Sunday, February 27, 2011

We're All Being Psy-Opped

Uncle Svengali Wants YOU!
The senators reputed to be targets of a nefarious Psy-Ops campaign by the U.S. Army to get them to fork over more cash and troops for the Afghanistan War for Nothing all insist they were not victimized.  From what we know so far, the plan to use special techniques on the lawmakers was discussed, but never actually carried out. (much like Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker "discussed" planting provocateurs amidst union demonstrators without actually doing so.  Uh huh.)

Among the lawmakers allegedly targeted were John McCain (who should know mind games when he sees them, but given his recent trajectory toward the right-wing cliff, that is debatable); his pal and mind-gamer par excellence Joe Lieberman, Democrats Al Franken ( an expert on lies and the lying liars who tell them),  Carl Levin, and Jack Reed.  Lieberman said he couldn't possibly have been brainwashed, because he has been pro-war all along. He deemed the psy-ops report "weird."

Which is so weird, because the late gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thomson once said, "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." And Lieberman is definitely weird, pro, and was probably born with a washed-out brain anyway.

One of the commenters on this blog recently asked if I thought President Obama could actually have been "psy-opped" by General David Petraeus into escalating the war.  Since both men are Machiavellians, willing to manipulate others to achieve a desired end (re-election for one, duty/honor/country/legacy for the other) I suppose their hypothetical mutual hypnotic techniques may have cancelled each other out.

The real victims of psy-ops, of course, are us - the great unwashed hoi polloi, viewers of cable news, victims of the military industrial complex, of the plutocrats, kleptocrats, oligarchs and corporations.... the list is endless, but the techniques used are basically the same.  Here is how "they" control us (these techniques are all found in the official military Psy-Ops manuals, readily available online - the examples, however, are mine):

Appeal to fear:  example - when the House of Representatives recently failed to extend certain provisions of the Patriot Act, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano immediately warned of an imminent terror attack from within our own borders and raised the alert level to red, smokin' hot!

Appeals to authority: cite prominent figures to justify courses of action. Example - all Republicans reference St. Ronald Reagan to justify austerity and attacks on social welfare programs.

Bandwagon approach:  propaganda that fosters a sense of belonging to the same club. The Tea Party was born of a CNBC rant by Rick Santelli after the financial meltdown caused by Wall Street. Right- wing Christian fundamentalism, close cousin to the astroturfing Tea Party, fosters that same feeling of togetherness and ultimate salvation.  Closely related is the "obtain disapproval" approach. To be fair, let's put the onus on Obama for this one. Calling his base "sanctimonious purists" for not going along with his Bush tax cut extensions distances them from the mainstream... and his own supreme self.

Glittering generalities: intensely, emotionally appealing words not matched by supporting information or reason. Take your pick - "Change We Can Believe In".... "Take back our freedoms"..."We fight them over there so we don't have to fight them over here"...."Winning the Future"...."Fair and Balanced."   Ad nauseum, ad absurdum.  Repeat something often enough and it doesn't have to make sense.  Rationalization and deliberate vagueness are also tried and true techniques.

Transfer:  projecting positive or negative qualities on a specific group or person in order to discredit it. Example - the right-wing spawning of "Islamophobia,"  as well as the continuing march of the birthers. An estimated 50 percent of all self-described Republicans now believe Obama is a Muslim, despite all evidence to the contrary.  Fox News repeats the myth, and "establishment" Republicans don't bother condemning it.

Oversimplification:  easy answers to complex problems.  Example - anything Sarah Palin tweets.

Common Man: Politicians use the "plain folks" speech in order to ingratiate themselves with average people. Example - Obama uses a genteel version of ebonics when addressing town halls, but a bland vanilla American accent when speaking to the press. Perhaps the most vile example of over-the-top folksiness is Mike Huckabee.  But they are all guilty of this, every last phony one of them.

Testimonial: name-dropping to give credence to a position.  Example - God. Republicans say the Lord tells them everything, presidents all say "God bless America" and the Pledge of Allegiance had "one nation under God" inserted sneakily into the text during the Cold War.

Scapegoating:  Casting blame on those who don't deserve it to cover the identity of the real culprit.  This is an easy one - public labor unions.  Teachers, cops, firefighters, snow plow operators.... these people are all being blamed for the financial collapse, caused by the banksters and  colluding public officials.  And let's not forget to blame Julian Assange and WikiLeaks for exposing embarrassing government secrets, and Michael Hastings for writing articles that don't heap praise on the military.

Virtue words: used by propagandists to produce a positive image when attached to an idea, person or action:  Peace, security,freedom.... the Koch Brothers' "Americans for Prosperity", or child abuser Lloyd Dobsons "Focus on the Family."

Slogans: repetitive, self-perpetuating memes. "Winning the Future" - used by both Newt Gingrich and Barack Obama.  "We bring good things to life" (G.E./Obama). "Job-killing Obamacare" (John Boehner).

