Monday, December 31, 2012

Bargaining Chips and Chomping Chains

How can I put this delicately? If you are old, or if aging is in your future plans, your president just doesn't seem to think your life is worth very much. That average $1200 monthly Social Security check you've been counting on?  Way too extravagant for Barack Obama's refined sensibilities.

In the past, he has been more circumspect about his plans for a "balanced approach" in which the little people share the sacrifice are sacrificed to the predators of the financial class. But yesterday, he got his machismo up. It probably had a lot to do with being mere inches away from fellow corporate apparatchick and gerontophobe David Gregory. Familiarity breeds contempt.... for people beneath their exalted class. Bullies are often too cowardly to work alone. They need at least one flattering sycophant close by.  From yesterday's Meet the Press: 
DAVID GREGORY: You’ve got to talk tough to seniors --
DAVID GREGORY:–don’t you about this? And say, something’s got to give?
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:–but I already have, David, as you know, one of the proposals we made was something called Chained CPI, which sounds real technical but basically makes an adjustment in terms of how inflation is calculated on Social Security. Highly unpopular among Democrats. Not something supported by AARP. But in pursuit of strengthening Social Security for the long-term I’m willing to make those decisions.

Much is being made of how Harry Reid and his minions "stood firm" against chained CPI being part of the Feckless Cliff negotiations. But people are missing the point that when the Democratic leadership balked at putting Social Security on the table now, it merely means they don't want to waste this valuable bargaining chip in a game of penny ante. They won't add Chained CPI to the kitty until the high stakes game of poker known as The Grand Bargain takes place in the Debt Ceiling Casino next year.
"The idea was if you are going to do debt ceiling, you would then do chained CPI," (a) Democratic aide said, speaking anonymously because talks are ongoing and extremely sensitive. "They can only ask us to make that concession in that pairing. We are not going to do anything with chained CPI now [without a debt ceiling deal]. That's a poison pill.
It has come to this. The lives and livelihoods of America's most vulnerable citizens have been reduced to political concessions. Our monthly retirement checks are something that millionaire political hacks "do" the same way they do lunch, do cocktail parties, do the revolving door shuffle. They're doing us. But even though they're bold and serious and macho, they pride themselves on being very sensitive lovers. They wield their whips and chains discreetly, out of public view. Once we start feeling the lashes, we won't even remember who it was that actually beat us to a pulp. We'll just keep inviting them back for seconds.

The Better to Tweak You With, My Dear

Richard Eskow of Campaign for America's Future has written a far more serious and sensible prescription for how we can address the almighty deficit without torturing innocent people. There are plenty of ethical and more effective solutions out there than Chained CPI. The problem is that there are no ethics left in Washington. And being ineffective in the Beltway Bubble doesn't ever get you fired, especially if you're a member of Congress. The president just rewarded the do-nothingest legislature in history with a pay raise. Seriously.

Gridlock Theatre is good. Just ask the lobbyists and the corporate advertisers funding the corporate media perpetuating the gridlock. Action delayed means the serious people get paid. Lots and lots of cash:
  Washington is getting richer because the intensity of the struggle for influence at the centre of power has a natural tendency to keep spiraling upwards, and influence groups have to spend more on their struggles in the capital just to stand still. This isn't a conspiracy by a unified ruling class of takers against the far-flung makers, as in the Capitol of "The Hunger Games". It's an unavoidable, never-ending political battle between powerful clans to protect their interests at court, as in King's Landing in "Game of Thrones".... Gridlock between powerful vested interests can be very profitable for experienced, well-connected court players who can promise to preserve the gridlock.
So when the deficit scolds blame the "dysfunction" in Washington for all our ills, don't believe it for a minute. It's not dysfunction that's killing us. It's the corruption. It runs wide, it runs deep, and the stain just won't come out. 

Friday, December 28, 2012

Irritable Bipartisan Syndrome

Whoever keeps saying that Congress is gridlocked is wrong, wrong, wrong. Of course, they become chronically constipated whenever they need to pass legislation that benefits regular people. But when it comes time to reward the defense contractors and the corporate sugar daddies, the diarrhea part of political Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) always kicks in. The money and the bullshit both flow freely.

Just today, for example, the Senate overwhelmingly approved continued warrantless wiretapping/internet spying on the inhabitants of the global battlefield of make-believe terror. In other words, everyone. (You can find out how your own rep voted by clicking here.) Less than a quarter of all senators believe that domestic spying under the guise of anti-terror is unconstitutional. Not only that, we now officially have no right to know whether we're among the countless lucky duckies who've already been sucked up into the voracious maw of the Homeland Security behemoth.
Before final passage, the Senate voted against an amendment from Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), which would have required the Director of National Intelligence to report to Congress on whether any U.S.-based email and phone communications have been picked up in the process of conducting overseas surveillance, and whether any wholly domestic U.S. communications have been swept up under the program.
Wyden said intelligence officials have so far failed to provide such an estimate.
There's more. The goons are also refusing to even confirm or deny whether a list of millions or billions or trillions of victims even exists. The money may flow, but the info it pays for is bound up deep within the bowels of the secrecy fetishists. Talk about anal retention! And the complicit Senators are not about to administer a massive dose of Ex-Lax, either. The constipation part of Irritable Bipartisan Syndrome will continue for another five years, at least. And the gasbaggery, needless to say, will be infinite.

Chief FISA Scold Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who has never met a Homeland Security sub-agency bureaucrat she didn't like, testily insists that any illegal spying on Americans has been sparse and inadvertent, so there is no way in hell that we will ever be allowed to see if our names are on any list. Because, like President Obama's Kill List, the Spy List has never been officially confirmed. The lists exist, but mainly in the mist, is the gist.

Glenn Greenwald has written an excellent smackdown and back-story on the latest bipolar bipartisanship. An excerpt:
In doing so, the new 2008 (FISA Amendments) law gutted the 30-year-old FISA statute that had been enacted to prevent the decades of severe spying abuses discovered by the mid-1970s Church Committee: by simply barring the government from eavesdropping on the communications of Americans without first obtaining a warrant from a court. Worst of all, the 2008 law legalized most of what Democrats had spent years pretending was such a scandal: the NSA warrantless eavesdropping program secretly implemented by George Bush after the 9/11 attack. In other words, the warrantless eavesdropping "scandal" that led to a Pulitzer Prize for the New York Times reporters who revealed it ended not with investigations or prosecutions for those who illegally spied on Americans, but with the Congressional GOP joining with key Democrats (including Obama) to legalize most of what Bush and Cheney had done. Ever since, the Obama DOJ has invoked secrecy and standing doctrines to prevent any courts from ruling on whether the warrantless eavesdropping powers granted by the 2008 law violate the Constitution.

