Monday, October 31, 2011

Trick-or-Treating the Zombies of the Military Industrial Complex

Paul Krugman's column today is a treatise on the "Weaponized Keynesians" -- those Republican ideologues who insist that government should not be in the business of creating jobs -- unless, of course, it's the jobs created through military spending.

These fiscal conservatives love to call tax hikes on the rich and any cuts to defense spending  "Job Killers".  But as Krugman quotes Barney Frank as saying, pumping money into Defense miraculously creates a whole slew of jobs. Stimulus is so stimulating when it involves death and destruction!

So, how do we get our own pet liberal stimulus bills past the war-happy Austerians?  I think we have to start getting sneaky and creative. Just go along with the "War is So Bipartisan" theme.  Make speeches celebrating sadism, torture, death and destruction, and then call Congress and tell them to Pass This Bill Right Now!

 We could rename the endangered Head Start Program the "Douglas MacArthur Early Childhood Education Program for Future Old Soldiers Who Fade Away."  Medicaid payments to local community health centers being slashed? No problem! Introduce a bill funding Defense Against Disease centers. Millions of people will be freezing this winter due to the defunding of home heating assistance.  Put that money under appropriations for heat-seeking missiles. Mortgage relief and rental subsidies and clean, safe homeless shelters can go under Homeland Security. And when we nationalize all the too-big-to-exist banks, we can call them the "In God We Trust Companies" to make the right- wing fundamentalists go all rapturous.

Congress has a nine percent approval rating. They've been starved of oxygen under that suffocating dome. How hard can it be to get the better of them? The possibilities are endless. Let's entangle them in the spider web of their own deceit.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Snow Falling on Pumpkins

Call it the Nightmare Before Christmas, literally and figuratively. For the second time in as many months, our elitist Northeast has been pummeled by a freak storm.  Floods last month, pre-Halloween blizzard yesterday, along with the obligatory power outages. Thanks to those readers who expressed concern, and mea culpa for my lack of blogitude these past several days.  Laziness, coupled with an episode of climate change Armageddon that was amazingly unhyped, for a change.

 So what did I miss during my blackout? Well, Old Man Austerity is making a comeback along with Old Man Winter.  Apparently, the Grand Bargain is being rebargained in the Super-Committee Politburo. Apparently, these apparatchiks have not been paying attention to OccupyWallSt.  The Democrats are offering chained COLA in Social Security, again. The Republicans are refusing to even consider tax increases, again.  Stalemate!  Congressional approval rating plummets to nine percent! (I have a feeling the nine percent comprise members of Congress, their families, their bloated staffs, their lobbyist bribers, and members of the corporate media whose lives and livelihoods depend on nonstop access to Spin City).

The Washington Post is running an outrageous front-page story claiming Social Security is going broke. Of course, it isn't. The trust fund is flush with cash, even though it's been raided and the government doesn't want to put back what it "borrowed", and current revenues are less than in previous years because of the tax holiday and unemployment. Paul Krugman has the most cogent explanation.  It's short, and it won't make your head explode.

Meanwhile, according to "The Hill", the usual suspects are predicting a market crash unless the Super Committee does something. The Third Way, a neoliberal think tank with close ties to Senator-with-Close-Ties-to-Wall Street Chuck Schumer, is warning of a possible downgrade by Fitch and Moody's unless we cut, slash and burn to appease the investor class. This includes cuts to the Social Safety net. By cutting off Grandma's meds and doctor visits, we can have an infrastructure bank and build some bridges. It's the centrist American way.

My favorite line from The Hill article: "Supercommittee failure would undermine the credibility and political clout leaders need to sell their constituencies on continued deficit reduction, they argue."

(Read the whole article if you dare. It is absolutely guaranteed to make your head explode).

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Sacrificing the Elderly Poor to Protect Tax Cheats

If you're a Social Security recipient on Medicaid, a bipartisan cabal plans to kick as many of you off the eligibility rolls as possible, just so corporations can get even richer. It's all part of yet another back-door deal in which the Obama Administration pretends to be hoodwinked by Congressional Republicans. In the latest act of Kabuki Theater, the GOP leaders have agreed to pass the most right-wing portion of the president's American Jobs Act: ending a requirement that the government withhold three percent of payments to federal contractors to ensure tax compliance. But but but -- only on condition that it becomes harder for poor people to qualify for Medicaid. Somebody's gotta pay to make the lives of the rich easier, and it ain't gonna be the rich. Besides, this change in eligibility was something Barry proposed way back when The Grand Bargain was the talk of the town.

It is unbelievable but true that in these times of social unrest and ever widening income disparity, the Democrats still buy into the conservative ideology that programs to further enrich the wealthy must always be paid for by our country's most vulnerable citizens.  And even more egregiously in this particular case, it's tax breaks for tax cheats!

From Talking Points Memo's Brian Beutler, here's how the latest proposed social safety net slashing will work: 
The government uses a measure known as Modified Adjusted Gross Income to determine Medicaid eligibility. Currently, though, it only incorporates the taxable portion of Social Security income in that calculation. Under this proposal, it would factor in all Social Security benefits. That means some seniors who currently qualify for Medicaid would no longer be eligible. Doing this would save about $14.6 billion over 10 years — more than the cost of repealing the 3 percent withholding compliance measure.
In sum: make it easier for big contractors to cheat on their taxes, and covering the cost by limiting Medicaid eligibility for sick old people.
This stinks of more corrupt collusion between the Democrats and Republicans, two barely distinguishable factions of the same oligarchic uniparty.  And to think we were under the illusion that the OccupyWallStreet movement would strike fear into their venal withered hearts. They actually have no hearts. The Washington Post has all the sordid details here.

Obama himself was schmoozing at one of his endless series of $35,000-a-plate fundraisers just across the bay from Oakland the other night as riot police attacked peaceful protesters, lobbing tear gas and shooting rubber bullets into their encampment.  Earlier yesterday, he joked with Jay Leno on the "Tonight" show before heading to yet another soiree at the home of Hollywood stars Antonio Banderas and Melanie Griffith.

