Saturday, July 27, 2013

Hypocrisy In the Age of Obama

You know that letter Eric Holder wrote to Uncle Vlad promising that he will neither kill nor torture Edward Snowden if Russia sends him back? I suspect it was nothing more than a cute public relations ploy meant for the consumption of mere citizens. It's the Obama Administration's way of telling us that we're a bunch of paranoid sillies for thinking that America is anything but a big old cuddly teddy bear. And to prove its point, the White House immediately and magnanimously released two whole Guantanamo prisoners on the very same day! Scratch that -- it cleared them for transfer. They are not actually free yet, after years of being not-tortured. Torture American-style does not include force-feeding, mandatory nudity, crotch-groping, solitary confinement and all the various and sundry pleasantries used to enhance the lives of our guests.

The Holder letter is small potatoes, coming as it did right on the heels of some truly monumental White House hypocrisy, with Obama's insistence that Congressional debate does not count as debate when it comes to impeding the ability of the police state to police us. Voting to take money away from the surveillance-industrial complex is just way too blunt. (in other words, way too public.)
 
Want more hypocrisy? A son of one of the most self-serving philanthropists on the planet has written an op-ed skewering the emergence of what he calls the Charitable-Industrial Complex. This is the bait and switch scam in which the warts of the greedy right hand are hidden beneath the pristine softness of philanthropic left hand. I was happy to see this piece, because it exposes the growing and nefarious substitution of private guilt-washing for a strong government safety net. Writes Peter Buffett:
Philanthropy has become the “it” vehicle to level the playing field and has generated a growing number of gatherings, workshops and affinity groups.
As more lives and communities are destroyed by the system that creates vast amounts of wealth for the few, the more heroic it sounds to “give back.”
It’s what I would call “conscience laundering” — feeling better about accumulating more than any one person could possibly need to live on by sprinkling a little around as an act of charity.



 The Obamas are huge aiders and abettors of the conscience-laundering industry. Michelle, for example, recently parachuted into Chicago to Empower Black Youth by boosting a charity of tycoons that uses poor black youths as poorly-paid interns. It was on the very same day that Mayor Rahm Emanuel had fired over 2000 teachers from the schools attended by the same poor black youths.

Barack, meanwhile, started a new White House task force on community service of, by and for philanthropists just days after the House of Representatives decoupled food stamp funding from the Farm Bill. There's a word for this state of affairs. It's called feudalism. But  in 21st Century noblesse oblige America, they prefer to call it Empowerment.

Which brings us to yet another piece of White House propaganda. I got an email yesterday with this headline: "Michelle Obama Empowers Latino Community!" Say what? With enemies like Steven King (R-Xenophobia) accusing Hispanics of having "cantaloupe calves", who needs friends like the first lady telling a roomful of mamacitas to stop stuffing their offspring full of tacos? Of course, it's totally up to the women working two or three minimum-wage jobs -- not Big Ag or Big Retail -- to do the stepping up. (another weasel phrase used by the powerful to instill guilt into the souls of the hopeless.) Thus spake Michelle:
Today, the Latino community’s buying power is more than one trillion dollars – you hear me? Trillion with a “t” – and it’s expected to increase to $1.5 trillion by 2015. So make no mistake about it, with the choices that you make, you all could completely transform the marketplace…you all have the power right now, today. So when companies step up and provide healthy choices…we all need to step up and actually take advantage of those choices.”  
Highlighting the influence of the growing Latino community, she offered these final words of advice to attendees: “In the end, we create the demand for these [healthier] products…and it’s up to us to demand quality."
That was a sneaky way of saying it's really no longer "on" Walmart. According to a recent piece in the Los Angeles Times, Michelle Obama has quietly abandoned her passive-aggressive effort to cajole the biggest corporate welfare recipient on the planet to sell healthy food at affordable prices. Walmart, it seems, is not "stepping up." Even after she gave them a whole bunch of guilt-washing publicity when rolling out another one of those public-private partnerships with the Walmart CEO last year. (Who, by the way, makes more than a thousand times the salary of the average Walmart employee.) According to Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, the first lady has gotten cold feet when it came to going to the extreme of actually holding Walmart and other corporations up to public scorn for continuing to market unhealthy food to children.

