Saturday, June 30, 2012

Weekend Open Thread

Lots going on, and too many topics to mention and cover all by my lonesome.  Consider this your own have-at-it, no-holds-barred (within my admittedly lax boundaries) space. I will continue to moderate the comments, just to keep the spam and porn links at bay.

Personal anecdotes and book and movie and article reviews and recommendations continue to be welcomed and encouraged!

Friday, June 29, 2012

A Morass of Orwellian Depravity

 Congressman Dennis Kucinich has now joined Nation writer Jeremy Scahill in referring to President Obama's targeted drone attacks as acts of murder. In an exclusive interview with the Britain-based Bureau for Investigative Journalism, the Ohio Democrat scathingly denounces this open secret of covert war, calling out the President, the Congress and a complicit press for their mutual descent into "a morass of Orwellian depravity." Said Kucinich:

You are looking here at an executive power that is unleashed. Our system of justice, according to the Constitution, is highly structured. There are broad areas of our constitution that have to do with people being investigated, arrested, charged, having a trial, and then if they are convicted being properly sentenced and incarcerated.
What we have done here with the drone programme is to radically alter our system of justice. Because, remember, if the whole idea is that we are exporting American values, those drones represent American values. And now we are telling the world that American values are summary executions, no rights to an accused, no arrest process, no reading of charges, no trial by jury, no judge, only an executioner.
If you have only an executioner that is not justice, that is something else. Not only the United States but the world community should be properly appraised about these so-called targeted killings. And because the emphasis in on killing, this is murder. If someone shot a grocer and his defense was ‘it was a targeted killing’ he would be put on trial for his life. But we are told that these targeted killings are somehow to be considered apart from any legal system.
Kucinich explains that the United States is"getting away" with bombing Pakistan and killing innocent civilians because it is engaged in good old fashioned double-dealing. Our government is able to ignore the Pakistani parliament's demand that the U.S. stop the drone strikes because it is dealing only with the real people in charge: the Pakistani military. We are in a defacto war against one Pakistan while being "friendly" with the other Pakistan. Doublespeaking, double-crossing and Orwellian to a degree than even Orwell might not have envisioned.

The congressman, who is serving his last term after being defeated in the primary, finds it hard to believe that so few are condemning, or even mildly questioning, the new American role of judge, jury and executioner of any person suspected of being a terrorist, suspected of canoodling with terrorists -- and worst and most recently, any male with the poor taste to live in a tribal area and to be of "military" age. He told The Bureau:

I hope it is not going to be too far into the future, somebody is going to look back at this and go ‘oh my God, why was this permitted?’ The US government just goes ‘we spent more money on arms than any other country in the world just because we have the most powerful military.’ We cannot assume for ourselves the right to impose a war anywhere we well please, and yet we have. And there is little accountability, so what I am trying to bring about in the Congress is to force accountability and transparency. Transparency in terms of ‘how are you able, you know, what about this extrajudicial summary or arbitrary executions? What is the legal authority for the government to conduct extrajudicial killings, where did this come from?’ Really, where did this come from? Says who?
As far as the stenographic role of the American media is concerned, Kucinich is equally harsh. It is not considered bad form, he says, for a president to kill people. But it is a huge faux pas to dare to talk about it!

Let me say that there has been a tradition of American journalists in modern times to serve as the spear carriers for the government. They may look like pens but these are the spears of supernumeraries who have reporters’ cards. It’s what happens when you have fewer and fewer newspapers, and newspapers that are tied to large corporate interests. And a lack of enough institutions in the major media who are willing to serve as an effective counter-balance.
Look at the New York Times. It bought in wholesale into the war in Iraq, and came back to apologise. But how do you apologise for all of the dead bodies and the dead soldiers? We feel the dead soldiers, but we should also feel the dead civilians… There is a disturbing tendency to ignore civilian casualties, in any conflicts that we’re involved in whether they’re declared or undeclared.
Yes, indeed, look at the New York Times. The paper of record recently used the usual anonymous government sources to smear the same Bureau of Investigative Journalism which today brings us the Kucinich interview as well as exposing the hundreds of civilian deaths and dismemberments resulting from Obama's robotic and open-ended War on Terror. Scott Shane, the same reporter who penned the hagiographic article on the president's secret "Kill List" and Terror Tuesdays, came close to accusing the BIJ of giving aid and comfort to the enemy by having had the chutzpah to talk about American bad behavior:

The bureau’s investigation, which began last year with a detailed study of civilian casualties, involved interviews with villagers who said they saw strikes, wounded people and family members of those killed.
The bureau counted 260 strikes by Predator and Reaper drones since President Obama took office, and it said that 282 to 535 civilians had been “credibly reported” killed in those attacks, including more than 60 children. American officials said that the number was much too high, though they acknowledged that at least several dozen civilians had been killed inadvertently in strikes aimed at militant suspects.
A senior American counterterrorism official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, questioned the report’s findings, saying “targeting decisions are the product of intensive intelligence collection and observation.” The official added: “One must wonder why an effort that has so carefully gone after terrorists who plot to kill civilians has been subjected to so much misinformation. Let’s be under no illusions — there are a number of elements who would like nothing more than to malign these efforts and help Al Qaeda succeed.”
I am willing to bet that the anonymous official is none other that Obama's chief counter-terrorism adviser, John Brennan, former Bushie and Islamophobe extraordinaire and an obvious source for Shane's Kill List piece. (he even came out of the closet to be photographed for it.) He has been popping up all over the place lately, coyly bragging about the White House assassination squad even as the White House officially denies it existence and refuses to divulge the secret law it unilaterally enacted to give itself carte blanche for murder. Brennan was also outed by another Times reporter, David Sanger, as the discredited source behind the original botched narrative of the bin Laden assassination. Brennan even came to NYC this spring, just to applaud that city's spy program against Muslim Americans and, while he was at it, to blast the Pulitzer-winning Associated Press for exposing it.

"Freedom of the press, if it means anything at all, means the freedom to criticize and oppose." From George Orwell's lips to the American Media-Industrial Complex's plugged-up ears.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Is There an OccuDoc in the House?

Yep, there is. If you want to avoid all the talking heads exploding, and the Democratic email fund-raising frenzies and the Republican bitch-fests in the wake of the Survival of Obamacare, watch this full-length (an hour and fifteen minutes) film, titled American Autumn.

Rumors of the demise of Occupy are severely premature, despite the best efforts of the corporate media and the corporate politicians to convince us otherwise.

Obamacare may have survived, but millions will remain uninsured and three of them are still dying every single hour for lack of basic preventive health care. JP Morgan Chase has suddenly "lost" $8 billion instead of $2 billion but remains profitable at our expense. The Mortgage Fraud Task Force has yet to issue a single subpoena. Privatization of schools, prisons and infrastructure continues apace. Whole cities are declaring bankruptcy. One in four children is officially poor. Something's got to give.


Supreme Court Rulz/Open Thread

Check the SCOTUSblog on Blogroll to your right for live updates and the link to the opinion. Chief Justice Roberts apparently cares about his legacy and the well-being of the private insurance cabal and has thus ruled with the "libs" in upholding the Affordable Care Act.