The usual Congressional Democrats, meanwhile, will make their usual aggrieved noises over the latest Obama betrayal. Nancy Pelosi will remain stonily silent in her passive-aggressive way, but the deal most likely will go through. These deals always do, not in small part because Obama is the Earner in Chief, holding the key to an expected billion dollar Democratic war chest. Those who don't fall in line run the risk of having their careers redistricted out of existence.

Obama Fiddles....

While Occupy Oakland Burns

** Update 10/27: The House voted to move forward with both bills last night, with just a few Democrats making a noise against the deal. New rules designed to keep the more affluent poor off Medicaid will not take effect until 2014, when all of us will be magically under the thrall of the private insurance companies, and Obamacare theoretically swings into full gear. So if you're currently receiving Social Security plus Medicaid, you're okay for a few more years. Of course, who knows what other goodies the super-secretive Super Committee has up its sleeve to balance the budget?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Secret Ceremony

If you missed the gala signing of the much-ballyhooed free trade bill Friday in the Rose Garden, it's because it didn't happen. Now, before you get all excited: the President didn't have an attack of conscience and veto it. He did his duty to his corporate masters and signed it with all due somber diligence, to their enthusiastic applause. However, there was a change of venue, which is what accused people ask for when they know das volk are kind of fed up, and Occupying Wall Street. His advisers probably told him: If you're going to flush away as many as a quarter million American jobs down the offshoring toilet, better to do it in the safety and comfort of the Oval Office.

Barry Take a Bow: CEOs Applaud Their Puppet in Semi-Darkness

Witnessing the deed was one lone Yellow Dog Dem, the nominal Labor Secretary, an AP photographer, and a handful of the richest and most powerful CEOs in the nation  -- who just happen to be among his closest advisers. 

There was no big official White House photo on the email propaganda sheet known as "West Wing Week", which usually glorifies bill signings, no matter how insignificant.  No MSNBC and CNN cameras. No Nancy Pelosi. No John Boehner. No phonily smiling American workers whose jobs are being sacrificed as photo-op props. No Bipartisan hugging and kissing. No gaffeably lovable Joe Biden open-micing: "This is so effing awesome!"

But it was so Bipartisan!  Congress broke the gridlock and passed something for a change! Well, that's the trouble.  It was a Republican bill, originally crafted under George W. Bush.  And the 250,000 jobs it is forecast to create by Business Roundtable and Chamber of Commerce boosters will not be American jobs. That's why it was delayed. The Democrats insisted on adding a little token assistance to middle-aged American textile workers who are expected to lose their jobs to 40-cent/hour North Korean wage slaves allowed to work in the DMZ.  Even so, 75% of all the Congressional Democrats balked at Barack and voted against the package. There's that little matter of trade unionists being murdered in Colombia by hired corporate thugs.  But the White House made sure to announce that Barack called Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos  after the signing and made him promise to call off the goons. He'll be on the honor system, apparently.

The FTA passage simply doesn't fit in with the president's new campaign rallying cry: "We Can't Wait!" which puts the entire blame for the unemployment crisis on the obstructionist Republicans. The FTA has been strangely absent from Obama's list of talking points in such blighted areas as North Carolina and Nevada. After all, while he railed against NAFTA during his first campaign, he has just succeeded in at least doubling the damage which "free trade" has already done with a few more strokes of some cheap souvenir pens.

About the only people cheering and grabbing for their grubby pens were the millionaire CEOs of the Business Roundtable (BRT) super-lobby, who stand to profit handsomely from the latest round of foreign profiteering and outsourcing. After some initial kvetching about not getting their mugs on TV Friday, they posted on their website the obligatory thank-you note to their White House and Congressional minions:
“Business Roundtable commends the President and Congress for bowing to our relentless pressure and campaign contributions working together to approve these pro-growth (for us), job- killing creating trade agreements and bipartisan TAA legislation,” said Jim McNerney, Chairman of Business Roundtable and Chairman, President and CEO of Cheating Defense Contractor The Boeing Company.  “It’s now time to build on this milestone and focus on the future.  With 95 percent of the world’s consumers living outside the United States,(and the number of consumers with money or jobs rapidly dwindling here at home) our manufacturers, service providers and farmers stand to benefit from a fair and accountable international trading system.  Pursuing additional international trade and investment initiatives will open new markets for businesses of all sizes, and fuel U.S. economic growth and job creation.  If we do not seize the opportunity to lead, others will, and the accompanying economic benefits will accrue to their nations rather than ours.”  (We want more after this. We will not rest until we own the entire universe).  
The fact that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) found that Boeing broke the law this year in building its Dreamliner plant in anti-union, "right to work" South Carolina, did not bar McNerney from being invited to the ceremony as guest of honor by the President. Far from it: not only is McNerney chairman of Barry's Export Council, he also sits on the hilariously named Council on Jobs & Competiveness. (CoJoCo -- or how about CutJob/CuJo? These greedheads are one slavering pack of rabid attack dogs!) 

Big Bipartisan Bill-Signing Witnessed by Ten Whole People (All Richer than You)

Also on hand for the exclusive signing ceremony was Xerox CEO Ursula Burns, Export Council vice-chair and (you guessed it) another member of CuJo.  Burns cut 4,500 American jobs during the first six months of this year alone. But Xerox net income is up 28% from a year ago. Her annual salary is listed at $4.08 million by Forbes.

McNerney and Burns and their CuJo cohort are also big proponents of repatriating corporate profits in exchange for an empty promise of job creation (the mythical "creationism") and dismantling the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (which prevents publicly traded companies from defrauding investors). Obama is dutifully mulling over both those proposals as he pitches his latest gimmick of refinancing the mortgages of a few select homeowners who are actually still paying their mortgages on time. The banks, like Colombia, will be on the honor system to do the right thing by their customers.