When it comes to serving the regular people who elected them, senators are famous for obfuscation, delays and can-kicking. But when it comes to wars, and weapons, and national security, and keeping fear alive, and doing pretty much whatever President Obama wants in the way of destroying the Bill of Rights, they always manage to get a massive jolt of bipartisan adrenaline:
Senate Intelligence Committee ranking member Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) urged his colleagues not to support any amendments because he said the bill would then have to be reconsidered by the House. He said unless the House version passed, surveillance would halt after Dec. 31, posing a threat to national security.
“We’ve got to get this bill on the desk of the president by Dec. 31,” Chambliss said on the floor Friday.
Or else, what? We go off the FISA Cliff and millions of spy state listening posts go dark?

We will never know. It's been officially decreed as none of our business. And if you complain about it, you're supporting the terrorists. More than three-quarters of the Senate has just declared: "We are all Dick Cheney now."

This reminds me of Rick Sanchez of CNN, who used to run a segment called The List You Don't Want to Be On. Then he got fired. 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

NYT Editors Asleep at Switch

27 minutes ago


Obama Returns to Washington, With Bo

President Obama returned to the White House on Thursday to resume efforts to end a partisan fiscal impasse with the family dog, Bo.
(Bo refuses to stop pooping under the White House Christmas trees until he gets a raise in his chewy toy allowance. Obama has drawn a firm line in the sand.  Threatens to switch Bo to cat food. Stay tuned.)

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Is Our Children Learning?

If California Senator Barbara Boxer gets her wish, the definition of "military school" may be about to change. Her Keeping Schools Safe legislation will give governors  the option of calling in the National Guard to their states' schools as they deem necessary. Right now, only local police departments are allowed to respond to incidents running the gamut from mass shootings to temper tantrums that are suddenly requiring that tots be placed in handcuffs. 
"Is it not part of the national defense to make sure that your children are safe?" Boxer said at Capitol Hill press conference.
This ranks right up there with the fatuous musing of another confused politician named George W. Bush."Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?"

Greed disguised as innocuous stupidity started the No Child Left Behind corporate march toward school privatization. Now, Boxer (one of that new breed of bellicose Democrats) wants to take the neo-fascist greed one step further by turning schools into militarized zones. Before you know it, our schools will be called Charter Re-education Camps.

Because when it comes to disaster capitalism overkill, the tragedy in Connecticut is beginning to rival 9/11 in its potential capacity to shred the Bill of Rights. Boxer isn't wasting time. She has also introduced the School Safety Enhancement Act, which would allocate up to $50 million for the installation of spy cameras and metal detectors in schools. Is our children learning yet?

Since there can never be enough flying robots crowding our great American skies, a special School Drone program to further enrich the defense contractors of the military-industrial complex is not outside the realm of possibility. Civil liberties destruction can begin early, as soon as nursery school, to keep us all safe. Students will be surveilled from above and below and within (as in TSA airport screenings). This will eventually help ensure that no independent thought is breaking out, and that no teaching outside the for-profit testing companies is taking place. Public schools already allow military recruiters to set up shop in high schools, even supplying the armed forces with the private home telephone numbers of potential war fodder. So it's only a hop, skip and a jump to transforming the halls of academe into full-fledged war zones.

Is our children learning? Is George Orwell spinning in his grave?

Last year's National Defense Authorization Act allowed for the arrest and indefinite detention of U.S. Citizens by the military. Although the National Guard is exempt from rules which forbid domestic action by the military, the presence of any camouflaged troops in schools could feasibly continue the subversion and work-arounds to the Posse Comitatus Act already being seen in the rampant racial and ethnic profiling being conducted by police agencies. Federal and state agencies theoretically could begin cracking down on schools suspected of sheltering terror cells and other criminal enterprises. Searches and seizures in the War on Drugs are already a reality -- could further draconian measures under the pretext of gun control and mental health screening be looming on the horizon with proposals like Boxer's?
  The slaughter of the innocents must stop," she said. "We must keep our schools safe by utilizing all of the law enforcement tools at our disposal."
Boxer said the National Guard legislation is modeled after a program in place since 1989 that allows governors to use the National Guard to aid law enforcement in anti-drug operations. Troops could be deployed at schools, or assigned to desk jobs at police stations to free up local law enforcement to patrol schools.
Not that our police forces aren't already militarized. The Department of Homeland Security operates a slew of "fusion centers" that combine the resources of the national spy state with those of the cops on the beat. A recent scathing report on the goon-cop partnership revealed monumental ineptitude and the huge amount of money wasted by a government whose function has devolved into spying on its own citizens even as it happily shreds the safety net and plunges us over make-believe fiscal cliffs.

For when it comes to spending money on the evisceration of human rights, the United States government knows no shame, and no boundaries. This country is the de facto partner of the gun industry. It's the largest arms dealer in the world, with sales of weapons to other countries actually tripling last year to a whopping $66.3 billion. The congressional cads and caddesses couldn't even be bothered to pass legislation that will keep the price of a gallon of milk from rising to $8 next year before they skipped town for the holidays. Yet they were almost unanimous in their bipartisan allocation of another $641 billion for the National Defense Authorization Act.

Got milk? Nope. But Georgie Bush is still waiting in vain for an answer to his plaintive question: Is our children learning?

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas in the Trenches

It's Christmas, and time for 12,000,000 bloggers blogging to post their favorite holiday videos and songs. I hadn't heard "Christmas in the Trenches" by John McCutcheon in awhile, so I'll add it to the internet symphony here.

The song is based on the series of spontaneous Christmas truces during the first year of World War I. British and German soldiers would regularly put down their arms, and engage in impromptu soccer matches, sing-alongs, picnics and gift exchanges. Although the Yuletide ceasefires continued for another year or two, by the time chemical weapons came into play, the young soldiers had finally learned how to truly hate each other. But as the fictional hero reflects at the end of the song, "the ones who call the shots won't be among the dead and lame- and on each end of the rifle we're the same."