Here is the continuing New York Times coverage.

Here is the full opinion.

Weigh in, if and when are you able.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Nobody Knows Nuthin

There hasn't been this much nail-biting and speculation since the nation awaited the series finale of The Sopranos. And when that last episode ended, not with a bang but with a quick whimpering fade to black, the reaction was a mixture of "huh?" to "cop-out!" to "this was the most meaningful and epochal moment in the history of mafia dramedy."

Same for Thursday's much-ballyhooed Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act. There are as many theories on the outcome as there are pundits with too much time on their hands, so I won't add to the arcane clutter. Possible endings are all over the map. I read this morning that the jurists may even punt on the issue until right before Election Day, following that old Washington tradition of can-kicking important issues into oblivion, as well as the gimmick of the season-ending summer cliffhanger.

I imagine this would piss off the VIPs who are sticking around the swamp just to be the first to pontificate on this momentous decision instead of raising campaign cash, serving their constituents or going on their bi-monthly vacations. Wouldn't it be something if it turned out the Supremes were just a bunch of Bada-Bing teases, that they had been playing us all along with their come-hithers on health care? 

If you are a suspense junkie, do tune in to the ScotusBlog this Thursday around 10 a.m. for the final (maybe) episode. I'm embarrassed to admit I succumbed yesterday, finding myself hooked on their live clicks. It was a real tease, all right. I could just envision the politburo dancers in their black robes, casting off one decision at a time to a ravening audience of thousands. First, Arizona immigration law, next came sentencing rules for murderous youth, and in between there was that contemptuous bump and grind affirming Citizens United. And no health care! Not one little hint! Oh, the agony.

Of course, lost in the hoopla is the fact that these decisions affect real people. Hispanics will continue to be subjected to the fascist "papers please" law in Arizona, until the Supremes decide to think it over some other time. Corporations will continue to steal our democracy and not even have to tell us who they are or where they come from.

Same with health care. As much as I dislike the Affordable Care Act, I will not rejoice if it is struck down. For one thing, the insurance leeches would be absolved from refunding billions of dollars this summer in overpaid premiums that were not spent directly on patient care. For another thing, there are some people who are already benefiting from the law, such as children with pre-existing conditions. Would they be cut off from chemo without a second thought by the for-profit health insurance mafia?

The only thing we can be sure of come Thursday is the cacophany of the chattering class and the unctuous spin of the politicians. Here's what Michael Shear of the New York Times is forecasting:

But the momentary chaos could be downright dangerous for political candidates who move too quickly to embrace or condemn the court’s actions. A stray statement made before all the facts are understood could easily come back to haunt a political candidate.
In the White House race, Mitt Romney and President Obama are both preparing for any eventuality.
Mr. Romney’s top advisers have been working with Republicans on Capitol Hill to coordinate the health care message, according to senior aides. Various scenarios have been sketched out and statements prepared.
Aides say they believe Mr. Romney can benefit politically no matter what the court decides.
At the White House, Mr. Obama’s lawyers and political advisers are said to be preparing their own responses — both legal and political.
But the trick for both men will be to calibrate their statements appropriately in the moments after the decision is announced. And that won’t be easy if the court’s decision is a complicated one affecting different provisions in different ways.
And the trick for the 50 million people who currently lack health insurance will be either to calibrate a game plan for hanging on until 2014 if the ACA survives, or coordinating a more open-ended agenda for the rest of their foreshortened lives. Whatever happens, the Obama family and the Romney family and the Supreme Families and the Congressional families and crime families of all stripes will all maintain their own guaranteed health coverage today and for thousands of tomorrows.

A new report by Families USA estimates that lack of health insurance now accounts for 26,000 needless deaths every single year in this country. These are working age people in the prime of their lives. (25-64). Although this number is about seven time as high as the tally of those killed in the 9/11 attacks, their deaths simply don't garner anywhere near the same amount of attention and government response. These deaths are not a national emergency because they are mundane, protracted and lonely deaths. And our government likes its crises to be dramatic, immediate and profitable.

Sick and poor people do not have a lobby, nor a newspaper column, nor a seat on the cable talk shows. And if they're uninsured, they're dying off at the rate of three per hour. They're being whacked at about the same rate as in an average Sopranos episode.

We spend the most money on health care of any civilized country, yet we have the worst results in terms of morbidity and mortality. No politician can spin those stats, so they just ignore them, and campaign, and echo the words of mob boss Tony Soprano: "Let me figure out how to take care of you."

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Jimmy Carter Strikes Back

Don't miss this op-ed by former President Jimmy Carter, running in Monday's New York Times.

At long last, a Democratic elder statesman is taking aim at the horrendous human rights violations being perpetrated in our name by an American president and Congress. It's about time somebody of Carter's stature struck back, joining the dwindling chorus of protests from the left in this election year. Because the USA has seen fit to chuck human rights in the garbage, we no longer have any right to pretend to be a human rights champion of the world. Writes Carter:

In addition to American citizens’ being targeted for assassination or indefinite detention, recent laws have canceled the restraints in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 to allow unprecedented violations of our rights to privacy through warrantless wiretapping and government mining of our electronic communications. Popular state laws permit detaining individuals because of their appearance, where they worship or with whom they associate.
Despite an arbitrary rule that any man killed by drones is declared an enemy terrorist, the death of nearby innocent women and children is accepted as inevitable. After more than 30 airstrikes on civilian homes this year in Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai has demanded that such attacks end, but the practice continues in areas of Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen that are not in any war zone. We don’t know how many hundreds of innocent civilians have been killed in these attacks, each one approved by the highest authorities in Washington. This would have been unthinkable in previous times.
These policies clearly affect American foreign policy. Top intelligence and military officials, as well as rights defenders in targeted areas, affirm that the great escalation in drone attacks has turned aggrieved families toward terrorist organizations, aroused civilian populations against us and permitted repressive governments to cite such actions to justify their own despotic behavior.
Hats off to Jimmy Carter, who speaks truth to power in a frightening period of our history in which almost two-thirds of Americans find it acceptable for a politician to unilaterally decide who lives and who dies in lands far, far away from their own blinkered little existences. The chickens came home to roost on 9/11 and they'll be coming home again sooner or later unless more of us stand up and say "Enough."

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Obama Wants All Your Swag

When Valerie from Australia sent this to me just now, I thought it was a joke:
Got a birthday, anniversary, or wedding coming up?
Let your friends know how important this election is to you—register with Obama 2012, and ask for a donation in lieu of a gift. It’s a great way to support the President on your big day. Plus, it’s a gift that we can all appreciate—and goes a lot further than a gravy bowl.
Setting up and sharing your registry page is easy—so get started today!
If you have already made the mistake of selfishly putting your own needs before  the president's, try this. Take all your undeserved gift clutter, including that rock-hard fruitcake Aunt Sally sent you five Christmases ago, and dump it in front of the Obama campaign HQ nearest you. Maybe the Bots can find a pawnshop, or place an ad on Craigslist. I do not suggest tossing your swag directly on the White House lawn, since I don't want any arrests (or worse) by the Secret Service on my conscience.