Back to that ever-increasing executive compensation combined with ever-decreasing tax payments to Uncle Sam. According to the Institute for Policy Studies, the World Trade Organization has actually taken the drastic step of reprimanding Obama about the U.S. government's over-the-top coddling of the CuJo's.
Corporate tax dodging has gone so out of control that 25 major U.S. corporations last year paid their chief executives more than they paid Uncle Sam in federal income taxes. Corporate outlays for CEO compensation - despite the lingering Great Recession - are rising. Employment levels have barely rebounded from their recessionary lows. Top executive pay levels, by contrast, have rebounded nearly all the way back from their pre-recession levels.
For example: McNerney, with an annual salary topping $13 million, earns more than his entire company pays in U.S. taxes every year.

So with friends like multinational CEOs voraciously whispering in the president's ear, who needs Republican enemies?  "We Can't Wait" has suddenly replaced "Win the Future" as the new Obama slogan. Lots of W's, which is apt, seeing that this is Dubya's third term.  Personally, the only "W" I like is the one in OWS. At long last, there are tens of thousands of people protesting and saying "WTF!!!!" about being eaten alive by the Corporate States of America. 

When Corporate Greed Attacks!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Pack Up Your Troubles and Celebrate the Hegemony

President Obama is still trying to pretend that Iraq isn't kicking him in the tush on his way out. How serendipitous that he actually kept a campaign promise for a change, though! He vowed we'd get out of there, and so we are. But he desperately, desperately wanted to stay. As Marie Burns puts it on Reality Chex, he delivered one of those Friday news dumps in order to deflect probing questions from the sponges of the Washington press corps.

And instead of using his weekly radio address to sound the alarm about a growing humanitarian crisis here at home, he trumpets his bellicosity and crows about his security state creds. It really is kind of jarring, in light of the fact that thousands of his own desperate people are demonstrating in the streets.

Speaking of dumps, I haven't rooted around in the bottom of the White House dumpster for awhile in search of discarded versions of presidential speeches that accidentally speak the truth in their first drafts.  But after hearing more bullshit than usual from Dear Leader this morning, I could not resist. Here is the original transcript, with his redacted truthy notes in parentheses:
This week, we had two powerful reminders of how we’ve renewed American leadership in the world.  I was proud to announce that—as promised—the rest of our troops in Iraq will come home by the end of this year.  And in Libya, the death of Moammar Qadhafi showed that our role in protecting the Libyan people, and helping them break free from a tyrant, was the right thing to do.
(If I looked a little haggard and unlike my usual frosty self at my press con, it was because I had just spent the whole damn morning begging -- yes, I was reduced to begging -- President Al Maliki to let me keep just one teensy base there.  But no--o-o-o-o!  After all the years and all the billions we spent, and all the death and destruction in the name of freedom -- they were ungrateful and would not give us immunity in case Blackwater/Xe went on another one of its rampages.  I didn't get my way.  America is not unconditionally loved or feared.  The Iraqis can't forget Abu Ghraib.)
In Iraq, we’ve succeeded in our strategy to end the war.  Last year, I announced the end of our combat mission in Iraq.  We’ve already removed more than 100,000 troops, and Iraqi forces have taken full responsibility for the security of their own country.  Thanks to the extraordinary sacrifices of our men and women in uniform, the Iraqi people have the chance to forge their own future.  And now the rest of our troops will be home for the holidays.
(Failure is success. The troops are being evicted and we'll pretend it's gonna be a Holly Jolly Christmas. But not for long!  If we keep 'em home, the unemployment rate will skyrocket to 25 percent. Plus there's Afghanistan.... and Libya....and the rest of Africa under the pretext of fighting in Uganda for humanitarian reasons after 20 years of ignoring some sadistic sect.  However, some of the troops must remain in the Homeland to protect our own endangered species: The One Percent.)
In Libya, our brave pilots and crews helped prevent a massacre, save countless lives, and give the Libyan people the chance to prevail.  Without putting a single U.S. service member on the ground, we achieved our objectives.  Soon, our NATO mission will come to a successful end even as we continue to support the Libyan people, and people across the Arab world, who seek a democratic future.
(The brave grunts sitting in Nevada trailers who operated the Drone Missiles saved countless lives by killing countless collateral "targets" thousands of miles away. We will continue to support the Libyan people and other oil-rich peoples who seek a democratic future by extracting oil concessions for my billionaire campaign contributors.)
These successes are part of a larger story.  After a decade of war, we’re turning the page and moving forward, with strength and confidence.  The drawdown in Iraq allowed us to refocus on Afghanistan and achieve major victories against al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.  As we remove the last of our troops from Iraq, we’re beginning to bring our troops home from Afghanistan. 
(We are turning the page and looking forward, not backward. There will be no prosecutions of the Bush War Crimes. We have squandered trillions of dollars on a bloated defense budget. We're temporarily bringing some troops home, but they are forever troops for our endless wars.  We have the confidence to believe that the American people will never find out exactly how we decide to kill people on foreign soil... even American citizens, even teenage sons of American citizens.  This is the larger story. Shelve it in the horror section. We will continue to obfuscate, prosecute whistleblowers and subpoena journalists, and spy on you).
To put this in perspective, when I took office, roughly 180,000 troops were deployed in these wars.  By the end of this year that number will be cut in half, and an increasing number of our troops will continue to come home.As we end these wars, we’re focusing on our greatest challenge as a nation—rebuilding our economy and renewing our strength at home.  Over the past decade, we spent a trillion dollars on war, borrowed heavily from overseas and invested too little in the greatest source of our national strength—our own people.  Now, the nation we need to build is our own. 
(Just not quite yet. First we have to ship 250,000 of your jobs to South Korea.
 But keep calling Congress and donate to my grassroots campaign and pretend that I'm not being financed by Wall Street and the Military Industrial Complex.)
We have to tackle this challenge with the same urgency and unity that our troops brought to their fight.  That’s why we have to do everything in our power to get our economy moving again.  That’s why I’m calling on Congress to pass the American Jobs Act, so we can rebuild our country – our schools, our roads, our bridges – and put our veterans, construction workers, teachers, cops and firefighters back to work.   And that’s why I hope all of us can draw strength from the example of our men and women in uniform.
(I just promised huge tax breaks to anti-union corporations like Walmart and McDonald's, and factory farm conglomerates like ConAgra and Tyson Foods if they will only hire my leftover psychologically and physically damaged returning vets at low wages. This corporate welfare check will further bloat the profits of the folks who hire undocumented immigrants, so it's a win-win for my battleground state contributors. Plus, I must try to appease the vets, a third of whom say the wars weren't worth it. Look at the men and women in uniform. I'm trying to make you civvies feel guilty, because you don't have it as bad as they do.  Celebrate my War Machine, Occupiers.  Ask not what your country can do for you if you're not willing to die for the MIC).