Mrs. Obama also failed to note in her speech that one of the other main causes of obesity in poor children is the de-funding of physical education in poor neighborhood schools. She neglected to mention that the Latino community does most of the low-paid crop-picking of the food that ends up on Walmart store shelves. And that her husband's White House last year even killed a regulation that would have protected the children of migrant farm families, so as not to eat into the profits of Big Ag -- and that also includes the toxic tobacco industry.

One final entry in today's Hypocrisy Sweepstakes: the much ballyhooed national boycott of Florida over its Stand Your Ground law appears to be running out of steam before it even got started. Celebrities who initially joined the cause are backing out in droves. Their excuse is that you can't punish the masses by withholding their entertainment. Disneyworld trumps Trayvon. Capitalism rules.

President Obama himself never dreamed about cancelling his own trip to Jacksonville on Thursday in order to pimp out yet another public-private partnership to improve the port system. He lent his star power for the continued taxpayer enrichment of billionaire industrialists, while once again couching it in terms of helping the middle class. His proposal would deepen a channel, enabling more supertankers to come in from Asia via the Panama Canal as part of the very top-secret Trans-PacificTrade Partnership.

Obama did not even try to disguise his contempt for working people while spewing the same old trickle-down theories so beloved of his idol, Ronald Reagan: 
Bringing in more supertankers "works for everybody,'' he said, because it means "more contractors are getting jobs" and have more money "to spend at the restaurant," which brings more money for the waitress "to buy her iPod."
He noted that manufacturing jobs are the cornerstone of the middle class, as are investments in education, science and research, but "too many folks in Washington have been cutting these investments."
Isn't that sweet? All that trickle-down tip money from rich folks will help a lovely little wage slave of a waitress buy herself a cheap iPod arriving on a Chinese supertanker. Your money will continue to flow into the Sunshine State, the secretive free trade deals will continue to flood the globe, and the Stand Your Ground law will be laughing all the way to the bank. So shut up and step up so your leaders can empower you.

21 comments:

James F Traynor said...

You're getting better all the time, Karen.

James F Traynor said...

It's mind numbing isn't - the hypocrisy. Mind numbing in its crassness, a sort of pratfall. How could anyone fall for it? Do they? Really? Or is it that they, we, have nowhere else to go. A desperate attempt to preserve hope?

The Black Swan said...

Living in this country is such a surreal experience. I feel like Alice, gone through the looking glass.

Pearl said...

I couldn't tell whether the article I pulled up about Michelle Obama Sings Praises of work of Urban Alliance you pinpointed in your column, was a sardonic report or elitist praise for what was involved. The photo of all the well dressed speakers and audience in an expensive setting was also interesting. Beyond having interns learning to dress well they are also pointed in the direction
of becoming replicas of the people teaching them.

And then this from Michelle: "Don't suffocate your voice or your experience or background. That's why I talk about being from the South Side. Don't turn your back on what got you here," she said. "You can do this, girl, you can
do it."

Talking about not turning one's back on what got you here from our First
Lady is beyond unbelievable given her track record since their South Side days.

Great column which sends chills through one's mind and body.

Will said...

I think it's time for some George Carlin again. No, not the American dream video. This one's about the hubris of humanity & our laughable attempts to "save the planet."

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NL8HP1WzbDk

Zee said...

@Karen--

I can understand the Progressive anger directed at Wal-Mart as far as its employment practices are concerned—non-union, low pay, a preponderance of part-timers who receive few or no benefits, the undercutting of long-time, local merchants, etc. —but when it comes to selling “healthy food” at a low price, well, I think Wal-Mart actually succeeds there.

It doesn't happen often, but when it's particularly convenient—as in “it's on our way home”— Mrs. Zee and I may well stop at either a local Wal-Mart Neigborhood Store or even a Supercenter to pick up some type of food or other.