Unfortunately the President is unable to accept any dinnerware for his campaign war chest at this time. The Secret Service confiscates knives and forks in selected venues -- most recently at that Latino campaign event in Florida. yesterday. Besa mi culo, puto.*

Anyway, why even stop at happy events? If a loved one dies, don't forget to add to the obituary: "In lieu of flowers, please send a donation to Obama for America."

Think of this as a wonderful way to teach your child the true meaning of altruism. You might say something like "President Obama needs our help, so we're sending him all the money we set aside for your birthday. Maybe you can get your Tickle Me Elmo next year, when he's safely back in the White House. Remember: Supreme Court, Supreme Court, Supreme Court!"

Gimme Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Gravy Boats

(*Kiss my ass, bastard!)

Friday, June 22, 2012

Hillary Hearts WikiLeaks

When the WikiLeaks cables first burst upon the scene in November 2010, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned and deplored their publication until she was blue in the face. But now that she's had a chance to think things over, she actually credits the cable dump for being the real catalyst for the Arab Spring. Without the Tunisians learning that American diplomats were just as disgusted with the excesses of their despot as they were,  they never would have had the courage to take on the regime. It was only a few weeks after the publication of "Tunileaks" that a desperate vegetable vendor self-immolated, lighting the spark of revolution.

Who knew that Hillary may actually, albeit grudgingly, admire the imprisoned Bradley Manning and asylum-seeker Julian Assange? This new nugget of information is buried deep within the pages of New York Times reporter David Sanger's "Confront and Conceal", a book which garnered attention mainly because of its scoop that the United States is conducting a secret cyberwar against Iran's nuclear program.

According to Sanger, a Tunisian blogger and activist named Sabi Ben Gharbia was gleeful that the cables sent from the American embassy contained scathing criticism of President Zine El Abedine:

"President Ben Ali was an American ally, sporadically cooperative in counterterrorism initiatives. But cooperation came at a high cost: Americans had to look the other way when it cameto Ben Ali’s habit of throwing challengers in jail and giving his family the first crack at his favorite sport, looting the national economy. Since Ben Ali had been in power for twenty-three years, Ben Gharbia figured the cables would be rich with anecdotes of excess. He was not disappointed. WikiLeaks yielded a gold mine—mostly about stolen gold.

"Ben Gharbia and his colleagues translated and posted seventeen of the cables describing Ben Ali’s most outrageous behavior. More would follow. TuniLeaks made it clear that behind the high walls of the American embassy, diplomats had long been disgusted by Ben Ali’s corrupt regime. In a June 2008 cable wonderfully entitled 'What’s Yours Is Mine' (Who said diplomats have no sense of humor?), the American ambassador at the time, Robert Godec, wrote, 'Whether it’s cash, services, land, property, or yes, even your yacht, President Ben Ali’s family is rumored to covet it and reportedly gets what it wants.' He wasn’t kidding about the yacht: Ben Ali’s nephews had, in fact, expropriated the beautiful pleasure craft of a French businessman. The cables showed that, years before the Arab uprisings, signs of discontent with Ben Ali were well known. 'It is the excesses of President Ben Ali’s family that inspire outrage among Tunisians,' Godec wrote. “With Tunisians facing rising inflation and high unemployment, the conspicuous displays of wealth and persistent rumors of corruption have added fuel to the fire.…"
Thanks to the sudden transparency previously lacking in American diplomacy, the Tunisians finally realized that the regime was vulnerable. Within a month, Ben Ali had fled the country. Like wildfire, revolutions erupted in Egypt and throughout the Middle Eastern region. Sanger writes:

“I’m not sure the vegetable vendor killing himself all by itself would have been enough,” Clinton told me later. “I think the openness of the social media, I think WikiLeaks, in great detail, describing the lavishness of the Ben Ali family and cronies was a big douse of gasoline on the smoldering fire.” Given how furious Clinton had been at the publication of the State Department cables—an understandable reaction, given the huge breach of secrecy, the embarrassing phone calls she had to make explaining the leak to world leaders, and the expulsion of a handful of her ambassadors—it was a surprising statement. When American diplomats had raised the issue of WikiLeaks to me, it was usually to chew out the Times for risking American national security. (Clinton expressed her displeasure to me too, as we prepared the publication in November 2010 of “State’s Secrets,” the Times’ series drawn from the WikiLeaks revelations.) But with the passage of time, she had finally found a leak she liked—an obscure set of her own department’s cables that, by revealing the excesses of a brutal and corrupt dictator, may have helped ignite the most massive democracy movement in the Middle East in anyone's memory.  
Meanwhile, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange remains holed up in the Equadorian embassy in London, seeking political asylum to avoid probable prosecution in the United States under the Espionage Act.  Private Bradley Manning, the original source of the cables, remains holed up in a military jail cell while his court martial proceeds at a snail's pace. You think maybe attorneys should subpoena Hillary as a witness for the defense? You think Assange and Manning should be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, or at least a Pulitzer, instead of being reviled and ridiculed and imprisoned?

I think Hillary's admission is the biggest scoop in Sanger's book, but I have yet to find anyone writing about it as such. Here is one review outlining the top five "reveals."

Most of the book, incidentally, is a fawning synopsis of President Obama's foreign policy: a light footprint instead of nation-building invasions and occupations. Sanger is obviously a government insider, constantly referencing intimate conversations with Administration higher-ups, cozy dinners with generals and national security honchos, global press junkets, being summoned to the West Wing for emergency briefings. If Congress or Attorney General Holder are serious about investigating the "leaks" in his book, they won't have to try very hard. Sanger's main source appears to be Obama national security adviser (and former banking lobbyist) Thomas Donilon, and the rest of the book's material comes from a veritable Who's Who of government VIPs -- some named, some anonymous. Sanger also has obvious cachet with the president himself. I would rate the book as part pretty good investigative journalism, but mostly run-of-the-mill stenography. And that's being generous. The working title might have been "Conspire and Canoodle."

To give credit where it's due, though, Sanger does, in fact, characterize Obama's drone strikes as "assassinations" and likely war crimes, because they are in violation of an order signed by President Gerald Ford. If Obama rescinded the order, he did it behind closed doors. Maybe we'll find out in the next tell-all. Sanger described his tome as a narrative of Obama's first term, the implication being that he fully expects a second.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Excuses, Excuses

Methinks the Obama Administration doth protest too much about its dubious record of the most whistleblower prosecutions in presidential history. The New York Times today has the White House and its Justice Department actually blaming their predecessors for the number of petty leak cases they were apparently forced to prosecute.

They also blame technology and emails for the ease in prosecuting stupid leak cases at the same time they insist that the blatant paper and e-trails of Wall Street crimes are just too hard to parse. They're twisting themselves into enough pretzels to choke ten Dubyas. They're desperately trying to wipe off the well-deserved egg on their face for their dumb prosecutions of John Edwards and Roger Clemens.

