Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Fifty Shades of Greed

 Since so many retail behemoths are starting their traditional Black Friday sales a day early to get a leg up on the competition, what once was a shocking anomaly is now the new normal. Somebody even suggested that we do away with the whole Norman Rockwell feel-good theme, and rename Thanksgiving "Gray Thursday."

What sacrilege. It has the traditionalists seeing red while the retailers see the ever-dwindling green of the American consumer. Of course, this uniquely American holiday has long been devolving from that whole mythical over the river and through the woods scene. Because let's face it. Grandma either lives in a condo (Charlie Brown's), a nursing home owned by a lawsuit-immune consortium of Wall Street investors,  or in your basement because Wall Street wiped out her retirement account. Thanksgiving.... er, Gray Thursday, is more about the getting over on the traffic jams and through the parking lots in search of the latest piece of cheap Chinese electronics.  With underpaid workers and equally desperate consumers congregating en masse in Big Box Empire, a few purists are noticing that besides the War on Christmas so long bemoaned by Sarah Palin and the rest of the Fox gang, there's now a War on Thanksgiving too!

Remember that religious campaign to "Put Christ Back in Christmas" and stop the heresy of calling it Xmas? Well, we need to put the "Thanks" back in Giving, too. Because tragically, Thanksgiving has turned into Yanksgrabbing.  Oh come all ye faithful descendants of the Mayflower and let us restore the true meaning of the holiday! 

 
And it's not only noxious retail that is ruining Thanksgiving. The Obama administration wants you to become an unpaid salesperson for the predatory health insurance industry and talk your friends and relatives into buying health care "product" as they attempt to enjoy their food. They even supply you with a disgusting sales brochure to bring to the table. It's enough to make you hurl your pumpkin pie and go shopping at Walmart.

It goes without saying that we should boycott Walmart in solidarity with the striking workers, who seem to be finally getting under the skin of the loathsome Walton billionaires. Because they just got rid of their $11,000-an-hour CEO, and the National Labor Relations Board is bringing them to court for illegally retaliating against last year's Yanksgrabbing walkout. And have you seen their recent spate of greed-washing TV commercials, using associates to tell you how much they love working in Walmartisan? Apparently, you can get $40-a-month health insurance to supplement your Medicaid. I would hazard a guess that this junk insurance is good only for discounts on Walmart pharmacy purchases, or to partially pay for eye exams and glasses in Walmart's in-house optometry booth, or for flu shots and blood pressure checks from a moonlighting paramedic in one of those SuperCenter walk-in clinics. This is just a cynical guess on my part, mind you. Tell me if I'm wrong, and I will personally apologize to Sam Walton's ghost.


Meanwhile, the ThinkProgress War Room has put together a handy War on Thanksgiving guide for your hating and boycotting pleasure. I am not hopeful, though, that the American masses will Just Say No to Gray Thursday, Black Friday, Shoddy Saturday or even Cyber Monday. We can look forward to injuries or even death by Doorbuster. There will be at least one pepper-spraying incident over the last half-price Xbox. The scenes of desperate shoppers will be indistinguishable from scenes of desperate refugees in far-flung lands.

 
 
 
 Winston Smith, hero of George Orwell's 1984, mused that "if there is hope, it lies in the proles."
 
But in a scene that presages the Yanksgrabbing holiday extravaganza, he is quickly disabused of the notion that scarcity and poverty translate into social activism.  If only the oppressed masses "would rise up and shake themselves like a horse shaking off flies," the Party might be defeated from without.
 
Instead, one day when Smith is walking around the neighborhood and he hears a group of people wailing, it turns out to be a mob of hundreds, in despair not because of want and repression, but because there are only one or two cheap saucepans left in a bargain bin. Their faces are "as tragic as if they had been doomed passengers on a sinking ship."
 
What would happen, he asks, if all that raw human power translated into fighting over something that really mattered? "Until they become conscious they will never rebel," Smith writes in his journal. " And until they have rebelled they cannot become conscious." 
 
Fast forward to 2013, and the crowds are still fighting for the wrong things. And it's even more Orwellian than Orwell, because  those coveted "smart TVs" will be spying on the lucky consumers who out-stampeded their fellow shoppers to own one just in time for Xmas. (h/t Fred Drumlevitch.)  As Yves Smith over at Naked Capitalism puts it in her regular Links feature, Big Brother Is Watching You Watch. Even if you turn off the TV's digital collection mechanism, it will continue transmitting information and data on your viewing habits. So watch what you watch. (Or do what I do with Netflix, which does share your viewing habits. Tune in to stuff you hate, mute the sound, and go to sleep while Big Brother confusedly calculates all your hopes and dreams. In my case, it's a marathon of Deadly Women  interspersed with a binge of Extreme Couponing and a few old episodes of My Little Pony.)
 
