Monday, December 7, 2015

All Is Calm, All Is Fright

President Obama is a master of the mixed message, and last night's address to the nation was no exception.

First, there were the skewed optics. Although staged in the small setting of the Oval Office, Obama forsook his desk and chair, choosing rather to stand at a podium before two completely unnecessary, auditorium-strength microphones. Instead of exuding fireside chat intimacy, Obama's purported reassurances were those of an avuncular armchair general rallying the anxious troops. It actually sounded more like a karaoke practice session conducted in the privacy of his bathroom.


Oh Pentagon, Oh Pentagon, How Beautiful Thy Branches


Then there were the words themselves. Although lauded by the New York Times  as being "tough, but calming," Obama did in fact try to placate his right-wing critics by resurrecting the alarming and once-abandoned "war on terrorism" jingoistic rhetoric of George W. Bush. Never once did he directly call out the fascist demagoguery of the Republican Party in general, nor the verbally dangerous Donald Trump and Ted Cruz in particular. From the Times editorial praising the speech:
The speech signaled how worried the White House has become about the trajectory the war against the Islamic State, or ISIS, could take if a sense of widespread panic, turbocharged by election year politics, started shaping domestic and foreign policy. While he didn’t unveil new initiatives, Mr. Obama called on Americans to reject the impulse to take actions based on fear.
“Even in this political season, even as we properly debate what steps I and future presidents must take to keep our country safe, let’s make sure we never forget what makes us exceptional,” he said. “Let’s not forget that freedom is more powerful than fear.”
Obama would have done better to urge the citizenry to shut off CNN and Fox and other corporate media outlets that have a vested financial interest in keeping the fear alive and the wars continuing.

He also ceded unnecessary xenophobic ground to Republicans and some Democrats who've demanded a stricter vetting process than the already draconian procedure for admitting refugees from Syria and other regions. He even falsely implied that the female shooter had entered the United States without a visa. She did, in fact, possess a fiancee visa. (The official transcript of the speech now bears that correction.)

The president did not profess any interest in peace. He just cited the need for more political cover to intensify the bellicosity. Those secret piecemeal surges by Special Ops and CIA troops under cover of darkness must really be getting him down.
Mr. Obama also issued a strong and timely challenge to Congress to approve a new legal authorization for the military campaign that was launched in August 2014. It’s time, he said, “for Congress to demonstrate that the American people are united and committed in this fight.”
He needs Congress to effectuate the pretense that 320 million US citizens are "united and committed in this fight." He needs to spread the blame to voters who elect the members of Congress who then give him carte blanche for war, for whatever blowback and mayhem might ensue from the further adventures of the profiteers of the Military Industrial Complex. He needs us to overcome our "sickly inhibitions" against war and bloodshed, lest we all die at an office Christmas party someday. He's about as calm-inducing as angel dust.

Oh, and by the way, Congress should do something about domestic gun control while they're also so eagerly doing Obama's bidding in appropriating billions of dollars every year for uncontrolled international arms sales and the frenetic domestic manufacture of assault rifles, grenades, tear gas, drones and nukes.

And while he urged us not to demonize Muslims, he said nothing about the thousands of innocent Muslim lives snuffed out by his predator drones. He said nothing about the letter he recently received from four former service members, warning him that his assassination crusade is creating more terrorists than it kills. As Ed Pilkington and Ewen MacAskill wrote in the Guardian last month:
The group of servicemen have issued an impassioned plea to the Obama administration, calling for a rethink of a military tactic that they say has “fueled the feelings of hatred that ignited terrorism and groups like Isis, while also serving as a fundamental recruitment tool similar to Guantánamo Bay”.
 In particular, they argue, the killing of innocent civilians in drone airstrikes has acted as one of the most “devastating driving forces for terrorism and destabilization around the world”.
“We cannot sit silently by and witness tragedies like the attacks in Paris, knowing the devastating effects the drone program has overseas and at home,” they wrote.
 The joint statement – from the group who have experience of operating drones over Afghanistan, Iraq and other conflict zones – represents a public outcry from what is understood to be the largest collection of drone whistleblowers in the history of the program. Three of the letter writers were sensor operators who controlled the powerful visual equipment on US Predator drones that guide Hellfire missiles to their targets.
 Needless to say, the Times and other major media outlets have ignored that open letter as well as the document, leaked to The Intercept by another whistleblower, revealing that about 90% of the Muslims killed by American drones have been innocent civilians, including women and children.