Eric Holder apparently just realized he does not want incompetence and pettiness to be his legacy. And President Obama doesn't want anyone to think that going back on a campaign promise to protect government whistleblowers is going to be part of his legacy, either. The six whistleblower prosecutions done under his watch in the past three years are totally accidental! From The Times:

When we took office in January 2009, I don’t think bringing a lot of leak cases was high on anyone’s agenda,” said Matthew Miller, who was director of public affairs at the Justice Department until July. “But then they came up one by one, and without anyone realizing it, we had set a record.”
Like most presidents, Mr. Obama has been infuriated by some leaks, but aides say he never ordered investigations. Current and former officials said Mr. Obama and Mr. Holder, who are social friends, have avoided discussing investigations and prosecutions to avoid any appearance of improper White House influence, a charge Democrats lodged against the Bush administration.
Asked whether the White House had a role in the leak cases, a spokesman for the National Security Council, Tommy Vietor, said, “Decisions about leak prosecutions are made by the Department of Justice.”
For decades, the Justice Department was where leak complaints from the intelligence agencies went to die. The department’s counterespionage section was more interested in finding foreign spies than American blabbermouths, officials said.
Now that Holder has ordered, or pretended to order, leak investigations into recent revelations on  American cyber-attacks against an Iranian nuclear facility and another underwear bombing plot involving a double or maybe a triple CIA agent, his department is trying to downplay its own role in prosecuting leaks that simply exposed government stupidity and wrongdoing. For example, the prosecution of Thomas Drake deservedly fell apart because far from exposing government secrets, he was merely exposing government waste.

According to The Times, Holder could have halted any of the left-over cases but went ahead anyway for fear that the lawyers under him might get mad. That, to put it delicately, is quite a stretch. Especially since it was only two weeks ago that Eric Holder bragged to Congress that the Obama Administration is a gung-ho champion of going after leakers.

Damned if he does and damned if he doesn't, the poor guy. Having it both ways is so exhausting. And to be slapped with a contempt of Congress charge to boot, and be forced to beg his own boss for executive privilege protection. Oh, the humanity. Oh, what a racket.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Robin Hood vs. Bling King of The Hill

Last week, when JPMorganChase CEO Jamie Dimon schmoozed with the Senate Banking Committee, he wore his magical Presidential Seal cufflinks to protect him from all government harm. The Bling King was back in Washington today to give a reprise of his fake apology. If you have a strong stomach, you can catch the theatrics here.

If not, you can always celebrate the 797th anniversary of the Magna Carta by signing a letter to Dimon, demanding that he share the wealth. Not that he will immediately cower with fear when he is compared to King John, not that he will lose any beauty sleep over the possibility that he might be forced to accomodate the hoi polloi. He's got a horde of Sheriffs of Nottingham protecting him, in the guise of the president, the Treasury Secretary, his SEC and Fed minions along with several hundred medieval Congress critters meekly grazing at his trough of campaign largesse. But engaging in quixotic exercises like an email to Jamie is better than nothing. If he breaks out in just one nervous bead of sweat when thousands of peasants wield their symbolic pitchforks at him, it will be worth it.

The Robin Hood tax on financial transactions is so popular that even Austerian Queen Angela Merkel of Germany likes the idea. Deposed French President Nicholas Sarkozy, another hardcore conservative, liked it too.
Simply put, the big idea behind the Robin Hood Tax is to generate hundreds of billions of dollars.That money could provide funding for jobs to kickstart the economy and get America back on its feet. It could help save the social safety net in the US and around the world. And it will come from fairer taxation of the financial sector.
This small tax of less than ½ of 1% on Wall Street transactions can generate hundreds of billions of dollars each year in the US alone. That's enough to protect American schools, housing and hospitals.
Enough to get local governments back on their feet. Enough to pay for lifesaving AIDS medicines.
Enough to support people and communities around the world – and to deal with the new climate challenges our world is facing.
It's a small tax with a huge benefit.
It won't affect ordinary Americans, their personal savings, or every day consumer activity, such as use of ATMs or debit cards. It's easy to enforce and tough to evade.
Sounds like a no-brainer. So why don't we hear Candidate Obama yammering for the financial transaction tax?  Simply put, he doesn't like it because his Wall Street paymasters don't like it. Of course, he won't say so in so many words. His excuse, direct from the Republican playbook of conservative talking points, is that taxing Wall Street will damage "confidence."  He prefers to levy his bank fees upfront, he says, so as not to punish investors and traders. He is afraid that the ultra-sensitive bankers will take out their wrath on the rest of us. He is afraid that banks will increase fees to consumers. He is just.... afraid!

American nurses have been among the most vocal proponents for the Robin Hood tax, most recently having marched for it in Chicago during the NATO summit.  RoseAnn DeMoro of National Nurses United explains her group's goals in an interview with Bill Moyers here.

Letters to Jamie Dimon are fine, and we should sign them every day. But what we really need are arsenals of populist arrows (and hypodermics) aimed at the political class, every member of which survives courtesy of bankster bribery.

We need to keep yammering and hammering and leave them stammering. Let's reverse the trajectory of the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

(Photo Courtesy of RootsAction)

Monday, June 18, 2012

Worried Sick

It turns out that even if you're lucky enough to have health coverage, you've probably denied yourself the privilege of indulging in actual health care. By the time the profit-bloated insurance leeches have bled you dry, there's precious little left over to actually see a doctor. The USA has the unique distinction of spending the most on health care without actually providing much of it to a sizeable chunk of the population.

But the insurance leeches are sure getting richer and richer from their bloated premiums, which have skyrocketed in anticipation of the "Affordable" Care Act kicking in. Or not, depending upon the whim of nine jurists in black robes.

How sickeningly perverse is that?

The Kaiser Family Foundation is reporting today that many people are worrying themselves sick about how to pay their medical bills. They are not filling prescriptions, not going for follow-up visits, not seeing the dentist. The poorer and sicker and older you are, the more you worry, and the sicker you get.

About a quarter of Americans (26 percent) report they or a family member had problems paying for medical bills in the past year. Difficulty paying bills can lead to tough choices as people negotiate tight budgets. In an effort to allay costs, roughly six in ten (58 percent) report foregoing or delaying medical care in the past year due to the cost.

Half of those with private insurance report that increasing premiums and co-pays are causing them financial hardship. They're worried about losing their jobs and their coverage. That can't be conducive to good health.

Meanwhile, it turns out that quite a few people don't even know about the Affordable Care Act. Here's another story from Kaiser, called "Uninsured and Unaware." It talks about dirt-poor people sleeping all night in their cars to get a place in line for a free medical check-up in rural Tennessee. Patients did not seem to know that if the ACA does eventually go into affect, it would drastically increase the number of Medicaid enrollees by raising the threshhold for poverty up to $31,000 for a family of four. Woulda, coulda, might, maybe.... in 2014. People have so much gall to be getting sick right now, huh?

Everything I have read lately predicts that the Supremes will trash some, most or all of the ACA. And that Obama and the Democrats have no Plan B. It leads me to believe that their hearts were never in it in the first place. Or that they know something we don't know and are kind of hoping that, like the rural Tennesseans, we never even heard about it.