I mentioned earlier that both Obama and Petraeus are Machiavellian advancers of their own self-interest.  But the nihilistic Republicans are much, much worse.  They are Svengalians - sadists who rejoice in the infliction of pain and the exercise of raw power, just because they can.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Billionaires Tapped by Obama to Perform in Trickle-Down Theater

The very same  corporate billionaires sitting on nearly two thirds of the nation's wealth, the plutocrats responsible for the biggest wealth disparity in American history, are now being asked to hang out at the White House and solve the unemployment problem.  President Obama convened the group for its first meeting on Thursday.  His opening remarks were an exercise in wishy-washiness - even for him.  Let's face it: his heart was just not in what he was saying to this biggest concentration of living, breathing  mega-wealth in purportedly human form seen in D.C. since....I dunno, last week?  Let his words speak for themselves:

"So my main purpose here today at this first meeting I think is to listen, to get a sense of where all of you think the economy is right now, what kinds of steps we need to be taking.  As I talked about during the State of the Union, we want to remove any barriers and any impediments that are preventing you from success and from growth.  At the same time, we want to put a challenge to America’s businesses that even as we're working with you to streamline regulations, to reform our tax system, to take other steps that have been sitting on the shelf for quite some time under both Democratic and Republican Presidents, we want to make sure that we're also putting a little pressure on you guys to figure out how do we make sure that the economy is working for everybody; how do we make sure that every child out there who’s willing to work hard is going to be able to succeed; how do we make certain that working families across the country are sharing in growing productivity and that we're not simply creating an economy in which one segment of it is doing very well, but the rest of the folks are out there treading water.
So, Jeff, again, I want to thank you for your extraordinary work.  I want to thank all of you for agreeing to participate.
Last point I'll make is that I'm not interested in photo ops and I'm not interested in more meetings.  I've got enough photo ops and enough meetings.  I have a surplus of that.  So I expect this to be a working group in which we are coming up with some concrete deliverables.  I don't think that we have to be trying to hit homeruns every time.  I think if we hit some singles and doubles, if we find some very specific things that this group can help us on and we can work on together, then we can build on that success, and in the aggregate, over time, this will have really made a difference at a critical juncture in our economy."

President Obama meets with CJC
The Non-Photo Op Photo Op

Members of the White House Council on Jobs and Competiveness:  (comprised of 19 CEOs, two union leaders, two academics, one chief operating officer, one investment banker and one expert in entrepreneurship. Nineteen of the members are men, seven are women.)

Jeffrey Immelt, Chair
Across town, the U.S. Conference of Mayors was convening to discuss the unemployment crisis at its own, separate summit - this one addressing work opportunities for low-income people, a demographic apparently not on the CEOs' agenda at the White House.  Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, who did not speak to the elite panel of CEOs, addressed the mayors' group, as did Education Secretary Arne Duncan.  Obama was a no-show.  I don't think he's had a meeting with, or about, real live unemployed, poverty-stricken people yet.  Correct me if I'm wrong.

**Update -- the mayors have been invited to the White House for a meet and greet with the President tomorrow (Feb. 26).

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Jackboots for Obama

I received a vaguely creepy email a few days ago from one Jeremy Bird of Organizing for America, asking me to apply for a summer grassroots training program that "aims to put boots on the ground and help foster a new generation of leaders."

Participants will undergo an "intensive training program", the email cryptically went on, be assigned to a specific community, and recruit volunteers who will be organized "street by street, (to) knock on what it takes to support the President's agenda." (kind of sounds like the U.S. Military Academy's summer "Beast Barracks"  weeks of hellish, intensive training in the trenches, huh?)

"It takes hard work to build a movement around a cause," Bird added.  He didn't explain what the "cause" was, but we may safely assume it is the continued reign of Barack Obama.

It is baffling that Obama, who has sold himself out to corporations and filled his cabinet with Wall Street insiders, would even dream of again enlisting volunteers to knock on doors for him.  It worked out so well in 2008, because he was able to fool so many people into working the phones, parting with their hard-earned money $25 at a time, and believing his message of change.

This latest outreach to common "folks" smacks of an attempt to resurrect, or reinvent, an Obama Personality Cult.  The tone is decidedly militaristic - be a soldier for the cause, boots on the ground - although there is no mention of wearing a uniform of any kind.

The rewards of the job presumably include the off-chance of an actual meeting, someday, with the president. According to the email:

"Summer organizer Paras Patel had an unforgettable experience - meeting President Obama at an event in Detroit. 'He shook my hand and told me he was proud of me and appreciated the work I was doing.... Meeting the president was definitely a surprise and something I will never forget!' " 

The email concluded, "Successful movements have always been built and grown by ordinary people who take responsibility for organizing their fellow citizens to make their voices heard. We're looking for folks who are willing to work hard to support the President's agenda and lay new groundwork to carry this movement forward for years to come."

