at that dinner is a millionaire – without exception, because otherwise who could afford something like $50,000 a plate just to get in?

Not that I don’t love the outrage about economic injustice for us poor, hard working middle class folks when it’s politically expedient and all but it’d be nice if the actual American people – you know, the 99%  – such as the journalists meant to be holding the US government to account, the non-profit workers, the public servants, the researchers, activists and just the people on the ground who work everyday on these issues for Americans without anyone paying much attention to them –  were, once in a while,  invited to the table and celebrated by our leaders, instead of actors, reality TV stars and models – who neither represent the American people, nor have contributed in any meaningful way to the political and social world they are in,

Speak of being out of touch. Romney is not the only one.

Money begets money and at the end of the day, when all the political talking points and phony strategizing to supposedly empower the 99% have been made, rich people still only take care of and intermingle with their own.

All this talk about empowering the 99% and leveling the playing field are just that: rhetoric. No one really means it and The White House Correspondent’s Dinner is the best example to the point.

The United States would be a very different place if everyone cared about inequity when there wasn’t a presidential election in which appearing to care about inequity could score political points.

 

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Obama, Romney, the One Percent. What’s the Difference Anyway?

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Do you think if I sent Obama an invitation to come over to my house for dinner he would? Like he did with Sarah Jessica Parker, George Clooney, Steven Spielberg and the countless other 1%ers?

Amidst all the discussions about what a terrible person Mitt Romney is (which he is) who is out of touch with how most human beings on this planet live their lives and the challenges they face and amidst all the talks about how Obama is not such a person  – since he clearly is the “man of the people” – a self made man and community organizer who did not grow up with a silver spoon in his mouth – I noted that while that may have been true about Obama a long time ago, that person no longer is.

The tragedy is that Obama and co are claiming to fight the good fight: “For hard working Americans” while Mitt Romney is seen as that greedy asshole who could not care less about such hard working people. Yet, in essence, Obama is not all that different from Mitt Romney when it comes to the  privileges they enjoy.

Michelle Obama in Vogue trying to inspire Americans since clearly this is exactly how most Americans look like at home

Michelle Obama in Vogue trying to inspire Americans since clearly this is exactly how most Americans look like at home

Having a spread in Vogue magazine depicting a lavish 1% er setting and stating how the Obamas inspire America – shortly after the sequester, no less, where millions of people – most of whom are poor and vulnerable – have seen the kind of cuts that make the difference between employed or not/roof over your head or not/food on your table or not/able to afford medication or not etc – also doesn’t help and make you a man of the people.

When Clooney threw a fundraising soiree for Obama last year, it cost $40,000 a plate to attend. In other words, these Hollywood high rollers at Clooney’s house were paying more for two hours with the president than they pay their nannies, housekeepers and gardeners in a year.  Just like Romney. And they call themselves the good guys. The ones working for you and I instead of the lifestyle of the rich and famous.

Let us backtrack.

Scott Prouty, the man who shot the infamous 47% video of Mitt Romney where he is seen talking, in horrid yet very detached detail, about the slave labor conditions in Chinese factories and trashing everyone in this country who isn’t a member of the social register, sat down for an interview with MSNBC’s Ed Schultz a couple of weeks ago to not only reveal his identity but to mainly talk about the video and what inspired his decision to release the footage.

I highly recommend watching the video (a transcript to follow later) as it – more than anything else – is a shining example of how a man, a seemingly ordinary citizen who remained invisible to Romney even as he was serving him his $50,000 plate of food,  made the courageous decision to record and release a video of a candidate running on the platform of patriotism and love for all of America, when in reality the only people he was going to represent were the kind of people he was having that $50,000 a plate dinner with.

Prouty explained that one should not pay $50,000 to hear what a candidate has to say – as if that kind of fundraising was confined to Romney and his kind only. The evidence above with respect to Obama and his late night soirees with Hollywood -listers shows that paying tens of thousands of dollars to hear a candidate speak is not something solely confined to Romney.

Income Gain Disparity 1966 to 2011

Syracuse University professor and Pulitzer Prize winner David Cay Johnston analyzed the disparity between the gains in incomes of the average taxpayers and those in the top 10 percent and the results are shocking but not surprising.

Incomes for the bottom 90 percent of Americans only grew by $59 on average between 1966 and 2011 (adjusted for inflation), according to Johnston’s analysis. During the same period, the average income for the top 10 percent of Americans rose by $116,071, Johnston found.

Income Growth, 1966 to 2011

Income Growth, 1966 to 2011

To put that into perspective: if you say the $59 boost is equivalent to one inch, then the incomes of the top 10 percent of Americans rose by 168 feet, Johnston explained to Alternet last week.

Incomes for the bottom fifth of Americans, for instance, grew about 20 percent between 1979 and 2007, according to a 2011 study from the Congressional Budget Office. During the same period, members of the top 1 percent saw their incomes grow by 275 percent.

Another way to illustrate the huge disparity: the six heirs to the Walmart fortune had a net worth equivalent to the bottom 41.5 percent of Americans combined in 2010, according to an analysis from Josh Bivens at the Economic Policy Institute.

