Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year, B.S. Edition

President Obama's weekly internet/radio addresses have been fairly innocuous bits of dullness lately, and not really worth writing about.  For example, on Christmas Eve, he and Michelle admonished us to "Support the Troops" in a typical manipulative plea for patriotism.  How are you going to respond to that? You can't very well say "No! I refuse to support our troops!" because that would be heartless.  So you shut up, because it's the holidays.

But today's edition of presidential propaganda deserves a dissection.  It is chockful of doublespeak, and well... lies. It was titled "Moving America Forward", just like the slogan of that DNC mouthpiece known as MSNBC: "Lean Forward"  So here we go:

Hello, everybody.  As 2011 comes to an end and we look ahead to 2012, I want to wish everyone a happy and healthy New Year.

Okay, thanks, and same to you.

The last year has been a time of great challenge and great progress for our country.  We ended one war and began to wind down another.  We dealt a crippling blow to al-Qaeda and made America more secure.  We stood by our friends and allies around the world through natural disasters and revolutions.  And we began to see signs of economic recovery here at home, even as too many Americans are still struggling to get ahead.

(Um... we ended one war because Iraq kicked us out.  It's the merest beginning of a beginning of the end in Afghanistan. Oh, and Libya was a limited thing and no American boots were scuffed. I ordered at least two assassinations that we bothered to tell you about. I have ordered secret Drone strikes that have unfortunately killed some or a thousand innocent people, but I don't want to talk about that.  In the words of Donald Rumsfeld, whom I have vowed to protect from prosecution for war crimes, "stuff happens".  I also am not going to defend the lie that fighting maybe-terror with some real terror of our own will make America more secure.  "Blowback" is something Chalmers Johnson theorized about -- and by the time the children of my Drone victims grow up and really do attack us, I will be in my undisclosed very secure location someplace.

Standing by our friends and allies.... hmmm...  Well, we tried in vain to keep Mubarek in power but when that didn't work, we sent a diplomatic hack over with a bagful of cash, and finally we paid lip service to Egyptian democracy.  Now, I am more hated in Egypt than George Bush ever was.  They even call me the Black Bush! Those weapons the military are now using to assault and kill Egyptian citizens are American-made.  See, America still makes things like tear gas and pepper spray and assault weapons and fighter jets and we sell them to anybody with the cash.  Look at Bahrain, where the king is killing his own people.  He is our friend and ally, and Saudi Arabia's friend because they buy our crap.  But when they do bad stuff, I make sure that Hillary finds it deplorable!

We began to see signs of economic recovery at home, because we see what we want to see.  Too many Americans are struggling.... I actually spoke truth about that!  But getting ahead is just something I made up.  For the first time since they started keeping track of these things, today's adults do not expect their children to be better off than they were.  Most people are struggling not to "get ahead" but to literally keep body and soul together.  I do not dare mention the "P" word: poverty,  or that fully half of all Americans are either indigent or pretty close to it.

There’s no doubt that 2012 will bring even more change.  And as we head into the New Year, I’m hopeful that we have what it takes to face that change and come out even stronger – to grow our economy, create more jobs, and strengthen the middle class.
I’m hopeful because of what we saw right before Christmas, when Members of Congress came together to prevent a tax hike for 160 million Americans – saving a typical family about $40 in every paycheck.  They also made sure Americans looking for work won’t see their unemployment insurance cut off.  And I expect Congress to finish the job by extending these provisions through the end of 2012.
It was good to see Members of Congress do the right thing for millions of working Americans.  But it was only possible because you added your voices to the debate.  Through email and Twitter and over the phone, you let your representatives know what was at stake.  Your lives.  Your families.  Your well-being.  You had the courage to believe that your voices could make a difference.  And at the end of the day, they made all the difference.