(there's that creepy "folks" word again....derived from the German fulka (people's army) and volk, with a German nationalistic context.  Beware of politicians using this word - they use it in an overfamiliar, condescending way to draw you in to their little cozy webs.)

Incidentally, there is no indication of any actual salary involved in marching for Obama, nor are we told why a sitting president is in need of a so-called movement, nor what agenda we are supposed to be supporting.  Are we expected to knock on people's doors and enthuse about the two-year pay freeze for federal employees? Are we supposed to propagandize for the continued spying on ordinary American citizens?  Do they honestly expect volunteers to approach strangers and cheerfully talk about the race for the top, Winning the Future, why we had to extend Bush tax cuts for the wealthy?  Are they willing to supply their unpaid lackeys with Kevlar vests and security details? 

I am afraid the Obama Army will be about as welcome at the front doors of America as the Jehovah's Witnesses. 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Big Pain

The title alone should have warned us that the NY Times resident conservative, David Brooks, has finally fallen off the deep end. "Make Everybody Hurt" was not your usual Brooksian pseudo-intellectual pablum. It had a new twist: sadism.  Brooks, the outwardly mild-mannered, reasonable Republican, has stripped off the facade of politesse and revealed a wire hanger-wielding harridan just beneath the surface.

The protest movement in Wisconsin has finally caused David to snap. He accuses Democratic state senators of being "extra-legal obstructionists" for fleeing the state to save the teachers' union. And since the old Constitution doesn't go far enough, he is calling for an unwritten Austerity Constitution consisting of a set of practices that will cut, cut and cut again.  Night of the Long Knives, Night of a Thousand Cuts.  He calls the antics of demonstraters "amusingly Orwellian."  Only David Brooks and maybe the Koch Brothers would find Orwell a laugh riot.

Today's Brooks column provoked the usual outrage from readers.  Marie Burns outdid herself in a masterful job of Brooks slicing and dicing, taking each of his thought balloons and poking a fork in it. She accused him of getting his news from the Koch Brothers Gazette and being an insult to the readers of The Times.  "What happened to the David Brooks who wrote all that glowing stuff about the importance of education as a vehicle to American success?" she asks. "Maybe he took a sick day."

Brooks is supremely miffed that the governor has exempted cops and firefighters from the pain, conveniently failing to reveal that Gov. Walker spared them because they were contributors to his campaign. The limiting of torture to just the teaching profession is "unsustainable in the current tide of red ink." Actually,  David's thought processes are as unsustainable as Joan Crawford's red-lipsticked gash of an abusive mouth.

Finding fault with working people and labor unions for the current fiscal crises (manufactured largely by extending Bush tax cuts for the wealthy), blaming cops and teachers and firefighters for something the Wall Street banksters did, is very Mommie-Dearish.  Remember the scene from the movie when an intoxicated Joan Crawford wakes her sleeping little daughter to perform the notorious coat hanger beating?  She drags young Christina Crawford into the bathroom, deliberately trashes it, and then accuses the girl of making the mess.  Here's a quotes quiz.  Guess the sources - you get four picks: David Brooks, Joan Crawford, Republican governors, or Regular People:

"Tina, bring me the axe!"

"Clean up this mess!"

"Scrub, scrub, Christina. It's not! This floor is not clean! Look at it!  This floor is not clean! None of it...this floor is not clean. Nothing is clean. This whole place is a mess..."

" lost again."

"Ah, nobody said life was fair. I'm bigger and faster and I'll always beat you."

"Why can't you give me the respect I'm entitled to? Why can't you treat me like I would be treated by any stranger on the street?"

"Jesus Christ!"

"Don't @$#% with me, fellas!"

"I'm not gonna play with you anymore. EVER!"


Postscript: there are no right and wrong answers on this test, just as there are no right or wrong answers in this crapfest of ambiguity we call life.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Krugman's Attack of the Oligarchs

The following is a guest post written by Kate Madison of Depoe Bay, Oregon, in response to today's Paul Krugman column, "Wisconsin Power Play."