While income inequality may be great for those reaping the big bucks at the top, it’s likely hurting Americans overall. Greater income equality is correlated with stronger economic growth, according to a 2011 IMF report and in fact one of the hallmarks of poor, developing nations is the income gap: the poorer and more economically unstable a nation is, the bigger the income gap – with a lot of poor people (one of the hallmarks of poor nations) and a few very wealthy people and no one in between.

The American Dream hard at work

We, sadly, live in a culture of get-rich-or-die-trying. Where average, middle class (I am not even talking about the poor) is considered a one way ticket to loser-town; a failure of some sort. As John Steinbeck once said “socialism never took root in America, because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.”

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Everybody is being manipulated in one way or another to want be a millionaire. People watch the movies and TV shows, ads and magazine spreads depicting the high life and they want be part of it too. After all, why be a community organizer when you can take group pictures clenching money between your teeth.

Obama Just Another 1%er

Even our President is part of the one percent now. Make no mistake about it.

Hanging out at lavish dinner parties and soirees in the homes of celebs and fellow 1%ers, such as Sarah Jessica Parker, George Clooney and Will Smith.  Going to fundraisers at $40,000 a plate with other Hollywood hot shots.

In fact, last year Clooney himself held such a lavish soiree for Obama, inviting 150 of Hollywood’s richest for $40,000 a head to raise a meager $15 million dollars (compared to SuperPac monies, $15 million is drop in the bucket). This party was held in Los Angeles, a city plagued by chronic lack of funding where school libraries are being shut down, teachers laid off firehouses shut down. And VIPs were paying $40,000 for a Wolfgang Puck hors d’oeuvre and a silly photo with a president who only now has come to think it might be OK for gay people to have the same rights as straight people.

Democracy hard at work. As Steve Lopez wrote in the L.A. Times “Yeah, sure, Obama’s got to raise all he can to fend off Mitt Romney and hold on to his seat. But is that a race to the top or a race to the bottom? If money buys victory and access, what about the masses who can’t afford a $40 fundraiser, let alone a $40,000 party? When do they get the president’s ear?”

Do you think if I sent Obama an invitation to come over to my house for dinner he would? Like he did with SJP and George Clooney? The tragedy is that Obama and Co are claiming to fight the good fight: “For hard working Americans” while Mitt Romney is seen is that greedy asshole who could not care less about such hard working people. Yet these high rollers at Clooney’s house were paying more for two hours with the president than they pay their nannies, housekeepers and gardeners in a year. Just like Romney.

Scott Prouty. 47% videographer

Scott Prouty. 47% videographer

As Scott Prouty said in his interview with Ed Schulz about the Romney speech and fundraiser and thus his motive for taking the video “You shouldn’t have to be able to afford $50,000 to hear what the candidate actually thinks“, as if that was something solely confined to Mitt Romney and rich, greedy Republicans while Democrats and the wealthy liberals who support them would clearly not ever do such a thing.

The above evidence begs to differ.

$40,000 a Plate Fundraiser for Obama = $50,000 a Plate Fundraiser for Romney

I am sure people like Clooney and co are acting in good faith, hoping to do something so the worst man in the world in the form of Mitt Romney does not get to run this country.  But if they’re so desperate to celebrate their wonderful ways and important causes, why not a Hollywood fundraising party to save the libraries, schools, rec centers or parks? Why not start paying the people who clean your house and tend to the garden and take care of your privileged kids decent salary and health coverage?

I tell you why: because George Clooney, much like Obama, much like Steven Spielberg, much like Nancy Pelosi, much like Mitt Romney are part of the 1% and throwing soirees for the President is much more about the soirees and meeting the president than about giving a damn about the 99% and hard working Americans you claim to fight for.

Whether Obama earned it or not, he is up there now, living the good life. Sequester or not, he won’t have to worry about whether he can send his kids to college, if he will one day be without health care or lose his house and retirement and be destitute and all the other myriad of things 99% of the people in this country have to worry about. In fact, none of the policies coming from D.C. and our legislators will ever actually affect them personally. And that is a huge deal, namely that those making the laws are not affected by them. There is a reason half of Congress are millionaires.

And the thing with being part of the 1% ultimately is that more often than not it gives you amnesia. You forget. Obama had no problem letting the payroll tax-break expire, thus making almost everyone making $ 113,000 or less pay more each month, but he did increase the 3% tax increase income threshold from $250,000 to $400,000 because god knows people making 250k a year need consideration and a break. How so 99% of him.

No Soirees for the 99%

When was the last time any representative of the middle class had a candidate throw dinners and soirees for them? And not just a candidate but the President.

When was the last time the White House threw a dinner or a black and white ball for employees of NGOs, charities, volunteers and other public service jobs?