On that cheery note.... Happy Thanksgiving, everybody! And joyful Hanukkah too.
 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Democracy Hypocrisy

The easy way out is to try to yell and pretend like I can do something by violating our laws. And what I’m proposing is the harder path, which is to use our democratic processes to achieve the same goal that you want to achieve — but it won’t be as easy as just shouting. It requires us lobbying and getting it done. -- Barack Obama, 11/25/2013, explaining to a heckler why his immigration dragnet and record number of deportations will continue unabated under his watch.
Okey dokey. So, Barack, either you weren't paying attention when Richard Nixon announced that "when the president does it, it's not illegal" or you're just making excuses again, scapegoating Congress when gridlock serves your purposes all too well. And please explain how your weasel-worded sanctimony on the rule of law squares with what your henchman Eric Holder told the nation last year about you and your extra-legal Kill List. (parentheses mine):
Let me be clear: an operation (the president says is) using lethal force in a foreign country, targeted against (anybody) a U.S. citizen who (we say) is a senior operational leader of al Qaeda or associated forces, and who (Obama proclaims) is actively engaged in planning to kill Americans, would be lawful at least in the following circumstances: First, (a politician and his minions) the U.S. government has determined, after a ( boys' club Terror Tuesday meeting) thorough and careful review, that the (fuzzy images seen from computer screens afar, of people we don't know) individual poses an (opportunity to use our military might and hardware) imminent threat of violent attack against the United States; second, capture is not (as easy as the path of droning) feasible; and third, the operation would be conducted in a manner consistent with (whatever we say at any given moment) applicable law of war principles. (our Orwellian definitions.)
And about that rule of law --  the shadow government known as the National Security Agency has dispensed entirely with the verbal gymnastics and stopped pretending that the law even applies to them. That whole Constitution thing? Whether it gets in Obama's way, or whether it gets their way, there is just no stopping them. From the recently-leaked Surveillance State Manifesto:
For SIGENT (the State) to be optimally effective, legal process and policy authorities must be as adaptive and dynamic as the technological and operational advances we seek to exploit. Nevertheless, the culture of compliance, which has allowed the American people  to entrust NSA with extraordinary authorities, will not be compromised in the face of so many demands, even as we aggressively pursue legal authorities.
They want your info and your data. They want everything from everybody. Anywhere, any time, anyhow. They want it all. And they want it now. And the Department of Cultural Compliance assures that they're getting it.
 
When Barack Obama mentioned his "pursuit of the harder path" at his immigration speech, he was once again confirming that the rule of law applies only when its purpose is to suppress and control ordinary people. Obama always uses the "hard" word when it comes to inflicting pain on regular people, have you noticed? When he wants to cut Social Security and proceed with austerity for the masses, for example, he's making those "hard choices" on our behalf.

And if the law won't do the trick, the law will be ignored. He admitted that money ("lobbying") trumps the voice of the people ("yelling out") Extraordinary people --  plutocrats, and the politicians and bureaucrats operating in their interests -- get extraordinary treatment. When generals lie, it's not perjury. When Wall Street financiers rob the country blind, they pay their paltry fines with more bailout money robbed from the same people they already victimized. And when presidents do whatever the hell they want, it's never illegal. Because their extraordinary successors will always give them cover.


Monday, November 25, 2013

Rush Limbaugh, Liberal Trailblazer

An economist from UMass-Amherst (that storied home of austerity debunking) posits that the latest right wing conspiracy theory may be having the serendipitous effect of giving Single Payer health care a much-needed shot of adrenaline.

Writes Nancy Folbre in today's New York Times Economix blog:
Rush Limbaugh’s take on the disastrous rollout of the Affordable Care Act could, ironically, warm the hearts of those at the other end of the political spectrum. He contends that President Obama knew all along that the Affordable Care Act would crash and burn, but pushed it through so that the conflagration would clear the way for single-payer health insurance.
I sincerely doubt that any mythical Obamian eleven-dimensional chess tactics played into the backroom deals he forged with Big Pharma and Big Insurance, sweeping the public option right off the table. But if the latest right wing paranoia is having a positive effect, who am I to deny the prez his undeserved credit should the ACA prove to be naught but a noxious designer gateway drug to true Single Payer nirvana?

In his column today, Paul Krugman points to the relative success of the Obamacare rollout in California, home of Governor Moonbeam and a solid Democratic legislature. Krugman contends that this bodes well for the eventual success of the kludge nationally. But my response is more along the lines of Dr. Folbre's thinking:
If the botched rollout of the ACA proves anything, it's that public-private partnerships are deals made in free-market hell. Corporations whose motives are profits over people have shown that they can't be trusted with either our wallets or our well-being. Let the problems with a law that is essentially a mass giveaway to predatory private insurance be the death knell of neoliberalism.
But let us also rejoice that John Boehner is now the proud owner of an ACA policy himself. Kinda puts the kibosh on their whole government-is-the-problem canard, doesn't it? Even a few GOP governors appear to be tiring of their roles as Scrooges for refusing to cover their most vulnerable citizens under expanded Medicaid. The political reality is that even sadists have their limits when their own jobs are at stake.
And speaking of success stories -- what about Vermont? Having just announced plans to cover 100% of its citizens under true single payer by 2017, this is the real state to emulate. People will be green with envy when they look at the Green Mountain State and notice the plummeting medical costs and great service and democracy in action.
A website is the least of it. Because even had it worked perfectly from Day One, some 30 million people were still going to be left out of any coverage at all. And that is unacceptable.
 Medicare for All would save $592 billion in the first year alone, as well as millions of lives. So what are we waiting for? Single payer, here we come!
And, to clarify once again, the "Medicare for All" bill now mouldering in the House is not the same thing as Medicare As Usual without the age discrimination. It does away entirely with the whole for-profit wasteful way in which American health care is currently delivered. Unlike current Medicare, there are no co-pays and no premiums. Everything except elective cosmetic surgery will be covered.

