Sunday, January 1, 2012

Same Old New Year

You might think, from reading the newspapers and watching the talk shows today, that the only story worth telling is the countdown to Iowa and how Obama is reframing his re-election message.  Mitt Romney does not blame Obama for the demise of Pop Rocks.  Michele Bachmann predicts a come-from-behind miracle. POTUS is playing golf in Hawaii, although he did just manage to squeeze in the signing of the NDAA,  allowing for indefinite detention of American citizens.  As we pretty much expected, he dumped the Bill of Rights right in the toilet in a New Years Eve news dump.  But, in a deeply cynical signing statement, he promised not to flush! Because our shit is so very, very important to him.

Meanwhile, even if you are too hung over or depressed to care, please read Gretchen Morgenson's short piece on the "Me First" crowd in today's New York Times. (h/t James Traynor).  My only quibble is that she neglected to name the guilty. (except for Jon Corzine). For instance, why hide the identity of Can-Kicker-in-Chief?: 
Another unfortunate lesson we keep learning over and over is that policy makers always put off tough decisions for another day. Kicking the can down the road is so much more fun and profitable, especially for politicians worried about re-election.
Morgenson has taken a lot of unfair heat lately because the Republican contenders have co-opted her criticism of Fannie and Freddie as outlined in her recent book (Reckless Endangerment) and twisted it into the talking point that the two Fs were the sole cause of the whole financial crisis. (along with, of course, those greedy undeserving deadbeat homeowners).  Her legitimate criticism of the recently canonized Barney Frank, who exercised tepid at best oversight of the banking system, pre-collapse (and lent his name to the equally tepid Dodd-Frank financial reform) has also come under fire.

But as she points out in her essay today, it was the outrageously-paid bankster-enabling executives of Fannie and Freddie -- not the agencies themselves -- who deserve a whole bunch of blame. They retired with huge bonuses and nary an indictment.  And not only that, guess who is paying for this over-hyped can-kicker of a payroll tax holiday?  Not the millionaires, as Obama originally pretended to insist upon.  No.... the people who will be paying are the poor slobs who actually had decent enough credit scores to buy their own homes!  Morgenson writes:
Washington politicians can usually be relied upon to educate the citizenry — again and again. Last year was no exception. One telling moment came late in the year, when Democrats and Republicans agreed to extend an existing payroll tax cut for two months. Helping to defray the cost was $36 billion generated through an increase in mortgage guarantee fees charged by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. 
That $36 billion will come out of borrowers’ hides, of course. But using Fannie and Freddie as a money spigot sent a powerful message: Never mind that losses at these mortgage giants have cost taxpayers $150 billion so far. Or that many Americans would prefer these toxic twins to go out of business sooner rather than later. As long as Fannie and Freddie are viewed as piggy banks, there is little chance that Congress will dissolve them. It looks as if these taxpayer-owned zombies, which did so much damage to our economy, are poised to live on and on.
Among the well-remunerated zombie spawn is one Thomas Donilon, who is reanimated as Obama's trusted national security adviser!  Donilon was at Fannie Mae for six years, until 2005, before doing the usual revolving door routine to go to work as a lobbyist.  Obama then plucked him from influence-peddling duties to join his transition team,  at the very same time Fannie was being seized by federal regulators in the wake of the meltdown. The choice raised a few eyebrows at the time.  But not too many.

Donilon, who has no prior military experience, now presumably advises Obama on drone strikes and homeland security and Afghanistan.  But according to the LA Times, he is more of an enforcer for the president than a strategist.  He has a very low profile, which is perhaps why you never heard of him.  He functions as a glorified secretary with an iron fist. His wife is Second Lady Jill Biden's chief of staff, and his brother-in-law serves as counselor to Joe Biden.  Ain't the meritocracy grand?  And here you thought there was no direct relationship between Wall Street and the Military Industrial Complex!  What an incestuous cozy cocoon has been spun inside the opaque Beltway Bubble. 