They’ve met their responsibilities to America.  Now it’s time to meet ours.  It’s time to come together and show the world why the United States of America remains the greatest source for freedom and opportunity that the world has ever known.
(Don't expect jobs, health care or change for the better any time soon. Slavery is freedom. Unemployment is opportunity. Despair is hope. Rejoice in the One Percent Nation.  Can you chip in $5 to my grassroots campaign?)

Update:  Glenn Greenwald is bemused by Obama's recent celebratory rhetoric.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Democratic PAC and MoveOn Using OWS As Fundraising Tool

Not a day goes by that I don't get several emails from various Democratic Party offshoots asking me to sign a petition to show my solidarity with the OccupyWallStreet movement.  But lately they've been getting bold, blatant and crass: they're using OWS as a gimmick to make money for their causes and candidates (same thing). Plenty of them are also selling OWS merchandise, such as shirts and caps.

This one just came from Jim Dean of Democracy for America, the nation's largest fund-raising PAC. It was founded by Jim's brother Howard, former chair of the DNC:
 Karen -
A couple weeks ago I met up with some DFA members in New York City to join Occupy Wall Street. It was a powerful day for me.
The people on the ground there in New York are fearless. They're standing up to big moneyed interests and giving a voice to working families. They're facing down threats from the mayor and the police to shut them down and they keep going -- marching during the day and sleeping outside in the park at night.
They've inspired a movement that has spread from New York to Los Angeles to Atlanta and hundreds of other cities across the country.
The best part is -- they're winning this fight. Big corporations and their allies are scared and they're fighting back. That's why we need to make sure that these folks have everything they need to keep this occupation going.
When I was there, I met some of the medics on the ground and they told me that they were in dire need of aspirin, bandages and other basic medical supplies. I've been told by some of our members in New York that they still need blankets and sleeping bags.
 Please contribute $10 right now to keep Occupy Wall Street going.

And here is just one of many coming my way from that Obama White House veal pen extraordinaire,
Dear MoveOn member,
In a few short weeks everything's changed. America is finally talking about how our economy is rigged to advantage the wealthiest 1% over the rest of us.

Thanks to the bravery of the protesters down on Wall Street, real change is now possible. So we all need to drop what we're doing and go on offense.
In addition to providing all the support we can to #OccupyWallStreet, at MoveOn we're scrambling to launch a huge campaign to make Wall Street pay. We're organizing mass meetings in hundreds of cities. We've hired filmmakers to tell the stories that the mainstream media are ignoring. We're turning up the heat on the banks by helping people move their money. And we're helping organize two major national days of protest in November.
Together, we can make sure this momentum keeps building. But this all takes money—for materials, coordination, tech, and supporting thousands of volunteers. This is the moment. Can you chip in $15?
OWS participants, angered by MoveOn's apparent co-optation of the movement, circulated a petition demanding that it back off and butt out. Here, posted this afternoon, is MoveOn's official reply:

Hi there, (demeaning salutation much?)
I received the petition you signed regarding MoveOn's stance toward Occupy Wall Street and wanted to respond. We've been in lots of conversations lately about this, and we take your concerns very seriously -- so I wanted to take a minute to share our thinking. We have and will continue to give a lot of thought to the best way to stand in solidarity with this growing movement while being clear that we are not Occupy Wall Street, and have no desire to direct, control, or speak for it.
MoveOn is a grassroots organization with five million members. In the past few weeks, our members overwhelmingly expressed support for Occupy Wall Street and encouraged us to do whatever we can to help Occupy continue to grow, spread, and succeed. That's been our mandate: to help our members help wherever they can.
Many individual MoveOn members have chosen to join their local occupation. Others have gone down to their local occupations and provided material support. In cities like Chicago, Sacramento, and Columbus MoveOn members have started petitions calling for an end to arrests and evictions of Occupy protestors from city parks. And many MoveOn members are just grateful for the work Occupy Wall Street has done to draw attention to a system that's not working for 99% of Americans.
Because we've gotten lots of questions about what MoveOn is, where our funding comes from, what we stand for, and what our relationship to Occupy Wall Street is -- and because there are a number of straight-up falsehoods floating around -- we collected the answers to those questions in one place. From that page, you can also let us know if you have other questions that we should answer. I encourage you to check it out here:
Thanks for letting us know what you think, and for your work to build Occupy Wall Street.
--Justin Ruben Executive Director
(Note: the link provided in the email doesn't work. Hmmm.)

Oh, and about that DNC. President Obama has already shared mucho millions he's been raking in from Wall Street -- so what do they want with us?

Final Note: OWS is accepting donations of money, food, clothing, blankets, etc. at its own site.  No parasites, leeches, enablers, co-opters, PACs or politicians wanted or needed.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

All the News That's Fit to Ignore

It's now official. What interests the corporate media and what concerns the public are two entirely different things.  So if you just can't get all tingly about the weekly Republican game shows known as debates, or if you found the presidential bus tour a yawn, you are not alone. Results of a poll conducted last week by the Pew Research Center for People & the Press showed that although most people were hungry for news about the economy and jobs and Occupy Wall Street, the national news was more focused on Republican presidential politics and the zany Iranian/Mexican Saudi Ambassador assassination plot.