Vermont, meanwhile, is leading the way in un-Americanism with the notion that health care is a right and not a privilege. Already, 91% of the state's population has health insurance, and none of its hospitals operates for profit. A true sense of community, and the idea that government's task is doing the greatest good for the greatest number.... multiply it by 50, and we might get ourselves a functioning democracy if we're not real careful.

Friday, November 22, 2013

November 22, 1963

It's not a cliché to say that if you were above the age of reason 50 years ago on this day, you remember with a preternatural clarity where you were and what you were doing the moment you got the news that John F. Kennedy was dead.

I was in my seventh grade art class at Assumption School in Westport, CT making a collage out of construction paper when Sister Superior of the Order of Notre Dame announced over the loudspeaker in her inimitable Boston accent that the president had been shot and killed.  

Here are some links:

Art Buchwald's memorial poem.

Michael Winerip of the New York Times on a reunion of Kennedy's honor guard and body bearers.

A sampler of Kennedy's speeches.

Kennedy and Obama and the March of Folly by Alexander Cockburn.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Nukie Kabuki

Kaboom!

The United States Senate just went all radical and decided to experiment with majority rule, toying with the concept of democracy for a change. Awesome.

Mind you, the filibuster reform only pertains to Obama's judicial (non-Supreme) and executive appointments. Super-majorities will still be required for such goodies as extending unemployment insurance, background checks for gun purchases, restoring food stamp cuts and other stuff benefiting ordinary people. Don't get me wrong -- the federal judiciary was getting top heavy with ultra-right wingers willing to yank the last rotting incisor out of the toothless Dodd-Frank act, so it is of utmost importance for some pro-business centrists to get their chance as well.

Today's action will also, for example, allow the nomination of  Mel Watt to head Fannie and Freddie to go forward. Watt represents Charlotte, NC, home of Wall Street of the South.  Bank of America, foreclosure fraudster extraordinaire, was one of Watt's top campaign contributors in 2012. When Obama nominated Watt to be housing watchdog this year, the contributions suddenly dried up. Optics, you think? Watt's former chief of staff now lobbies for Goldman Sachs. And when  disgraced JC Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon showed up to defend himself on the Whale Fail scandal before his financial services committee, Watts conveniently found something better to do that day, and never asked Dimon a single question.

When the magical pixie dust settles after Harry Reid's ballyhooed nuclear explosion, I have a feeling that the Senate landscape will have survived relatively unscathed.

Update: The dust is settling as the giddiness subsides. See this. Gridlock in the financial interests of the plutocracy shall continue unabated.

And as if to make that point, the president made a statement in the aftermath of the vote, making it plain that the filibuster reform would be narrowly limited to his Constitutionally-mandated appointments, and not be used to pass things people actually want -- like single payer health care.

He has yet to find a cure for his chronic obfuscation. There was this piece of nonsense:
Now, I want to be clear the Senate has actually done some good bipartisan work this year. Bipartisan majorities have passed common- sense legislation to fix our broken immigration system and upgrade our courts -- our ports. It's passed a farm bill that helps rural communities and vulnerable Americans. It passed legislation that would protect Americans from being fired based on their sexual orientation.
The Democrat-led Senate actually passed a farm bill that cut an unconscionable $4 billion from the food stamp program over the next decade, on top of the expiration of $5 billion in stimulus funds allocated to the program in the wake of the financial collapse. So for Obama to glibly fib that vulnerable Americans are being helped by losing an average of a week's worth of meals is a testament both to his own sociopathy and to the complicity of the corporate-owned mass media.

The only story they and the "progressive" veal pen are spinning is that Give Em Hell Harry Reid finally grew a pair, and so now the Republicans are out in force with their castration gear.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Hard Times in Walmartistan

The only thing more amazing than Walmart holding a Thanksgiving food drive for its indigent employees is the fact that they're even allowing one to be held at all.  Because according to one Walmart propaganda flack,"we provide good jobs and unparalleled opportunities for our associates!"

These matchless opportunities include an average hourly wage of $8.80, even after many years of toiling away at the giant retailer. Other opportunities include the ability to get food stamp assistance and Medicaid on the taxpayer dime, while the Walton family continues to amass its own unparalleled wealth. You've heard all the disgusting stats by now: the six Walton billionaires possess as much wealth as the bottom 42% of all Americans combined. They're so rich that they craft their own legislation at both the state and federal levels in order to avoid paying taxes on any of it. Their tax liability is actually in the minus category, given all the corporate welfare they rake in.

So naturally, the Thanksgiving season is an unparalleled opportunity for poor workers to experience the joy of spreading the penury. The Waltons themselves are not believed to be participating.

The Thanksgiving food drive is necessary because the average food stamp recipient is now losing a week's worth of meals due to recent cutbacks in the SNAP program. This means the average Walmart employee is probably feeling hunger pangs right this very minute, having just spent her entire month's SNAP allotment. Store execs are probably worried they'll be fainting at the registers, the thumps of falling human bodies muting the merry ka-chings in the checkout lines. And if pickings are slim this week, they'll be nonexistent next week, when Norman Rockwell legend has it that every family in America will gather together at their bountiful tables.

