Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Party On

How does an oligarchy solve a problem like the class war? They sweep it under the rug, that's what they do. With the help of their corporate media stenographers, the ruling class has conveniently clumped their American serfs into ideological hovels attached to one of two fiefdoms: Democratic or Republican. Better to swear fealty to a political tribe and expend your energy on hating the other side, than self-identify as poor and oppressed and turn against the overseers.

The latest iteration of the Divide and Conquer method, successfully used by aristocrats to maintain control of the masses through the ages, has been dubbed "Partyism." It has now actually surpassed other measures of bias in the group-think hate sweepstakes. Republicans hate Democrats more than they hate minorities and gays and welfare moms. Democrats hate Republicans more than they hate Wall Street. What state of populist affairs could be more perfect for the One Percent?
In 1960, 5 percent of Republicans and 4 percent of Democrats said that they would feel “displeased” if their son or daughter married outside their political party. By 2010, those numbers had reached 49 percent and 33 percent.
So, if they filmed a remake of Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, the plot, instead of white parents dealing with the angst of their daughter dating a black man, might involve the angst of Democratic parents whose daughter brings home a Republican suitor. Or maybe the red state/blue state families of a pair of gay lovers would be hilariously divided in a comedy-of-errors party affiliation romp, reminiscent of La Cage. If it was a feel-good Lifetime movie, Republican and Democrat hedge fund managers would overcome their mutual disdain and start their own charter school chain just in time for Christmas. Love of money will keep them together.

 The 24/7 ideological "news" shows on MSNBC and Fox have succeeded beyond all the wildest plutocratic expectations. They have gotten struggling people to blame members of their own class (commonly divided into "libtards" and "wingnuts" in anonymous online comments boards) for whatever ails them, rather than the financial "malefactors of great wealth" who robbed everybody blind. They get us to identify with our elected leaders, to take vicarious umbrage whenever our favorite politician gets attacked by "the other side."  They thrive on ridiculing the  pretend-opposite party rather than imparting information to their viewers.

Case in point: the recent manufactured brouhaha dubbed #LatteSaluteGate, in which President Obama saluted service members while holding a cup of coffee. Disrespectful and unpatriotic, screamed Fox. And then MSNBC countered with an old clip of George W. Bush saluting service members while holding his pet dog, which of course shows how hypocritical Fox is to disrespect Obama for disrespecting the troops. And the partisan blogosphere erupted, right on corporate cue. (coup)

  Of course, hardly anybody saw fit to mention that both men were acting like elitist assholes, nor did they question the waste of taxpayer money by presidents for using Marine One to travel to party fund-raising gigs, or why and how this whole grotesque military ritual developed in the first place.

Partyism also explains why there is no anti-war movement. Democrats who should have been in the front lines of peace protests are nearly all silent --  because their "reluctant warrior" Obama is the one hurling the bombs (that he inherited from Bush, of course.)

 To make our acceptance of perpetual war even more ironclad, we're now being entertained/distracted with #PenetrationGate. Through a couple of carefully orchestrated leaks to The Washington Post, we have just learned, to our shock and horror, that two different disturbed people shot at and did a home invasion of the White House over the past few years. Congress is now holding hearings on the scandal. The upshot is that rapt viewers become all too willing to overlook the shock and horror (aka collateral damage) being visited by the "vulnerable" Obama upon vulnerable people in Arab countries. We're also lulled into thinking that Congress, so recently and rightly castigated for turning a blind cowardly eye to the same president's abuse of power, is now doing its job by scapegoating, exposing and scolding a contingent of relatively underpaid presidential bodyguards.

Starting salaries for this "elite" federal force range from a low $33,979 to $43,964, depending on qualifications. This compares unfavorably with the starting salaries of other law enforcement agencies.  New York State Police recruits, for example, are paid $50,374 while they're still in the Academy, with an almost $17,000 raise upon graduation six months later, with another $5,000 after one year. (recent graduates have included former Secret Service agents. Quel choc!)

The corporate media are not talking about the below-median salary paid to those tasked with protecting the most powerful man on earth, of course. The problem with the Secret Service, just like the problem with all members of the 99% who struggle every day to make ends meet, is cast as one of "their culture."

When it comes to issues of the security state, Partyism goes right out the window. When it comes to advancing military goals, and propping up the symbolic office of the presidency, bipartisanship is the unspoken rule: Democrats and Republicans forget their differences, pronto. And the plutocrats and the profiteering war mercenaries and the finance cartels and all their toadies in Congress party on, and on, and on. Wherever in the world there is superfluous human labor and natural resources ripe for the extracting, there's an automatic excuse for a party. And you're not invited. So back to your hovels so that the conquerors can get on with it.