Typical politicians -- maybe if they ignore it, ObamaCare will just go quietly into that good night. As Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) told Politico, there's no point in doing any planning until nine unelected people decide the fate of 330 million people.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Leaking on the Leaks

Drip, drip, drip.
Some leaker just leaked to Reuters that the drone strike and Obama Kill List leaks are not part of the leak investigation. This is because the CIA, which ostensibly is in charge of the drone program, must first file a criminal complaint bitching about somebody blowing the whistle on their top-secret shadow war. They have not yet done so, because the drone strike policy officially does not even exist. The leaks (actually better described as epic floods) coming from three dozen White House sources do not count in the grand scheme of leakdom, apparently. The CIA will never bite the White House hand that feeds it, ignores its past transgressions (torture and the destruction of videos of torture), pats it on its head, and gives the middle finger to its civil libertarian critics.

The usual suspects -- "sources familiar with the inquiries" requesting anonymity because their information is "sensitive" -- told Reuters that the government is interested only in pursuing the copycat underwear bomb plot and allegations about the Stuxnet worm being unleashed on Iranian nuclear facilities:
By contrast, the CIA did file a "crime report" following publication by the Associated Press last month of a report disclosing the foiling of a plot by Yemen-based Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula to attack an airliner using a newly designed underwear bomb, sources said.

Officials said the second leak investigation involves a series of revelations in a book and article by a New York Times journalist about the alleged role of U.S. agencies in cyber-warfare activities against Iran. These include the creation and deployment of a virus known as Stuxnet which attacked Iranian uranium enrichment equipment.
Marcy Wheeler has written an intriguing post about the possible role that petty jealousy is playing among Congress critters who were blindsided by the revelations in David Sanger's book about the cyberwars. Dianne Feinstein, for example, is royally miffed that a mere reporter knows more about the intrigue than she herself. We peasants apparently don't have the right to know that there was some pretty sleazy foreign and domestic intrigue in the first place. It appears that Israel may have dished to Sanger about possibly letting Stuxnet go rogue without also dishing to Congress. Ergo, the investigation by the Justice Department. When the elites are kept out of the loop, they get irate. It there is anything they can't stand, it's the annoying sound of a dripping faucet. It disturbs their beauty sleep.

Feinstein, writes Wheeler, has grossly misplaced her concerns:
The US, in partnership with Israel, released a WMD to anyone who could make use of it. And the people in charge of overseeing such activities got fewer details about the WMD than you could put in a long-form newspaper article.
And DiFi thinks there’s too little secrecy?

 They only go after leakers and whistleblowers who cause them some major embarrassment -- such as Bradley Manning, with his revelations of war crimes and State Department petty intrigues via WikiLeaks.

The drone program leaks, on the other hand, are a source of great pride for the American exceptionalists, and are therefore immune from prosecution.  For one of the most opaque and secretive Administrations in recent history, their actions are painfully and politically transparent.

Après moi, le déluge (Mme Dianne Feinstein De Pompadour)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Dirty Double-Crossin' Rats

I'm not a voyeur, so I couldn't bear to watch the public orgy known as the Dimon-Senate Banking Committee hearing writhe its way to completion yesterday. I'll paraphrase what I did watch, with one hand over my eyes:

Dimon: (sounding kind of like James Cagney in one of his gangster roles, talking rapid-fire oligarchy-barky Brooklynese with a mouth full of gravel)."Sorry, so glibly sorry. But I am so huge that even a glitch like a $4 billion loss doesn't put a dent in my greatness. Yeah, yeah we might need a few regulations, but let me do the regulating, guys. I'm just too big for most people to even understand. But I got it covered, see?"

Senators: "Okay, Your Greatness. Would you like some taxpayer-funded champagne to go with your caviar? Are the camera lights creating a drop of perfumed perspiration on your lofty brow? Would you like to retire to a special room where we can enjoy our make-out session in private?"

Senator Bernie Sanders, the socialist-independent senator of Vermont, was very much a part of Wednesday's hearing although he is not an actual member of the Committee. Protesters screamed at Dimon to listen to Bernie before they were escorted out by security guards. Dimon, busy schmoozing with his gentle inquisitors, appeared unruffled by the outbreak of hoi polloi-dom. He is triply safe. He is in charge of a bank the size of a country, he serves on the regulatory board overseeing himself, and he funds the campaigns of almost every senator on the Banking Committee. He is a ranking member of the Board of Directors of the United States of America.

Sanders has just named names in a report by the Government Accountability Office, showing that Dimon is not the only member of the Federal Reserve Board who is a fox guarding the henhouse. Since the 2008 financial meltdown, The Fed gave trillions of dollars in no/low interest loans to Dimon's bank and 17 other corporations whose CEOs also just happened to have seats on the Fed.

JP Morgan, Dimon's bank, received  $390 billion in emergency Fed funds at the same time his bank was used by the Fed as a clearinghouse for emergency lending programs. Jamie Dimon's Fed gave Jamie Dimon $29 billion in financing to buy distressed investment house Bear Stearns in March 2008 after it allowed Jamie's bank to cook the books and erase Bear Stearns' risky mortgage related assests from the balance sheet. Jamie Dimon's Fed gave Jamie Dimon's bank an 18- month exemption from risk-based leverage and capital requirements. (It gave carte blanche to recklessness. It ensured that Jamie Dimon's bank would grow too big to fail, that Jamie Dimon could risk other people's money with impunity and into perpetuity.)

The GAO report says all this chicanery sure does give the "appearance" of impropriety. Ya think? They probably should have called it "Public Enemies" to give it a little more pizzazz.

Sanders, meanwhile, has introduced quixotic legislation that would try to bar banking and corporate CEOs like Jeffrey Immelt of GE from serving on the Fed board. The names of the other plutocrats who profited from their dual positions can be found here.

Meanwhile, the great Crony Capitalism World spins, a magical place where all the risks are subsidized and all the gains are privatized. The dirty rats remain at the helm of the sinking ship.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Obama Loses Miss Congeniality Title in World Pageant

Obama may be personally popular and likeable enough in the USA. But in the rest of the world, not so much. The rest of the world is not so wrapped up in glitzy presidential campaign propaganda and apparently has not developed our acquired taste for authoritarian kool-aid. The rest of the world that happens to be of the Muslim persuasion is not impressed with the Leader of the Free World's intellectualized "signature" drone strikes, nor does it buy into the canard of American Exceptionalism. (Do as we say, not as we do.) The rest of the world is not impressed with a president who can kill anyone, anywhere in an undeclared, free-floating War on Terror that includes every back yard as a battlefield. Or, if he decides to show mercy, who can imprison anyone, anywhere -- without charge or trial.

As a matter of fact, China is actually winning the world popularity contest in some of those unstable, terrorist-harboring regions. You know -- the China that imprisons and disappears dissidents, censors the Internet, pollutes its air, enslaves its workers, and is sort of repressive. Europeans now consider China, not the U.S., to be the dominant global economic power. And China itself is becoming less and less fond of the United States and the president.

The Pew Global Attitudes Project just released a report today showing that
Global approval of President Barack Obama’s policies has declined significantly since he first took office, while overall confidence in him and attitudes toward the U.S. have slipped modestly as a consequence.


Even though many think American economic clout is in relative decline, publics around the world continue to worry about how the U.S. uses its power – in particular its military power – in international affairs.