Instead, the Times grotesquely lauds Obama's war against terrorism in language couched in the civil rights movement. "Obama Says of Terrorist Threat: 'We Will Overcome It'," blared another headline from the Paper of Record. That article informed me that I am "jittery" about the people whom the president finally broke down and called "Islamic extremists," in a further cowardly attempt to placate the cacophonous media-political complex's demands for tougher talk. But you will be happy to know that the Times found his demeanor "serious, but not grim or angry."

Actually, I found his words utterly revolting and phony. His demeanor looked tired, gray and defeated amidst all the push me-pull you efforts to boost him up or keep him down, depending upon the corporate party persuasion of his official elite critics.

No doubt we'll miss him when he's gone, what with the looming possibility that either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump will be glaring and blaring out at us from our TV screens to announce the latest bombing campaign, with or without the official approval of a corrupt Congress.

******

Since the New York Times ignored Bernie Sanders in all the war-is-peace hoopla I gave him a boost in both my published comments on this Pearl Harbor Day. The op-eds by Hillary Clinton and Paul Krugman were so eerily similar, they might as well have been written in tandem.

First, Hillary went for comedy as she (or probably one of her economists-for-hire) hilariously feigned "reining in Wall Street."

My comment:
It's not just the outrageous speaking fees that Wall Street bankers paid to Mrs. Clinton, helping make her a multimillionaire. Her refusal to consider restoration of Glass-Steagall is the major tip-off that she will continue to be a loyal servant of the oligarchs.

Granted, its repeal wasn't the sole cause of the financial crisis. But her assertion that Glass-Steagall wouldn't have prevented the collapse of A.I.G. and Lehman is disingenuous at best.

Former Clinton labor secretary Robert Reich calls it out as pure "baloney." Where do you think the funding and the lines of credit and the toxic mortgage products for these non-banks came from? From the too-big-to-fail monsters, of course. With Glass-Steagall in place, Lehman and Bear Stearns would probably still be around today, and people wouldn't have lost the good-paying jobs that have never come back.
 Without another Glass-Steagall in place, it's not a matter of if the banks will fail again. It's when.
There is no expansion of Social Security in Mrs. Clinton's economic plan. It's not enough to simply "protect" our great national retirement program from Wall Street's clutches. We must make the trust fund solvent into perpetuity by scrapping the cap on FICA contributions, as well as raising the monthly benefits above the poverty level where they now stand.

Wall Street needs reins, all right. But Mrs. Clinton's plan is tying it up with a pretty little ribbon and asking us to believe it's a lasso.

Feel the Bern.


Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs Cowers in Fear Before Hillary


****

Next, Paul Krugman (named-dropped approvingly by Hillary during the last debate, for agreeing with her on Glass-Steagall) wonders why, since the economy is "not so bad," the Fed is going to raise interest rates. As usual, he glosses right over the Democrats' willing complicity in implementing austerity.

My response:
This Panglossian refrain of "well, it could always have been worse" is getting tiresome. It's a slap in the face to the vast majority of people trying to survive in a nation with stagnating wages, record wealth inequality, and a political system where corruption has become normalized.

If we took just a tiny fraction out of the trillions we're wasting on endless war and surveillance and put it into a national jobs program and expansion of Social Security and true universal health care, the economy would recover from "not so bad" to soaring and healthy and vibrant. But there is no elite will to change things. Money rules politics, and the oligarchs have all the money.

Yes, the Republicans are pathocrats. But the purpose of the Democrats, erstwhile party of the working class and the poor, has devolved into fending off the right wing -- that is, when they're not accomodating them. It was President Obama, after all, who had the bright idea to seat the so-called Catfood Commission for "fiscal responsibility." That worked out so well that Democrats failed to go to the polls in 2010, and austerity got underway with a vengeance.
Yes, Europe didn't do stimulus and the employment situation stinks. But its countries still provide free health care and education to citizens. Their young people may not have jobs, but at least they're not drowning in student debt. Europe also don't imprison its citizens in record numbers.