All Obamacared Up and No Place To Go

This is a feature, not a bug:
Enrollment in Medicaid is surging as a result of the Affordable Care Act, but the Obama administration and state officials have done little to ensure that new beneficiaries have access to doctors after they get their Medicaid cards, federal investigators say in a new report.
The report, to be issued this week by the inspector general at the Department of Health and Human Services, says state standards for access to care vary widely and are rarely enforced. As a result, it says, Medicaid patients often find that they must wait for months or travel long distances to see a doctor.
Robert Pear of The New York Times writes that by 2016, an estimated one in four less well-off Americans will have been on the Medicaid rolls at some point during their lives. The Affordable Care Act mandates only that states provide adequate care for people on Medicaid, but somehow forgot to define the meaning of "adequate." To make it even more suspenseful, the public Medicaid program is now largely administered by private, for-profit insurers who, in the interests of the free market god, must also extract their fees.

In one state, the "adequate" waiting time for a sick Medicaid enrollee to see a doctor is as much as 60 days, Pear writes, while in other more humane places, two weeks is the acceptable norm. Regardless, few states ever bother to prosecute Medicaid providers who fail to uphold agreed-upon standards of care for the indigent. It's kind of the same rationale outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder uses for his failure to prosecute renegade bankers: with so few of them to begin with, the whole system would collapse upon itself if you dared punish anybody.

 The private insurance Medicaid contractors, wanting to stay in business in a bare-bones system, have also been known to deliberately falsify information on their so-called provider networks -- including the names of physicians who are no longer in business, who have already reached their quota of new Medicaid patients, or even those who've always refused to accept Medicaid patients. And in some cases, the providers listed are completely fictitious. Fraud? What fraud? 

It's not like the Obama administration couldn't have foreseen that physicians, who even before Medicaid expansion, were not accepting Medicaid patients. The reimbursements are much lower than what private insurers and even Medicare pays out. Although the Affordable Care Act provides for increased fees for physicians seeing indigent patients, these are only for the first two years of the program, like a bait and switch special introductory offer" for new cable subscribers. 

 There is also a chronic doctor shortage in the United States. There are too few medical schools training new doctors. The rural poor have more difficulty seeing a physician than the urban poor. From McClatchy Newspapers:
Of more than 1 million physicians, therapists and counselors nationwide, only 43 percent accept Medicaid, according to a new study by HealthPocket, a technology firm that compares and ranks health plans.
The situation varies by city. The study found that only 31 percent of caregivers accept Medicaid patients in Washington and Detroit, 36 percent in San Francisco, 42 percent in Philadelphia and San Diego, and 47 percent in Seattle.
“If the current Medicaid acceptance rates hold true for 2014, timely access to care for those relying on Medicaid is likely to become more difficult as enrollees compete for an already inadequate pool of doctors,” said Kev Coleman, the head of research and data at HealthPocket.
The lean physician workforce has prompted some states to try to expand the types of primary care provided by nurse practitioners, physician assistants and other non-physician medical personnel. But the HealthPocket study found that only 20 percent of physician assistants and nurse practitioners nationally accept Medicaid, less than half the rate of doctors and other providers.
But as Doctor Pangloss would say, it could always be worse in this best of all possible insurance- kludgey, exceptionally American worlds. At least the poor people who must wait weeks or months and crawl miles to see a doctor are lucky to live in states that actually are accepting Medicaid expansion. As a Harvard/CUNY research study shows, as many as 17,000 people are expected to die needlessly every year because they aren't even being afforded the right to wait in line and play the health care lottery game for the poor in the first place.

The richest country on earth not only boasts the greatest wealth inequality on earth: it's even divided its poor populations into subsets of misery depending on the party affiliation of their overseers.

Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2013/05/13/191105/most-doctors-still-reject-medicaid.html#storylink=cpy

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Medicare, Dr. Mengele, and You

So, the multimillionaire architect of Obamacare went on a luxury trek up Mount Kilimanjaro recently with two of his trust-fund nephews. I am guessing that much to his dismay, he got a bit winded moving through all those exotic ecosystems. His 57-year-old body, so buff, so pampered, must have protested with a few creaks and groans. His middle-aged elite lungs probably gave out a few embarrassing wheezes. His technocratic brain, deprived of oxygen at the freezing summit, sent him a Eureka moment message:

If Ezekiel Emanuel, M.D. can't live forever in a young body, then neither should you. If Ezekiel Emanuel's attack of male menopause freaked him out, then you should freak out too. If Ezekiel Emanuel fears a decline, then the rest of the aging population should just quietly disappear, even before they get sick or senile.

 Ezekiel Emanuel has decided that if he can't function like a rich jerk forever, he would just as soon die before he reaches 75. Therefore, nobody else should live past 75 either. Once you stop being entertaining or remunerative, you should just check the hell out.