Here's wishing all of you a safe and peaceful Christmas. And many thanks for the inspiration and encouragement you have given me to keep on writing. But be warned -- Sardonicky will be entering the Terrible Twos in just another month!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Have a Very Classist Christmas

Until I read all about it in The Huffington Post, I never would have known that I have permission from the Obamas to start celebrating. Until they boarded Air Force One for their annual jaunt to Hawaii, we hoi polloi had supposedly been agonizing over the Fiscal Cliff right along with them. So as long as the first family can take some time off, we can too. Because this is a democracy, where everybody who does their fair share and plays by the same rules gets a fair shake, and gets it good and hard.

It's that most wonderful time of the year, when Barack and Michelle deliver their annual holiday greeting to America. And that message, of course, consists of how we should all forget how rotten and miserable our own lives are, and instead feel guilty about how much more rotten are the lives of the men and women fighting the endless wars on behalf of the military-industrial complex.

It's a day late, but this is timeless:

THE PRESIDENT: Hi everybody. This weekend, as you gather with family and friends, Michelle and I want to wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy Holidays.

THE FIRST LADY: We both love this time of year. And there’s nothing quite like celebrating the holidays at the White House. (or in any house with heat and a roof, and that is not in foreclosure.)  It’s an incredible experience and one that we try to share with as many folks as possible.

This month, more than 90,000 people have come through the White House to see the holiday decorations. And our theme for this year’s holiday season was “Joy to All” – a reminder to appreciate the many joys of the holidays: the joy of giving…the joy of service…and, of course, the joy of homecomings.

THE PRESIDENT: That’s right. This weekend, parents are picking up their kids from college – and making room for all that laundry they bring with them. Children are counting down the hours until the grandparents arrive. And uncles, aunts and cousins are all making their way to join the family and share in the holiday spirit.
(We are covertly signalling that our base consists of upper middle class families who not only have kids in college, but whose parents have both the time and the reliable wheels and modern appliances needed to deliver concierge service to their offspring. America is one great big Hallmark commercial, in which there is no want, no hunger, no unemployment.... and no laundromats in blighted strip malls! Over the river and through the woods or even next door to the well-off Grandma who, like multimillionaire granny Nancy Pelosi, can absolutely live with chained CPI because she is not among the millions of seniors already living in poverty who will suffer even more when I finally achieve my own personal dream of selling out the safety net to my Wall Street overlords.) 

THE FIRST LADY: That’s what makes this season so special – getting to spend time with the people we love most.

THE PRESIDENT: And this year, that’s especially true for some of our military families. You see, the war in Iraq is not really over. The transition in Afghanistan will not be happening is underway. After a decade of war, our heroes are coming home. And all across America, military families are reuniting. (at cemeteries and federal VA hospitals {where employees' Christmas bonuses consisted of my extending their pay freeze for another three months} and prisons and at facilities for the permanently brain-injured.)

So this week let’s give thanks for our veterans and their families. And let’s say a prayer for all our troops – especially those in Afghanistan – who are spending this holiday overseas, risking their lives to defend the freedoms we hold dear. (the freedoms of the plutocrats and the defense contractors to make billions and billions and billions of dollars as we impose our democracy on the rest of the world in the form of predator drones, a thousand military bases and counting, military psy-ops and CIA shadow wars, and secret prisons where all torture is now outsourced.)

THE FIRST LADY: And remember, when our men and women in uniform answer the call to serve, their families serve right along with them. Across this country, military spouses have been raising their families all alone during those long deployments. And let’s not forget about our military kids, moving from base to base – and school to school – every few years, and stepping up to help out at home when mom or dad is away.

Our military families sacrifice so much on our behalf, and Barack and I believe that we should serve them as well as they serve this country. That’s why Dr. Jill Biden and I started Joining Forces – an effort to rally all Americans to honor and support our veterans and military families. Just go to to find out how you can show your gratitude for their service.
(Joining Forces is actually the brainchild of the Center for a New American Security, a neoliberal think tank begun by out-of-work Clintonites during the Bush II Administration. Michelle and Jill are  being used as maternal apparatchiks of the MIC, to lend a feel-good glow to what is essentially a fascist front group run by financiers and defense industry lobbyists. One of the newest members of the CNA Advisory Board, for example, is Richard Parsons, the CEO of Citigroup, who is also helping spearhead the Wall Street/"Fix the Debt" campaign to shred the social safety net, and who also serves on the president's in-house CEO lobby quaintly known as the White House Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. George Carlin was right: "It's a big club -- and you ain't in it.")

THE PRESIDENT: Because that’s what this season is all about. For my family and millions of Americans, it’s a time to celebrate the birth of Christ. To reflect on His life and learn from His example. Every year, we commit to love one another. To give of ourselves. To be our brother’s keeper. To be our sister’s keeper. But those ideas are not just part of our faith. They’re part of all faiths. And they unite us as Americans.
(I can utter that unctuous sentence, because as a psychopath, I possess no conscience and no belief in self-reflection. Separating my putative Christianity from my maintenance of a Kill List which results in the deaths of thousands of innocents is as easy as pie.)
THE FIRST LADY: In this country, we take care of each other. And in this season of giving, it’s inspiring to see so many people all across America taking the time to help those most in need.
(It's inspiring to see poor desperate people taking care of other poor desperate people, because by the time my husband gets through with you, you'll all be a bunch of drowning rats without a safety net. Just be grateful that Barack is offering you a fig leaf  in the form of temporary tax increases for rich people to make you all feel better about your plight. ) 

THE PRESIDENT: That’s part of what makes us such a compassionate nation. And this year, I know many of you are extending that kindness to the families who are still picking up the pieces from Hurricane Sandy and your prayers to the people of Newtown, Connecticut.
(Because I have been so busy with the Fiscal Cliff psychodrama and offering up all your poor bodies on the altar of corporate greed, I just haven't had time to lambast Congress over their failure to provide any extra financial aid to the storm victims. And prayers for gun victims is about the best I can do right now, as I wipe the Hollywood glycerine from my eyes.)

THE FIRST LADY: So thank you for all that you’ve done this year on behalf of your fellow Americans.
THE PRESIDENT: And on behalf of my favorite Americans – Michelle, Malia, Sasha and Bo – Merry Christmas, everybody. (I care more about my dog than I do you, my less-favorite Americans. Why else would I have named him after myself?)