Scott Walker,the Tea Party governor of Wisconsin, is doing, as Naomi Klein, explains: "a classic example of "The Shock Doctrine" her excellent book about how politicians create a crisis (or take advantage of one--i.e, 9/11), then use that crisis as an excuse to push through horribly unpopular economic policies."
Let's face it, people! Democracy in America is in hospice, and not doing well at all. Ronald Reagan, our first oncologist, treated our economy with Milton Friedman's "free market" chemotherapy, and the rich got richer, but the cancer worsened. Our prognosis has gone downhill from there. Each succeeding President has promised a new, less toxic, form of chemo to address our festering economic cancer, but each has cooked up another "free market" concoction-- hidden in giveaways to corporations--with George W. Bush's almost lethal cocktail being the worst. The rich just kept getting richer, and the economy sicker. Then, in 2008, we got Barack Obama, the man of HOPE. He promised an entirely new form of chemotherapy to address the dying economy and bring our Democracy back to the land of the living. Sad to say, President Obama came down with a bad case of "corporate flu," a virus passed to him through Wall Street dollars. This blinded him to the reality of what needed to be done. So he too decided to use "free market" chemo and called in Larry Summers and Timothy Geither to administer the"new and better potion," assuring us this was different. Some of us pointed out that there were Nobel laureate economists, Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz, who had a different idea of a cure for our cancerous, fast failing economy, and an entirely different idea about chemotherapy. Obama said"no thanks," but graciously offered to do lunch sometime.  Then he extended the Bush tax cuts for the richest 2%.
The rest is history. EXCEPT--the people of Wisconsin understand what the chemo (now proposed by a Tea Party governor, which involves neutralizing their unions) would actually do to them. Wisconsin may be economically ill, but its citizens are not stupid, and they have their eyes wide open.  They know at the beginning of 2010 Wisconsin had a budget surplus which the governor gave  away in tax breaks (to corporations that had supported him), creating a deficit.   So....the people are writing their own story to resist the false panic that the psychopathic governor is telling them is "the only alternative."  They have rejected Walker's chemo, and are strengthening their collective immune system through mass demonstrations,  speaking up and refusing to turn their rights over to a quack. Free market chemotherapy is in reality a toxic, tired tea. And the people in Wisconsin are not going to drink it! Give it to the Tea Party zombies that Americans for Prosperity have bussed into Madison from out-of-state to try to stir up the protesters and confuse the rest of us.   Maybe it will put them back to sleep.

Wage Freeze Here, but Billions for Jobs Over There

At the same time that President Obama announced a two-year wage freeze for federal employees, he is asking for an additional $128 billion to hire 73,000 more security force cops in Afghanistan.  The idea is that propping up security in an unpolice-able state will let us start leaving this July, in time for the presidential campaign kickoff.

The wage freeze announcement coincided, of course, with the extension of  the Bush-era tax cuts for the rich. Federal employee union president John Gage called it "a slap at working people." The move was pure political theater, trimming the $1.3 trillion deficit by a mere 0.4 percent. The president pompously explained: "Small businesses and families are tightening their belts.  The government should be too." (and hint, wink, nod to the states - start doing your own union busting without guilt, the Prez has your back!)
One of the largest categories of federal employment is nursing.  A typical VA hospital nursing assistant, who turns paralyzed, brain-injured soldiers in bed to prevent decubitus ulcers, empties bedpans, and does what is commonly called "scut work," earns about $28,000 a year.  Factoring in cost of living increases, this federal worker is being slammed with a virtual pay cut.  This nursing assistant will still have to pay four percent more for groceries, as much as ten percent more for clothing and shoes for the kids, and who knows what outrageous gas prices this summer.  Compare this with the $175,000 salary of a member of Congress.  Before the gold-plated health coverage.

But hiring of "folks" (as Obama and most politicians annoyingly call people) goes on unabated in Afghanistan, where the typical security recruit can't read or write and staves off hunger by smoking opium, before during and after work.  Policemen (no female cops over there) have been photographed in their GI duds, smoking hash pipes.   Bribery, shakedowns and corruption are rampant.  There have even been murders by security forces of our own troops. Yet they can get paid by the billions with our taxpayer money and with Chinese loans while our own workers suffer.  They will get rewarded while our own government crushes unions and punishes decent human beings who only want to feed their families.

How about we just make Afghanistan the 51st State?  Maybe then there'd be some equity.  If we owned that hell-hole of an empire, we could just stop the pretense and treat them over there the same way we treat working people over here.  Like crap.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Michele, Michelle

Since Michele Bachmann thinks the founding fathers abolished slavery and that all members of Congress should pass a patriotism litmus test, nobody should be surprised that she's now mistaking a new tax deduction for breast pumps for the government actually buying the apparati.  You'd think that every lactating lefty in America is soaking the government for a gold-plated, jewel-encrusted Tiffany breast pump. Next thing you know, women will be wanting the Nanny State to endow them with nursing bras by the bushel from Nordstroms.  Might as well just call it the Wet Nurse State, eh Michele?

 Of course, the corporate media are all whipped up into a frenzy because Michele with one L took the opportunity to diss Michelle Obama's lobbying for the tax deduction as part of her anti-obesity campaign. It's been proven that breastfeeding is healthy for both mom and baby - the antibodies flow, mothers lose pregnancy weight faster, infants develop fewer of those fat cells that never go away - etc., etc., etc.  If it weren't for Chris Matthews giving La Bachmann almost constant negative attention as Loony Woman of the Century, I doubt we'd even know who she is.  She'd be just one more anonymous congressperson from Minnesota by way of the Coen Brothers' "Fargo."

And of course, Sarah Palin's joke about Michelle O. pushing for breast feeding because of the high price of milk was made-for-primetime infotainment.  It was second only to the massacres in Bahrain and the union demonstrations in Wisconsin in news coverage last night.  MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell devoted several minutes to manufactured outrage over BreastpumpGate.  Nothing like making a mountain out of an AA, male reporter guys!  I can't stand Sarah either, but she was making a snarky joke, and you took the bait!  Attention, attention, attention.