There remains a widespread perception that the U.S. acts unilaterally and does not consider the interests of other countries. In predominantly Muslim nations, American anti-terrorism efforts are still widely unpopular. And in nearly all countries, there is considerable opposition to a major component of the Obama administration’s anti-terrorism policy: drone strikes. In 17 of 20 countries, more than half disapprove of U.S. drone attacks targeting extremist leaders and groups in nations such as Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.
By contrast, a pretty shocking 62% of Americans polled are just fine with a president killing people overseas with drones. Probably because no other country has yet attacked us with drones, and because many of us are unfamiliar with the term "blowback." But it is only a matter of time. The unremitting bombing of civilians (aka "militants") in Yemen and Pakistan is only creating more terrorists where none otherwise would have existed. And when the relatives and friends of anonymous collateral damage do stage a revenge attack on American soil, you know what the official story will be: "They hate us for our freedoms."

Ironically, of all the countries surveyed, it is Greece that most despises the American drone program. Though not victims of predator bombs themselves, they are the victims of predator banks. It seems fitting that the birthplace of democracy only gives the Obama drone program a 5% approval rating. Sanity is alive and well somewhere in this world.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Media Cannibals and Zombie Messages

So, the Commerce Secretary got into a series of unfortunate car accidents over the weekend, seemingly stemming from medical issues. Nobody was seriously hurt, thank goodness.

But judging from the media coverage, the event -- hardly a scandal of epic proportions -- is hurting the president's "messaging". It is distracting from the "narrative".  It is making his Friday press conference gaffe about the wonderful private sector loom even larger in the public consciousness. 

John Bryson, the victim, has been lost in the shuffle of politics. He was apparently well enough to go back to work Monday morning, but by Monday night he was suddenly on an "indefinite" medical leave of absence.

The Republicans, of course, had pounced on the story immediately, only to quickly retract suppositions that Bryson was drunk (breathalyzer was negative.)  Then the press corps pounced, wondering if he had been properly vetted before being appointed, if a previous fainting incident had been the subject of a nefarious cover-up, if a seizure disorder might have impeded the secretary's task of conducting the nation's commerce. From yesterday's White House press briefing:

Q Thank you. Does Jack Lew consider the Secretary Bryson’s incident a serious one -- two car accidents? And any questions about his health?
MR. CARNEY: I think I just answered this. (he had --this was the second question about Bryson.) I don’t have a specific response to give you from Jack Lew. I think our response is what I said in general, which is concern about the incident, learning more about the incident, obviously the health-related aspect of this. But I don’t have any specifics for you and I would refer you to the Commerce Department.
Q Is health taken into consideration when the President vets somebody for a Cabinet position?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t have any specifics for you on those procedures. The President obviously nominated Secretary Bryson because he believed he was capable of serving as Commerce Secretary, and he has served effectively as Commerce Secretary since he was confirmed by the United States Senate.
Q Apparently he had some kind of episode when attending a board meeting a couple of years ago.
MR. CARNEY: I have no information on that and don’t know even if it’s true.
Q Is that the kind of thing a Secretary should keep in touch with the White House on? Do you know --
MR. CARNEY: Again, you just told me something that is speculation, and now you’re asking me if it’s something he should have made people aware of. I don’t know anything about that incident, and I do not know whether or not it’s accurate.
Q Should Secretary Bryson’s office have gotten in touch with the White House earlier than last evening?
MR. CARNEY: Well, we’re in discussions with the Commerce Department about this. Again, it was a unique -- let me just step back and say, whenever a senior official is involved in an incident of this nature or any kind of incident like it, it’s obviously important that the White House find out about it. This circumstance was pretty unique in that Secretary Bryson was alone, was not with a security detail, was on private time, which is common for certain members of the Cabinet, and it resulted in him being -- both having a seizure and ending up in the hospital. So, for that reason, you have to recognize this as somewhat unique. But in general, certainly it’s important that the White House be informed as soon as possible.

And there was this third hard-hitting exchange on Hit'nRunGate, in what passes for modern adversarial journalism:
Q Jay, on Secretary Bryson, what was the timing of the seizure in relation to the accident?
MR. CARNEY: I would refer you, as I said in the past, to the Department of Commerce for more details.
Q I've been asking them for hours.
MR. CARNEY: I just don't have those details for you. So I think I would refer you to the Commerce Department.
Q Can you explain why there seems to be a parsing of -- it just seems the Commerce Department is saying he was involved in accidents and he had a seizure, but there's really nothing connecting the dots and it's really an important point.
MR. CARNEY: Well, again, as I pointed out, there was -- the Commerce Secretary was alone; he had a seizure; he was involved in an accident. I would refer you to the Commerce Department for more details. Those circumstances I think speak to some of the difficulty in getting details. But beyond that, I just don't know and I would refer you to the Department of Commerce.
Q Does it seem like it's causal, though, the seizure and the accidents?
MR. CARNEY: Again, I'm certainly not a doctor. I certainly didn't --
Q But you've seen --
MR. CARNEY: I was not a presiding doctor on this case, so I would refer you to the Department of Commerce.
Q He was involved in several accidents. You said, "an accident" just now.
MR. CARNEY: Okay, I read the reports, April. He was involved in several accidents.
Q I mean, for the record --
MR. CARNEY: Thank you for the correction. I think I acknowledged what you all have read, is that there were several accidents as part of this incident.
Q And can you speak to how the White House came to be alerted?
MR. CARNEY: The White House was informed yesterday evening.
Q By?
MR. CARNEY: By the Commerce Department. I don't have an individual for you. And the President was informed this morning.
Q Jay, one more on that. Can you say whether the Secretary is now on medical leave or if you expect --
MR. CARNEY: Can I refer you to the Commerce Department? They would have the best information on that.
Q It's the kind of thing the President would probably know about, so that's why I'm asking.
MR. CARNEY: I would refer you to the Department of Commerce.

It has come to this. The journalistic class has nothing better to do than to wallow in its own manufactured drama, taking an obscure cabinet secretary's obscure traffic mishap and making it into a monumental issue. It ranks right up there with the unemployment crisis, the Euro crisis, the impending Supreme Court decision on ObamaCare and LeakGate. From The Hill:
A hit-and-run accident involving Commerce Secretary John Bryson threw the White House off message Monday just as President Obama sought to regain his footing after a series of political missteps.
How about the accidents throwing Bryson himself for a loop? How about disclosing how the press rabble itself threw the White House off-message? How about that old Marshall McLuhan adage -- the medium is the message?

And Politico, of course, was also just being its own political self with the headline: "John Bryson's Leave of Absence Adds to Obama's Bad News."
It was an uncomfortable way to start the week, making it impossible for the White House to reset its economic message after Obama had to walk back his “the private sector is doing fine” comment from Friday. That self-inflicted wound came in a news conference meant to divert from a series of bad news cycles: the massive Democratic loss in the Wisconsin recall, Bill Clinton’s off-message adventures, national security leaks, the dismal May jobs report and his own fundraising numbers for the month showing him millions of dollars behind Mitt Romney.
Gloria Allred, celebrity attorney to the stars of media victimhood, nailed it the other day when she announced what is really important: "Cannibalism is a serious issue and is very dangerous to the health and the well-being of the cannibal and the victim.”