Wal-Mart uniformly has the best prices in town, even for food. (As proof, if you will permit a bit of “profiling” on my part, those who are shopping there are not, typically, the same customers that you would find at Smith's, Albertson's, Sprouts or Trader Joe's; they are clearly “lower income.” )

But my observation: the healthy food is there to be purchased: fresh vegetables such as lettuce, carrots, broccoli, asparagus, cauliflower, Mexican and yellow squash, zucchini, green beans, and the like; plenty of fresh meat; plenty of fresh fruit; and the usual array of other “healthy” foods that would complement a meal composed of a meat, vegetables and some form of carbohydrate, i.e. rice, potatoes, sweet potatoes and yams, pasta, etc.

In short, what Wal-Mart offers to the public in the way of food is no better and no worse than what I might find here in Albuquerque at Smith's, Albertson's, Sprouts or Trader Joe's. ( We'll ignore Whole Foods, which is a store strictly for the rich and/or the snobs among us. I go there only to buy “Humboldt Fog” cheese, and then, only rarely.) Each of these stores has its totally unhealthy “snack section” offering—in abundance—Pepsi, Coke, Mountain Dew, Cheetos, potato chips, chicharròns (deep-fat-fried pork rinds, a local favorite), pretzels and the like, and rich sour cream (and Hatch green chile!) dips to go with all of these. But the healthy foods are there, too, just like any other unionized grocery store.

Please don't take this as any kind of endorsement of Wal-Mart's hiring practices. I'd like to see fewer “McJobs,” too. But in terms of the “healthy” food that it offers to the public—at the best price possible—Wal-Mart seems to do as well—perhaps better than—any other store.

They may be trying to poison us with lead-tainted Chinese-made candy, but not with real food.

Just my humble observation.

Patricia said...

McCompany Store. You can do this.

Jay - Ottawa said...

Brilliant, Karen, but forgive me if I point to a typo in your headline or title for the piece. The second word should have been "IS," not "in," right?

Anonymous said...

Boycotters/armchair philosophers (you too, Karen), you want to really make a difference in the lives of the common folk and actually change things? Relocate your lefty progressive a**es to Florida (or insert other wacko state) and either run for office (local, state or national) or vote for those who have a heart and some brain cells. P.S. I love this blog and I live in Florida.

Will said...

Florida? You want us to fix Florida? That's a good one, Anonymous!

P.S. Check out the hilarious twitter feed that chronicles the true-life exploits of the world's worst superhero, Florida Man:

https://twitter.com/_FloridaMan

Fred Drumlevitch said...

@Zee (and @all):

A possible explanation for why Walmart fruits and veggies were/are more affordable than elsewhere:


http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/10/prison-labor_n_2272036.html

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jul/06/prison-labor-pads-corporate-profits-taxpayers-expense

http://truth-out.org/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=1808:martori-farms-abusive-conditions-at-a-key-walmart-supplier


While Martori Farms, one of Walmart's suppliers, claimed in the July 2012 Guardian article that it was not using prison labor during that (2012) growing season, the Truthout article makes clear that they had previously.

I have no idea whether any Walmart produce is currently being supplied by companies that use prison inmate labor. But it is common practice for many industries to employ a sequence of subcontractors --- and such offloading can facilitate a retailer's "plausible deniability" and evasion of responsibility for exploitive production or distribution practices.

James F Traynor said...

Yeah, if you want to commit a successful crime you gotta have at at least one cutout. Trouble with just the one is that is you might have to kill the cutout, which requires another cutout. Too complicated, that's why they use multiple cutouts in the first place - they've learned from the experiences of others, bless their larcenous little hearts. Capone would love them.

James F Traynor said...

Fixing Florida? Reminds me of that Dutch kid and the dike. The little bastard had it easy. A look at all the golf courses will tell you that. All those big assed, bigoted racists chasing that little ball around in their psychedelic shorts and shirts will tell you that.

Zee said...

Obamacare is such a ripoff for the American public unless I have made a serious math error or logic has failed me!

According to this article,

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/29/us/detroit-looks-to-health-law-to-ease-costs.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&_r=1&

under Obamacare

“ [a] couple who are both 55 with a combined income of $60,000 might have to pay $5,700 a year, or 42 percent of their total premium... [A]dditional out-of-pocket costs of up to $6,350 per person could apply, depending on how much medical care they needed.” (So the actual cost of the policy is an astounding $13,571 for two people without the subsidy!)