And for those less fortunate, not to worry: rich people and celebrities will jump into the fray for photo-ops of themselves "giving back" to poor people at Thanksgiving soup kitchens. Assuming they're not working the Turkey Day Walmart shift.

You'll never see a Walton even pretending to love the poor. They've made their careers on cheapness and hatred for working people. The clan's patriarch, Sam Walton, made paying less than minimum wage his business model when he first started the chain.

Last spring, when Walmart experienced less-than-stellar sales because even their own employees can't afford to buy their crap any more, their execs came up with a novel idea. Why not enlist volunteer shoppers to deliver packages to their internet  customers? No pay, of course -- just a voucher for discounts at some later date. The idea never got off the ground. Apparently there were liability issues, since volunteers were expected to use their own cars.

And speaking of cars and liability.... when heiress Alice Walton struck and killed a farmer's wife many years ago with her Porsche, she never offered the survivors any compensation beyond what her insurance paid, plus $2,500 for funeral expenses. She was also never charged, despite being allegedly drunk. You can read Alice's whole sordid history here.

Meanwhile, the National Labor Relations Board is reportedly planning to sue Walmart for retaliating against workers who spoke out or walked out for being forced  to work last Thanksgiving. Negotiations for a settlement are ongoing.

There's been quite an uproar in the media recently over Walmart's plans to start its Black Friday sales even earlier this year, on Thanksgiving Eve itself. But as CJR's Ryan Chittum points out, what they're missing is that Walmart has always been open on Thanksgiving, tearing workers away from their family dinners. The only day they close is Christmas. For the time being anyway.

Always the purveyor of worker oppression and cheap imports. Always.
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Monday, November 18, 2013

Hellzapoppin?

With visions of stagnant swamps and bubble economies dancing in my head after reading Paul Krugman's column, I wonder if this morning's news is indicative of the next toxic carbuncle fixing to pop any minute now, spreading its poison all over the globe:
In early trading, the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index crossed the 1,800-point mark for the first time, and the Dow Jones industrial average surpassed 16,000 points for the first time. By midmorning, the S.&P. was flat, at 1,798.46 points; the Dow was up 0.3 percent, at 16,003.86; and the Nasdaq composite was off 0.1 percent, at 3,981.85 points.
The stimulus will keep jazzing the "folks" at the very tippy top. The rest of us keep looking skyward for all those golden drops to shower us with beneficence, and we wait in vain.
 With intervention from the Fed seen keeping interest rates near zero for the foreseeable future, equities are expected to continue to attract yield-seeking investors even after the Fed begins to slow down its monthly asset purchases. More clues to the Fed are expected with the release of the Federal Open Market Committee’s meeting minutes on Wednesday.
(snip) 
“Interest rates are not going to go anywhere for the next year and a half or two,” he (Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital in New York)  said. “As we approach 1,800 on the S.&P., that’s going to see some resistance,” he added, but noted that “all the ingredients are there for the market to go higher.”
And higher and higher and higher.... till what? They don't tell us. All they tell us is that SONY sold a million X-boxes in the first 24 hours they were on sale in the USA. As long as there are still people who can afford overpriced electronic gizmos, everything's hunky-dory. Luxury for the few, austerity for the many. Bubble bubble for them, toil and trouble for us. And they never see it coming. And when it comes, the  plutocrats appoint themselves as the only experts able to "fix" what their greed wrought by inflicting even more pain and extracting even more blood and treasure from the body politic so as to "grow" the economy.



And all this ties in so pleasantly with the news that Obama Treasury Sec. Timothy Geithner is becoming president of Warburg Pincus, a private equity firm, even though he has no experience in actual banking. Scuttlebutt has it that Geithner was hired purely for his name value. His role, according to the New York Times, will be to act as a human magnet for all that hoarded stimulus money just hanging around doing diddly-squat while it's being kept from actually doing the greatest good for the greatest number. OK, so I'm paraphrasing. The VIPs themselves are much more circumspect:
While Mr. Geithner has been given the lofty title of president, several private equity executives questioned whether he would be much more than a prominent name who would help Warburg Pincus open doors on the fund-raising side, especially with foreign investors like sovereign wealth funds.
Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

Anyway, here's my comment on Krugman's depressing piece, specifically about the "easy money" of the continuing backdoor bailout of Wall Street:
If easy money will be with us for a very long time, it sure isn't landing in the right place: the pockets of real Americans. None of that monthly $80 billion of corporate welfare known as quantitative easing ever trickled down.
Wealth disparity is now so extreme that a former Fed official named Andrew Huszar just publicly apologized for Q.E. in the pages of the Wall Street Journal.
The richest 400 Americans have the same combined wealth of the bottom 150 million, or half the population. Yet they even begrudge us the crumbs of extended unemployment insurance. a living wage, and decent SNAP benefits for hungry kids.
So -- how about just writing monthly checks to every American to help end the stagnation and kick-start the job-creating cycle? Send the Q.E. where it will do some good. Memo to Janet Yellen: Pump it up, cure the slump X 330 million. Citigroup need not apply.
Better hurry up, because change is in the air. Revolutions start in dribs and drabs. Wage slaves are walking out of Walmart and fast food gulags. Teachers are marching with immigrants on the streets of Chicago to protest the neoliberal takeover of schools and infrastructure. When United (sic -- should be U.S.) Airways kicked a blind man off a plane last week because of an "unruly" guide dog, every single passenger walked off the flight in solidarity.
“When we revolt it’s not for a particular culture. We revolt simply because, for many reasons, we can no longer breathe.” -- Frantz Fanon.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