We can do better. We can fill that glass. We can elect Bernie. 
****

The main terrorism we have to fear is the economic and ecological terrorism unleashed against the entire globe by the Neoliberal Project: governance by elected officials and unelected plutocrats with just the right ass-covering smidgen of "social responsibility." 

A Plutocrat (Bill Gates) and His Puppets


10 comments:

annenigma said...

I thought Obama had a very strange affect, particularly at the beginning of his speech. Not only did his face/eyes look kind of off, but his voice was weak and higher pitched than usual, as if he was seriously stressed. He didn't come across as strong to me, but weak in every way. Something's up with him - or down.

traynorjf said...

Karen,
Very nice comment in response to the Hillary's Op - Ed column in today's NYT.
Nice to see some hope, as I do. in the 'Bern'.

Pearl said...

To Lift Quality of Life and Economy, Finland Champions Universal Basic Income (from @Truthdig) http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/to_lift_quality_of_life_and_economy_finland_champions_20151206#.VmXwdIEZJEk.twitter

Pearl said...

"Hillary's reining in Wall Street" with your top notch comment is on a par with a previous article she wrote that I sent in some columns ago and will repeat.


PEARL said...
Subject: Clinton says U.S. is 'not winning' the war against the Islamic State from The Washington Post

http://wpo.st/f79v0

Both an expose of what she will do to the nation should she get her well heeled shoe in the door. A four letter word would describe it all.

Karen Garcia said...

@traynorjf,

Thanks - nice to see you back here, missed you.

@annenigma,

Obama did look sick and gaunt to me, too. Didn't display his usual bouncy overconfidence.

@Pearl and all,

Went to check if I had any new responses to my Hillary comment, and discovered one of Trump's people, or maybe it was a satirist posing as a Trumpie, had overtaken me for most reader recommendations. Trump's latest rant against Muslims is sure to be popular among Times readers, judging from the recent highly rated xenophobic comments of many of them. All I can say is that of the whole lot of them, Trump has never actually killed anyone or started a war.... that we know of. The one and only benefit of a Trump presidency is that he wouldn't be able to keep his fat mouth shut. There would probably no longer even be a need for an Edward Snowden.

annenigma said...

Obama might feeling down because he finally realized that the Generals have been lying to him all along about winning against ISIS and he's actually losing, as in being a LOSER. That hits him where it really hurts - his ego. He must be realizing by now, a bit late, that he won't beat ISIS militarily in any way, shape, or form - not from the air and not from the ground. Why? For one thing we're on the wrong side of history, not with our values or words, but with our actions.

Poor Barack. He should have used his Nobel Peace Prize exactly as it was intended - to give him cover, a face-saving and noble backup to resist escalation of war and work for peace, but he blew it. He thought he could wage a smart war because he's a smart man (a genius according to Michelle). He even threw his huge personal army of voters under the bus instead of using us to advance a Democratic agenda - one of which was to end the wars - because he didn't have one and didn't want us in the way of his real agenda: doing God's work on Lloyd Blankfein's team.

The poor (soon to be very rich) guy must also know by now that he and his family now have to live under the threat of ISIS for the rest of their lives, protected by... the U.S. Secret Service! He'd better add his own private security force.

If he hasn't already, he should also face the fact that we have no real friends in the Middle East. Those countries just want to reap the benefits of money and power that comes from being our partners. Everyone profits from war. What's that saying about 'the enemy of my enemy is my friend'? Countries in the Middle East might not like ISIS, but I bet they like what they're doing to us and how that's benefiting them so they're playing us and assisting ISIS.

The article in The Guardian reveals much about the bureaucracy of ISIS and its sophistication and, I believe, probable high level connections. 'The Isis Papers: Leaked Documents Show How Isis is Building Its State - Blueprint lays bare new contours of Islamic state, complete with civil service, regional government and Soviet levels of economic control'

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/dec/07/leaked-isis-document-reveals-plan-building-state-syria

As crazy as it may sound, I think we should try an old familiar approach - allow them some defined territory (like the wasteland reservation), bring them into the fold by talking (lying) to them to negotiate (rigged) treaties, offer them generous assistance that will help break their fighting spirit - free alcohol would be a good start. Hey, wouldn't we rather have them centralized and doped up than dispersed? How about some gambling casinos with generous credit lines, big houses with big fat mortgages they can never pay, flashy sports cars on credit, free wifi with streaming of movies and pro sports (soccer!), etc.