THE FIRST LADY: Happy holidays.
Postscript: You will happy to know that Barack and Michelle have just been awarded grand prize in the "Power Couple of the Year" contest sponsored by HuffPo. Here's why:
Full Name: Michelle Obama
Occupation: First Lady of the United States
Big Wig Affiliation: Beyonce
Claim to Fame: First African-American First Lady of the United States
Current Status: The First Lady is currently up for a Grammy nomination in the spoken-word category for her book, “American Grown.”
Word for Word: “We work out together every day. I usually get up to the gym a little before he does, because I start my day a bit earlier–I [have] hair, makeup, things that he doesn’t have to do. I continue to remind him of that. He usually gets up there when I’m halfway through, so we spend the morning checking in, watching Sports Center.”
 Full Name: Barack Obama
Occupation: President of the United States
Big Wig Affiliation: Bill Clinton
Claim to Fame: First African-American President
Current Status: The president is gearing up for his second inauguration in 4 years, taking place in Washington D.C. on January 21.
Word for Word: "Obviously I couldn't have done anything that I've done without Michelle. . . . not only has she been a great first lady, she is just my rock. I count on her in so many ways every single day."
You really can't make this shit up.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Democratic Party Politicians: The Chicken Men (and Women)

By Fred Drumlevitch
cross-posted with permission

Congressman Ron Barber, "Congress on Your Corner"
open meeting with constituents, June 23, 2012

Sometimes a broad problem is best understood through a look at specific examples. So I begin by asking: Who is Congressman Ron Barber, and how does he exemplify — indeed, what is — this more general problem of vital importance to the future of both the Democratic Party and the entire United States?

Well, to answer the first part of the question, Ron Barber is the Democrat first elected in June 2012 in Arizona Congressional District 8 to fill the vacancy produced by Gabrielle Giffords’ resignation. He was then reelected in the November general election to a full term representing the new Congressional District 2 created by Arizona Congressional redistricting.

The answer to the rest of the question is of necessity much longer, taking up the remainder of this piece but getting to the heart of contemporary American political dysfunction.

I live within both the old and new aforementioned districts, and thus have a more than passing interest in the positions taken by the politicians ostensibly representing them. There are many indications that Mr. Barber has the intelligence and basic human decency desirable in a public official. With his white hair, small beard, and cane, he also bears a bit of a resemblance to “Colonel” Harland Sanders, of Kentucky Fried Chicken fame, hence “The Chicken Man” nickname light-heartedly applied to him by others. Unfortunately, the relevance of that moniker extends beyond its intended allusion to an iconic purveyor of poultry, for what Congressman Barber does have cannot mask what he appears to lack: cojones, and a commitment to rational political stands even in the face of the right-wing opposition that is to be expected in early twenty-first century America. (And the Newtown murders notwithstanding, the “rational political stands” and “right-wing opposition” to which I refer are broad-based; this piece is not a polemic on the subject of gun control).

I have no quarrel with many of Congressman Barber’s votes, but some others have been so objectionable that I have been obliged to reexamine my opinion of both the man and the Democratic Party. On June 19, 2012, the very day he was sworn in as congressman, Mr. Barber would cast a vote in favor of H.R. 2578, a 14-section collection of anti-environmental legislation, one of the components of which included the gutting of, in the name of “security”, virtually all environmental regulations within one hundred miles of the entire U.S. land border. One month later, July 19, 2012, he would vote against a defense appropriations amendment that sought to freeze fiscal 2013 core military spending at 2012 levels, this assuming that sequestration did not occur. (That proposed freeze had been denounced by some as a cut because it reduced by just over $1 billion the 2013 levels previously approved by the House Armed Services Committee, though not the entire House. However labeled, the $1 billion at issue was neither the 89% cut in defense spending that occurred post-WWII, 1948 vs. 1945, which did not cause the sky to fall, nor even the 10-15% pruning and redirection urged last year by a group that included retired U.S. military officers; rather, it amounted to only an extremely thin slice (0.2%) of the $528 billion core military budget, and an even smaller percentage of true total military spending, large portions of which are “hidden in plain sight” within the budgets of other government departments. Accordingly, this amendment could not be credibly characterized as a threat to our national security, and opposition to it was patently unwarranted. See the discussion for Amendment number 1, pages H5054 - H5057 of the Congressional Record). More recently, on September 12, 2012, Congressman Barber would vote for H.R. 5949, which extended for five years the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, a measure that in effect nullified many of our Constitutional protections against wide-ranging governmental search and seizure, protections that served this nation well for more than two centuries. This act, rationalized in the name of national security, has legally enabled an ever-expanding multi-faceted domestic surveillance infrastructure that spies daily on millions of ordinary law-abiding U.S. citizens.

An aside: Although not part of the above-referenced Congressional discussion on the military “budget”, it is at this point worth noting as a matter of morality and priorities that the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, which seeks to collect and spend just over $2 billion during 2012-2013, found itself as of October 2012 $700 million short in contributions for that two year period. (See here for a more detailed accounting). And consider that during the January 2008 through early October 2012 time frame, U.S. governmental contributions to the GPEI totaled only one-half of the amount provided by the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation. While the money saved by a sensible reduction in U.S. military spending could fully erase the 2012-2013 GPEI shortfalls, as well as fund a multitude of other highly worthwhile projects both domestically and internationally, which would probably gain this country far more admiration, respect, security, and employment than would hundreds of billions of dollars of military expenditures, the military-industrial-security-governmental complex has had and will continue to have its own warped priorities for our tax dollars.

I am not privy to Congressman Barber’s thought processes, and I can only speculate about what motivated his votes for the abominable anti-environmental H.R. 2578, against even a freeze in our bloated military spending, and for the H.R. 5949 extension of the totalitarian-style FISA amendments. Perhaps he genuinely believed that these absurd and dangerous positions were desirable; in that case, he is at minimum badly mistaken, and this will call into question his judgment in all future matters. On the other hand, perhaps his votes were simply crass political maneuvers, attempts to establish political “street cred” with the conservative portions of his district, or the corollary, due to fear of being tarred by future conservative charges of being soft on border enforcement specifically or national security in general. That last possibility is perhaps the most insidiously dangerous of all motivations, for it represents a continuation of the Democratic Party’s fear-driven political behavior of the past three decades, which, above all else, has been marked by a nearly-complete failure of political nerve at the first insinuation of weakness. Such fear was a major motivation for Democratic support of the Congressional resolution that authorized the insane U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, and for the passage and subsequent expansion of the liberty-destroying, perversely-named Patriot Act. However, the adverse impact extends much further; in countless other areas, the absence of adequate Democratic advocacy for reason and social justice has allowed Republican politicians to frame the debate, and these Republicans have thereby successfully dragged the political center far to the right of any rational location for it.