This is quite a stretch, since the median income in the United States has plummeted down to about $25,000  and to get that extra $40 per pay period, you need to earn at least $50,000.  And I am totally making up the part about my two-day social media campaign being what forced the Republicans to cave.  They had to get home to face their constituents and most important, raise campaign cash.  I am of course deliberately failing to mention the courage of the Occupy protesters in forcing me to at least temporarily abstain from my deficit reduction fetish.  I will just pretend that the courage of twittering folks typing out their 100 characters made more difference than the thousands of Occupiers braving cold, rain, privation, and militarized police thugs.  Because otherwise I would be forced to admit they're occupying my Iowa caucus.

 More than anything else, you are the ones who make me hopeful about 2012.  Because we’ve got some difficult debates and some tough fights to come.  As I’ve said before, we are at a make-or-break moment for the middle class.  And in many ways, the actions we take in the months ahead will help determine what kind of country we want to be, and what kind of world we want our children and grandchildren to grow up in. 

What were you looking for, a Fireside Chat or something? This speech was never intended to uplift you, people. This is pure charm offensive persuasion. It is all about me.  You don't face the difficult debates or the tough fights.  Ponder once again this doublespeak of a mushy mess of a sentence:  The actions we take in the months ahead will help determine what kind of country we want to be, and what kind of world we want our children and grandchildren to grow up in. What the hell does that even mean?  Stuff that I do will help figure out what I want, because we don't know what we want?  My policies will determine a vision of some nebulous world for our progeny but not actually change things?  It really is hard to find a fresh translation for that "Win the Future" slogan that went so stale, so fast.

As President, I promise to do everything I can to make America a place where hard work and responsibility are rewarded – one where everyone has a fair shot and everyone does their fair share.  That’s the America I believe in.  That’s the America we’ve always known.  And I’m confident that if we work together, and if you keep reminding folks in Washington what’s at stake, then we will move this country forward and guarantee every American the opportunities they deserve.
Thanks for watching, and from Michelle, Malia, Sasha, Bo and myself, Happy New Year.

Okay, okay.... I found my new slogan!  "Fair Shot, Fair Share".  Notice how I carefully avoid all talk of the haves and the have-nots, because I need the money of the haves of the 1% and the votes of the have-nots of the 99%.  And since I am a conservative at heart, I cannot resist tossing in "hard work and responsibility" as prerequisites for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Like every mendacious politician before me, I will spin a fantasy version of an America that has no basis in reality. I will just appeal once again to the patriotism of the masses and yack about the United States of Disneyland. The "America we have always known" conveniently ignores the genocide of the aboriginal Americans, the good old days of slavery, the horror of man's inhumanity to man in the Civil War, the oppression of the working class and the Haymarket massacre and the abuses of the Robber Barons, the shame of McCarthyism and the unpunished war crimes of the Bush Cabal.  


One of the leading experts on American political propaganda is Noam Chomsky.  Today's speech from Obama is a perfect example of a politician saying something that sounds great, but means absolutely nothing. "Propaganda is to democracy," he wrote in Media Control, "as a bludgeon is to a totalitarian state.":
You want to create a slogan (in this instance "fair shot at a fair share") that nobody's going to be against, and everybody's going to be for. Nobody knows what it means, because it doesn't mean anything. Its crucial value is that it diverts your attention from a question that does mean something....(in this case, unpunished financial crimes that led to national impoverishment as financial chicanery continues unabated). We're all together, empty slogans, let's join in, let's make sure we don't have these bad people around to disrupt our harmony, with their talk about class struggle, rights and that sort of business.
The title of today's Obama speech might as well have been "How to Aspire to the Mythical Middle Class and Learn to Live in the Secure Homeland with a Little Hard Work while Supporting Me." More Chomsky on what our elected officials and the complicit corporate media want from us:
They (the propaganda victims) ought to be sitting alone in front of the TV and having drilled into their heads the message, which says, the only value in life is to have more commodities or live like that rich middle class family you're watching and to have nice values like harmony and Americanism. That's all there is in life. You may think in your own head that there's got to be something more in life than this, but since you're watching the tube alone, you assume, I must be crazy, because that's all that's going on over there.  And since there is no organization permitted -- that's absolutely crucial -- you never have a way of finding out whether you are crazy, and you just assume it, because it's the only natural thing to assume.
Chomsky wrote those words ten years ago.  The only thing that has changed since then is the birth of the Occupy movement.  The theft of an entire economy by a small group of unpunished oligarchs has spawned the massive, spontaneous, leaderless organization that has the power elites shaking in their shoes.  People have finally woken up to their own supreme sanity. So let's make this new year happy for reasons that have nothing to do with them, or their spectator sport presidential horse races.