When was the last time the White House threw a dinner in honor of hard working folks, inviting them over for a night filled with Jimmy Kimmels and hanging out with the President and celebs? Sure, you can win a dinner with the President and first lady at Sarah Jessica Parker’s 10 million Borwnstone in Manhattan’s Upper East Side, if you donate money and are automatically entered into a pool, much like a lottery, with thousands of others. But when was the last time, or ever, anyone of these people have actually done something in that regard for us hard working middle or working class – heck even unemployed and poor – folks who aren’t members of the social register? Even the White House Correspondents’ Dinners that are supposed to be about journalists, have become just another 1%er event for celebrities transplanted from Hollywood to DC – but only A-listers mind you since most regular actors and SAG members are not part of the 1%  – which seems to be the only requirement to attend the Dinner.

So when I heard Prouty say that one should not have to be able to pay $50,000 a plate to hear what a candidate has to say it made me wonder if Obama is any better. Of course, Obama hanging out at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner and mingling with other rich people is not the same thing as Romney’s 47% speech where he is exposed as an insincere hypocrite and the fact that he thought he could and should talk like this behind closed curtains.

But there is a broader canvas here to consider because Romney or Obama – the common theme here is that those with big bucks are being invited to the discussion table and getting parties thrown for them while most people – i.e. those who make up the majority of the voter base and also carry the economic burden of the nation – since rich people clearly aren’t – never see any of that.

The fact that those with money and the power that comes with it run the world is nothing new. However, if you are a country (or claim to be a country) that was founded on principles diametrically opposed to such a paradigm, then that is a problem. Yes, we could be just like any other third-country oppressive shithole with an income gap the size of Mount Everest, but this is not what this country is about or should be about. Back in the day, only landowners were allowed to vote and thus have their voice heard. How is that different from today where the wealthy asset holders get invited to the table and private meetings with the President and this are made part of the debate, while you and I are lucky if the White House ever returns any of our letters on a pre-written template designed for concerned citizens?

How Can You Inspire People, Barry

As to the Obamas: How can you inspire people? You inspire people by being one of them. Not by living the kind of lifestyle you just criticized your opponents for five minutes ago and which almost none of the people you are addressing can ever afford.

Yes they worked hard but what use is all that hard work and social upward mobility and thus power that comes with wealth if you are just going to behave like any other wealthy, 1%er? You have to be the change you want to see and when you say you stand for the causes of the 99% while living the life of a 1%er, that makes you not only a hypocrite but also a large part of the problem.

I understand that he is the POTUS ans as such he has a standard of living. But I am not talking about his salary. That isn’t, after all, the source of his wealth. It’s his privilege that detaches him and just makes him part of the problem.

The gross inequalities described above with respect to stagnant income growth for most Americans go far deeper than people like Boehner, Romney or the robber barons of Wall Street. Half of Congress, i.e. our lawmakers, are millionaires and in fact D.C. is the one city where one is more likely to run into a millionaire than anywhere else.

And these are law makers and legislators. The people that run this country but who are clearly beholden to the interests of the 1% – mainly because they themselves are one of them – while trying to appeal to the 99% on the surface to get their votes. And who knows, with all the voter suppression efforts by Republicans soon they may be able to even skip that and just directly work for the 1%.

The Futility of Politely Asking the 1% To Come to the Aide of the 99% 

It is quite ironic and futile that we are looking to them – the 1% – to please change things in favor of the 99%. What incentive do any of these people have to change the status quo in our favor? Congress just got a pay raise – signed by our man of the people, Obama. It was no coincident that there was no student loan bailouts. Students don’t have lobbyists stationed in DC 24/7 – unlike Wall Street and thus the members of the one percent.

Yes President Obama, I appreciate your tough upbringing and that you can somehow vaguely apparently remember what it is like to “have a rough time”  as you once told a crowd of supporters.  The only difference between you and everyone else, however, is that you are a millionaire who wines and dines with celebrities and goes to $40,000 a plate soirees – money than can be used right here and then to help out someone rather than falling into this bottomless pit of your campaign fund that just sucks up money and produces little results for the people you claim to stand for; your children don’t have to worry about racking up student loan debt at high interest rates to get an education, because you have the money to pay for it.

In fact, you are part of the 1% and as such you are not only part of the problem, you are just another out-of-touch wealthy rich puke condescending and making casual life and death decisions (and yes, these are life and death decisions you are making, believe it or not) because they won’t affect your family. Your multi million dollar retirement is secure, your pension is fat, much like you assets.

As far as I am concerned you, Mr. President, are about only “better” than Romney in so far as Romney is truly nothing but a wolf in sheep’s clothing with a horrifying track record and agenda for America. But don’t come here insulting mine and the intelligence of your supporters struggling every day at the hands of your bipartisan, failed policies  – not the least of which is the gamble you took with the Sequester, purposely making it draconian, hoping that it would deter Republicans even though your gazillion years of experience working with them and common sense, if nothing at all, should have told you that these are not the kind of people who mind draconian cuts – by claiming that you are on our side and are fighting on our behalf. if you actually do come to my house for dinner one day, maybe I believe you. Until then, you are just another rich asshole fighting to make sure you and your kind remain where you at: at the top of the food chain. 

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