I'm not saying the following to crow, but to illustrate what a really lousy deal Obamacare is.

Mrs. Zee and I currently pay $2,666 per year for what some people would consider a “Cadillac health care plan,” (or nearly so), under insurance provided by my former employer, the rates for which are the same for both current employees and retirees. So we're paying only 47% of what the Obamacare couple will be paying—after the subsidy, mind you—and there's no guaranteeing that the latter will be buying a “gold” or “platinum” policy. (Our annual out-of-pocket, or “stop-loss” caps are comparable.)

When Mrs. Zee and I transition to Medicare, we will be paying—as nearly as I can understand it—about $2812 per year (unadjusted for inflation). I'm not sure exactly what the $147 per year charge for the Medicare Part B “deductible” is, but I've added that in twice (for two people) to the base cost of $2,518 for Medicare Part B for two people. Perhaps someone out there can explain to me the $147 per year cost for the “deductible.”

http://www.medicare.gov/your-medicare-costs/part-b-costs/part-b-costs.html

Which goes to show that whether under a quality, private group insurance plan or under the government's Medicare plan, the costs to provide quality health care are the same, thanks to the power of volume purchasing.

The cost of individual policies will continue to be outrageous, no matter who picks up what part of the bill.

How on earth can Obamacare be considered a good deal for the American people? Yes, I know that a lot of people who are currently uninsured or uninsurable owing to pre-existing conditions will now be eligible for coverage, and that ain't chopped liver.

But by going through private insurers and offering individual policies—instead of using the power of volume purchasing—the government—meaning us'ns—will be ripped a new one, fiscally speaking.

Single-payer NOW! (And good luck to the people of Detroit.)

(I know, James, it's naïve of me to hope, but hope I must.)

annenigma said...

Typical of this Age of Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder actually made the statement that "The Constitution guarantees due process, not judicial process". We thought we had 5th and 6th Amendment rights, but according to the Obama administration, those don't actually involve courts. (Heads up, Ed Snowden)

Convening a Terror Tuesday meeting to go over the Disposition Matrix to select an American citizen to be killed, tortured, or held indefinitely is 'due process'. The Obama administration has also successfully blocked every citizen attempt to challenge the constitutionality of sections of the Patriot Act, NDAA, and FISA in court, claiming State Secrets privilege and denying that citizens have the legal standing to sue. Congress has also been complicit and now they can't even exert themselves to bring perjury charges against DNI Clapper for clearly and deliberately lying in order to mislead the public.

Congress and the administration have all failed to uphold their oaths to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution. But to add insult to injury, they also deny us the ability to preserve, protect, and defend it ourselves in court. They've locked the courthouse doors and left the Constitution to rot as they continue to hack away all its pieces.

A government that prohibits its own citizens from using the judicial system is not just stupid, it's CRIMINAL. It would be better for our country if we could settle all this through our judicial system, but that is no longer possible. They know they would lose, so they won't allow it.

Sadly, the only thing left for the people is 'Due Process' - our own version. It's inevitable.

Zee said...

due process: (1) a course of formal proceedings (as legal proceedings) carried out regularly and in accordance with established rules and principles—also called procedural due process. (2) a judicial requirement that enacted laws may not contain provisions that result in the unfair, arbitrary or unreasonable treatment of an individual—also called substantive due process.

--Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition

Under either the first or the second definition, it certainly sounds to me like the courts are involved in administering “due Process.”

Oh well, Holder was appointed by a faux professor of constitutional law/President, and he's turned out to be a faux U.S. Attorney General. What more could one expect?

James F Traynor said...

That's ok Zee, you gotta roll the dice. It's what it's all about.

Pearl said...

In today's e-mail I have received requests for donations to keep various liberal congresspeople in office who are trying to survive attacks from the right wingers, from Mark Kelley to help them fight against several congressmen being attacked by the NRA for wanting to install background gun checks and remove dangerous weapons from sale, from the reporter who has been observing every day of Manning's trial for which a judicial decision
will be made tomorrow, and other pleas for help for officials who are trying to bring sanity back and with details of how they are trying to survive the money and power being waged against them, ad infinitum.
It is a sordid picture of what is happening to the country and hopefully enough people will be able to keep our various representatives afloat with assistance. Money talks as we know and reading these different stories of the same battle for survival of democratic values by good people is most discouraging.