Congressman Ron Barber, news conference, June 23, 2012.

Partly in fairness to Mr. Barber, but mostly because of its wider and more fundamental implications, I must emphasize that this positive-feedback loop of deficient advocacy and constrained or faulty action is apparently a significant affliction among Democratic politicians. With regard to H.R. 2578, 16 Democrats joined 216 House Republicans in voting for it, and 6 Democrats failed to vote. On the amendment to freeze defense spending (sponsored by Republican Mick Mulvaney and Democrat Barney Frank), 21 Democrats voted no, while 12 did not vote. Often, even greater numbers of Democrats cast their votes in favor of (usually Republican-originated) bills that, at best, rate as political scat, or against (usually Democratic) bills that constitute the mildest of necessary reforms. In the case of H.R. 5949, 74 Democrats voted in the affirmative, supplementing the 227 Republicans who voted for passage.

But a high incidence of such political cowardice in no way excuses or mitigates it; indeed, in such a situation, every increment of cowardice weighs ever more heavily, greatly reducing the likelihood of a favorable outcome for the nation. A large number of insane ideologies course through the veins of the contemporary body politic, including: a belief in American exceptionalism (despite our inferior rankings by a multitude of measures); a desire for worldwide military supremacy (and a blank check for the vast military spending that accompanies our futile pursuit of it); a worship of unfettered capitalism and some imaginary “free market” (all the while enabling anti-competitive corporate behavior and socializing the losses of corporate speculators and incompetents); an opposition to planning, regulation, and the moral use of national resources (never mind that the “wisdom of the market” is often antithetical to the true long-term interests of the people); and a rationalization of poverty and insecurity for a large portion of the populace (while aiding the accumulation of extreme wealth by those at the top). The unvarnished truth is that the successes of the Republicans and the gains of their worse-than-Social-Darwinistic agenda are not due to Republicans alone — Democratic unwillingness to boldly challenge these delusions has inexorably led to the national ascendancy of such views.

Additional local evidence of such Democratic deficiency comes via the Arizona Congressional District 2 primary election held in late August. Consider newspaper coverage of the positions of the two Democratic (and two Republican) candidates (Arizona Daily Star, August 7, 2012, page A4, “Candidate Q&A: US Congressional District 2” -- CD2 candidate bios sidebar). Asked their “top priority”, all candidates unsurprisingly listed multiple items. However, for Congressman Barber, who would win the Democratic race, the first item was “bipartisan problem solving for Southern Arizona”, while for his Democratic opponent Dr. Matt Heinz it was the similar “build consensus”. Whether evaluated abstractly or morally or strategically, those are highly flawed top goals, mealy-mouthed conflations of process with concrete objectives. (And it should be noted that like most Republicans already in office, neither of the two Republican candidates gave even a hint of willingness to compromise or work with the opposition). A further look, to Dr. Heinz’campaign website [dead link], saw him referring to his time in the Republican-dominated state legislature and speaking of “building consensus… working diligently to find common ground with other representatives”. As for Congressman Barber’s campaign website, it originally showed his stated desire “to put politics aside … lead with civility… ”. Those phrases were later removed, prior to the general election. Did the congressman have an epiphany, or was the change simply one of election strategy? What positions will he take on the extraordinarily-important matters to be addressed during the remainder of this term and in the one beginning January? Support for a “Grand Bargain” that largely protects our bloated military spending, barely imposes on the wealthy, but shafts the remainder of the people — and all arrived at with the utmost of “civility” of course? What will your moral legacy be, Congressman Barber?

News flash, Mr. Barber, Mr. Heinz, and Democrats everywhere: Those goals of procedural harmony, admirable though they might be in a perfect world, are unattainable in this one — except at the cost of a surrender of most substantive Democratic principles. When the overwhelming majority of your Republican opposition is malevolent, obstructionist, and seeks to take this nation into a social-political-economic structure reminiscent of Dickensian England, no rational bipartisan consensus is possible, and it is fundamentally counterproductive for Democrats to either believe or pretend otherwise. Any possible political gains among independent voters produced by Democrats making conciliation with Republicans a high priority are more than offset by that preoccupation’s destructive impact on Democratic ideology and self-respect, and its communication of weakness to the opposition. Democrats, striving ever harder to demonstrate their accommodating reasonableness, have over the past several decades ceded not just the hair and hoof trimmings of a Democratic Party symbol, they have surrendered the muscle and vital organs of a once proud ideology of social justice. It came as no surprise when the Democratic Party in 2010 abandoned the kicking donkey as its logo. All that remained was a skeleton stripped nearly bare, with the predatory wolf packs of the Republican Party howling in anticipation of their next meal.

Perhaps Democratic politicians should take a cue from the natural world (especially since they have ignored the lessons of the political one). David J.T. Sumpter (Collective Animal Behavior, 2010, Princeton University Press) describes the process by which a honeybee swarm chooses a new home: Scouts explore and return to the resting swarm, dancing in support of potential new locations; additional trips are made, competition for viewers and fading of the dance intensity over time occur. “Mathematical models of this process predict that the site at which the bees give up dancing for most slowly is eventually the focus of all dancing” (Sumpter, p. 214).

With regard to the human political environment, no biologist’s empirical description or mathematical model should actually be necessary. It is obvious to any sentient observer (even if not to the Democratic politicians seeking votes) that a political position with inferior advocacy is unlikely to prevail. Progressive advocacy shouldn’t be confined to the few days of a highly-scripted quadrennial presidential nominating convention, or even to the months of campaign season. All Democratic politicians — from the President on down to the lowliest local office-holders — need to strap on their balls, every single day unabashedly make the case for progressive positions, and then — because advocacy is a necessary but insufficient condition for favorable political results — act courageously in the spirit of that advocacy at every executive, legislative, and judicial opportunity. Within the system, only that course will reverse the decades-long deterioration of this country and improve the future for the people; only that course will halt the accelerating slide towards a plutocratic national neo-fascism, prevent the eventual appearance of the well-justified but unpredictable pitchfork brigades, and ensure preservation of the Republic.