4Runner said...

Dear Karen, you are as close to us as our laptop, so we are Happy You Near!!

Denis Neville said...

No Presidential handshakes this New Year's Day

Meeting the President on New Year's Day was a tradition throughout the 19th century. The large reception held at the White House was open to the public, and anyone could wait on line, enter the executive mansion, and shake president's hand.

The tradition of the New Year’s reception began with George Washington before the White House was built. John Adams, the first occupant of the unfinished White House, hosted its first New Year’s reception on January 1, 1801.

The last New Year’s Day reception was held January 1, 1932, during the administration of Herbert Hoover. The following year, the Hoover family left Washington for the holidays, and the long tradition was broken.

When Franklin Roosevelt took office in 1933 he chose not to revive the custom, partly because his paralysis made it difficult to stand to greet visitors.

Presidential Handshakes on New Year's Day, Robert McNamara, Guide

Also, Barb Schlichting, First Lady Blog-history and today, includes photos.

Hard not to compare the similarities between our current president, who is currently in Hawaii, with our thirty-first president, Herbert Hoover, who also left Washington for the holidays. And just like Herbert Hoover, Barack Hoover Obama deliberately took the nation towards disaster.

Will said...

Happy New Year, everyone!

My heartfelt condolences on the loss of your mother. I'm sure she was so proud of the kind and thoughtful son she raised in you.
@Zee and James Singer,
Glad to see you guys posting here at Sardonicky. Always enjoyed reading your perspectives at RC-OTS.
I must confess to a little NDAA-induced case of the Fraidy Cat Flu in the beginning, but I'm OK now. You, on the other hand, seem to have been especially supercharged into fierce opposition by its passage. (I almost asked Zee if we could borrow a tranquilizer gun or something to at least slow you down for a while, but I really don't think it would've had any discernible effect on you.) You're the best!

"The revolutionary's real generosity toward the future lies in giving all to the present." Albert Camus


Denis Neville said...

Thank you to everyone for your kind expressions of sympathy on the recent death of my mother. I have deeply appreciated reading them.

My mother was a woman of valor. Her accomplishment, raising her young son as a widow, speaks her praise. She said I could always choose my responses to life's unfairness. She challenged me to live a life with meaning by caring for others, being kind and generous, responsible and loyal, and maintaining courage during hard times. Her rules were simple: Commit the golden rule to memory and to life. She was an exemplary role model.

I also owe my love of reading and collecting memorable quotations to her.

Ormond Otvos said...

OCCUPY the New Year!

Denis Neville said...


Word of the Year? ‘Squeezed middle’ says Oxford Dictionary.

“Every year, the dictionaries teams at Oxford University Press in the UK and the US put their heads together and come up with a Word (or Phrase) of the Year. This year, for the first time, both the UK and US teams have agreed on a global Word of the Year: ‘squeezed middle.’”

“Squeezed middle”: the section of society regarded as particularly affected by inflation, wage freezes, and cuts in public spending during a time of economic difficulty, consisting principally of those people on low or middle incomes.

The term was originally coined by Ed Miliband, the Leader of the British Labour Party.

Among the US selection of shortlisted contenders for Word of the Year:

“Occupy” n.: the name given to an international movement protesting against perceived economic injustice by occupying buildings or public places and staying there for an extended period of time. [From the imperative form of the verb occupy, as in the phrase Occupy Wall Street.]