 And how about that Trifecta Trade Deal that President Obama just signed into law? Although it will ultimately destroy an estimated quarter of a million American jobs through offshoring, it received miniscule attention from the national newshounds, and hardly any people expressed interest in it.  So what came first, the chicken or the egg?  I think it was the egg, meaning the people.  They didn't know about it, because the teevee didn't talk about it. Too hard. Most people don't read Ezra Klein's Wonkbook.

If you think last week was bad, wait till this week. The killing of K-Daffy today has wiped Occupy Wall Street right off the news map.  It will be days and days of "Obama Adds Another Trophy to His Kill List", and endless video loops of his bloody murder.

The politicians and the oligarchs must be so relieved. The ruling class wants our attention to be diverted from its chicanery, while the stenographic journalists would rather take the path of least resistance and pander to the lowest common denominator.  It saves them the trouble of insightful thought and does the public a gross disservice.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Lonely Lunacy of David Brooks

A Brooksian Nightmare

New York Times columnist David Brooks looked at Occupy Wall Street today, and liked not what he saw. The protesters are a "flamboyant fringe" getting all the media attention. Normal people are suffering in silence, living lives of quiet desperation simply because it is the right thing to do. According to him, people are having fewer children because they are pessimistic spoil-sports about the future, not because of financial hardship. They are cutting up their credit cards, not because their credit scores are in the toilet, but because they have experienced the sudden epiphany that thrift is a virtue in and of itself. And they're sticking with their jobs, not because they have no other choice, but because they have discovered the value of loyalty. It's a "Values Restoration" to combat the OWS radicalism!

A few years ago there was a celebration of Free Agent Nation. But now most people, even most young people, would rather work long-term for one company than move around in search of freedom and opportunity.... This values restoration is reshaping the way Americans see the world around them. Many economists say the cutback in consumption will hurt the economy in the short run. But, according to the Heartland Monitor poll, 61 percent of Americans said the decline in consumption would “help the economy as it would create more savings that could be invested to create or expand business.”

Yep, the 99ers of the unemployment rolls are just sitting around telling pollsters that they're saving their benefit checks to invest in a booming business someday rather than blowing their cash on food or shoes for the kids. Pay no attention to the 80 percent of disgruntled souls who say they have no faith in government and that income disparity is grossly unfair. The Americans of David Brooks's addled imagination are hunkered down and saving for the future. They have patience.  Never mind that patience, as defined by Ambrose Bierce a century ago, is "a minor form of despair, disguised as a virtue".

Brooks waxes nostalgic about the past:

If, in the 1960s, you had tried to judge America by looking at the sit-ins and Woodstock, you would have had a very distorted picture of where the country was heading. You wouldn’t have been able to predict that Richard Nixon would win the youth vote in 1972, which he did. You wouldn’t have been able to predict that Republicans would go on to win four out of the next five presidential elections, a streak only interrupted by Jimmy Carter, who ran as a conservative Democrat.
He doesn't seem to get that OWS is not a three-day love in, nor is it made up solely of disaffected youth, nor does it have much of anything to do with partisan politics. The poll he didn't see fit to mention was the one conducted by Time showing that 86 percent think that “Wall Street and its lobbyists have too much influence in Washington” and another 79 percent believe that “the gap between rich and poor in the United States has grown too large.”

Brooks obviously got the info that more people know about the Amanda Knox case and the death of Steve Jobs than the protest from a poll conducted in the first week of OWS, when the movement wasn't even being covered by the mainstream press. According to the latest Quinnipiac poll, even the majority of Republicans believe the protesters have a right to be in Zuccotti Park.

Poor David. The Republican Party has sunk so far from the heyday of beloved felonious Vice President Spiro Agnew and his angst about the "nattering nabobs of negativism" in a mainstream media that was then policed by the Fairness Doctrine.  Brooks strives to be the voice of the restoration of the always-mythical "Silent Majority" -- but he just can't do it like Spiro (or his speechwriters Pat Buchanan and William Safire) who railed against the "pusillanimous pussyfooters" and the " hopeless hysterical hypochondriacs of history."

The best alliteration he can come up with is "flamboyant fringes."  Pretty sad.  But what more can you expect when your 2012 party platform revolves around killer electric border fences and 9-9-9 numerology?

Sunday, October 16, 2011


OWS is not going away. (Aren't you glad we can abbreviate it now, and everybody understands what it means?  No more Occupy Wall Street, #OccupyWallStreet, We Are the 99% -- just OWS.  We have arrived!)

Now that the mainstream media can no longer ignore this worldwide uprising, the powers that be are running themselves ragged trying to find ways to diminish and demonize it.  One of the chief spokesmen of the We Shall Overreact counterinsurgency is New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg. Himself a member of the elite Forbes Billionaires Club, Bloomberg's main concern has been sanitation. Alas, there are no toilet facilities in Zuccotti Park. And nearby eateries are complaining the hippie campers are using their bathroom sinks to take showers -- and worse!  No Port-a-potties allowed in the park, either. So you can imagine how offended the sensibilities of Bloomberg must be, with the wastrels and their waste.

Bloomberg and friends have balked at providing toilet facilities or dumpsters at the site.  The protesters undertook a mass cleaning on their own late last week in hopes of staving off a threatened eviction.