The perceptive reader will have noticed that in focusing on a Democratic failure of courage, my critique of Democrats has been much narrower in scope than it could have been. Considerably more damning assessments equating them to Republicans and attributing their political behavior to a complete sellout to corporatist, plutocratic, and/or military-industrial forces have been made, backed by substantial evidence. But while the influence of these corrupting forces is certainly large and sometimes even dominant, I believe that the situation is frequently more nuanced, with a mixture of mutually-reinforcing causes at work. The outrageous cost of campaigns, the human tendency to follow the path of least resistance, the political careerism of those who hold political office, coupled with their egotistical tendency to see themselves as indispensable, thereby rationalizing any action in order to retain such office — all contribute to the current situation.

But whatever else may have contributed, the failure to demonstrate political courage in support of rationality and social justice has played a significant role. Notably, a dearth of courage is potentially the most easily remedied factor, ultimately dependent as it is only upon oneself. Such political courage (or lack thereof) from current and future politicians — and if necessary, directly from the downtrodden ordinary citizens who may yet bring us a transformative “American Spring” — will ultimately be decisive in determining the future of this nation.

Copyright: Fred Drumlevitch. Permission hereby granted to any registered voter (but not a commercial website or publication) to copy this post in whole or in part for the express purpose of directly transmitting it to one or more Democratic Party politicians, provided that attribution, a link to the original complete post, and notice of any excerpting are all included.

Fred Drumlevitch blogs irregularly at

He can be reached at: FredDrumlevitch12345(at)

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Sadist in Chief

Poor Barack. He is all upset because the Slaughter of the Innocents has failed to achieve its disaster capitalism purpose -- inspiring his fellow politicians to bargain away the social safety net just when the national attention is conveniently focused on marathon funeral processions in Connecticut.  Those selfish Republicans have disobeyed a cardinal rule of the Shock Doctrine, which is that you never let a good crisis go to waste.The optimal time to pounce and ram through programs that hurt people is when people are already hurting too much to notice or care.

 Barack Obama actually mouthed that precept right out loud at his press conference yesterday:
But, goodness, if -- if this past week has done anything, it should just give us some perspective. If there’s one thing we should have after this week, it should be a sense of perspective about what’s important.... And when you think about what we’ve gone through over the last couple of months -- a devastating hurricane, and now one of the worst tragedies in our memory, the country deserves folks to be willing to compromise on behalf of the greater good and not tangle themselves up in a whole bunch of ideological positions that don’t make much sense. So I remain, not only open to conversations, but I remain eager to get something done. I’d like to get it done before Christmas.
This is what Obama's Nightmare before Christmas would look like: the sneaky “chained” Consumer Price Index would cut as much as $225 billion in spending over the next ten years, half of it from retirees collecting Social Security and the rest from the pensions of retired federal workers, and other undisclosed benefit payments. The expiration of the "Bush" tax cuts would now be extended to families earning above $400,000 a year, an increase from his previous $250,000 line in the quicksand. The partial payroll tax holiday will expire regardless of whether a deal is reached, thus adding a few thousand more in deductions from the average paycheck. The tax on wealthy investors' dividends would decrease from 39.6% to 20%.

The sound of Marley's ghost dragging his chains across the floor was the start of Ebenezer Scrooge's nightmare. But old people bound in chains and strangling on cat food seems to be fodder for an Obamian wet dream. While Scrooge was scared into developing a conscience, Obama will only evolve the semblance of one if it is politically expedient for him to do so.  

The only thing saving us from his grandiose bargain, for the time being anyway, is that John "Plan B" Boehner is still as crazy as he ever was. The frenemy of our imaginary friend is our friend.  

Monday, December 17, 2012

Coldly Sadistic Passions

I knew we were in trouble the minute I read this New York Times headline:
Newtown Shooting May Cool Washington’s Partisan Passions
White House mouthpiece correspondent Jackie Calmes writes that the slaughter of 20 first graders has a miraculous silver lining! It seems that mass infanticide is magically greasing the skids of the Two-Man American Catfood Team. Boehner and Obama may be coasting to the finish line* in the Grand Bargain Olympics! They're putting the brakes on just in time to avoid that terrible horrible plunge down the pretend Fiscal Cliff.
BobamaRama DingDongs
Other players on the corporate media's Trial Balloon Team are signalling that our Social Security benefits will be cut after all, thanks to that sneaky cost-of-living adjustment known as chained CPI. It's sneaky, because not only will our lifetime benefits be cut, but middle income people will actually end up paying more in taxes now for less generous monthly checks when they retire. Dylan Matthews of The Washington Post explains the horror so I won't have to:
The group getting the biggest tax hike is families making between $30,000 and $40,000 a year. Their increase is almost six times that faced by millionaires. That’s because millionaires are already in the top bracket, so they’re not being pushed into higher marginal rates because of changing bracket thresholds. While a different inflation measure might mean that the cutoff between the 15 percent and 25 percent goes from $35,000 to $30,000, the threshold for the top 35 percent bracket is already low enough that all millionaires are paying it. Some of their income is taxed at higher rates because of lower thresholds down the line, but as a percentage of income that doesn’t amount to a whole lot.
Meanwhile, consummate centrist cheerleader Jackie Calmes is framing this as a great victory in her news analysis. You may remember that she'd dutifully helped get the austerity ball rolling with her recent puff piece about the Catfood Duo of Simpson & Bowles. The Chained CPI Plan of Death comes direct from their shriveled little reptilian brains.
 Think about it this way -- two other political hacks named Obama and Boehner are actually using the slaughter of children as cover for slaughtering old people. In the stifling world of Jackie Calmes, anyway, children's deaths are having a "salutary effect" on the deal made in hell. Her nauseating analysis:
While seemingly unrelated — the emotionally wrenching holiday-season massacre of 20 first graders and six of their guardians, and Washington’s mind-numbing fiscal fight to reduce deficits — the first cannot fail to have a salutary effect on the latter, say veterans of Washington’s partisan wars from both parties.  (I am taking bets on whether the initials of these "veteran insiders" are B&S).
For all their dissimilarities, past horrors — like the 1995 bombing in Oklahoma City, the 1998 killings of two Capitol policemen, the Columbine school murders the following year in Colorado and certainly the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 — at least for a time cooled partisan passions that had been high beforehand, and in some cases prompted bipartisan actions on unrelated matters. (The two factions of the Money Party came together in a wondrous Kumbaya moment to repeal the Glass-Steagall Act just a few months after the massacre at Columbine High School. And who could forget the way they joined forces to kill the Bill of Rights after 9/11? Ain't disaster capitalism da bomb?)  
Yeah, put the emphasis on the "unrelated matters." If you were thinking, as I was for about five minutes, that Obama meant what he said at last night's memorial service and would be bully-pulpitting on gun control today, you were sadly mistaken. To the contrary -- the White House is already tamping down any great expectations. Spokesman Jay Carney was characteristically mealy-mouthed:
 "I think we all recognize that this is a complex problem and there are obstacles to taking action coming from a variety of places. What the president hopes is that everyone steps back and looks at the situation that has to be addressed and thinks broadly and thoughtfully about how we can move forward."

