Friday, January 18, 2013

A Scourge of Imaginary Friends

Reality assuredly bites, so the temptation to retreat into the cocoon of delusion is always there. It's just a part of being human. But too many lies and cons and fairytales have a tendency to build precariously upon themselves. And when they come crashing down, they tend to come crashing down all at once. I am talking to you, corporate media courtiers of America.

The Big Story today of course is about Heisman trophy hopeful Manti Te'o and the dead girlfriend who wasn't and the usual institutional cover-up of the fake dead girlfriend who wasn't and the usual journalistic lackadaisicality that permitted the fake dead girlfriend to live on in the continuing fictional narrative that makes America so special. I hadn't been paying much attention to this burgeoning scandal until the other day. All the elements are there: religious hypocrisy, the protection of institutions over individuals, greed, sports cheats. And that brings us to Lance Armstrong. Well no, it doesn't, because I am not going to waste any time belaboring Lance's sociopathic attempt at splainin' himself. You can get your fill about Manti and Lancey today with any random click of your mouse. I don't even need to supply you with any of the usual links.

But there is another massive con that is not getting nearly the attention it deserves. A wave of queasiness rolled over me when I read this headline in The Hill this morning: McConnell Seeks Fresh Start With the President.

I liked it better when Tortoise Face was vowing that his main goal was to make Obama a one-term president. No connection with Obama meant no grand betrayal. But now it looks at least vaguely possible that the president may achieve his Grand Bargain for the Grandees and a world of pain for the rest of us with the collusion of his new Imaginary Friend, Mitch. And even sloppy seconds Paul Ryan, who'd been missing in action since the election, crawled out of his hole this week to act pretend-reasonable. Hostage-taking over the debt ceiling is apparently off; negotiating the Petersonian cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid is apparently on, without the default threat strings attached. (update: The House Republicans have agreed to lift the debt ceiling for another three months so the cutting of the safety net can begin apace. The Obama Administration is strangely, yet all too predictably, calling this a "victory." The nausea gets worse as the mind boggles.)

It's true that the GOP nihilists are still adamantly opposed to bilking obscenely rich people out of their hard-stolen fortunes, and that is the only sticking point that may, serendipitously enough, save us from The Only Adult in the Room. The one with the extra-notched belt and the bowl of peas.

There are some bright spots on the horizon, though. A few mainstream media people are waking up from their slumbers and putting the scold's bridle right back on the nattering heads of the deficit scolds. Case in point, this must-read by Kevin Brown, exposing the Journalists in the Service of Pete Peterson.

Paul Krugman follows up with a column and yet another blogpost pointing out that the deficit, even if it were the national catastrophe the imaginarians of the plutocracy insist it is, is largely fading away despite their best tactical efforts to keep it alive. Manti found it hard to give up his fake dead girlfriend, and so too are the deficit hawks and their media mawks finding it painfully hard to relinquish the mouldering love of their own entitled lives.

The infliction of pain on ordinary people is the Petersonian drug of choice, and it's a hard addiction to overcome. As soon as you flush the Fix the Debt poison pills, another loathesome toxin appears to take its place. The Business Roundtable cadre of CEOs sat around their Hogarthian abbatoir of a roundtable the other day and called for raising both the retirement and Medicare eligibility ages to 70. Rich people are living longer and age is no object when it comes to the vast accumulation of wealth -- so it naturally follows that poor people should share the sacrifice and the pragmatic economic patriotism of their betters. The BRT, as Richard Eskow points out in another must-read piece, is a right-wing extremist organization that actually wants to kill people whom they find personally inconvenient to their bottom lines.

But that didn't stop Mr. Balanced Approach from canoodling with the BRT just last month and kicking out the press corps who, the president agreed, would only spin the plutocratic lies and the greed and the plots and the lies out of all proportion were they allowed to stay and take actual notes.