She was speaking, of course about that drug-crazed face-eater in Florida. But she might as well have been talking about the state of national politics in general and the Washington press corps in particular. They are not only poisoning the public discourse with their meaningless drivel, they are eating democracy alive by not serving the public interest. They are endangering our health with their stenographic reporting and vacuous questions. They are a menace to our well-being. They truly are, in the words of Allred, "the scourge of our time."

I am no fan of the Obama Administration, but press secretary Jay Carney had it absolutely right when he admonished the ravening White House press corps to "do your jobs and report context."

Too bad he also didn't suggest that they pivot to the illegality of those targeted drone assassinations by presidential decree, rather than mindlessly concentrating about who leaked what. Here's his exchange with Norah O'Donnell of CBS about LeakGate:

Q Senator McCain over the weekend accused the Obama administration of intentionally leaking information to enhance Obama’s image as a tough guy for reelection. Do you have a response to that?
MR. CARNEY: Well, my response is the same as it was last week, which is that is wrong and absurd. The President addressed this himself from this podium on Friday. He takes very seriously the need to protect classified and sensitive information, and that has been his posture since he took office.
Q How can you say unequivocally that it’s wrong and absurd? Have you done an internal investigation?
MR. CARNEY: I can tell you that this administration -- this White House, under the guidance of the President, takes very seriously the need to protect classified and sensitive information, the need to do so for our national security interests to protect our counterterrorism operations and other operations that are undertaken by our forces and our government.

Stop the Scourge of Absurd Questioning by Journalists!

Read more here:

Friday, June 8, 2012

Phony Outrage

Let's see.... it's been more than a week since the New York Times first broke the story that President Obama has a secret list containing the names of "militants" and "terrorists" being targeted for assassination. Among other things, we learned that the president himself is the ultimate decider of who lives and who dies. Then, close upon its heels came another scoop, describing how Obama took over a secret cyber-war against Iran begun by George W. Bush.The Stuxnet virus, long suspected to be a joint American-Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities, turns out to have been another program with hands-on direction from the president himself. 

Did the White House immediately issue statements denying the veracity of the information contained in these stories, and vowing to launch immediate investigations into who divulged state secrets to Times reporters? It did not. It neither denied, nor reacted in any way, other than a few brusque "no comments" due to the secretive, sensitive nature of the information that conveniently, somehow leaked out of the deepest recesses of the Situation Room.

For its part, too, Congress was initially and predictably silent. After all, the drone strikes are an open secret. Congress appropriates the money for them.Thousands have died from American bombs in Pakistan and Yemen and Somalia, many of them innocent men, women and children. The only outrage had been coming from the lonely outposts of the civil libertarian blogosphere and independent journalism. Polls have shown that most "liberals" are just fine with our President unilaterally taking it upon himself to kill Muslims, to keep us all "safe."

But when the Paper of Record sat up and took notice and spilled the beans on the Kill List and Stuxnetgate, Congress also finally sat up and took notice, howling about how that, and the drone program revelations are endangering national security. Depending on their political party, they alternately blamed the newspaper itself for publishing the articles, and accused the White House of being the source of the leaks. Democrat Dianne Feinstein is upset that such information being made public will make us less safe. Republican John McCain is livid that the information appears to have been leaked for pure political gain, to boost the president's re-election prospects. None of the power elites is complaining about the illegality of the programs, executive overreach, or the loss of innocent human life. Just the leaks, and nothing but the leaks.

And today, President Obama himself sat up and took notice. Without actually confirming that he is in fact, Lord High Executioner, he vociferously denied that his White House has been the source for the Times stories. (this, despite the fact that reporters wrote that their sources were a hefty three dozen White House insiders!) Quotes from his press con this morning:
"The notion that my White House would purposely release classified national security information is offensive. It's wrong.... People I think need to have a better sense of how I approach this office and how the people around me approach this office."

"When this information or these reports -- whether true or false -- surface, on front page newspapers, that makes the job of folks on the front lines tougher, and it makes my job tougher," he said. "Which is why, since I've been office, my attitude has been zero tolerance for these kinds of leaks and speculation."

"We're dealing with issue that can touch on the safety and security of American people, our families or our American security personal, or our allies, and so we don't play with that," he went on to say. "It is a source of consistent frustration -- not just for my administration, but for previous administration -- when this stuff happens, and we will continue to let everybody know in government, or after they leave government, that they have certain obligations that they should carry out."
Notice that while Obama decried the leaks themselves, he did not deny their veracity or that these were horrendous allegations in and of themselves .... only that they didn't come from him. He even claimed that the Times reporters have now said they didn't come from the White House. Actually, the reporters have said no such thing, at least publicly.

Scott Shane, co-author of the "Kill List" story, did write a blogpost this week blaming readers for misinterpreting the article. For example, he now denies ever having said that David Axelrod was present during "Terror Tuesday" meetings, even though his article did explicitly state that Axelrod was a silent observer. He also tried to run from his own lead, which had implied that the president mulled killing a 17-year-old girl. And then Shane blamed thousands of "left-wing" bloggers for starting rumors based on his reporting, strangely seizing upon the libertarian Prison Planet as an example of left wing rumor-mongering.

I have a feeling that Scott Shane, for all his hagiographic reportage on the Assassinator in Chief, got a bit of blowback from the White House after the publication did not have the desired effect. The majority of reader-commenters, far from cheering for the killing president, expressed disgust and shock. Shane subsequently made a lame attempt at some stenographic damage control, particularly on the Axelrod connection (as a campaign operative, he is not legally allowed to participate in White House policy meetings) and doing his patriotic duty to slime the left wing blogosphere that has had the nerve to be critical of the drone murders. Here's what I replied to Shane*:
With regard to David Axelrod's claim that he was never present at Terror Tuesday meetings, please allow me to quote the salient paragraph from your original article:
"David Axelrod, the president’s closest political adviser, began showing up at the 'Terror Tuesday' meetings, his unspeaking presence a visible reminder of what everyone ne understood: a successful attack would overwhelm the president’s other aspirations and achievements." Can you understand why your readers did not discern the difference between the casual Terror Tuesday meetings in which Axelrod merely hung out as a silent observer, and the real nitty-gritty meetings in which other people ultimately decided who was to live and who was to die? I was among those who totally missed the nuance -- so our bad, huh?

You are a master of innuendo. In this blog post, for instance, you gripe about the thousands of posters "from the left" who went nuts with their inaccuracies. You then use as an example the conspiracy site "Prison Planet" -- thus subtly implying that leftist blogs are kind of nuts. Prison Planet, incidentally, is run by a self-professed libertarian -- not a leftist by any stretch of the imagination.

For some real criticism from the left, I suggest reading Glenn Greenwald.

It seems to me that some kind of damage control is underway here. The White House thought revealing its Kill List would make the administration seem heroic. Instead, they are getting some blowback from shocked citizens. Good.