Of course, the real story should be why American business is so unfriendly to all mothers, breast-feeding or bottle-feeding. We are one of the few civilized nations on earth that doesn't provide extended, paid maternity leave.  In France, new mothers even get someone to come in to do laundry. And maybe if companies had on-site child care, mothers wouldn't even need breast pumps.  If asked, I am sure most of them would prefer to nurse their infants the old-fashioned way.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Is Obama Finally Taking a Stand for the People?

Commenter Eva has asked me to post on the union demonstrations in Wisconsin - now apparently spreading to Ohio - in light of an apparent "news blackout" of the protests.  As of 11:44 p.m. Thursday, the NY Times had no coverage of the events on its homepage.

According to "Politico," John Boehner, responding to a report that the Democratic National Committee was helping to organize the protests, asked President Obama to order his party to call it off.  Oh my!  The unions may be marching toward the district of the Grim Weeper!  Earlier Thursday, Obama remarked that the Wisconsin governor appeared to be violating the rights of unions to collectively bargain.  Thankfully, he did not call for a gradual road to union rights, or civility.  Dare we hope our President is going to be on the side of the working people?

The comments boards on Fox News and other right wing outlets are lighting up with outrage.  Apparently there is a full-fledged Communist takeover of the United States underway, complete with Hitler signs carried by teachers.  I am absolutely loving this.

As of this posting The Times has no comments boxes open on this particular topic.  Hopefully this will change.  For now, feel free to opine to your hearts content right here on my humble little blog.

Good night, and may we all have a bright tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Obama Slashes Heating Assistance, May Help Fight Obesity Epidemic

Explaining that the program had too much money in it, President Obama this week defended cutting funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).  He's facing a barrage of criticism for taking $2.5 billion from the $5 billion agency, which assists elderly, disabled and low-income citizens in staying warm in winter and cool in summer.  Increasing numbers of people have been applying for assistance in paying energy bills due to rising joblessness and record cold temperatures.  But Obama's rationale for cutting funding is that home energy costs are decreasing and that more money can always be added to assist "folks" in the future, on a need-to-stay-alive basis.

In keeping with the White House anti-obesity initiative, what he should have said is that too much heat makes us fat anyway.  He might have explained that we really don't need all that heat. A recent study proves that living in a 60-degree house, rather than a stuffy 72-degree environment, actually generates extra body heat without shivering - a process called thermogenesis.  Scientists estimate that actual shivering burns a whopping 400 calories an hour.  But simply living in cool conditions on a consistent basis enables the body to burn what is called "brown fat" to raise body temperature naturally.  Harvard researcher C. Ronald Kahn theorizes that people can actually lose weight over time by lowering their thermostats - he estimates most people will burn 3,500 calories and lose one pound a month living in a cool home. Presumably, when summer comes around and poor people can't get assistance for air conditioning, they'll be told that excessive perspiration also causes those pounds to disappear. 

Naturally, all the money being saved by keeping poor people uncomfortable, unsafe and prone to disease is going toward the trillion dollar war effort, and of course, subsidizing Afghan President Karzai and his opium-dealing brother. It helps train illiterate security forces and keeps them flush in the hashish they smoke before starting their patrols, only to abandon them halfway through their shifts. Making less fortunate people suffer also enables the richest one percent of Americans  to hoard even more wealth than the poorest 95 percent have, combined.  It's Robin Hood in reverse: the government takes from the poor and gives to the rich.

According to the National Energy Assistance Directors Association(NEADA) , the number of households served by LIHEAP increased from 5.8 million in 2008 to 8.3 million in 2010. NEADA Director Martin Wolfe estimates about 3.1 million households, many of them middle class families suffering a job loss, will be cut from the program under Obama's budget proposal.  But think of all the calories burned in the process.  People will freeze to death before they even get the chance to develop diabetes.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Generation Y: Next Stop, Washingtonia