There's No Cure For Stupid

What a way to sell the idea of health insurance to the young people of America. Automatically assume that all 20-somethings are either sluts, drunks, painkiller addicts, sexual predators, exhibitionists, or all of the above. Not to mention dumber than dirt. Not to mention cartoonish.  These ads for Obamacare are currently running (online only, thank god) in Colorado:


 
So here's the problem. Even if these attractive dissipated models existed in the real world, they'd  never in a million years be able to navigate the website, let alone click on their computers.... let alone remember if they have a computer. I think that if I were a 20-something and looked at these ads, I'd be insulted enough to go without insurance, just out of spite.
 
The subliminal message to what O-Care marketers call the "Young Invincibles" is that their wild and crazy lifestyles make them prime candidates for those middle-of-the-night E.R. visits. Getting your stomach pumped out costs money, people. (To be fair, one of the ads is aimed at mountain bikers, who presumably aren't drunk when they break their numerous bones.) 
 
And needless to say, this ad campaign is already pure gold for the right wing. It's free premium gasoline ready for the pouring on the anti-Obamacare flames. Fox News will now likely announce that the president wants to turn all our pure young folks into hedonistic freaks. Obama is hooking girls on free birth control and urging them to have lots and lots of sex! And drink lots and lots of Shotskis! (that's when kids go to a party and drink shots off a ski. In case you didn't know. I didn't, until Urban Dictionary enlightened me.)
 
Ross Douthat, resident 20-something fogey at the New York Times, is probably writing it up for his Sunday column even as we speak. Remember all the fun he had with Obama's get-out-the-female vote "Life of Julia" and how she scored those evil contraceptives before milking the State for Medicare? Poor responsible Julia pales in comparison with this latest cast of characters.
 
I truly regret that I didn't sign up for Obama's conference call* with supporters Monday night. Because I would like to ask him what the hell his P.R. people were thinking. Makes me wonder if he even cares whether Obamacare goes down the tubes, especially since the ads were brought to the attention of HHS Sec. Kathleen Sebelius at that Senate hearing. Any deniability on the part of the White House at this point is simply not plausible.
 
GOP Senators, phony deficit hawks all, were mainly concerned that the ads are taxpayer-funded or government issue. They're not. My first thought was that it was an Onion parody. It's not. Like many other aspects of Obamacare, the publicity has all been neoliberally contracted out. Funnily enough, nobody seems to want to take credit for the Colorado murketing campaign, called doyougotinsurance.com.
 
They don't got no courage, I guess.
 
 
*Update 11/19: Silly me. It was not, as advertised, a Q&A at all. But it did have its moments of humor, apparently. Such as, when the Prez told listeners he wanted to "cut through the noise" he couldn't, because the call was a nightmare of white noise and buffering, buffering, buffering. But his handlers said 200,000 people did attempt to listen in, and that's all that counts in the grand scheme of things... his numbers.
 
 

Doing the DOO

Establishment Dems, no longer quaking and quivering before the Republicans' Keep Your Plan bill, were making the rounds of the Sunday shows hurling their own DOO (Defense Of Obamacare) at the naysayers.

It was not easy. Martha Raddatz of ABC-Disney wanted to talk about Kirsten Gillibrand's presidential plans, and Kirsten Gillibrand wanted to talk about her trip to the E.R. with her asthmatic son. Raddatz was all about Obama's suffering numbers instead of actual suffering people. Gillibrand wanted to talk about poor moms with sick kids. Martha Raddatz is a rich mom with insured kids, so the two women effectively canceled each other out worse than those cancellation notices from the criminal insurance cartel. 

Nancy Pelosi was trying, too:
"This is never going to be easy," Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader, told NBC's Meet The Press. "What matters is what happens at the kitchen table of the American people and how they will have more affordability, more accessibility, better-quality care, prevention, wellness, a healthier nation."
Nancy meant well, I'm sure. But it's too bad that she failed to mention that what is really happening around American kitchen tables is that there isn't enough food on them, seriously cutting into that wellness thing.  Oh, SNAP. Nancy also failed to mention that she's open to compromise on cutting food stamp benefits even further. 

DOO, in the hands of the corporate media, is all about the fortunes of the fortunate, and who can come up with the best analogies about how 47 million uninsured Americans are personally affecting Obama's legacy. 

Scandal erupted last week when the New York Times' Michael Shear called the botched rollout of the ACA website "Obama's Katrina." DOO-gooders such as Joan Walsh sprang into action. Because when poor people died from neglected infrastructure post-Katrina, Bush flew above the misery in Air Force One and openly did not care. When 47,000 poor people continue to die every year because the ACA was written by the criminal insurance cartel and the best parts (like expanded Medicaid) delayed until 2014 so as not to endanger Obama's re-election chances.... that's different. Obama cares (pun, ha-ha) as well as apologizes. In athletic terms, no less. And then he immediately hops on Air Force One to tell rich people they have to pay for the politicians to do their bidding.