“The 99 percent”: the bottom 99% of income earners, regarded collectively.

“Occupy” was Geoff Nunberg's (the linguist contributor on NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross) 2011 WOTY.

“So why not make "the 99 percent" itself the word of the year? Well, for one thing, occupy is that rare linguistic phenomenon, a word that bubbles up out of nowhere and actually helps to create the very thing it names. And anyway, "the 99 percent" wouldn't be part of our political discussions if occupy hadn't gotten there first.”

"Occupy" is the frontrunner to win the Oscar of WOTYs given by the American Dialect Society, when it selects its word of the year for 2011 at its annual meeting in Portland January 5-8.

Geoffrey K. Pullum, “The ‘Word of the Year’ should be a word,” will be there and try to prevent compositional phrases, like “squeezed middle” from being picked.

However, Ben Zimmer disagrees, “The ‘Word of the Year’ need not be a word.” Although, he thinks “it's an odd WOTY choice.” “The (Oxford) press release says that "the Word of the Year committee in the US felt [squeezed middle] had good resonance in the US, as well," but I have yet to discern such resonance on this side of the pond, in a year dominated by such words as occupy.”

What’s your WOTY? (language as an instrument for expressing and not for concealing or preventing thought) Occupy? Squeezed middle? Or?

What worn-out and useless words or phrases would you send into the dustbin, where they belong?

Denis Neville said...

Happy New Year!

"Moving America Forward," “Growing our economy, creating more jobs, and strengthening the middle class!”

At least we don’t live in Europe.

Europe leaders warn of difficult 2012, as many economists predict recession in 2012.

Atrios asks, “Who is sacrificing?”

Governments continue to slash spending, “which will cause revenues to fall, which will cause more debt problems, which will require more 'sacrifice' and more spending cuts, which will...”

“Not the rich.”

Harper’s Mr. Fish asks, “Do you ever get tired of the same cycle every goddamn year?”

Squeezed middle?

As one Independent commentator put it, “The only thing that happens to most of the ‘squeezed middle’ is that more and more of them get pushed to the bottom. It's like treading water until you sink.”

James F Traynor said...

Gretchen Morgenson's article in today's NYT on some of the economic goings on in 2011 is great but terribly discouraging.

Jay - Ottawa said...

Karen, your “explication of text,” as it used to be called in English 101, is real journalism. What you have just done with Obama’s little Saturday morning schlock speech is to provide perspective like a teacher, with just the right amount of alum on your tongue to keep the reader attentive and bemused while you unpack the paragraphs for meaning – or, as in Obama’s case, the emptiness.

Political journalists of today seldom engage in the practice with the verve of the dour but savvy English professor’s take-no-prisoners approach to the text, although many journalists have the verbal skill and the political recall to do what you just did. So few journalistic lions now, but lots of pussy cats in the laps of corporations.

Explication of text is a tool rusting away in the toolbox of our journeymen political reporters. Journalists and commentators outside the political field conduct methodical explications of text all the time, as in book reviews. Or consider the football games so many people are watching at this moment; color commentary and the slow-motion replay help the viewer to understand the game better and know what actually happened.

We need to know what is actually being said and what, in fact, is happening. Otherwise, in Kucinich’s phrase, we will lose our country.

I.F.Stone and Eric Sevareid are no longer with us; fill the place they left open. Please, in the coming year, continue to blow the whistle and point to the fouls committed by the big players on the Washington scene. They know the rules but will continue to play dirty until the rest of us wake up, mic check your calls and throw them out of the game.

James Singer said...

E-mail from my brother this AM: "I have signed this bill despite having serious reservations with certain
provisions that regulate the detention, interrogation, and prosecution of
suspected terrorists," Obama said in a statement accompanying his signature.” No shit. Tell that to the first person the Army or Navy salts away at Gitmo with
striping his/her rights. Tell the poor fucker in the Cuban dog run that he/she
may get a “military tribunal“ in about seven years. I’ll never vote again for this asshole. Even if the Toot, (as in Newt the Toot), runs.