Happy first day of 2012. Have another drink.

23 comments:

Denis Neville said...

“I can tell you, just from 40,000 feet, that some of the most damaging behavior on Wall Street, in some cases, some of the least ethical behavior on Wall Street, wasn't illegal.” –
- Can-Kicker-in-Chief, Sixty Minutes’ December 11, 2011 interview

As Tacitus said: “flagitiis manifestis subsidium ab audacia petendum”

“Crime, when revealed, has no support but audacity.”

Cheers!

Denis Neville said...

William Pfaff on “A Democratic Rival to Obama?”

http://www.williampfaff.com/modules/news/article.php?storyid=552

Referring to:

Harper’s Magazine, John R. MacArthur, “President Obama Richly Deserves To Be Dumped”

http://www.harpers.org/archive/2011/12/hbc-90008351

MacArthur quoted in support of his argument Bill Moyers, who said, “'Our politicians are little more than money launderers in the trafficking of power and policy.”

http://www.citizenvox.org/2011/11/01/bill-moyers-public-citizen-40th-anniversary-gala-occupy-wall-street-citizens-united-democracy-we-the-people/

Pfaff comments on the importance of Eugene McCarthy’s role.

“By refusing to stand aside from what he and many considered a doomed war, and the corruption of civil life and government that accompanied it, he set in motion the events that in the minds of many ‘saved’ the United States.”

“John MacArthur’s and Bill Moyers’ call for the replacement of Barack Obama as Democratic presidential candidate next year is very likely to fail, and any Democratic replacement candidate is likely to lose the presidency. As a veteran Democratic party activist recently commented, this is the sure way to elect “one of those idiots” running for the Republican nomination. Very likely he is right. However the two may have started something with interesting consequences. Nobody thought Eugene McCarthy’s was anything more than a futile gesture.

“Nobody foresaw the assassinations and military defeat to come, nor the ruin of Richard Nixon. Nobody knows today what disasters may lie ahead in American-supervised Iraq, or in the dual war the Pentagon is waging in Afghanistan/Pakistan. The present foreign policy of the Obama government is fraught with risk. As for the president himself, the objection to him is that his Democratic Party has become a representative of the same interests as the Republican party. The nation cannot bear two parties representing plutocratic power.”

Who in 2012 will preserve the nation that James Madison had in mind?

Anne Lavoie said...

"But, in a deeply cynical signing statement, he promised not to flush!" Another great one, Karen. He's leaving it out there for everyone to admire and appreciate, but the whole thing still stinks!

And he actually wants us to believe that his mealy-mouthed red herring signing statement will somehow bind or restrain future Presidents? GET REAL! He wasn't born in Kenya or Hawaii, he was born on another planet.

He scares me more each day, and the scariest part of all is that he wants a second term and will probably get it, since his actions mesh perfectly with the goals of the Military-Industrial-Surveillance-Imprisonment Complex (The Beast).

When the primary and general elections come around, don't forget to FLUSH! Twice.
___________________________________

KG ALERT: NYT, Krugman, 1/2/12, 'Nobody Understands Debt'

James F Traynor said...

Follow the money. Never been truer. But why can't the average American see this, as does Krugman, Brooksley Born, Sheila Bair, Morgenson, Joe Nocera et al.? I think it is revealed in Hemingway's reply to Fitzgerald's comment that the rich are different. "Yes,"he agreed,"they have money." Hemingway, the quintessential Yank, just didn't get it. And they never will.

Anne Lavoie said...

FYI

Bill Moyers new program, Moyers and Company, will be on PBS stations starting Sunday, January 15th.

Denis Neville said...

How in our political system built on the ideal of political equality, in which middle class voters are supposed to have such tremendous say, did our democracy end up being an oligarchy? Where rising income inequality is the highest amongst the industrial world? Where the few rule over the many and the public good is trashed by the wealthy, powerful, and elite?

