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From the costly — in many senses of that word — spectacle that is the Rio Olympics to the political and economic chaos unleashed by the notorious Powell memo, the Truthdig comment boards were host to a virtual phantasmagoria this week.

And while it’s not uncommon to read a term like “monster” tossed around online (particularly in this truly bizarre election season), members of our comment community backed up their arguments in a manner we only wish politicians would.

Let’s get to it. Exhibit A: Ort convincingly invoked icons of excess — e.g., the Trojan Horse, “bread and circuses” — hailing from ancient Greece and Rome in sizing up, or rather taking down, the 2016 Rio Olympics, as Sonali Kolhatkar did in her latest column:

Whatever its storied History™ and Tradition™, the modern Olympic Games have long since devolved into a corrupt and bloated excrescence– a hybrid of capitalist greed and nationalist vainglory. They evoke the scriptural metaphor of the “whited sepulcher” that is clean and sparkling on the outside, but contains only corruption and rot within.

These rapacious extravaganzas constitute a special application of Disaster Capitalism– a Trojan Horse variation.

Primed with a tsunami of mass-media promotion, aka hype, the crowd oohs, aahs, and goes wild as the magnificent spectacle is hauled into the spotlight.

But hype, fanfare, and the natural enthusiasm of athletes and sports fans notwithstanding, all modern international sports spectacles have become bloated, malignant investment opportunities that reward a cabal of opportunistic financiers and politicians at the expense of economically disadvantaged people, communities, and classes.

They are always sold as win-win occasions: the short-term reward is the “games” themselves– ostensibly wholesome, edifying, riveting, inspiring displays of convivial competition and sportsmanship, human excellence, virtuous national pride, and good, clean fun for all. C’est magnifique!

The promised long-term rewards are economic ripple effects: international profits from participating sponsors all around, winning athletes going on to a lucrative professional career and product endorsements, and especially the ballyhooed local economic shot in the arm that gives the host location a lasting boost, and better yet is an investment in what used to be called “urban renewal”.

Out with the old! In with the new! Improvement! Progress!

This perennial fantasy is just that, unfortunately. At every stage of the process, the common man is trampled upon and pushed aside to make room for bloated, expensive, cheesy stadiums and associated specialized structures that inevitably turn into white elephants– state-of-the-art ruins– that are never supported or repurposed as the optimistic prospectus promises.

And there are always ruinous cost overruns, expensive miscalculations, cronyism, theft, bribery, payoffs, faked or missing business and work records, crooked accounting, budget scams, misallocation of material resources (deliberate and accidental), and widespread abuse of workers along the way.

And I haven’t even dilated upon the malignant politicization of the Olympics boondoggle.

This is the sordid reality, hidden in plain sight, of the “circus” division of the “bread and circuses” racket.

Extra points for the era-appropriate metaphors, there, Ort.

Next we have baht’s contribution, which touches on the ongoing discussion about the role of third-party candidates in this election cycle as well as another issue that’s becoming more urgent: the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the controversial trade deal that President Obama, and less consistently Hillary Clinton, have boosted. This comment was posted under a story about Bernie Sanders’ “disappointment” in the president’s and other Democrats’ support of the TPP:

I’m voting for Jill Stein in the hope that third party candidates can break the 15% threshold needed to share the stage with the 2020 oligarchs from the two corporately owned parties.

Make sure you are paying attention when the lame duck session passes the TPP. 2018 will be the year of the great unburdening when we flush each and every representative and senator that does not give full throated opposition to these faux trade deals and to any of them idiotic enough to vote for their passage.

I plan to work aggressively to unseat anyone from my state who votes for these monstrosities.

I hope all of you plan to do the same.

Good to take the long view, as many key issues clearly won’t be sorted by Nov. 9 of this year.

Moving on. One fbxl5 thought the “monster” label definitely applies to erstwhile Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell, whose 1971 memo may have gone largely unnoticed by design at the time but certainly didn’t escape the expert attention of columnist Bill Blum:

Anyone who reads about the creation and rise of America’s oligarchy knows about Lewis Powell and his infamous 1971 memo. Powell laid out the blueprint for ending our citizen centric democracy and strongly advocated using corporate wealth to buy political power. Powell is the godfather of the policies that have brought about the destruction of America’s middle class, high standard of living for average citizens, subsidized higher education systems, and so many other things that are making the U.S. a third world nation for 90% of its citizens. Powell is the monster that urged American corporations to capitalize upon and, to expand the critical flaw in our system of government, private political campaign financing donations. 45 years after Lewis Powell, the nation stands at the edge of the abyss.

Truly interesting times we’re in, when talk of monsters, “the abyss” and fascism isn’t really the stuff of fantasy — or hyperbole.

Next, L Farkas here thinks the term “feminism” has been vastly distorted when applied as a description of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and her politics:

What gender means in 2016 is that a bunch of people are going to vote for a war-monger, a racketeer, liar, a cheat and a fraud just because she’s a woman. If Hillary Clinton is the culmination of “feminism”, then liberalism is bankrupt and “feminism” is reactionary. We need a class based politics, not one where men and women are interchangeable as tools for starting wars and robbing the 99%. Go serve Goldmann Sachs and start another war if you like, just don’t call it feminism.

And rounding out our week in review is iowapinko’s take on Paul Street’s first column for the site. On a side note, we did read and register many comments asking for additional pieces from Street, and we’re happy to say that more will be forthcoming (here’s another, while we’re at it). Without making too much of a stretch, we’d suggest that Street’s subject is something of a monstrosity as well — one that iowapinko names at the conclusion of this comment:

This is the most useful article TD has published in a long time. It’s filled with salient statistics and analysis. Thanks TD for sharing this.

“Since the triumph of finance, however, the main capital-led trend has been “de-development … a significant shift of the economy from productive enterprise—producing things people need or could use—to financial manipulation.”

This trend began to pick up steam around 1973, when the Clintons and their DLC displaced the influence of labor with the dominance of capital/finance /banking interests in duopoly politics, effectively creating a full-fledged corporate pol monopoly. Otherwise known as fascism.

The scary stuff didn’t end there, but we’ll put a point on this installment of CotW. ‘Til next time — stay vigilant, and let us know which comments you appreciate as well by up-voting your favorites.

–Posted by Kasia Anderson

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