Meanwhile, the DOO debate continues to be framed in terms of the political personalities involved. I've heard it called Obama's Watergate, Obama's Lewinsky, and Obama's Bay of Pigs. If anyone has called it Obama's Waterloo, I missed it. But I'm sure it's out there.... right along with 47 million uninsured people too afraid and too broke to go see a doctor. 

What Goes Around....

Uh-oh. You knew this was gonna happen sooner rather than later. Drones are going rogue. One of America's own just attacked the same great ship of state that launched it:
The Navy says an aerial target drone malfunctioned and struck a guided missile cruiser during training off Southern California, causing two minor injuries.
Lt. Lenaya Rotklein of the U.S. Third Fleet said the accident on the USS Chancellorsville happened Saturday afternoon while the ship was testing its combat weapons system off Point Mugu.
The AP reports that two crew members suffered minor burns from the drone strike, but did not specify whether the injuries were caused by the force of impact, or by actual weapons. The drone in question reportedly was being used to test radar. There is no word yet on the fate of the drone.

Meanwhile, it turns out there really is such a thing as a boomerang drone. It's called the Phantom Sentinel, and it's so tiny that it can't be detected by the human eye. So, I doubt that the rogue drone in question was of this type, unless the two sailors injured had the corneas of their human eyes burned by humanitarian strikes of surgical precision.

"You'll Shoot Your Eye Out, Kid!  Ho. Ho. Ho."


Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Smell of Desperate Emails in the Morning

I guess the MoveOn folks didn't get very far with their email appeal the other day. When even Gail Collins and Ana Marie Cox abandon their usual playful wingnut-bashing and compare The One to an abusive boyfriend with the lame apologies, the prez finds himself forced back in wooing mode in order to salvage what little credibility he still has left.

This missive in my spam folder is so pathetic that I feel guilty parsing it. Oh, screw it:

Karen --

I want to cut through the media doing its job for a change and afflicting my comfort noise and talk with you directly about where I'm we're headed in the fight for my political life change.

That's why I'm getting on the phone with OFA supporters this Monday, November 18th.

Will you join me? My people need to crunch my numbers and measure how many folks are still susceptible to my charm offensive.

I have just over three years left as president -- and there's a lot left on my doing you to-do list. Like passing the TPP without letting you see it, cutting Social Security and calling it shared sacrifice, continuing my war on whistleblowers and journalists, and collecting information on every man, woman and child in this country. 
That's why I want you to listen to me to talk with you. You're the ones putting in the time and effort to prop up an empty suit achieve real progress, and shilling fighting to make the neoliberal agenda Americans unknowingly voted for last fall a reality. And sleazy pol that I am, I have to pretend I'm on your side while doing the bidding of Wall Street and the multinationals and the military industrial complex.

I know we all care about my legacy what the 1% we can get done together these next few years, so let's talk about how to make (sh)it happen and then I'll have my people gauge my support and put out a press release on my new-found populism.

Make sure you join Monday's call:

http://my.barackobama.com/Join-the-Call-on-Monday

Thanks -- I can't wait to catch you and all your phone calls in my net up.

Barack (when I need something, we're on a chummy first-name basis. When I am dictating something, I am The President to you bunch of assholes.)

P.S. -- It's been a while since I've been forced out of self-interest able to do something like this -- I hope you can join the call and be an unquestioning soldier in the Army of Barack.


So, whadda ya say, Sardonickists? Are you in?




Friday, November 15, 2013

The Ghost Bill

I'll give President Obama credit where it's due. By ordering the restoration of the cancelled health policies of a couple million Americans suffering from the sticker shock of, say, having to pay for somebody else's pregnancy when they themselves are post-menopausal, he's inadvertently displaying the deep sickness of the for-profit health care system itself. 

And I have to admit, watching Big Insurance Maven Karen Ignagni squirming in the bind that the predatory insurers now find themselves in, over a law that they themselves dictated to Max Baucus for their own sole profit, does evoke the old schadenfreude.

The restoration is just the latest example of the gradual chipping away at Obamacare a little more here, a little more there, until all that's left is a pool full of sick people. As any predator worth his salt will tell you, fresh young healthy meat is preferable to the diseased rejects of the herd.

There's a bill coming up for a vote in Congress today that would permanently restore the hodge-podge of cheap crappy insurance policies as well as those whose premiums are going up in order to comply with such things as pregnancy and mental health care.

But there's another another bill being denied a vote, despite the fact that it has almost 50 co-sponsors.  It's been floating around since 2011, as a matter of fact. It's called H.R. 676. Since it would end Obama's crisis of confidence in just seven short pages, and since it enjoys the bipartisan support of more than 80% of the American people, you'd think it would be welcomed with open arms. It starts out this way:

101.