Carney suggested that the most Americans can immediately expect to see out of the White House will be an effort to engage the public "in the coming weeks." (wait till after Christmas when low attention spanned citizens will have forgotten all about Newtown.)
But back to our looming diet of cat food. Paul Krugman is on the fence about it, agonizing over whether we should agree to a bad deal in order to save the most vulnerable from an even worse deal. His commenters (me included) are understandably gobsmacked. This is just one more chapter of lesser-evilism in the 50 Shades of Sadism series of schlock that we are being forced to listen to, day in and day out.

* The Times is now reporting that Obama made the latest counter-offer. Obama put Social Security on the table. He didn't cave, he didn't capitulate. He is simply making good on his promise to piss off his base. Now we have to hope that the Republican wingers will give it a thumbs-down and we can all merrily sled down the slippery slope.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Normalization of Tragedy

Will the massacre of 20 schoolchildren in Connecticut go down in history as the tipping point when a nation finally regained its sanity and just said no to the gun culture and the politicians who enable it?

It's too soon to tell about our rulers and their incestuous bedmates in the mass media. After all, when Gabby Giffords was shot, predictions were that the shooting of a congressperson would finally knock some sense into some thick congressional skulls. It did not. But it does appear that regular people are now speaking out with an outrage, indignation and anguish that we have heretofore not heard. We may finally have had enough of the crocodile tears of politicians who send their prayers and their hugs and their rah-rah stories of our exceptional American resilience in the face of unspeakable tragedy, how we are a good nation at heart, and how we always come together at times like these.

The execution-style murders in an upper-middle class bucolic Connecticut town bear a chilling similarity to the massacre in Afghanistan last spring, when Sgt. Robert Bales took a walk and methodically slaughtered 16 people, more than half of them children asleep in their beds. Official reactions, of course, were chillingly dissimilar.

President Obama, on the Afghanistan mayhem: “This incident is tragic and shocking, and does not represent the exceptional character of our military and the respect that the United States has for the people of Afghanistan."

President Obama, on the Connecticut mayhem: "We’ve endured too many of these tragedies in the past few years. And each time I learn the news I react not as a President, but as anybody else would — as a parent. And that was especially true today. I know there’s not a parent in America who doesn’t feel the same overwhelming grief that I do."

I got the transcript of Obama's remarks from his favorite neo-liberal think tank -- the Center for American Progress. The heading for this message of heartfelt paternal condolence was, unbelievably, War Room. That a president who claims to speak as a parent has his PR outfit send out a copy of his speech as though it came from a bunker under siege is proof positive that the imagery of weapons and killing and death and paranoia pervades our culture from top to bottom.

When children are killed abroad by sanctioned military terrorists, we throw bags of money at their families to make them shut up.

When children are killed in the Homeland by unsanctioned domestic terrorists, we throw bags full of prayers at their families to make them shut up.

When children are killed in "tribal areas" by robotic terrorists, we simply deny that they ever even existed in the first place. 

And if all else fails, we blame the children themselves for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. There's really not much difference between Mike Huckabee stupidly blaming lack of prayer in the classroom for Friday's carnage, and American imperialists blaming dead Muslim children for picking the wrong parents. Just last week, news broke that American and British troops are deliberately targeting children in Afghanistan, because by their very existence in a war zone, they demonstrate "hostile intent." Wow. I must have missed the outpouring of regret from the generals and the outpouring of grief from the commander in chief.

The corporate media coverage of child murders here and child murders there is also markedly different. The lead paragraph in the New York Times story on the Afghanistan massacre:
Stalking from home to home, a United States Army sergeant methodically killed at least 16 civilians, 9 of them children, in a rural stretch of southern Afghanistan early on Sunday, igniting fears of a new wave of anti-American hostility, Afghan and American officials said.
And the lead paragraph from the Times story on the Connecticut shootings:
A 20-year-old man wearing combat gear and armed with semiautomatic pistols and a semiautomatic rifle killed 26 people — 20 of them children — in an attack in an elementary school in central Connecticut on Friday. Witnesses and officials described a horrific scene as the gunman, with brutal efficiency, chose his victims in two classrooms while other students dove under desks and hid in closets.
The Times didn't get around to adding the horrific scenes and eyewitness accounts of the Afghanistan murders until deep into the article -- and then, only after quoting the president and the generals about what an "isolated incident" it was, after more than a decade of cumulative isolated incidents resulting in the deaths of thousands of Muslim civilians.

What if the Connecticut story had been framed like this: "A 20-year-old man wearing combat gear and armed with pistols and a semiautomatic rifle killed 26 people -- 20 of them children -- igniting fears of a new wave of anti Second Amendment hostility?"

People would have called it tasteless, and worse, to dwell upon the plight of official reputations and special interest groups instead of on the victims and their families. But for all their platitudinous blather, that is just how the White House and all but a handful of our politicians are squeamishly trying to protect their own reptilian hides. Spokesman Jay Carney was rightly castigated for his whimpering that "today is not the day" to discuss gun control.

Roxana Green, whose young daughter was killed in the Tucson shooting that wounded Gabby Giffords, has had enough. As one of the many victims of lax gun laws and presidential prayers, she points out that the day to discuss gun control was yesterday, a month ago, a year ago, 10 years ago. In an accompanying email to  a petition for stricter gun laws, she writes
I've heard a lot of promises from politicians since my daughter was murdered in Tucson, Arizona, including President Obama. But I am still waiting for them to act.
And I'm not alone in my frustration. As horrible as it sounds, mass shootings have become common in our country, and 34 Americans are murdered with guns every single day. That means 48,000 people will be murdered with guns in the president's next term. Yet our broken laws remain broken, and our leaders have yet to step forward with a plan to end gun violence.
A petition seeking new gun control legislation has been posted on the White House website and garnered 25,000 signatures in the first hour.