James Traynor asks, “why can't the average American see this?”

Thomas Frank, in “What’s the Matter with Kansas?” offered a Kansas lesson for the Democrat Party in “The utter and final repudiation of their historical decision to remake themselves as the other pro-business party.”

“By all rights the people…should today be flocking to the party of Roosevelt, not deserting it. Culturally speaking, however, that option is simply not available to them anymore. Democrats no longer speak to the people on the losing end of a free-market system that is becoming more brutal and arrogant by the day…But along the way the things that liberalism once stood for – equality and economic security – will have been abandoned completely. Abandoned, let us remember, at the historical moment when we need them most.”

Frank pointed out that “Democratic political strategy simply assumes that people know where their economic interests lies and that they will act on it by instinct…The gigantic error in all this is that people don’t spontaneously understand their situation in the great sweep of things.”

And beware “the gospel of backlash.” Frank writes, “This movement speaks to those at society’s bottom, addresses them on a daily basis. From the left they hear nothing, but from the Cons they get an explanation for it all. Even better, they get a plan of action, a scheme for world conquest with a wedge issue. And why shouldn’t they get to dream their lurid dreams of politics-as-manipulation: They’ve had it done to them enough in reality.”

Why did Kansas voters choose self-destruction? According to Frank, “liberalism ceased to be relevant to huge portions of its traditional constituency, and we can say that liberalism lost places like Shawnee and Wichita with as much accuracy as we can point out that conservatism won them over.”

“An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics.” - Plutarch

Bob Lejeune said...

I am totally in agreement with your views -- until I start thinking of the alternatives. Obama is a huge disappointment. But what then? We look a the clowns on the other side of the fence. We remember how Nader handed over the country to Bush for eight year and we sober up. Clinton really screwed up and Gore was a self righteous stiff. Then came Bush. It will take a half century to undo those eight years, maybe. Imagine four or eight years of Romney and look into the abyss.

Kat said...

Bob,
You forget that we also need to undo the damage that Clinton inflicted on this country.

Bob Lejeune said...

The damage started long before Clinton, but yes he bears some responsibility for the finacial crisis and for Gore's defeat. But really, where shall we start? My vote, Post WWII, probably Reagan. But this neglects Congress, and.... I'll stop. My head is spinning.

Will said...

@Bob,
Voting for Obama as The Lesser of Two Evils, huh? Good luck trying to win us over with that one.

By the way, Nader didn't "hand the country over" to Bush. The votes he received belonged to him and him alone; they certainly were NOT stolen from Al Gore. He earned them fair and square.

Jay - Ottawa said...

@ Bob

The New Deal suffered mortal blows from two presidents: Ronald Reagan AND Bill Clinton. Yellow Dog Democrats will tell you it was all the Republicans' doing.

Clinton should be admitted to the pantheon of your political clowns. Like Obama, he was great with the golden tongue and social skills, but he's the one who shredded AFDC (sorry, kids), passed NAFTA (bye-bye jobs) and enabled Wall Street grand theft (disappearing life savings for millions of average Americans).

For the last time, class: Nader did not lose the election for Gore in 2000. For anyone willing to count, Gore won the election. Substitute "the Supreme Court" for the word "Nader" in your middle sentence.

Forget party labels for a minute. Let's do a blindfolded taste test. We'll pour a few of the major legislative "accomplishments" of the last three years into cups and ask you to take a sip of each: TARP (to include the reappointed Bernanke's secret midnight trillions to banksters); GUANTANAMO; ACA; TAX HOLIDAYS FOR THE SUPERRICH; and for desert, NDAA. You should be gagging by now. Extreme right-wing Republican swill, right? Now take off the blindfold and look who pushed them all through Congress and signed them all into the law, even as late as last week before he took off for the fairways of Hawaii.

Forget the future tense. We ARE standing on the abyss.

Still, Obama says: "We must pledge once more to walk into the future."