The Bonus Army Encampment, Washington, DC - 1932
If Millennials don’t like the moniker of the Lost Generation, or the Slacker Culture because of their 30% unemployment rate, they should think about forming a settlement in Washington DC this spring.  Right now, Portland has the distinction of being the city where 18 to 29-year-olds go to retire, and it's even the site of a new miniseries about the Gen Y'ers called "Portlandia." The trouble is, the jobless rate in Oregon is over 10% now and the city is feeling the pinch from all the youthful refugees.
Washington is lovely in the spring - it's Cherry Blossom time. and the balmy breezes will be gently blowing. And it has the historical distinction of being home to the famous semi-permanent
Tent City of World War One veterans called the Bonus Army.  These men converged on Washington during the Great Depression, seeking their benefits for having served their country.  There was a wee bit of trouble when Herbert Hoover sent out Douglas MacArthur and the National Guard to disperse the campers from the Mall, but all was eventually brought right when FDR was elected and Eleanor Roosevelt paid the settlement a visit.  The campers didn't get their money, but they did eventually get jobs. It was the start of the Civilian Conservation Corps. 
What better place than our nation's capitol to see and be seen when you're unemployed?  But where to go first?  Well, President Obama just spoke to the United States Chamber of Commerce about big business doing its patriotic duty and hiring a lot more people.  These financiers and CEOs made record profits last quarter, and just don't know what to do with all their money.  So your first stop in the job search should be in front of their headquarters.  Security might not let you in without an appointment, especially if there are thousands of you milling about on the sidewalk. But if you’re patient, you might snag some of the bigwigs on their way out to lunch.  Just look for the Abercrombie and Fitch suits and the chauffeur driven Bentleys and Mercedes.
If it’s public service you’re craving, don’t worry about the hiring freeze and all that austerity talk.  Just congregate in the halls of Congress and ask the hundreds of representatives and their thousands of staffers if they need a shoe shine or a militant bike messenger to deliver documents. Learn to identify the lobbyists, and offer to make a deli run for a few bucks.  Once you build up your cred, they may even find you useful for delivering bags of cash.  If they think you’re being annoying or pushy, just remind them that President Obama has just started an entrepreneurship initiative.  Tell them you’re trying to Win the Future and to get with the presidential program already! Tell them we're in a race to the top and they need to invest .  Tell them Austen Goolsbee sent you.
If, despite your best efforts at finding meaningful work in D.C., you are rebuffed, you might have to resort to panhandling.  Set up shop at strategic points where the cable news crews do their spot reporting and near the entrances to tourist destinations, foreign embassies, five star restaurants, John Boehner’s watering holes….  use your creativity.  Remember -  the theme of the President’s State of the Union speech was“Innovation is Imagination”.
Above all, take care of yourself.  You'll need to take regular breaks from your entrepreneurshipping.  All opportunity-seeking and no play make Jack and Jackie dull Gen Y'ers.  The Halls of Congress are a perfect venue for adult hide-and-seek leagues, though you might want to confine the paintball tourneys to C Street.  And don't forget the music, loud as you can make it, and bring as many subwoofers as you can manage.  Besides being stubborn and obtuse, most of the senators are also selectively hard of hearing, especially the aging Republican ones.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Booed but Not Bugged - Cheney at CPAC

Former Vice President Dick Cheney, making an unannounced appearance Thursday at CPAC from an undisclosed location for unknown reasons, was pelted with boos by supporters of Ron Paul as he spoke glowingly of fellow former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. The young protesters reportedly were itching for a confrontation after a bad night's sleep at the bedbug-infested Marriott Wardham Park Hotel. According to a spokesman, Cheney was unruffled by the brouhaha. The unindicted war criminal has a magical golden shield of immunity from prosecution, self-reflection and empathy.  Some of the giant bedbugs allegedly flung his way by the Libertarians were said to have died of fright in midair before ever landing on their target. The few fat ones left, already bloated on toxic conservative blood, quickly succumbed upon landing.

I'm Still Wishin for a Spanish Inquisition

(Least of all, George W. Bush and his band of merry torturers).

When we found out via WikiLeaks that the Obama Administration had pressured Spain to drop its  investigation and prosecution of the so-called Bush Six, a team of lawyers who slimily wormed their way out of the Geneva Conventions and gave the thumbs-up for W. to authorize the torture of Gitmo detainees, there was outrage. We knew Obama had said prosecuting the previous administration for its war crimes was off the table in the interest of moving forward - but we never guessed he would be pressuring the rest of the world to ignore international treaties, too.  So a consortium of human rights organizations will be delivering a petition to the government and people of Spain on Monday, urging that the prosecution go forward. Here is the request for signatures/ text of the letter:

The Obama administration declared last year that it would not pursue prosecutions, ignoring the U.N. Convention Against Torture. Recent documents released by WikiLeaks demonstrate that the Obama government has been heavily pressuring Spanish authorities not to pursue prosecution.

Add your name to our letter to Spain.

To the people of Spain
From the people of the United States of America

We are writing to thank you and to ask for your support as your courts consider cases to bring American officials to justice for the crime of torture. A Spanish judge, acting under international law, will soon decide whether to investigate U.S. officials' roles in authorizing torture. We hope you agree that such cases must go forward, despite pressure from the Obama administration to drop them.

The organizations signing this letter represent hundreds of thousands in the American public who believe the U.S. government must be held to the same rule of law as other countries. We are profoundly disappointed that our own government refuses to prosecute former officials, despite open admissions and government documents showing that they approved torture.

It will take a public show of support for the case to withstand pressures from Washington. WikiLeaks cables show the extremes to which U.S. officials have gone to thwart any attempt by Spain or other countries to uphold justice. We applaud the courage shown by Spanish officials who insist on giving priority to the rule of law.