Politicians who urge prayer and forebearance instead of acting to protect the citizenry should just resign and ponder their hypocrisy somewhere else. And that includes the paternalist in chief, who recently signed legislation allowing people to carry concealed weapons in national parks and on Amtrak trains. If he can't stand the heat against packing heat, he should just get out of the kitchen.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Cutting Throught the Biparticrap

Now that the gossip rag known as Politico no longer has the Contest Between Two Evils to slobber over, they've taken to slobbering over the imminent bipartisan gutting of the New Deal. Read between the lines of Crafting a Boom Economy by Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen, and you will get a frightful peek at the slimy greed creature lurking just beneath the surface of the Beltway Black Lagoon.

Gimme Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Huddled Masses!

As Jonathan Chait* points out, the authors have actually written an exposé of oligarchic-political incest without even realizing it, seeming to dwell instead upon the thrill of getting inside access to all those movers and shakers. It's a veritable Who's Who of the Ruling Class and what makes them tick. It gives a blow-by-blow account of how they plan to blow us to smithereens. Some excerpts:
Most politicians in the most powerful positions in Washington agree in private that there are a half-dozen or so big things they could and should do that could put a rocket booster on the U.S. economy — but they are too timid to say it in public. (translation: they want to steal from the poor and give so much to themselves that they'll explode with their own gaseous excess. The only thing holding them back is the thought of pitchforks and torches.)
This is the clear takeaway from conversations we have had over the past three months with top lawmakers, officials, their senior aides and the CEOs who advise and lobby all of them. Many of the conversations were private but many were not. (translation: public officials and CEOs are in it together up to their piggy little eyeballs.)

The current tax-and-spending debate only flirts with what these insiders say needs to be done. Instead, top White House and congressional leaders talk privately of the need for tax reform that goes way beyond individuals and rates; much deeper Social Security and Medicare changes than currently envisioned; quick movement on trade agreements, including a proposed one with Europe; an energy policy that exploits the oil and gas boom; and allowing foreign-born students with science expertise to stay here and start businesses. (The Fiscal Cliff is naught but a cynical  smokescreen. The hysterical back and forthing  over the Bush tax cuts is just cover for the planned looting of the Social Security trust fund and the raising of the Medicare age. The private insurance leeches must be further enriched.  The plutocrats want those American job-killing free trade deals, and more outsourcing for cheaper labor and production costs. But they can't admit it out loud, especially the Democrats. Both parties want the tar sands pipeline and unlimited fracking. There's a growing doctor shortage, thanks to the dearth of American medical schools. Rich people, even though they're perfectly willing to cut medical care for others, are paranoically concerned about their own healthy old ages. So bring on the whip-smart immigrants trained at another country's expense, in order to benefit the American Elites.) 
“Both Democrats and Republicans privately agree,” Warren Buffett told us. “They just don’t want to be the first to speak out on their side.” Erskine Bowles, a Democrat who meets regularly with officials at the White House and in Congress, said lawmakers often plead to him: “Save us from ourselves.” ( Blustering Billionaire Bullies Buffett & Bowles Bloviate: "It is the job of the Patriotic Plutocracy to wipe the original sin of acting in the interests of regular people right off the timorous little souls of the politicians.")

The country’s most influential CEOs, who have been meeting with Obama and congressional leaders on these very topics, are telling them if they do some or all of this, investment, market growth and jobs will quickly follow. (Trickle down, trickle down, trickle down. If we throw enough of our crap, maybe some of it will stick to the walls of their minds, before it inevitably trickles down to drown the people at the bottom.) 

Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan said long-term commitments to measures such as tax reform and trade would provide a “certainty premium” that would help bring corporate cash off the sidelines. “If we can just allow people to keep their confidence up by getting some of these issues off the table,” he said, “you would see the economy grow and momentum continue to build, and unemployment continue to ease down, and housing starts [go] up and housing prices [go] up. All that will continue to build on itself.” (Repatriate that trillion-dollar stash we've been hiding in offshore bank accounts -- and don't tax it! Trickle down, trickle down, trickle down. The more we can hoard, the more we can lord. You're makin' us noyvous, see, and noyvous bankstahs make dangerous bankstahs. We'll keep up the shakedown, make you an offer you can't refuse because we're God. We can create a world of jobs in seven biblical days.) 

Jamie Dimon, chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase, is pushing immigration and tax reform. “America is poised to grow faster if we have good policy,” he said. “[Businesses] have capacity, they have liquidity, they’re well capitalized. Housing has turned. The table is being set pretty well. If we add good policy to that, it can lift off.” (Hedge funds are buying up foreclosured homes at bargain basement prices to rent them to the same people who were swindled out of them in the first place. Their elite table is set with the dregs of humanity. But they're still not satisfied. They want to extract every last ounce of blood and treasure as rocket fuel to go to that planet made of diamonds, leaving everybody else spinning without a tether in space, to be inexorably sucked into the Great Black Hole.)

By no means are any of the policy issues easy to resolve. But in almost every case, they are not new — and hardly exotic. They have been litigated by committees, commissions and think tanks for years. Next year represents the best opportunity in decades to do something about some or all of them, according to those in the trenches. ( Please see this 2006 clip of then-Senator Barack Obama pledging allegiance to the Rubinites at the Brookings tank. He will provide the perfect Democratic cover to mundanely destroy the New Deal, beginning next year. Oh, and the thought of millionaires and billionaires sweating in the trenches.... doesn't it make you want to shovel their bipartishit right back on top of them?)

The Politico pundits finally cut to the chase toward the end of their screed:
The critical problem is entitlement reform, and if taxes even have to go up to get an entitlement deal done, that still solves the vast majority of the issue,” said Kenneth Griffin, who founded Citadel LLC, a hedge fund, and is worth an estimated $3 billion. He is a Republican. (If we have to pay a few dollars more for a few years more, so be it. It's well worth the price of admission to the spectacle of watching old people starve to death in the richest country on earth.)
* Chait, who recently suggested that the Medicare age be raised to 67 simply to display how magnanimous Obama and the Wall Street wing of the Democratic Party can be, actually agrees with the policies of the plutocrats. He declares himself astounded, however, at the clueless insularity of the elites who don't factor in the labor and environmental costs of their selfishness. In other words, if you're serious about being an unmitigated greedhead, the least you can do is pretend to care about how your psychopathy will look to outsiders. And above all, be wonkish, for cryin' out loud. Give us specifics and rith-ma-tic.