Ezekiel Emanuel seems to hate old people, believing that they are eyesores and albatrosses around the necks of High Society. This is a Democrat, mind you: a highly influential member of Obama's inner circle of health policy advisers. And you thought Republicans were terrifying fascists? It just goes to show how severely right-wing, nihilist, cruel and cynical this country's ruling class has become. The culling of the herd is nigh. The time has come for Exceptional America to go all nomadic, leaving the old folks behind, so that only the fittest may survive.

The Manifesto of Death to Grandma was published in The Atlantic, which hilariously included an oversize photo of a goofily grinning Emanuel to accompany his Social Darwinism screed. The subliminal message of the photo is that the passive-aggressive dying experience will be fun for the entire family. Don't go away by suicide, assisted or otherwise: just go away. Play a game of Russian Roulette by daring to skip the colonoscopy and the mammogram... and simply fade away through attrition. Your heirs will thank you. The plutocrats of Wall Street will definitely thank you.

Let Natural Selection take its course.... especially if you're dependent on Medicare and Social Security for your continued survival. Let a benevolent smirking rich guy like Zeke be your guide:

But here is a simple truth that many of us seem to resist: living too long is also a loss. It renders many of us, if not disabled, then faltering and declining, a state that may not be worse than death but is nonetheless deprived. It robs us of our creativity and ability to contribute to work, society, the world. It transforms how people experience us, relate to us, and, most important, remember us. We are no longer remembered as vibrant and engaged but as feeble, ineffectual, even pathetic.
Full disclosure: I am a physically disabled person, yet somehow I do not feel as deprived as Emanuel thinks I should. Until I read his article, I'd had no idea that my being in a wheelchair has robbed me of my creativity, and even worse, that my continued existence in a less-than-perfect body will rob my children of any pleasant memories of me for the rest of their lives. My living will stipulates only the physical and mental conditions for ending extraordinary intervention, not an arbitrary age for doing so. Moreover, since I still have quite a ways to go before my own date with Diamond Jubilee Destiny, does that mean I'm still safe, despite my "faltering" state?

 But I digress. Let Dr. Death explain further by projecting his own will on everybody:
  By the time I reach 75, I will have lived a complete life. I will have loved and been loved. My children will be grown and in the midst of their own rich lives. I will have seen my grandchildren born and beginning their lives. I will have pursued my life’s projects and made whatever contributions, important or not, I am going to make. And hopefully, I will not have too many mental and physical limitations. Dying at 75 will not be a tragedy. Indeed, I plan to have my memorial service before I die. And I don’t want any crying or wailing, but a warm gathering filled with fun reminiscences, stories of my awkwardness, and celebrations of a good life. After I die, my survivors can have their own memorial service if they want—that is not my business.
It's all about Ezekiel Emanuel. If he can't hear the smarmy accolades at his own funeral, then why even have one? (Speaking of limitations, he already has a major one, one that he was probably born with: a congenital absence of the empathy trait. He is, after all, the brother of Rahm "Mayor One Percent" Emanuel.)
I am talking about how long I want to live and the kind and amount of health care I will consent to after 75. Americans seem to be obsessed with exercising, doing mental puzzles, consuming various juice and protein concoctions, sticking to strict diets, and popping vitamins and supplements, all in a valiant effort to cheat death and prolong life as long as possible. This has become so pervasive that it now defines a cultural type: what I call the American immortal.
I reject this aspiration. I think this manic desperation to endlessly extend life is misguided and potentially destructive. For many reasons, 75 is a pretty good age to aim to stop.
I think oxygen deprivation at the summit of Kilimanjaro must have either permanently impaired Emanuel's brain function, or his death-wish may even represent a form of late onset manic-depressive psychosis affecting mainly elites. According to his logic, Ruth Bader Ginsburg should never have been (successfully) treated for her pancreatic cancer. If Hillary Clinton is elected president, she should forgo physical exams midway through her first term, lest Chelsea suffer needlessly in the event that a health problem in Mom is discovered and treated. Albert Einstein should have skipped his annual check-ups, because once he discovered the Theory of Relativity, he was surplus flesh. Ditto for E.M. Forster, who stopped writing 60 years before his death at 91. How pathetic is that? And forget Harper Lee: her artificial leg is a complete and utter waste of Medicare dollars, given that she was a one-hit wonder: Ezekiel doesn't think it'd be a sin to kill that bird.