After you, my friend.

http://www.alternet.org/news/145664/what_does_the_prez_stand_for_you_are_going_to_be_shocked_when_you_learn_the_name_of_obama's_favorite_ceo/?page=entire

Valerie said...

@Bob,

You neglected to mention that we also now need someone to undo all the damage Obama has inflicted on this country - starting with the NDAA and all he has done to block any kind of banking regulation.

Time to start thinking about a write in candidate! Or check out Rocky Anderson.

Republicans win - we lost - Obama wins - we lose!

Valerie said...

As Anne was kind enough to point out to us a couple of threads ago - and Karen to link us via her her blog roll - the interview with Chris Hedges on C-Span Books is great! Talk about integrity in intellect all rolled into one person!

And, Anne, may I take this opportunity to tell you that your comments in the last month have been amazing! I would suggest you start your own blog but I would miss you too much here on Sardonicky! You are an asset!

Denis Neville said...

Bob Lejeune said...”We remember how Nader handed over the country to Bush for eight year and we sober up.”

First, Ralph Nader shouldn’t be blamed for Shrub’s victory in the 2000 election. Unfortunately, Nader is still the scapegoat for Al Gore’s loss and the ensuing disastrous policies of Bush.

• According to the official 2001 Statistics of the Presidential and Congressional Election of November 7, 2000, George W. Bush beat Al Gore in Florida by 543 votes.

• Twelve percent of Florida Democrats (over 200,000) voted for Bush. Half of all registered Democrats didn’t vote.

• The Nation reported that "immediately after the November 7, 2000 election, minority voters who had never committed crimes complained of having had their names removed from voting rolls in a purge of ‘ex-felons,’ of being denied translation services required by law, … and of harassment by poll workers and law-enforcement officials." The list of voters denied the right to vote was overwhelmingly Democratic and half were minorities. Gore did not protest this disenfranchisement of voter and did not support these voters’ lawsuit to regain their vote.

• The party-line divided Supreme Court vote declared Bush the winner in Florida. Pamela Karlan wrote in her book, The Unfinished Election of 2000, “There is something disquieting about the fact that although the Court focused largely on the claims of excluded voters, the remedy it ordered simply excluded more voters yet...Neither Al Gore’s counsel nor the Court ever addressed the threshold question of standing and whose rights were being remedied.” Justice John Paul Stevens wrote in his dissenting opinion (joined by Justices Ginsburg and Breyer), "Although we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this year’s Presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the nation’s confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law.”

• If Gore had won his home state of Tennessee, he would have had the necessary Electoral College votes to have won the election and the Florida results would have been irrelevant.

Ralph Nader did not cost Gore the election. Gore and the Democratic leadership rolled over, sold out rank and file democrats, and let the Republicans steal the 2000 election.

Finally, someone like Ron Paul, or whoever, might not be the next Nader if the Manchurian Candidate Obama hadn’t turned out to be Bush-on-Steroids. If dissatisfied voters vote for alternative candidates, don’t blame them if Obama loses. Blame Obama and the Democratic Party. They are the ones responsible. “Liberalism ceased to be relevant to huge portions of its traditional constituency, and we can say that liberalism lost places like Shawnee and Wichita with as much accuracy as we can point out that conservatism won them over.”

As Ralph Nader said, “I don't think you can spoil a political system that's spoiled to the core.”

Bob Lejeune said...

Will,

I live in NYS and who I vote for nationally does not make any difference, but if I lived in one of the few swing states, yes it would be difficult for me to vote for Obama and yet, in this case, I probably would hold my nose and do so.

Without Nader we would not have had Bush. That's the way it works, no matter how right Nader was about what was/is wrong with this republic. And please don't tell me that Gore would (most likely) not have been a "lesser evil" to Bush.

Jay,

Election results, like all human outcomes, have multivariate determinants. So yes, the supreme court had a hand in it. But it would not have become part of the equation, the chain of events, if Nader had not run.