The New York Times broke the story about the bathroom crashers of OWS when the encampment was entering its third week.  The paper of record still can't seem to make up its mind whether to jump on the revolutionary bandwagon and celebrate the movement, or continue siding with the oligarchs over how stressed the whole thing is making them feel.  Everybody is talking about the article yesterday that had a slew of anonymous Wall Streeters griping: 
“Who do you think pays the taxes?” said one longtime money manager. “Financial services are one of the last things we do in this country and do it well. Let’s embrace it. If you want to keep having jobs outsourced, keep attacking financial services. This is just disgruntled people.” He added that he was disappointed that members of Congress from New York, especially Senator Charles E. Schumer and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, had not come out swinging for an industry that donates heavily to their campaigns. “They need to understand who their constituency is,” he said.
According to Bloomberg News (yeah, that ubiquitous Bloomberg again), Mr. Money Manager has a right to be outraged.  In all likelihood, he makes about $1 million a year -- about twice the salary of a brain surgeon or four times as much as a four-star general. 
The bottom line is all the people in investment banking understand that they work harder and are under more stress,” said Jeanne Branthover, a managing director at Wall Street recruitment firm Boyden Global Executive Search. “Many don’t think they’re paid enough.”
But unlike the OWS'ers, the million dollar wunderkinds don't have to worry about their next bathroom break. Again, from the New York Times (HT to Christina Vining) comes the story of a luxury toilet called the Numi.  According to reporter Sam Grobar, who tried it out for a month in exchange for a free ad review: 
The Numi features a touch-screen remote control. The Numi washes and dries its user. The Numi costs $6,400, or 81 times the price of the basic throne at Home Depot.
Such extravagance may put the Numi within reach of only plutocrats and Pentagon purchasing managers. (Oh, goodie, now the general can achieve parity with the oligarch!) All the Numi controls are handled through a touch screen remote control that is somewhat larger than an iPodTouch. That remote controls flushing, cleaning, drying, music, heating and other settings and preferences; combinations of preferences can be stored in user profiles for different family members. When not in use, the remote docks in a magnetic charging cradle that can be mounted on the wall. There are backup buttons at the rear of the toilet just in case the remote is not working.
The only problems with this plutocrapper, according to Grobart, are that the lid pops up whenever you come near it, regardless of whether you have to go.  And the music can be annoying.  And the aesthetics leave a lot to be desired. Grobart compares the Numi to a giant Lego building block -- see for yourself:

From the Numi Website: This is How You Market Toilets to Millionaires

One really nifty feature of the Numi is that if you're a guy who loves to pee in the dark, a lovely blue light will align directly with the flow to help you avoid those annoying misses that plague the OWS john-crashers. It brings a whole new meaning to the term "trickle down."

I wonder if Mike Bloomberg owns a Numi.  I wonder if he ponders his next Zuccotti Park move as he relaxes on his throne.  I wonder if he regrets ever having bought himself a third term.

(Graphic by Kat Garcia)

Friday, October 14, 2011

Plan 9-9-9 From Outer Space

Since today seems to be National Pile On Herman Cain Day, I thought I would join the fray before this latest in a long line of fake Republican candidates implodes and Mitt Romney is crowned the winner and makes Ambien obsolete.

Today is the day that Paul Krugman wrote that the thought of a Herman Cain presidency "terrifies" him. And to think it was only a few months ago that Michele Bachmann was terrifying everybody with her imminent accession to the White House in the new Theocracy of America. It was only last week that editorialists were warning of Rick Perry Armageddon. Before that, it was Donald Trump casino-izing and birtherizing and overcombing the world. And Sarah Palin was primed to put her manicured red fingernail on the Big Red Button. 

The Republican cavalcade of lunatics is an infinity of mirror images, each one more grotesque than the last.  They have served their purpose by deflecting attention away from what passes for government in Washington. Liberal pundits in general and MSNBC in particular have used their public arenas to shoot fish in a barrel every single day to save them the trouble of thinking, and to make the failure that is Obama look good.

What will happen when only Mitt Romney is left standing, and Lawrence O'Donnell can't open every show with ridiculing the latest Gingrichism and spending hours every week waxing shocked at Michele Bachmann's crazoid utterances? Gail Collins will be reduced to repeating her dog-on-the-roof Romneyisms without the comic relief of Ron Paul. The weekly game shows known as the Republican Debates will come to a crashing halt. Whatever will the punditocracy talk about then?

The inconvenient truth is that Mitt Romney and Barack Obama are mirror images of each other. Each panders to his supposed base.  Each is a right-of-center fiscal conservative.  Their insurance company giveaway health plans are identical. No matter who is elected, each man would serve as apparatchik of Bush's Fourth Term.  

But back to the Hermanator. It's a lazy Friday, so I'll just add my voice to the thousands of others in saying his 9-9-9 Tax Plan is a joke. It seems to have been stolen from a video game called Sims City 4. It will crush the lower classes. It has no basis in reality. Even Cain can't explain it. But this week he's at the top of the polls. So the Serious People are pretending to take him seriously aimply because he is so seriously nuts and might be the next president! Seriously!

Now Playing. Limited Engagement Only.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Co-Optation Station

One of the first thoughts that crossed my mind as the Occupy Wall Street protests gathered steam and media attention was: Will the Obama campaign and the Democratic Party attempt to co-opt the movement, and if so, will they succeed? The answer to the first question is a qualified "Yes" and to the second -- if there is a God, No.

As others have already pointed out, the movement is as much about protesting Obama's big sell-out and raging against the corrupt and inept two-party system as it is about anger at the unfettered capitalism that destroyed the lives and livelihoods of millions of people.  But that hasn't stopped various offshoots of the Democratic Party from attempting to glom onto it, and ever so subtly (or not), frame it to their own specifications.

The Center for American Progress (CAP), a D.C. think tank with direct ties to the White House, has set up its very own website on the mass demonstrations. But they refuse to call it "Occupy Wall Street" or occupy-anything.  That connotes a state of siege, and might cause the banksters to feel even more uncomfortable or petrified than they are already.  So CAP has renamed it, innocuously, The 99% Movement -- much safer, given that Goldman Sachs has been Obama's biggest contributor, and Lloyd Blankfein is the guest of honor at many a White House luncheon and state dinner.  (He is said to be fleeing the Big Apple for Washington today, in light of threatened demonstrations against his for-profit talk at Columbia U.  Do you think he'll be asking Barry for Secret Service Protection?  Do you think he'll get it?)

Wall Street-Upon-Potomac: The Blankfeins

 But back to CAP: its founder and leader is John Podesta, the former Clinton chief of staff who helped push through the repeal of Glass-Steagall and turned banks into gambling casinos. Podesta also was in charge of the Obama Transition Team and had a role in bringing in another banking deregulator (Timmy Geithner) to head up Treasury and bail out his buddies. 