Eligibility and registration

(a)

In general

All individuals residing in the United States (including any territory of the United States) are covered under the Medicare For All Program entitling them to a universal, best quality standard of care. Each such individual shall receive a card with a unique number in the mail. An individual’s Social Security number shall not be used for purposes of registration under this section.
(b)

Registration

Individuals and families shall receive a Medicare For All Program Card in the mail, after filling out a Medicare For All Program application form at a health care provider. Such application form shall be no more than 2 pages long.
(c)

Presumption

Individuals who present themselves for covered services from a participating provider shall be presumed to be eligible for benefits under this Act, but shall complete an application for benefits in order to receive a Medicare For All Program Card and have payment made for such benefits.   
 
The bill goes on to explain that Medicare for All covers preventive care, mental health, podiatry, dental care, nutritional counseling, emergency care, vision care, palliative care, medical equipment and prescription drugs. There will be no deductibles or co-pays.... no bronze, silver, gold or platinum plans to perpetuate the class system (a world in which Dick Cheney gets a new heart, but you won't, because you don't have the right health insurance or enough money in the bank.)
 
And since Medicare for All is non-profit, it would save the taxpayers $592 billion in the first year of operation alone. Everyone would pay according to ability. So what's not to love?
 
Hint: the richest of the rich, those who own and operate the government of the United States, do not give one crap over whether other people live or die. The greatest good for the greatest number does not apply in the Land of the Free. It's the dogma of I've Got Mine.
 
Just ask Dick Cheney, out plugging his new book with the chilling title of "Heart." Gwen Ifill of PBS did sort of ask him about his own good fortune of an organ transplant, given that 45 million of his fellow citizens lack insurance, and an estimated 47,000 people a year die because of it. He is definitely worried about this critical situation:
 
The thing I worry is that, in the rush to Obamacare and the problems that are arising with the program and the Web site and so forth, that there's a real danger here that we will do serious damage to what is the world's best health care system. And I really believe it is.
For example, things such as the device tax, there's provision in the new bill for -- the new law for medical devices to be taxed. That raises serious questions about the ability to continue the pace of innovation and, in effect, to save my life with stents, implantable defibrillators, left ventricular assist device, and so forth.
 
So, all righty then, we got the selfishness part out of the way. Cheney and his cohort have droit de seigneur when it comes to health care. What is wrong with you people, he fumes, for not realizing that a caste system exists in American medical care?
Well, the care I got in terms of the procedures and the medications and so forth is available to anybody who is in the system.
So I didn't get anything extraordinary there. What happened to me, because, as vice president, obviously, the country has an interest in the health and capability of the president and vice president, that's why there's a thing called the White House medical unit, just like Secret Service protection -- it's a part -- it goes along with the job, but it's not a perk.
It's something that the country has an interest to seeing to it that we keep the president and vice president as healthy as possible.
The rest of you peasants are on your own. Either stay sick, or grab your pitchforks and torches.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Saving Privatized Obamacare

I got this in the email today (my few little tweaks serving to reveal the whole subliminal message.) 

Dear MoveOn member,
There's no sugar-coating it: Obama(care) is in serious political trouble. And Obamabots progressives need to step up and start shelling out fighting to save him it right now.
Obviously, the man law itself is still really good at bullshitting. But it's clear to everyone that rolling us rollout has been badly botched—and now Republicans smell blood in the water. They think this is their chance to undo the whole thing. Worse yet, some Democrats in Congress are starting to waver too.
 
Yes, I can. contribute $3 to help save Obama(care.)
There's no excuse for the problems with the president website. We all know that. But the propaganda website will be fixed.
And we can't let a bad bout of presidential bullshit website undercut the most important expansion of neoliberalism the social safety net since the 1960s.
Already, a pitifully small percentage millions of young adults, people with pre-existing conditions, and low-income Americans hope they have health coverage today because of Obamacare. And millions more will get coverage maybe someday soon if only the law is allowed by Obama himself to keep working. Thirty million will remain uninsured.
We'll start by calling out Republicans as well as Democrats but not including Obama who support efforts of Obama himself to delay, defund, or roll back key parts of the law that might inconvenience employers and big money donors. We'll also counter the Republicans' misinformation campaign by petitioning media outlets to correct their false reports. We're also running ads on Facebook and in college newspapers to reach young people and pump up our donor email list—who are so important to get registered for health insurance.
But the clock is ticking for the Democratic veal pens. If we don't shift the momentum soon, it could be too late to save this president law we fought so hard for.
Thanks for all you do.
Mark, Alejandro, David, Linda, and the rest of the team

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Mea Minima Culpa

It's been quite the week for MOTU crocodile tears. So without further ado, welcome to The Four Horseshitters of the Apologlypse:

First, there was Barack's lawyerly parsi-pology on LikeitkeepitGate. What he meant to say was that if you liked the policy you stupidly bought after the political sleazoids delayed and delayed and delayed actual implementation of the ACA to make it "deficit neutral" and to hell with desperate people trying to hold on for dear life, you could keep it until the insurance predators kicked you to the curb. Unfortunately, this convoluted explanation was not conducive to a TV sound-bite. His numbers are in the toilet.

Second, Lara Logan writhed out her breathy canned Benghazi bathos in a dress tight enough to gain immunity from getting canned. Digby has her pegged -- mediocre and Manichean. On the few occasions that I still tune in to 60 Minutes and see that Lara Logan is doing a story, I immediately turn the channel. I don't think there was ever a Logan piece glorifying war that did not include a provocative shot of her khaki-clad butt entering a Blackhawk. This woman is the epitome of war porn.