Despite earlier assertions by President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder that waterboarding is torture, former President George W. Bush publicly stated three times last year that he authorized waterboarding and added proudly that he would do it again. In a TV interview aired on November 8, Bush said he considered waterboarding legal "because the lawyer said it was legal." Waterboarding and other forms of torture were banned by the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, ratified by the United States in 1994.

If international law is to serve any useful purpose, other countries must condemn violations "by any other nations, including those which sit here now in judgment," in the words of the chief prosecutor at Nuremberg.

We sincerely hope that the citizens of Spain and its judiciary will dispel the notion that any country is above the law.

The timing of the petition's delivery is deliberate.  Valentines Day is an important holiday in Spain.

Among the many organizations backing the effort are CodePink Women for Peace, Psychologists for Social Responsibility, High Road for Human Rights, National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance and Progressive Democrats of America.  To sign the petition, go to  March 1 is the deadline set by Judge Eloy Velasco on his decision whether or not to prosecute the Bush Six.

The case stems from the role of former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and five government lawyers in authorizing the torture of five Spanish detainees then held at Guantanamo.  The other  potential defendants are Federal Appeals Court Judge John Bybee, then an assistant in DOJ; Dick Cheney's chief of staff, David Addington; University of California Law Professor and former deputy assistant attorney general John Yoo; former Defense Department Counsel and current Chevron lawyer William J. Haynes II; and former Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith. 

At least one other country - Switzerland - has an indictment pending against Bush, who recently cancelled a speaking gig in Geneva for fear of being arrested. 

Here is what the people of Spain will be seeing in newspapers and on billboards. After Obama's waffling on Egyptian democracy and growing social unrest here at home, we hope he is taking notice that the people are taking notice.  We hope signs like these will soon be popping up within our own borders.  As late historian Howard Zinn told that most humanistic of New York Times columnists, Bob Herbert, change always comes from the bottom up.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

This Week in Rudeness - Incivility Resurges After Temporary Setback

It's been a week of bad manners all around. First, there was the White House Super Bowl pre-party, in which Bill O'Reilly achieved the dubious distinction of being the first interviewer in history to prevent a sitting president from uttering a complete sentence. MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell ran a few segments counting the interruptions, which totalled more than 70. I kept waiting for President Obama to be the first president in history to tell an interviewer to STFU. Didn't happen. The man is made of stone.

Then those most famous gate-crashers of all, the Salahis, managed to worm their way into a Super Bowl party hosted by the Dallas Cowboys' owner. They were discreetly escorted out by security, but not before they managed to memorialize their presence via a tweet complete with photo. The party rocked for several minutes before they were caught.

Not to be outdone, Republican Senator Orrin Hatch showed up uninvited to a Tea Party bash in D.C. last night to schmooze with Michele Bachmann, fresh from her secret Hawaian getaway where she worked hard for her freezing Minnesota constituents. Hatch, according to Talking Points Memo, "is presumably just the kind of Republican the tea party would like to take out in 2012."

Taking a page from the Salahi playbook, Hatch insisted he was invited, while Tea Party Express Director Levi Russell said he wasn't. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle: a Hatch staffer called a Tea Party staffer and finagled an unofficial, underhanded invite in lieu of an engraved invitation. Hatch was likely remembering the fate of his Utah cohort, Bob Bennett, at the hands of the Tea Party last fall and figured if he can't beat 'em, he might as well join 'em. Kind of a variation on the Tea Party tail wagging the establishment GOP dog theme. Establishment guy Hatch is running in circles, frantically biting at his own mangey tail.

The week is only halfway through, so I'll be adding to this post as needed. Suggestions and tips on various items of rudeness, mean-girliness and further evidence that the New Era of Civility is ending as quickly as it began are always welcome.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Rumsfeld Redux

Donald Rumsfeld, that grandfatherly aficianado of torture, is the latest in the long line of Bush War Criminals to come out with a Book. It's called "Known and Unknown," an allusion to one of the most convoluted explanations for the non-existence of WMDs ever to come from the fevered brain of a neo-con. (see quote below). He really didn't have to waste 800-plus pages of precious tree material to say what he has already tortuously said on so many cringe-worthy occasions. He should have called it "Drone of a Bush Clone." Here, in a nutshell, is what the Donald says in his moany groany tome:

"Death has a tendency to induce a depressing view of war".

"Freedom is untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and do bad things." (he was referring to the plunder of priceless artifacts from Iraq's museums, but in retrospect, he unintentionally was referring to the whole war itself, with him as one of the freedom-loving bad guys).

"As you know, you go to war with the army you have, not the army you want or might wish to have at a later time."

"Osama Bid Laden is either alive and well or alive and not too well or not alive".

"I believe what I said yesterday. I don't know what I said, but I know what I think, and well, I assume that's what I said."

"Needless to say, the President is correct. Whatever it was he said."

"Reports that say that something hasn't happened are very interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns, there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns - the ones we don't know we don't know."