The Boss and The PR Guy (Obama, Podesta)
The main thrust of the Podesta/Obama website is to cast aspersions on the GOP challengers who cast aspersions on the protesters.  Today's headline crowed about Mitt Romney's flip-flopping on the protesters, rather than discussing what the protests are all about.  It made hay out of Eric Cantor's "mob" characterization.  It gloated over Fox News' Geraldo Rivera getting heckled. Anything and everything to point out that Obama and the Democrats suck a lot less than the Republicans. 

Of course, CAP was founded during the reign of Bush II for the express purpose of establishing a Democratic War Room with a thrust on opposition research. From Wikipedia:

Podesta laid out his plan for what he likes to call a think tank on steroids. Emulating those conservative institutions, he said, a message-oriented war room will send out a daily briefing to refute the positions and arguments of the right. An aggressive media department will book liberal thinkers on cable TV. There will be an edgy Web site ( and a policy shop to formulate strong positions on foreign and domestic issues. In addition, Podesta explained how he would recruit hundreds of fellows and scholars -- some in residence and others spread around the country -- to research and promote new progressive policy ideas. American Progress is slated to operate with a $10 million budget next year, raised from big donors like the financier George Soros.
CAP has come under criticism for refusing to divulge its list of donors, and also for cheerleading Obama's war escalations and drone attacks -- in stark contrast to its raison d'etre during the Bush years, which was to excoriate torture and bellicosity.  According to an article by Jeremy Scahill, CAP and other "veal pen" offshoots such as MoveOn and Media Matters, are nothing more than "pseudo PR flaks targeting liberals" to advance the White House agenda. 

Since the protests began three weeks ago, I have gotten a steady stream of emails from MoveOn, 21st Century Democrats and any number of veal pen shops, seeking my signature to show "solidarity" with Occupy Wall Street. A few have even blatantly tied their fund-raising campaigns to the mass movement. These organizations all belong to the Common Purpose Project, which meets at the White House every week to make sure the members stay in line with what Obama wants. And what he wants, apparently, is simply to use the Occupy uprising to make the Tea Party and GOP look bad, at the same time he "gets" our frustrations.

And according to The New York Times, The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the party’s powerful House fund-raising arm, has even started circulating a petition among the crowds of protesters, seeking 100,000 party supporters to declare that “I stand with the Occupy Wall Street protests.”

The Obama for America re-election outfit itself has remained largely silent on OWS. I imagine they are feverishly reworking their marketing to jibe with the current climate.  Somehow, I believe that even they won't be clueless enough to continue pretending they are a "grassroots movement made up of people just like me."  I haven't, for example, heard another word about entering for a chance to win a meal with Barry.

They know that we know about the true agenda of the Democratic Party, which has nothing much to do with us. I don't believe there is a veal pen large enough to contain all the millions of people thoroughly disgusted with the corruption of our government. And the politicians are likely as scared as the plutocrats.

**Update: Glenn Greenwald has more.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Report from "Occupy Tampa"

Story and Photos by Neil Gillespie

The Justice Network

America is broken. That was the message of the Occupy Tampa protesters in Gaslight Park Thursday.  The peaceful assembly was attended by several hundred diverse protesters. Although the park is located right across from Tampa Police headquarters, no officers showed up in the park, and only a handful watched from afar. Protesters expressed their complaints on signs, and chanted "We are the 99 percent" while marching to a beat provided by a young man with a drum. Some of the messages on the homemade signs included "Rise Up! The System Is Broken", "Healthcare Not Warfare" and "Hang The Bankers".

"Robert", a French national, complained about corrupt politicians in Europe and America. His gray hair and business attire lent credibility to his complaints about the insurance, oil, and banking industries.

Robert of France: They Know How to Demonstrate!

News organization helicopters hovering over the park created a deafening racket, making conversations difficult. The day-long protest included several marches around downtown Tampa. One such march began at 5:00 PM, went past the Bank of America building at Kennedy Blvd. and Tampa Street, then down Ashley Avenue past the art museum and library. The marchers turned at Zack Street, and again on N. Florida Ave., and continued to march past the Sam M. Gibbons US Courthouse. A few blocks further the protesters stopped and gathered on the steps of the old Federal Courthouse.
The protesters in Tampa included many older people. This "Occupy" movement is no longer a youth movement, it is now mainstream, or as they say, the "99 percent" of Americans. I saw babies in backpacks. One man marched in a wheelchair. People of all ages, races and backgrounds marched and chanted side by side.
One woman wore a Ron Paul shirt. A sign proclaimed "Governments Stage Terror To Take Away Our Rights,". Another read "Stop The Creed Of Greed", and one said "Stop Killing Kids In Afghanistan". "End The Federal Reserve", "Capitalism is destroying our lives!" and "Corporate America You're Fired" were messages too, along with "Save the American Dream" and "For the People not Corporations".
They chanted slogans before returning to Gaslight Park. The mainstream and alternative news media were present. Shanna Gillette energetically snapped photos for "Creative Loafing".  A reporter from WMNF, 88.5 Community Radio joined in the march. News vans parked near the police building, and a mainstream reporter stood by with a bored look on her face, while the cameraman panned the scene.  
One protester said it best: "When Injustice Becomes Law, Rebellion Becomes Duty".
Greetings and Solidarity from Occupy Tampa

Extra, Extra -- Read All About It!

The second issue of "The Occupied Wall Street Journal" is hot off the presses.  You can read it here.

And if you missed the first issue, here it is.

The on-site, 50,000-circulation broadside is produced by the weekly Indypendent. ("A Free Paper for Free People.") The publishers point out that the new journal is not to be construed as the "official" paper of the movement: "This is one attempt by a group of journalists who support the occupation to offer a way for the general public to hear the stories, perspectives and ideas from inside the movement. We think the more voices, ideas and media the better".