Number Three: a bankster bigwig named Andrew Huszar, no doubt hoping to save his own skin from the Elizabeth Warren Flay-a-Thon, finally says Sorry to America. He admits that Quantitative Easing is nothing but corporate welfare for financial predators. The rich are robbing the poor. Nothing is trickling down to Main Street and nothing was ever meant to trickle down to Main Street. The swollen prostate of the Plutocracy continues to hamper the flow while paradoxically flushing regular people down the toilet.

Last but not least of the Feckless Four: Lloyd Blankfein. Now that he's been dubbed a "thought leader" by the corporate media, and now that his pals Bill and Hill need to re-establish some populist cred, the Goldman Sachs CEO is also compelled to enter the gold-plated confessional. From doing "God's work" in crashing the economy in 2008, Blankfein now grudgingly regrets how his firm handled the peddling of toxic collateralized debt obligations, or CDOs. Mind you, his is definitely the most minimalist minima culpa among today's quartet of obsequiousness. The only thing Blankfein rues is that he didn't control the narrative enough, resulting in a bad rap to his rep. Truly, the man is physically incapable of giving a shit about all the people whose lives he helped ruin:
And, post-crisis, I wish I had gotten off - a little quicker off the mark in describing who we were and what we did as a firm and how we looked to the world before everybody defined us for us," he continued. "We were competing against an existing narrative - it's very hard to get out of (that)."
Blankfein is still getting off, wouldn't you say? No truth, no consequences, no penance.

These Four Frauds of the Apocalypse see the populist handwriting on the wall, every last sorry one of them, and they're scrambling to feel our pain to the best of their sociopathic abilities. The trouble is, they're only good at propaganda and raking in the dough.

Their pathetic attempts to display any vestige of humanity are falling flat. The more that they half-heartedly beg forgiveness from their victims, the more they stand exposed in all their jingoism and greed and venality. The centrism of neoliberalism is not holding, thank goodness. Let's just hope that their collapse is not our collapse.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

When Income Inequality Is All the Rage

Everybody who's anybody in the ruling media class is all atwitter over Noam Scheiber's New Republic piece, officially introducing Elizabeth Warren as the antidote to the serial inevitability of Hillary Clinton.

With the ascension of mildly progressive Bill de Blasio to the New York City mayorality this month, Occupy has risen from the premature grave that the corporate media dug for it in 2011 in order to make room for the re-election campaign of Barack Obama.

But the president's approval ratings have plummeted to all-time lows. Obamacare is a universally acknowledged mess, not least because it's hitting some affluent Obama supporters right in their wallets.  And now that heiress apparent Hillary has been caught red-handed buck-raking from the universally hated Goldman Sachs, the Beltway pundit class has officially acknowledged Warren as the next big thing, elevating her to rock star status as Populist Goddess.

So it looks like this might be the week that Obama achieves irrevocable lame duck status. Former supporters are openly calling him a liar, both on health insurance and on the security state. Immigration reform is dead. And columnist to the plutocrats Bill Keller penned an op-ed echoing the disenchantment of the moneyed class with the weak politician they were counting on to deliver up the New Deal to them on a silver platter. (Needless to say, the comments were withering, both on Keller and on Obama.)

You know your presidency is a failure when even a Democratic senator is now calling for an investigation of the failed rollout of your signature achievement. The Republicans must be kicking themselves at this point over their misguided government shutdown over Obamacare.

The media hates a vacuum. So now we have an uprising of "The Left". But as per usual, what passes for the left is snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Because at the same time they're calling for an Elizabeth Warren challenge, they immediately let you know it's a head-fake. They  see Warren as a scold to nudge Hillary the Inevitable away from her ingrained plutocratic centrism. In other words, the Clintons had better start talking the populist talk if they want their One Percent candidacy to gain any public traction. From The Hill:
The goal of such a challenge wouldn’t necessarily be to defeat Clinton. It would be to prevent her from moving to the middle during the Democratic primary.
“I do think the country would be well served if we had somebody who would force a real debate about the policies of the Democratic Party and force the party to debate positions and avoid a coronation,” said Roger Hickey, co-director of Campaign for America’s Future, an influential progressive group.
Adam Green, another progressive activist, suggested that Hillary should maybe address income inequality and support the reinstatement of Glass-Steagall while she's collecting her six-figure speaking fees in closed meetings with banks and corporations. 

With such advance notice that she'll be used as a populist prop, I am sure Elizabeth Warren will be eagerly jumping into the presidential ring any minute now. Of course, there's always the chance that she actually will get the nomination despite the passive-aggressive endorsements. Never say never. Also never say never to a third, fourth or fifth party. Or a revolution not predicted or approved by Washington insiders.

As if reading disaffected minds, the centrist think tank known as the Center for American Progress is starting up a special Inequality offshoot to "investigate" the class war. It's headed by lobbyist John Podesta, a corporate Clintonite from way back. They'll be searching for the root causes of wealth disparity, as if they actually think the causes are still a deep dark mystery.

So Hillary will inevitably be following in the footsteps of Boss Obama and talking the populist talk sooner rather than later. Like Obama, she'll be sending her operatives to corporate boardrooms to give them a reassuring wink and nod.