Valerie,

There's undoing and there's major undoing. There's bad and there's AWFUL. etc.

Anne Lavoie said...

@Valerie

Thanks, and you're an asset too!

It dismayed me a bit to think that we would lose the enjoyment of reading more of your thoughts when Zee suggested you two go offline and continue privately for a more thorough, at length, conversation. (I am referring to comments in a previous thread).

Please stay with us here and continue to share your thoughts with all of us! We too enjoy finding common ground with each other.

@Zee

Don't bogart that 'common ground'! I was intrigued to hear you say earlier to Valerie: "I hope you will promise me that you will not forget the common ground that we have already found and, I hope, will continue to find." Would you be willing to share with the rest of us what that might be, since that's why you came here? You've piqued my curiosity!

In suggesting to her to continue the discussion privately, you also said: "I believe we would bore many of the participants, perhaps anger many, many more, and ultimately, test the patience of Ms. Garcia to the breaking point." Bore? Anger? Test Karen's patience? Breaking point? Make me laugh!

Really Zee, if there is a particular area of common ground you are looking for, we would be more than willing to help you find it. That's why you came here, after all. We too might want to enjoy some of that 'common ground' stuff ourselves.

I do admit that Valerie can speak very well for most of us though.

James F Traynor said...

I understand Gingrich is leading among Republicans in the Florida primary. They're already working up a frenzy in anticipation of finally 'getting' Obama. Obama is really in danger of losing in Florida, a swing state, but I'm still going to write in Bernie Sanders in the general election.

Anne Lavoie said...

@Bob Lejeune

So whose fault will it be when Obama loses? Will that be our fault or Romney's? I gather it is never due to the candidate's personal failings.

When a candidate has a near 4 year track record by which to measure his performance, I don't see how you can blame anyone but him. When you don't get hired for a job, is it the fault of the other applicant who the employer selected? "I would have been hired except he stole the job from me!" Bwaaaaaah.

No one owns my vote. No one steals my vote. I give it to the candidate most deserving. That will NOT be Obama, no matter what he might say or do between now and Election Day. Too late now. He's already blown it.

We have been pleading for the past year or more for the Democratic Party leaders to pressure Obama into not running and to come up with a real Democrat, to no avail. Maybe we should add the DNC to the list of people who you can saddle with the blame when Obama loses.

Ralph Nader is a true American hero. If he had been elected we wouldn't have had ANY of these problems. So if you want to play the Blame Game, I would blame you and the rest of the cowardly Donkeys for the mess this country is in.

Gee, I forgot how much fun this Blame Game can be!

Bob Lejeune said...

Ann,

I don't know who "us" is. (I stumbled on this blog while following a comment on Paul Krugman's column). Nor am I into blaming Nader or anybody or anything else -- except human stupidity and ignorance -- for the Bush disaster. I'm just observing that the alternatives to Obama are frightening. For me "Nader" represents a cautionary tale: it's so easy to shoot oneself in the foot while pursuing ideological purity. I've done it many times.

The important question is not "whose fault?" but "who will pay?" when Obama loses. When Gore lost to Bush: hundreds of thousands of Iraqi died, the Middle East was destabilized, millions lost their jobs, hundreds of thousands became homeless and tens of thousands suffered post traumatic stress or lost limbs or were killed. The the supreme court tipped. Then the economy went into the toilet. And the weather is never gonna be the same.

Neil said...

In 2000 I was happy to vote for Ralph Nader. I did not want to waste my vote on the other candidates.

Al Gore lost the 2000 election because the U.S. Supreme Court stole the election from Gore and gave it to George Bush. See Bush v. Gore, 531 U.S. 98 (2000) on Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bush_v._Gore

Lawyers and judges decided the 2000 election, not the voters.

http://yousue.org/corruption/

Zee said...