He finally cuts to the chase after cherry-picking through data that purports to show that while Americans live longer, they live longer most miserably. This is  also all about his Dad, who simply refused to die in the best shape of his life:
My father illustrates the situation well. About a decade ago, just shy of his 77th birthday, he began having pain in his abdomen. Like every good doctor, he kept denying that it was anything important. But after three weeks with no improvement, he was persuaded to see his physician. He had in fact had a heart attack, which led to a cardiac catheterization and ultimately a bypass. Since then, he has not been the same. Once the prototype of a hyperactive Emanuel, suddenly his walking, his talking, his humor got slower. Today he can swim, read the newspaper, needle his kids on the phone, and still live with my mother in their own house. But everything seems sluggish. Although he didn’t die from the heart attack, no one would say he is living a vibrant life. When he discussed it with me, my father said, “I have slowed down tremendously. That is a fact. I no longer make rounds at the hospital or teach.” Despite this, he also said he was happy.
Then Daddy must be demented, or at least getting close. As Ezekiel hypomanically continues:
Even if we aren’t demented, our mental functioning deteriorates as we grow older. Age-associated declines in mental-processing speed, working and long-term memory, and problem-solving are well established. Conversely, distractibility increases. We cannot focus and stay with a project as well as we could when we were young. As we move slower with age, we also think slower.
It is not just mental slowing. We literally lose our creativity. About a decade ago, I began working with a prominent health economist who was about to turn 80. Our collaboration was incredibly productive. We published numerous papers that influenced the evolving debates around health-care reform. My colleague is brilliant and continues to be a major contributor, and he celebrated his 90th birthday this year. But he is an outlier—a very rare individual.
I don't know about that. Everywhere you look, there are amazingly brilliant octogenarians and nonagenarians who still dare to function at the peak of their abilities. Several of them contribute to this blog. (see 91-year-old Pearl's scathing remarks in my comments section.) And there is a New York Times commenter named Larry Eisenberg who can produce a limerick on any topic in the space of a few minutes. He is 94. Creative older people are "outliers" only in Emanuel's closed, elitist mind.

Here's a section sure to strike dread into the heart of every gerontologist:
At 75 and beyond, I will need a good reason to even visit the doctor and take any medical test or treatment, no matter how routine and painless. And that good reason is not “It will prolong your life.” I will stop getting any regular preventive tests, screenings, or interventions. I will accept only palliative—not curative—treatments if I am suffering pain or other disability.
How much you want to bet that Zekey-Boy will be screaming for extraordinary measures at the age of 98, ripping the oxygen-mask off the 75-year-old down the hall just to get a last sucking selfish mouthful of life?

He finally gets to the real reason (besides his gerontophobic disgust at looking at Daddy) for his faux-altruism: America is in decline. For a civilized country, our mortality rates are nothing to brag about. Despite being the richest country (the most billionaires on the planet) we rank only 40th in life expectancy. This is not so much because of biology, but because of our cruel social policies and continuing high poverty rate. The plutocrats of Wall Street and the political hacks like Emanuel who serve them want their Grand Bargain of safety net cuts. They don't want even the smallest portion of the wealth that they've managed to siphon off for themselves to trickle back down to medical care for the old, disabled and indigent.

The Bowles-Simpson Catfood Commission went down in ignominy. The debt and deficit are no longer popular campaign themes. So what is an oligarch to do? For starters,  Doc Zeke has come to their rescue with his cheery article, keeping the macabre herd-culling conversation alive. 

What Emanuel has indulged himself in is just more poor-shaming and psychological elder abuse, albeit couched in the most liberal, caring, and sensible terms. Please don't take him to mean that he espouses the easy Ernest Hemingway suicide route out, because Emanuel (says he) is absolutely against that, along with euthanasia. He protests (too much, methinks) that he is no Dr. Kevorkian!  But do skip the flu shot voluntarily this year, old people. Your grandchildren and the Medicare trust fund will be ever so grateful.

Did I mention that Dr. Zeke is director of the Bioethics Department of the budget-slashed National Institutes of Health? And they said that irony is dead.

     “The rich were dull and they drank too much, or they played too much backgammon. They were dull and they were repetitious. He remembered poor Scott Fitzgerald and his romantic awe of them and how he had started a story once that began, ‘The very rich are different from you and me.’ And how some one had said to Scott, Yes, they have more money. But that was not humorous to Scott. He thought they were a special glamorous race and when he found they weren't it wrecked him as much as any other thing that wrecked him.” -- Ernest Hemingway, from the original version of "The Snows of Kilimanjaro".

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Shocker: Holder Won't Be A.G. for Life

Well, knock me over with a feather. Attorney General Eric Holder will only serve about seven-eighths of his two-term stint as the nation's chief selective law enforcement officer. With any luck, he'll take another spin through the revolving doors a year or two before Obama does. Assuming, that is, that the Senate will deign to confirm any replacement who is not Alberto Gonzales or Michael Mukasey. If the GOP takes the Senate, I am sure things will go a lot more smoothly. They will no longer have to pretend that there is any major difference between the two corporate parties.

I guess we can be marginally grateful that Holder is not pulling a Ruth Bader Ginsburg and arrogantly claiming that nobody but nobody could ever replace him in the current political gridlock, which of course magically goes away whenever there's a war to be fought, or CEOs to be enriched, or plutocratic nominees like Obama donors Penny Pritzker and Caroline Kennedy to be bipartisanly fawned over. So, maybe if Obama nominates a Forbes 400 scion, he or she will have a fighting chance to fight for truth, justice and the American way of wealth.