Meanwhile, The Times finds itself in the business of having to push back against the leak accusations, protesting that they were in no way spoon-fed the information by the White House. The articles in question were the results of hard digging over long periods of time by the reporters, insists Managing Editor Dean Bacquet.

It may be for all the wrong reasons, but the assassination program and accompanying evisceration of civil rights (both foreign and domestic) by this president is finally getting some attention from the mainstream media. For a good overview on the hypocrisy of the Administration's paranoid prosecution of low-level whistleblowers, read this piece by Josh Gerstein. (and of course, Glenn Greenwalds's continuing series exposing the hypocrisy and crime sprees.)

And in a literary approach to both the Times reportage and the Obama kill list itself, Francine Prose has written a stunning critique in the The New York Review of Books. Before Shane used his innuendo skills to semi-retract his own article, he used them, writes Prose, to pen a chilling indictment of Obama under the guise of flattery. She aptly compares the president's chief anti-terrorism advisor John Brennan to Rasputin and Obama himself to Tony Soprano. It's a short read, so don't miss it.

* I have taken to writing just a few of my Times comments under my maiden name initials in a craven effort to maintain my own sanity -- due to some recent personal attacks from the "veal pen" commentariat. I have been told, essentially, to shut up if I can't say anything nice about Our Leader. There is a band of people which literally "stalks" me on Times comments threads. It's the typical crap that Obama critics from the left have been subject to lately, and I have to say, it is getting nasty out there. One person even attacked me through my place of residence, describing my little hometown as being full of tattoo parlors and pitbulls. These are so-called liberals. The times they are indeed a changin'.

The only thing scarier than an Orwellian government are the Orwellian authoritarian citizens enabling it.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Unmitigated Gall of the Obama Campaign

You've all heard by now that Scott Walker survived his recall election, thanks in part to the scads of money poured into his war chest from out of state.  You've no doubt also heard that he outspent his challenger nearly eight to one, and that Obama avoided Wisconsin like the plague, even though he was in the neighborhood (Minnesota and Illinois) recently. This, despite his famous promise  during his first campaign that he'd be putting on his comfortable shoes to help the unions. And a lot of people are royally miffed that the most he could do was tweet one teeny tweet on Election Eve, saying good luck to the public unions and the Democrats.  He did not contribute a penny of his own campaign millions to the effort, although to be fair he finally allowed campaign volunteers to travel to Wisconsin to get out the vote. In January 2011, when throngs of protesters first converged on the capital, the White House ordered Organizing for America (now Obama for America) out of Madison when it learned volunteers were aiding the demonstrators.

It was during that time that Obama, fresh off the midterm defeats, was on his austerity kick. He was feverishly accomodating Republicans in their phony deficit hawk rampage and made the "difficult choice" to abandon the unions when the GOP accused him of meddling in Wisconsin.

The Obama machine, while claiming the Scott Walker win is no big deal in the grand scheme of things, is nevertheless wasting no time trying to cash in on it. I just checked my spam folder -- here's what arrived from campaign honcho Jim Messina:
Karen --
What just happened in Wisconsin wasn't an accident.
Republican Governor Scott Walker and his allies outspent the Democratic challenger nearly EIGHT to ONE -- and one of the most unpopular governors in the country managed to hold on.
This result is direct confirmation that all the outside money that's poured into elections this cycle can and will change their outcome. And it's exactly what could happen on the national stage unless we can close the gap between special interests and ordinary people.
The hell with helping the locals in the backwaters, though. It's Barry and the national race that counts. And ordinary people? Gimme a break! He just spent Monday night canoodling with hedge fund managers in New York City before flying out to California today to rake in more millions from some real special ordinary rich people.

In the case of Wisconsin, a resurgence of a potential national labor movement became subsumed by electoral politics and party machines -- themselves even further corrupted by the addition of limitless, often anonymous, corporate money. Grassroots got choked out by Koch Brothers astroturf. Now the Obama campaign swoops in for its share of the spoils.
 Walker was challenged because he's spent the last year and a half promoting special interests and Republican ideologues while taking away a seat at the table for middle-class families. But when his job was on the line, those same interest groups repaid the favors -- and were willing to spend nearly EIGHT times as much money as the Democratic candidate and his allies raised.
This is the playbook Mitt Romney used in primary after primary against Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich.
His ad buys were overwhelmingly negative, and he and his backers poured money into whatever state was next until they got the result they wanted.
Now, imagine this same scenario playing out again in Wisconsin in November, and in Florida, Ohio, Virginia, Nevada, and the rest of the battleground states.
Yeah, my heart is going pitter-patter with trepidation. Boo-hoo for Wisconsin, but that doesn't matter. Because it is Obama who matters. Only Obama. Notice how carefully Messina avoids any mention of the word "unions" -- which was what the recall attempt was really all about. According to the New York Times, his campaign is heartened by exit polls showing that not a few Walker supporters also happen to be Obama supporters. Hmmm....
 The other side has the money. They know they can buy the election if they spend it. And they are being told every day by Mitt Romney that he will do exactly what they want him to. 
We can stop them.
Please donate $15 or more to support President Obama and make sure people, not special interests, decide this election. (there follows a link to BarackObama/Wisc. so they can keep their Wisconsin money separate from their regular money.)

This is what the Obama machine does. It passive-aggressively sets lesser Democrats and a few liberal pet causes up for defeat, then uses those defeats to raise money, money, money for itself. It happened a few days ago when Congress killed that phony equal pay bill -- a bill the Democrats had punted on back in 2009 when they had more than enough votes to pass it. This law, incidentally, would not have forced employers to pay women what they are worth at all. It merely would have made it less cumbersome for females to sue for discrimination. It theoretically would have protected them from being fired for complaining about their crappy pay. It also put the onus on employers to prove all their workers were paid equitably, thus further setting it up for defeat. Of course, the bosses who do the firing could always claim dismissal for cause. This was a rather weak bill to begin with. No real teeth, and not enough labor cops on the beat to enforce it.

The White House had only started drumming up public attention for it a few days before the actual vote, with those cheesy e-cards I posted about the other day.
And the appeals for more War Against Women money by Democrats began arriving like clockwork, almost the minute the bill was put out of its misery.

People who keep track of such things estimate that Obama now spends fully one third of all his working hours canoodling with rich people at serial fund-raisers. According to Amie Parnes of The Hill,
Obama has spent the bulk of his time in California on fundraising junkets — including a much-hyped fundraiser with A-lister George Clooney, which pulled in $15 million. The California News Service estimated recently that 80 percent of his trips have included at least one fundraiser.
And when Obama visits the state on Wednesday and Thursday, with two stops in San Francisco and three stops in Los Angeles, he’ll reap the financial benefits of his endorsement of same-sex marriage, observers say.
Ted Johnson, who writes the popular Wilshire and Washington blog for Variety, points to one example as proof: Ticket demand for an LGBT gala Wednesday night in Los Angeles spiked after Obama’s gay-marriage declaration, and a separate dinner — hosted by “Glee” co-creator Ryan Murphy — was added to the schedule.
“The campaign is definitely seeing the demand in California this year,” Johnson said. “Just the fact that he was here three weeks ago and now he’s back is proof of that.”
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