@Anne Lavoie--

Thank you for your kind invitation to share the common ground that I believe I have found with some of the Progressives over at Reality Chex OTS. I will certainly take you up on that offer!

However, today I’m going to be fully occupied out-of-doors while the weather is calm, sunny and in the fifties here in New Mexico.

I will try to start addressing this question this evening (1/3) though I fear that it may take Parts I and II, a la @Fred Drumlevitch.

Anne Lavoie said...

@Everyone

With 2012 just beginning and so many issues to discuss, I hope everyone will join me in giving a big thanks to Karen for her great blog of 'terth and pissy' posts.

She also provides us with a valuable community format for discussing important issues which often come in the form of lengthy comments that she has to monitor but which we so enjoy writing and reading.

I'm sure her work will seem like less effort and a lot more pleasure if we can give her our thanks in the form of a Paypal contribution. I have.

I'm looking forward to another great year of reading Sardonicky. Thanks, Karen!

Zee said...

@Anne Lavoie and @All—

Anne, you asked me where I have found common ground between some Progressives and some thinking Conservatives, and I’d like to respond to that. I have a tendency to run on, so I apologize in advance if I ramble. And I also apologize if—as it seems to me— @Jay—Ottawa suspects that I’m a “[t]roll… [or] spook… [here to] draw [you] off topic, [and] draw attention to [myself].” I’m not. I have far better things to do than waste my time baiting Progressives for the thrill of being flamed mercilessly, or even to earn your praise. I really am here to look for common ground, and, yes, to further educate myself.

Even before participating in Reality Chex OTS, I felt some kinship with Progressives already. I believe that homosexuality is a natural thing, that gays and lesbians are people too, and I support gay marriage. I count several gays and lesbians as good friends, though I realize that comes out sounding like “Some of my best friends are [fill in the blank].” Take it as you will.

I am pro-choice, and I am an ardent supporter of the Bill of Rights—all of it. I resisted joining the American Civil Liberties Union for many years only because of what I regard as their pusillanimous stance on the Second Amendment. Now, I’m laying that aside because between the Patriot Act and the recently passed National Defense Authorization Act I fear for the future of civil liberties in this country. (But you can bet that, insofar as possible, I will now be doing my best to hold the ACLU’s feet to the fire on the Second Amendment now that I am a member.)

Again, even before participating in RC OTS, I knew that taxes were going to have to increase on the wealthy—and probably even on me—in order to maintain Social Security and Medicare in their current form. Thinking Conservative commentators such as David Stockman and Robert J. Samuelson have been saying so for years.

Unlike Stockman and Samuelson, it is not clear to me that benefits will have to be cut along with increasing taxes. I have told my local Congresscritter, Martin Heinrich—twice, to his face—that Mrs. Zee and I are prepared to accept a reduction in our Social Security benefits and an increase in our Medicare premiums to help out. (We are retired upper middle class, if only barely so. If we’re lucky, maybe we’ll remain so over the next few years.) Rep. Heinrich—a Liberal Democrat, I might add—seems utterly disinterested in our proposal.

I count myself a Progressive Christian, which I don’t expect will earn me any points amongst most political Progressives. Still, some of my best friends are atheists or agnostics. I am respectful of other faiths and cultures, though I have little respect for those who call themselves Christians yet pervert Christ’s teachings to hatred and intolerance. Moreover, my faith tells me that—both as a Christian and a fellow human being—I must help those in need. That extends to helping even those who have brought their troubles upon themselves by making poor choices in life. That is something that I do share with Progressives.

There are more areas that I could mention where I am more a Liberal or Progressive than a Conservative, but space is limited here. Still, to me, that sounds like grounds for a conversation with Progressive to me

I started participating in RC OTS about six months ago via a cross-reference in a NYT article that I found in RealClearPolitics. After a rocky start with RC OTS, I have found it to be a real education and a source for more common ground. But I think that I am running out of space and will have to write a “Common Ground? Part II.” Don’t know if I can complete that tonight.