These people, to borrow a line from my Krugman comment this morning, are like cockroaches. They scurry away whenever you shine a light on them, but sneak back in to steal your crumbs the minute your back is turned. So keep the high beams on, and the disinfectant ready.

Hogarth's Fourth Stage of Cruelty Reimagined: The BRT


Kat said...

Per Outsida's comment on the previous post I checked out this Organizing for Action.
Here's what Michelle has to say!
"In terms of the specifics of what this organization is going to look like, a lot of that will be up to you," she said. "It will be determined by your energy and ideas and feedback because, after all, this is your movement. And going forward, it can be whatever you want to give it."
Gee, won't it be great when what "we" want it to be is a platform for "balanced" deficit reduction and a "strengthening" of social security!
One eager commenter at Huffpost (not exactly the highest quality commenting there, btw) has their credit card on their desk ready for when that email from the president comes.

James F Traynor said...

"Tortoise Face"?

Jeez, Karen, tortoises are gentle herbivores. McConnell is a shit of the first order, and most tortoises I know wouldn't have anything to do with him. Unless of course he offered them a succulent leaf of one kind or another. And the only reason I think he would do so would be to job off their heads and pop them into a pot. Though I wouldn't mind seeing McConnell's head on a pike.

James F Traynor said...

I meant 'chop' not 'job'. The only excuse I have to offer is my Friday martini.

Denis Neville said...

Business Roundtable’s Utopia? Euthanize the elderly as a matter of state policy

Anthony Trollope's “The Fixed Period,” published in 1882, may, or may not, be oddly relevant in lieu of the plutocracy’s concerns – the expense of old age - about the elderly.

President Neverbend, who hopes that his name will go down in the annals of history as one of the great reformers, advocates the great social experiment called the "Fixed Period,” in order to rectify two mistakes made by mankind: first, in allowing the world to be burdened with the continued maintenance of those whose cares should have been made to cease; second, in requiring those who remain to live a useless and painful life." The policy of the “Fixed Period” is intended to save society and citizens from the suffering and expense of old age.

The Fixed Period Law: the Fixed Period for life is sixty-seven years. During their sixty-seventh year all the citizens will be “deposited” at “The College” in the town of “Necropolis,” where they will be well looked after and spend a care-free year before compulsory euthanasia at the age of 68.

The aim of compulsory euthanasia was to convert death into a civic duty carried out with honor and dignity. President Neverbend calculates that the savings that would accrue to society by the elimination of its non-productive members would more than compensate for its expense.

Hailed as one of the greatest physicians in medical history, William Osler’s other claim to fame outside the medical profession was through what became known as “The Fixed Period” controversy about the usefulness of old men. Osler is well known in the field of gerontology for the speech he gave in 1905, when he mentioned a suggestion, which he attributed to Trollope's novel, that men older than 60 years be chloroformed – “the effective, moving, vitalizing work of the world is done between the ages of twenty-five and forty" and it was downhill from then on. "Osler recommends chloroform at sixty," were the headlines of the newspapers.

Denis Neville said...

Marx was wrong. The opiate of the masses isn’t religion, it is celebrities and sports.

As Karen says, the news is being dominated by Manti Te'o and Lance Armstrong.

Crying for Manti Te'o and his fake online girlfriend?

The Fighting Irish of Notre Dame are as American as apple pie.

Dave Zirin, The Nation, writes that the Notre Dame football program is a moral cesspool – a place where women alumni warn prospective female students that rape has become a part of campus life:

Lance Armstrong admits to using a sophisticated cocktail of performance-enhancing drugs to evince remorse and shame:

Is Lance Armstrong the world’s biggest liar?

If only the architects of the Afghanistan and Iraq occupations and countless illegal acts of torture, who are out on national speaking tours, and rape being as American as apple pie, inspired such attention and outrage.

Bread and circuses anyone?

Will said...