The premature accolades for the first African-American attorney general are flowing fast and furious. The New York Times has not only placed Holder's eventual departure prominently on its home page, but shockingly called him "the most prominent liberal voice of the administration."

It just goes to show how far the definition of "liberalism" has fallen. Some examples of Holder's liberalism:

-- Declared that assassinations of American citizens are perfectly O.K. as long as they constitute an imminent threat to American interests. Of course, "imminent" as defined by Holder is not the same thing as how you or I might define it. Holder's DOJ has decreed that "imminent threat" can be something as benign as a group of malcontents bitching to each other in emails, or an Imam calling USA the Great Satan.

-- Blamed his failure to prosecute even one bankster on the canard that not only are mega-banks too big to fail, their individual human overseers are too important to jail. Although Holder later tried to backtrack from his remarks, he's never backed them up by actually indicting anybody.

-- Has overseen more prosecutions of whistleblowers than in any previous administration. Despite giving lip service to press freedoms, Holder has still refused to withdraw the subpoena demanding that New York Times reporter James Risen testify against one source who embarrassed the Bush administration.

--Immediately upon being sworn in as chief selective law enforcement officer in 2009, Holder announced there would be no prosecutions of CIA torture. And on the off-chance that Congress should decide to hold the torturers to account, Holder promised at that time that the government would provide them with free legal representation and use taxpayer money to pay any judgments."It would be unfair to prosecute dedicated men and women working to protect America for conduct that was sanctioned in advance by the Justice Department," Holder said.

-- Absolved the CIA from criminal accountability even when Kill List architect John Brennan admitted hacking into Senate computers. 

I know that this list of Holder faits accomplis is far from exhaustive. For one thing, it does not include his accomplishments as assistant AG under Clinton, the most famous of which was the pardon of Marc Rich. But you get the picture.

 Naturally, the Opologists are concentrating heavily on Holder's victimization/contempt charge at the hands of the GOP over the Fast and Furious debacle. It's this political martyrdom -- rather than his actual misdeeds -- which help drive the mythologizing campaign to paint him as a liberal hero for black people. His defenders don't want to admit that Holder raided medical marijuana dispensaries before piecemeal state legalization made this war on drugs seem as thuggish as it was. He also initially tried to keep largely minority prisoners in jail under unfair sentencing guidelines for crack cocaine possession, before worries about his own legacy got to him and he minimally modified his stance, pre-revolving door.

This man's departure can't come fast enough for me. In a just world, he would not be missed. And when he rejoins his white shoe law firm, or becomes a well-remunerated, chin-stroking pundit at some faux-liberal, corporate-funded think tank, the initial liberal disappointment that he won't be offering pro bono representation of indigent defendants will no doubt be fleeting, shallow, tepid, and insincere.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

What If They Gave a War Protest and Nobody Came

It turns out that Americans are not war-weary after all. They're just weary of being weary. They're all outraged out. They're replete on Marching for Climate. Bombing another Middle-Eastern country? Yawn. Were there any nip-slips on Dancing With the Stars last night?

Maybe I'm all wrong about the ennui. Because if narrowly-framed polls are any indication, the propaganda efforts by Frighteners, Inc. are working really well. A sizeable portion of the population, besides being bored out their skulls, really does believe that Islamists are on the verge of breaching the borders of The Homeland, bent on killing us all in our beds. It really is possible to be apathetic and scared shitless at the same time.

I don't know whether the 60 percent or so who think that bombing Syria is a good idea are among the same 60-plus percent who can't name the three branches of government. That's a poll for another day.

Oh, and it's not that people aren't protesting the latest surge in perpetual War Against Terror. Because they are. Yesterday, a grand total of 22 people showed up to demonstrate in front of the White House. In San Francisco, erstwhile Demonstration Central, the streets were quiet. The same folks who got wee-wee'd up when Bush waged war are marching in lockstep behind Obama for this one. This is despite the fact that he bragged that such bastions of repressive totalitarianism as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates are his new BFFs. These are places where they still behead and enslave people. The cognitive dissonance between that statement and a later one at the star-studded Clinton Global Initiative, urging civil rights on other countries, was deafening.