And there's this, which I swear he plagiarized from Sarah Palin: "I'm not into this detail stuff. I'm more concepty."

I wrote a response to Maureen Dowd's column on Rummy today, but it was rejected - I assume because of the nasty tone I assumed, and we all know we must be civil in today's climate of hate, particularly to those most deserving of our wrath. I had originally called for burning Rummy's books, but on second thought, even Satan has the right to free speech, so I have amended it somewhat:

Donald Rumsfeld is a connoisseur of torture - past, present and future. He bought and lives in a house in Maryland that was the site of the torture of Frederick Douglass by notorious slave-breaker Edward Covey. It's called Misery Hill - but by all accounts Rummy is living there happily in comfortable retirement, complete with taxpayer-funded benefits and health care. He is so well-to-do, in fact, that he's donating the proceeds of his book to a scholarship fund for American students. No foreigners, no survivors of Iraquis killed in the invasion have been invited to apply. No apologist and no soul-searcher is Ronald Dumsfeld.

Despite cheerfully admitting giving the big A-OK to torture at both Abu Ghraib and Gitmo, Rumsfeld is free to slither from one corporate media-hosted softball interview to the next to plug his memoirs. I hope he crosses the pond in search of some book-signings in, say, Switzerland. I heard there are lots of fans over there just dying to meet him...Amnesty International, the Center for Constitutional Rights. You know, in parts of the civilized world that still take the Geneva Conventions on torture seriously - and where warrants for the arrests of Bush and Co. are rumored to be the works.
There may be a few countries left that haven't been pressured by the Obama Administration to drop such nonsense in the interests of looking forward and the status quo and foreign aid and stuff. Georgie W. just had to cancel a speech in Geneva because not only were protesters on the agenda, but there were some stray flying shoes and legal documents in the mix too.

I haven't seen Rumsfeld's book on the New York Times bestseller list yet, despite the hype, and with any luck, all copies will soon be gathering dust in the bargain bins of Wal-Mart. And when it comes time to dispose of them, vendors and the publisher must take care. The unsold volumes must be treated as hazardous waste - otherwise they will just contaminate the rest of the garbage in the landfills.

Stay tuned - we still have Cheney's trip down nightmare lane to look forward to. Oh, and I almost forgot - Happy Belated Ronald Reagan's 100th Birthday, although I'm sure the extravaganza will go on at least as long as his funeral.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Tea Party Loves the New York Democratic Governor

I thought the reason I couldn't stand Andrew Cuomo was because as attorney general, he did diddly squat to prosecute Wall Street crooks; he announced his candidacy in front of Tammany Hall (HQ of the old corrupt Boss Tweed machine), and he didn't like giving interviews. The truth is, he won on name value nepotism and the fact that his opponent was a loony named Carl Paladino.

Now I have a couple more reasons to loathe him. He will absolutely not raise corporate or state income taxes on his Wall Street friends, but will solve all our state's problems by eliminating 15,000 jobs and making severe cuts in Medicaid and education. That's right - a so-called liberal New Yorker has donned that fake fur cape of austerity. He will make sure that not only will poor people and their children get sicker, but that their schools will continue to suck. And guess who's singing this Quisling's praises? Why - the Tea Party, of course!

In an email sent out to former supporters of Paladino (yes, I am on that mailing list for the sole purpose of getting fun material to write about) Carl Gottstein, New York liaison of the Patriot Action Network, wrote: "The GOP and the TEA Party did not win the Governor's seat. But in my eyes, the Governor is taking many of our TEA concerns on as his own... I am one who knows a Gift Horse when I see one."

What more ringing endorsement could a governor ask for? Remember, Cuomo was the same guy who got President Obama to throw former Governor David Paterson under the bus so he could have a clear path to the nomination. The throwing-under-the bus was done anonymously through the New York Times. Cuomo was in the habit of making off-the-record midnight phone calls to The Times and other publications to get his story ideas through. He was forced to take part in a debate with Palodino and a slew of other more memorable candidates only when it looked like Crazy Carl might actually have a chance. The only thing he said that made sense on that made-for-TV event was "I agree with Jimmy. The rents are too damn high." He was upstaged when Carl left in search of the men's room.

So far, no word from the Democrats' progressive Working Families Party branch, which endorsed Cuomo, on whether it will protest his newfound fiscal conservatism. In its history, it has only abandoned one other Democrat: the notorious State Senator Pedro Espada, who not only shut down state government in a power-grabbing party switch a few years ago, but is also under criminal indictment for running a medical clinic fraud factory.

People laughed at me when I told them I voted for the Green Party's UPS guy for governor, who got about the same number of votes as the Madam but less than rent rapper Jimmy. (give or take one percent of the total). Now I don't feel so bad. I would rather have an inexperienced truck driver run the state into the ground through well-meaning ineptitude than a DINO (Democrat in Name Only) sell it down the river to Goldman Sachs.