Manti Te'o is not a victim. Lennay Kekua, his fake dead girlfriend, is certainly not a victim. As the article Denis linked to mentions, Declan Sullivan and Lizzy Seeberg WERE victims. Of Notre Dame. Google their names. Read their stories. Here are a few for you:

P.S. Here's lying asshole and total scumbag Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick pulling an Obama and "crying" about Te'o at the presser the other night. (Skip to minute 32 and watch till minute 33.)

Uno Hu said...

To those of you who didn't check out the piece by Bill Maher before it quickly and mysteriously vanished from the blogroll on this site, go to:

James F Traynor said...

Uno Hu,

Thanks for the link, funny as hell - or not. Glenn Greenwald has been pointing it out, seemingly, forever. It takes someone like Maher to get it across to the general public - I think (hope).

Denis Neville said...

No Labels’ bullshit threat to the “Greening of America” and applauding Republicans rearranging the battle lines in austerity’s phony war

“If the Senate or House fails to pass a budget…members of Congress will not be paid by the American people for failing to do their job. No budget, no pay.”

“Email your lawmakers and urge them to sign-on in support of the No Budget, No Pay Act.”

The so-called "No Budget No Pay" started with the “grass roots” group No Labels, the group that says it wants to end the infighting and partisanship in Congress.

Richard Eskow on the group created by political hacks from both parties who scrupulously hide their funding sources but are associated with people like anti-Social Security billionaire Pete Peterson:

Members of Congress receive a salary of $174,000 per year, so they would lose $475.00/day. Recall that the elitist, austerian Paul Ryan bought two bottles of $350-bottle wine!

The average net worth of the American household is around $66,700.

Ninety-four new senators and House members joined the 113th Congress. According to a new analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics, the median estimated net worth of the incoming freshmen is almost exactly $1 million more than that of the typical American household. The incoming freshmen are on par with their colleagues in Congress. All 535 members of Congress have a median estimated net worth of about $966,000, according to CRP data. More than 48 percent of lawmakers, 257 to be exact, have an estimated net worth of more than one million dollars. The median average net worth of a member of the House Tea Party Caucus was $1.8 million in 2010, and its members include 33 millionaires and six members worth more than $20 million. If the average net worth of every member of Congress is added together, their total combined net worth in 2011 was about $4.5 billion.

All good Democrats, including Krugman, have declared Obama’s victorious.

But Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism asks “Why is this a victory of sorts?” and reminds us that “The reality is that both parties are fully committed to imposing austerity. The only question is whether we get Dem Lite or Republican Hi Test. But rest assured, neither version will be good for ordinary Americans.”

“Let’s put all this Democratic cheering in context: Obama is still eager to get budget cuts and “reform” Medicare and Social Security. We are likely to see those “reforms” given priority because both sides agree on that topic more than they do on how to implement the other elements of austerity, meaning spending cuts versus tax increases, particularly on upper income taxpayers. Obama does not have a strong point of view as to how deep cuts need to be, so long as he can preserve appearances that he is Being Responsible about the deficit and inflicting some pain on the wealthy. That gives him tons of room to sell out ordinary Americans.”

“They have chosen cunning instead of belief. Their prison is only in their minds, yet they are in that prison; and so afraid of being taken in that they cannot be taken out.” - C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle

Zee said...


I hope that you will not take this question wrongly, but I am puzzled by the fact that you quote quite frequently from C.S. Lewis, Christian Apologist, (amongst many other philosophers, as well).

Though it has been quite a while since I have turned the pages of The Chronicles of Narnia or Lewis's Cosmic Trilogy,

let alone The Screwtape Letters,

you know them well and quote them often, and I remember your specific quotations from distant memory.

May I conclude that a Christian scholar has had a profound moral influence on you, apart from theological implications, along with the likes of such secularists as Bertrand Russell?

If, of course, that question makes any sense at all? Like @James Traynor, it's Scotch cocktail--not martini--time in New Mexico.