And it's more than apathy and fear cancelling each other out in the average American. It's cynicism and gullibility. As Hannah Arendt wrote in The Origins of Totalitarianism, 
A mixture  of gullibility and cynicism has been an outstanding characteristic of mob mentality before it became an everyday phenomenon of masses. In an ever changing incomprehensible world the masses had reached the point where they would, at the same time, believe everything and nothing, think that everything was possible and that nothing was true. Mass propaganda discovered that its audience was ready at all times to believe the worst, no matter how absurd, and did not particularly object to being deceived because it held every statement to be a lie anyhow. The totalitarian mass leaders based their propaganda on the correct assumption that under such conditions, one could make people believe the most fantastic statements one day, and trust that the next day they were given irrefutable proof of their falsehood, they would take refuge in cynicism; instead of deserting the leaders who had lied to them, they would protest that they had known all along that the statement was a lie and would admire the leaders for their superior tactical cleverness.
And thus it was only the day after the bombing of Syria that our government deigned to let us know of the secret existence of a nefarious little group called Khorasan (rhymes with Corazon, which is Spanish for "heart," so this is a shadow terror group you'll really love to hate!) Is it a real threat? Our inner Cynic All tells us no, our inner Gully Bull tells us yes, and the two of them give birth to Con Fusion. Maybe it's best to just keep quiet, and assume that if the Commander in Chief lies, it's to keep us safe. He has our best interests at heart. After all, the uninsured rate has gone down by eight percent, and he embraced gay rights. It's a cold hard world out there. And as Arendt observed, secrecy is an absolute prerequisite for the successful indoctrination of the masses. Not for nothing has the Obama administration been called the most secretive in modern history. A few intrepid journalists are even daring to complain, their access to the powerful be damned.

The AP lists eight ways that the White House suppresses news and thus effectuates its own buzzing war propaganda machine. I quote the list in its entirety, because this is important:

1) As the United States ramps up its fight against Islamic militants, the public can’t see any of it. News organizations can’t shoot photos or video of bombers as they take off — there are no embeds. In fact, the administration won’t even say what country the S. bombers fly from.

2) The White House once fought to get cameramen, photographers and reporters into meetings the president had with foreign leaders overseas. That access has become much rarer. Think about the message that sends other nations about how the world’s leading democracy deals with the media:  Keep them out and let them use handout photos.

3) Guantanamo: The big important 9/11 trial is finally coming up. But we aren’t allowed to see most court filings in real time — even of nonclassified material. So at hearings, we can’t follow what’s happening. We don’t know what prosecutors are asking for, or what defense attorneys are arguing.

4) Information about Guantanamo that was routinely released under President George W. Bush is now kept secret. The military won’t release the number of prisoners on hunger strike or the number of assaults on guards. Photo and video coverage is virtually nonexistent.

5) Day-to-day intimidation of sources is chilling. AP’s transportation reporter’s sources say that if they are caught talking to her, they will be fired. Even if they just give her facts, about safety, for example. Government press officials say their orders are to squelch anything controversial or that makes the administration look bad.

6) One of the media — and public’s — most important legal tools, the Freedom of Information Act, is under siege. Requests for information under FOIA have become slow and expensive. Many federal agencies simply don’t respond at all in a timely manner, forcing news organizations to sue each time to force action.

7) The administration uses FOIAs as a tip service to uncover what news organizations are pursuing. Requests are now routinely forwarded to political appointees. At the agency that oversees the new health care law, for example, political appointees now handle the FOIA requests.

8) The administration is trying to control the information that state and local officials can give out. The FBI has directed local police not to disclose details about surveillance technology the police departments use to sweep up cellphone data. In some cases, federal officials have formally intervened in state open records cases, arguing for secrecy.


It's not only mission-creep we have to worry about. It's totalitarianism-creep. Secrecy and democracy simply cannot co-exist. And adding to the AP's list of oppressive government tactics, here's a scary new one, just in today:
Journalists who cover the White House say Obama’s press aides have demanded — and received — changes in press-pool reports before the reports have been disseminated to other journalists. They say the White House has used its unusual role as the distributor of the reports as leverage to steer coverage in a more favorable direction.
Meanwhile, as Dana Milbank observes in today's Washington Post, "Obama endures as the lesser evil for liberals." Noting the low turnout at a D.C. peace protest, he writes:
He has disappointed liberal constituencies on immigration, on climate change, on Guantanamo Bay and targeted killings, and now on Syria. Yet this month’s Washington Post-ABC News poll shows him with 69 percent support among liberals, 87 percent among African Americans and 75 percent among Democrats. Liberals supported airstrikes in Iraq and Syria (64 percent and 54 percent, respectively), as did Democrats (67 percent and 60 percent).
 I asked (Code Pink's Medea) Benjamin, who like (antiwar activist David) Swanson voted for Obama in 2008 before turning Green, why so few on the left oppose Obama. “He’s totally defanged us,” she said, citing his party, his affability — and his race. “The black community is traditionally the most antiwar community in this country. He’s defanged that sentiment within the black community, or certainly voicing that sentiment.”
Only time will tell if Obama will continue enjoying the support, enjoyed largely because of the concomitant secrecy of his administration and his skill at marketing. Remember, the majority of the people also supported George W. Bush in the early days of the Second Iraq War. And Bush was not nearly as attractive or glib as the current White House occupant, who lobs the love bombs along with the Tomahawk missiles. History is full of charismatic politicians whose forceful personalities trump the common sense of their followers.