No wonder Bush, Obama have not fought to create a fair taxation system which
would be a threat to their plans. And by doing so, even projects they
institute to help matters (like Obamacare) can never be properly implemented especially since it is tied to the private interests.

Even so called enlightened people don't seem to be able to grasp the
implications of how money and power is used to kill any possibilities for
improvement in their lives. Maybe it has to get much, much worse before the balance shifts. There are more and more comments and columns and articles being published in the main press about such concerns but not until real organized protest becomes activated, it will remain at a standstill. And the current atmosphere of fear and anxiety will escalate. Perhaps a few more
exposures of what is going on a/la Snowden and other incidents a/la Trayvon Martin, may create the needed turmoil. We will have to wait and see and speak up meanwhile to outshout the enemies of democracy. We need more Karens around to accomplish this.


Neil Gillespie said...

@Karen, what about a movement for Trickle-Up Economics? This is not a new concept. Henry Ford believed in what may be called Trickle-Up Economics. Ford paid his workers top wages, and in turn the workers spent the money buying cars and creating economic activity.

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/11/10/1035007/-Trickle-up-economics

Daily Kos: "In 1914, Henry Ford paid his workers $5 a day, that was double the average wage for manufacturing jobs at the time. He did this because he wanted his workers to buy his cars."

@Fred, thanks for posting links exposing the American prison industrial complex.

UNICOR looks like a work-around the Thirteenth Amendment, through the exception clause "as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted". Duly convicted? In our corrupt legal system? Check out U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga’s congressional webpage for UNICOR. "UNICOR operates 81 factories in federal prisons across the country with sales totaling over $600 million in the last year alone." And the NYT piece How Many Slaves Work for You? and Slavery Footprint.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thirteenth_Amendment_to_the_United_States_Constitution

Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution

Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation

---------------

U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga’s congressional webpage for Federal Prison Industries/UNICOR

http://huizenga.house.gov/issues/issue/?IssueID=58023

Federal Prison Industries, also known as, UNICOR, is a government-owned corporation that employs federal prisoners to manufacture products and perform services to fulfill contracts that are sold to executive agencies and departments in the federal government. Examples of these products and services include clothing and textiles, office furniture, electronics, fleet and industrial products, recycling, and services such as call center and help desk support. UNICOR operates 81 factories in federal prisons across the country with sales totaling over $600 million in the last year alone.

------------

New York Times: How Many Slaves Work for You?

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/01/opinion/how-many-slaves-work-for-you.html

Slavery Footprint

http://slaveryfootprint.org/

Prison labor booms in US as low-cost inmates bring billions

http://youtu.be/CySzoJFkTA8

------------------

UNICOR We’re life changing

http://www.unicor.gov/

UNICOR Federal Prison Industries, Inc.

http://www.bop.gov/inmate_programs/unicor.jsp

What Is UNICOR? Federal Prison Industries (commonly referred to as FPI or by its trade name UNICOR) is a wholly owned, Government corporation established by Congress on June 23, 1934. Its mission is to employ and provide job skills training to the greatest practicable number of inmates confined within the Federal Bureau of Prisons; contribute to the safety and security of our Nation’s Federal correctional facilities by keeping inmates constructively occupied; produce market-priced quality goods and services for sale to the Federal Government; operate in a self-sustaining manner; and minimize FPI’s impact on private business and labor.

Fred Drumlevitch said...

@Neil (and @all):

Thanks for the UNICOR and SlaveryFootprint info.

Here's something related, how U.S. prisoners were for years exposed to toxic materials via their "employment" in electronics recycling:

http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/oct2010/2010-10-22-091.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/27/science/earth/27waste.html?_r=0

http://www.justice.gov/oig/reports/BOP/o1010.pdf

Yes, there is intelligence in FL said...

Here's a guy who's not only looking to fix Florida but your sh*t too: http://slate.me/13qTm8f

Menschen like Alan Grayson and my 75 year old mother aren't giving up just because the going is tough.