In other words, make them useless. We could even give them lifetime welfare. You don't break a fighting spirit by fighting it. You do it by lulling it into obliviousness. Poppies anyone? Let's give 'getting bombed' a whole new meaning for them.

Hey, if billionaires can corrupt a Superpower democracy of sovereign citizens into an oligarchy and get away with it, anything can be done. Dropping money might work better than dropping bombs. That big new investment vehicle, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, with it's $45 billion of tax free money could be put to good use, especially if Lloyd Blankfein, et. al., chipped in a few bucks too.

Karen Garcia said...

Direct from the White House propaganda shop to my in-box this morning, Barack Obama's "quote of the day" --

"For seven years, I have confronted this evolving threat each morning in my intelligence briefing. And since the day I took this office, I have authorized U.S. forces to take out terrorists abroad precisely because I know how real the danger is. As Commander-in-Chief, I have no greater responsibility than the security of the American people."

-- President Barack Obama

Message to Donald Trump & Co: this man kills Muslims ("takes out terrorists") for you, and has been doing so for the past seven years. What the hell else do you want from him? Poor Obama can't get no respect.

Meredith NYC said...


Karen.....didn’t you once call the fervent Bernie supporters “Sandernistas” or something like that? What does that mean? Yet you say we can elect Bernie in your Krugman comment. Why do you say that? Admitting he won’t be nominated doesn’t mean rejection of his ideas. His welcome policies on taxes, unions, jobs, regulation were once centrist here and are now in other countries.

Clinton and Krugman are using the "shadow banking" excuse to avoid the Glass Steagall regulation issue. HC won't contradict Bill's action of repealing it. Different types of banks, you see. They ignore that GS prevented severe crashes for about 80 years. It was part of a larger culture of regulation that was acceptable and worked. We need this contrast to be made.

In the 90s S&L scandal, hundreds of crooks were prosecuted and many did jail time. Huge contrast. The repeal of GS and similar laws sent a message that it was ok to dismantle rule of law. CU by the court sealed the deal.

Valerie said...

Great comments - keep hittin' them outa the park. Your thoughts and comments are much appreciated.

Karen Garcia said...

@Meredith,

You're confusing apples with oranges. My problem with the "Sandernistas" -- certain fervent supporters of Bernie who will brook no constructive criticism of him from the true socialist Left and the antiwar movement -- has nothing to do with the candidate himself. It is possible to root for a liberal candidate like Bernie even if you have serious issues, as I do, with his adherence to Superpower, drones, and the like. His social and economic policies are why I think he should and could beat Hillary in the primaries. I often give him a plug in my Times comments as a way to protest the Times' own treatment of him. Regardless of what you think of Bernie, his treatment by the Paper of Record has been absolutely atrocious.

By the way, the trash talk about the so-called "Bernie Bros" by certain establishment "feminist" writers is just that: trash talk. The Bernie Bro, supposedly,is a misogynistic Bernie supporter/Hillary hater. The Bernie Bro is largely a figment of their imaginations, and I would not be surprised if he is the cartoon creation of a campaign operative direct from Hillaryland. I certainly have never met a Bernie Bro. Most of his supporters are women, as a matter of fact.

Incidentally, the latest Quinnipiac poll has Sanders beating Trump by a wider margin than Hillary -- if she beats him at all, given her own sordid history. So the next time somebody tells you that Sanders is unelectable, give them a taste of their own medicine: accuse them of wanting a Republican president. Unfair, I know, but who cares? Anyway, we will find out soon enough in Iowa and New Hampshire whether polls matter.

I still say that the motto of this presidential campaign is "It's the Corruption, Stupid!"

If Bernie tanks, I will start boosting Jill Stein of the Green Party again. Especially if he endorses Hillary as he has already promised (foolishly, in my opinion) to do.