If there is any hope at all, it lies with the young. Just when I thought the news couldn't get any more depressing, I came across an article in today's New York Times about a group of Colorado students who walked out of class to protest a Koch-fueled curriculum touting the free market and patriotism. 

At least we still have free speech, suppressed and discouraged and monitored as it is. It's on us to keep fighting back, against all odds and against all apathy. The Colorado students, part of what Commander-in-Chief Obama creepily calls the 9/11 Generation, have never known a day in which this country has not been at war. So good on them that they refuse to get used to the status quo.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Smog of War

Nothing says cynicism like unleashing mega-tons of bombs on the very eve of the much-ballyhooed United Nations climate change summit, huh? President Obama and the "deep state" of which he is the current figurehead, must have figured that the air and sea assault against IS, ISIL, ISIS or whatever new terror brand they're marketing today, will clear the air for a real serious debate. They'll jabber about reducing their carbon footprint while ignoring the fact that they're deepening and widening their carbon footprint by waging perpetual war. The Pentagon is, after all, already one of the biggest polluters in the world. And this is, after all, another war for oil. (aka "American interests.") 

Before this latest act of aggression and bombs bursting in the sovereign air space of another country, UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon had presciently remarked that "there is a sense that there is change in the air." You can say that again. According to his press handout,
(Moon) has invited world leaders, from government, finance, business, and civil society to Climate Summit 2014 this 23 September to galvanize and catalyze climate action.  He has asked these leaders to bring bold announcements and actions to the Summit that will reduce emissions, strengthen climate resilience, and mobilize political will for a meaningful legal agreement in 2015. Climate Summit 2014 provides a unique opportunity for leaders to champion an ambitious vision, anchored in action that will enable a meaningful global agreement in 2015.
His first mistake is that he's inviting all the wrong people. Like oil and water, warmongering and climate change alleviation do not mix, as evidenced by that fantastic "Flood Wall Street" protest march yesterday, which brought attention to Too-Big-To-Jail Big Finance's role in polluting the earth. As usual, the wrong people were arrested.

And then there are the war criminals, either identical or related by incest to the finance criminals. The Pentagon has already been declared immune from blame in its ongoing and accelerated role in the climate catastrophe. From an award-winning "Project Censored" story published in 2009:
By every measure, the Pentagon is the largest institutional user of petroleum products and energy in general. Yet the Pentagon has a blanket exemption in all international climate agreements.
The Pentagon wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; its secret operations in Pakistan; its equipment on more than 1,000 U.S. bases around the world; its 6,000 facilities in the U.S.; all NATO operations; its aircraft carriers, jet aircraft, weapons testing, training and sales will not be counted against U.S. greenhouse gas limits or included in any count.
The Feb. 17, 2007, Energy Bulletin detailed the oil consumption just for the Pentagon's aircraft, ships, ground vehicles and facilities that made it the single-largest oil consumer in the world. At the time, the U.S. Navy had 285 combat and support ships and around 4,000 operational aircraft. The U.S. Army had 28,000 armored vehicles, 140,000 High-Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles, more than 4,000 combat helicopters, several hundred fixed-wing aircraft and 187,493 fleet vehicles. Except for 80 nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers, which spread radioactive pollution, all their other vehicles run on oil.
Even according to rankings in the 2006 CIA World Factbook, only 35 countries (out of 210 in the world) consume more oil per day than the Pentagon.
The American military's reported use (five years ago) of 320,000 barrels of oil a day didn't even factor in the oil used by state department "contractors" and other auxiliary war personnel. Since the last Iraq war caused the emission of at least 141 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MMTCO2e) from March 2003 through December 2007, one can only imagine the lasting damage that the latest expansion and escalation of death will unleash into the atmosphere. President Obama, who is increasingly and scarily referring to himself as the "Commander in Chief" rather than the "president," has already promised that the current greed-grab for more oil and treasure should last at least three years.

Follow the money. Take a deep breath, (if you still can) and then keep taking to the streets.


Friday, September 19, 2014

Do As We Say, Not As We Do

Despite the official narrative of congressional Republicans and Democrats hating each other's guts, the political Bickersons of the Senate were simply unable to resist the aphrodisiac of more military violence. They indulged themselves in a little afternoon delight on Thursday. They achieved a rare public simultaneous orgasm. Flushed and spent, (half a billion dollars' worth of high tech weapons for complete strangers while the long-term unemployed are forgotten) they left town to smoke a cigarette and search out more johns donors. And President Obama, who'd enjoyed the porn spectacle from afar via TV, also declared himself well-satisfied. Let the bombing, killing and maiming continue into perpetuity. Let the masters of war laugh maniacally all the way to the too-big-to-fail bank.