Obama Jobs Czar Whines About Not Being Liked

Did anybody catch the segment on Jeff Immelt on "60 Minutes" last night?  The CEO of G.E., who helped the president craft his American Jobs package, unashamedly admits he's a global kinda guy, his first priority being profits to please his investors.  And so what if he hires only a few thousand workers here at $13 an hour?  He's got thousands and thousands of desperate people to choose from. He thinks we should all be cheering for him! (And his own $15.2 million compensation package). From the show's transcript:

Immelt: I want you to root for me. You know, everybody in Germany roots for Siemens. Everybody in Japan roots for Toshiba. Everybody in China roots for China South Rail. I want you to say, "Win, G.E."
Stahl: Do you not see any reason that maybe the public doesn't hold American corporations up here in the highest...
Immelt: I think this notion that it's the population of the U.S. against the big companies is just wrong. It's just wrong-minded and when I walk through a factory with you or anybody, you know, our employees basically like us.
Stahl: They do. I saw it.
Immelt: They root for us, they want us to win. I don't know why you don't.
You can read the transcript and watch the entire segment here.

Immelt is holding another meeting with the Jobs Council this week, and plans to give Obama some more great advice, having nothing whatever to do with jobs.  Regulations, for one thing -- they are so annoying. (Immelt was among those urging Obama to scrap the EPA ozone standards last month).
More free trade -- Immelt loves the free trade deal expected to rocket through Congress this week with little to no debate, despite the fact that it will bleed even more thousands of jobs from the American economy. Repatriation of profits in exchange for another huge tax break is a must.  Yeah, he admits, we tried that once and it didn't create any new jobs, but the second time might be a charm.  But he can't guarantee anything.

You probably remember the big uproar when it was revealed that G.E. not only paid zero taxes this year, but it actually got a refund from the government because of all the money it loses not being able to keep its money in the United States. (Immelt's head tax lawyer used to work in Treasury and literally wrote that law in G.E.'s favor).

Then it came out that G.E. Capitol got a bailout from the U.S. treasury to help it recoup losses it "suffered" in the 2008 meltdown.  We never would have found out about the last bit unless Bernie Sanders had insisted on getting the info. Sanders calls G.E. one of the 10 worst corporate tax evaders of all time: "Over the past five years", he said, "while General Electric made $26 billion in profits in the United States, it received a $4.1 billion refund from the IRS."'

Last March, a petition drive called "Immelt Must Go" was launched by former Senator Russ Feingold. After garnering thousands of signatures, it was presented to Obama.  He dug in his heels.  Immelt Must Stay, decreed Barry. Press Secretary Jay Carney explained at the time that the president would be keeping Immelt at the helm because he enjoys hearing a "diversity of opinion."

The latest G.E. outsourcing extravaganza is the removal of its 115-year-old X-Ray business headquarters to Beijing, taking several billion dollars out of the U.S. and investing it in China. But Immelt doesn't understand why American lawmakers are making such a big deal out of China and its currency manipulation anyway. "I'm not afraid of China!" he boasted to Lesley Stahl last evening.

Body Language Says It All 

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Die Laughing, Republican Style

So you thought the Grover Norquist robots of the Republican Party were only in it for themselves, their families, and their wealthy benefactors? Well, scratch the middle category:  a select group of extreme right wing House members are perfectly willing to throw their own flesh and blood under the bus -- or should I say hearse - just to make an ideological point.

Rep. Bill Posey of Florida and his gang of six conservatives want to do away with the payoff they'll get if they die in office.  Yes, you heard right: they are framing their bill as being all about money they personally would get as a dead body in good standing in Congress. Nothing about the spouses, the kids, or the grandkids in relinquishing the payout of a year's salary of $174,000.  

But then again, are they not the Living Dead zombies of supply side economics anyway? In their world, a pulse and respiration are just liberal concepts. They are the reanimated Norquistians, roaming the countryside, arms outstretched, sucking the lifeblood from the lower classes to keep themselves going.

Among the Gang of Seven is everybody's favorite old batty aunt from hell, Virginia Foxx of North Carolina. You may remember Virginia as a frequent winner of Keith Olbermann's "Worst Person in the World" awards for her various heartless votes and remarks against everything from health care to education.  She said if Congress wants to provide for their families, look somewhere else besides her beloved taxpayers.  But please do continue paying for her franking privileges, travel, vacations, Cadillac health plan and generous pension.

Yes, Virginia, There Is a Way to be More Heartless

And then there is loveable curmudgeon Ron Paul (R-TX), who defiantly did not provide health coverage for employees of his last campaign, with the upshot being that his campaign manager died uninsured and destitute after the 2008 race.

Said Posey (who has never yet had one of his bills passed): "I believe Members of Congress should do what other Americans do, purchase their own life insurance."

Yeah!  Get down with the common people!  He went on, "And with so many Americans struggling to make ends meet - mostly because of bad policy coming out of Washington - this taxpayer funded 'gratuity' just adds more insult to injury. It's no wonder Americans have such a low opinion of Congress."

I am so relieved, aren't you?  They get it, they finally get why we have such a low (about 12% approval rating) opinion of them.  And now they are redeemed for altruistically agreeing not to take it with them when they get raptured up, or whatever their future plans are.

They Won't Be Smiling When Gramps Cuts Them Off:  The Posey Heirs

Do you think it's a mere coincidence that Posey's second largest campaign contributor is the insurance industry? And now that Congress will be forced to buy its own life insurance, the industry is champing at the bit, salivating over the ultra-high premiums the 60, 70 and 80-somethings will now have to fork over to pay for their own "final expenses." Posey certainly made sure to send a press release hyping his industry-friendly legislation straight to the insurance industry for their delectation.

The Republicans may get to have it both ways. Not only are they laughing all the way to the bank with lobbyist largesse, they'll be laughing all the way to the mausoleum too. And their heirs can just forget any ideas about Gram or Gramps conveniently kicking the bucket before their terms are up. You hear that, Rand Paul?

Fathers and Sons, the Ayn Rand Edition