Meanwhile, the White House "sternly told the NFL that 'it's important that the league get a handle' on its own extra-judicial violence. (concussions and fractures and mayhem on the field are still fine, however, especially when they're accompanied by patriotic music and military trappings and sponsored by tax-sheltered defense and big oil contractors and other masters of war.)

 Apparently, the White House legal eagles who write their own secret extra-judicial opinions, allowing a president to maintain his own Kill List as well as to unilaterally declare war whenever he feels like it, missed the class in law school where they teach the doctrine of Clean Hands:
A senior administration official told reporters during a briefing about a new White House public awareness campaign on preventing sexual assaults on college campuses that "the most recent revelations of abuse by the NFL players is really deeply troubling."
"The NFL has an obligation not only to their fans but to the American people to properly discipline anyone involved in domestic violence or child abuse and more broadly, gain control of the situation," the official continued.
"Many of these professional athletes are marketed as role models to young people and so their behavior does have the potential to influence these young people, and it's one of the many reasons it's important that the league get a handle on this and have a zero tolerance."
Or what? President Obama won't do his Fox pre-game Superbowl interview, or have a White House Superbowl party to fete The Troops, or Michelle won't give a Pentagon-produced patriotic shout-out to the military before urging "folks" to enjoy the game? Will Obama decline to open the air space above the stadium so that a trillion dollars' worth of military aircraft can do a flyover?  Could this annual domestic display of American might, violence, and exceptionalism actually be banned?

Not likely. There is too much money at stake. Anyway, this latest presidential scolding defines violence only in the narrowest, political wedge issue sort of way:
The official's comments come as the NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell are facing criticism after numerous off-field incidents involving players including Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson and, most recently, Jonathan Dwyer.
After the Baltimore Ravens cut Rice earlier this month, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said in a statement, "The President is the father of two daughters. And like any American, he believes that domestic violence is contemptible and unacceptable in a civilized society. Hitting a woman is not something a real man does, and that's true whether or not an act of violence happens in the public eye, or, far too often, behind closed doors. Stopping domestic violence is something that's bigger than football - and all of us have a responsibility to put a stop to it."
Of course, domestic violence in the military is exceptional. The Obama administration has notoriously caved to the wishes of the generals, refusing to order that prosecutions and investigations of rape and other violence against female troops be taken outside the macho chain of command.

He actually used the same limp finger-wagging language with the Pentagon as he did with the NFL:
President Obama issued a stern statement on the problem of military sexual assault on Friday, telling military leaders they have one year to "step up their game exponentially" in preventing and responding to sexual assault cases.
Congress passed a defense authorization bill on Thursday night that includes some military sexual assault reforms, but does not go so far as to take those cases out of the chain of command. Obama said the onus is now on Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and other military leaders to carry out those changes and produce results.
"I have also directed that they report back to me, with a full-scale review of their progress, by Dec. 1, 2014," Obama said. "If I do not see the kind of progress I expect, then we will consider additional reforms that may be required to eliminate this crime from our military ranks and protect our brave service members who stand guard for us every day at home and around the world."
So the rapes continue unabated while Obama waits for his full-scale review. Additional reforms "may" be required, but it's not a sure thing. They need to "step up their game", because war, like football, is an exceptional American sporting event. I am sure that the female victims of sex crimes are relieved to know that their plight is being framed as an athletic event by the Big Guys.

Hitting a woman or child is not something a real man does, regardless of whether it happens in the public eye (and officials have to pretend to care for awhile) or behind closed doors. A real man indulges his violent tendencies by proxy and from a safe distance... like from a Kill List. For instance, when Obama decided that a 17-year-old girl was a threat, she went right on The List.

It has never been revealed whether he did actually end up drone-punching her to death. That is because all Predator strikes are conducted behind closed doors, far away from prying elevator cameras. And anyway, Obama has been declared legally exempt from accountability, thanks to his complicit bipartisan friends in the Senate. If they can't see or refuse to acknowledge the innocent women and children getting killed because of appropriation bills they passed, then they can still pretend to care about pay parity for females, and Obamacare-covered birth control.

See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil

When a father and his two children testified about their own ordeal-by-drone before Congress last fall, only a few legislators even bothered showing up. Obama himself was ironically meeting with the manufacturers of the same drones that had killed the family matriarch, and obviously missed their appearance on C-Span.

According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, Obama's drones have killed at least 2500 people. These casualties include mothers, aunts, sisters, grandmothers, and children. But these casualties do not officially exist.

Yemeni Drone Victims

"The idea of democracy has been stripped of its moral imperatives and come to denote hollowness and hypocrisy": so explained Paul Wellstone, one of the last great senators, before his untimely death, long before there was ever such a thing as a predator drone to add a robotic cover to the ruling class decay and state-sponsored violence against all humankind.

The time for the White House and Congress to get a handle on their own hypocrisy and to "step up their game" is indeed long past. They're moral losers who just can't stop marketing themselves as role models for the unfettered free market.