I think he's pissed.

Valerie said...

You said it, James! Agreed - ALL of it!

Word of the year? You can bet the powers that be are working day and night to make sure it isn't "Occupy" or "the 99%."

Denis, Not really understanding what you meant when you wrote "At least we are not Europe." Having lived in Europe for eight years and having several close European friends, so I follow the politics of Europe pretty closely - particularly Germany - this is how I see it.

At least, Europe has safety nets for the people who are unemployed, underemployed or who get sick. At least European leaders are levelling with their citizens - not like Obama and Congress who keep saying we are in the midst of a financial recovery (maybe for the banks and the giant corporations who are off-shoring more and more jobs) when we all know damn well things for the average citizen are continuing to get worse. At least in Europe, most citizens are taking part in their democracies. You watch - the Greek people won't go down quietly. There will be a lot of social and political unrest in the Greece - and Italy and Spain - in the coming year. They have a free press so the people have access to REAL information that makes a difference in their democracies. Unlike Americans, the Europeans all know what has gone down in Iceland; that the Icelanders refused to accept austerity and take on the debt incurred by PRIVATE banks and as a result, Iceland IS TRULY recovering. At least in Europe, politicians haven’t just pushed through legislation that will allow anyone who protests against our corrupt government to be labelled a terrorist and jailed without due process.

Me? I would far rather be a European than an American right now.

Valerie said...

On ray of good news on the horizon - Bill Moyers is supposed to be returning to PBS this January. I checked out this link on line. No set date for the show but at least it is still on the agenda. Bless that man! Democracy hasn't a better friend!

Anonymous said...

Free press in Italy? Berlusconi's Italy?

NPR had a program on late last week....Greek children were fainting in classrooms --- from hunger.


Valerie said...

KG comment alert to Krugman - and it is a beaut!

Valerie said...


You are such an expert on all things European. Do tell me what the German and Dutch newspapers are saying about Iceland and the economic situation. I just had lunch with a woman from Holland today and she was totally clued in and gets her news from the European MainStream Media. I assume the media in Italy is compromised but to what extent? How much of the European press is equally compromised? I know the Greek people knew all about the economic recovery in Iceland and it was a discussion point back when the Greek people were somewhat included in the discussion. Do share your thoughts and expertise on this issue, however. And cite some legitimate sources. My mind is open to hearing another, legitimate, point of view.

If kids are fainting in the classrooms in Greece from hunger you can thank the politics of austerity for that one. And your hero, Obama and his henchman Geithner were all about austerity for Greece.

Hey, what do you think about the Prez, a constitutional lawyer signing the NDAA into law? Pretty slimy, huh?

Neil said...


"Hey, what do you think about the Prez, a constitutional lawyer signing the NDAA into law? Pretty slimy, huh?"

Nice work connecting the dots. I would add that Obama is not only a constitutional lawyer, he was a constitutional law professor! This is one of Obama’s areas of expertise, along with duping his constituents in 2008.

We were sold out by our so-called savior, not some right-wing whacko.


Fred Drumlevitch said...

Part I:

I haven't commented here for a few of days. (I was busy setting up my personal Anti-Drone Local Air Defense System — a flock of newly-hatched bar-headed geese imprinted on the various drone silhouettes. That was time-consuming but relatively easy; more difficult was getting them to recite the Pledge of Allegiance and swear an anti-communism loyalty oath, but after a bit of waterboarding and electroshock treatments, they complied).

It appears the regulars here have things well covered. Still, I'll add my two cents. And assuming Karen doesn’t mind, I’ll combine here my comments on both this post of hers and her previous one on drones. (I won’t here further add to the additional discussion started by Zee on Karen’s previous post, but it was an important topic, and I do have a historical question for Zee — but I’ll leave that, and a few tardy replies to other threads, for another day).

That was a truly great dissection by Karen of the B.S. of those in power, with the added counterpoint of historical references that Obama ignored, plus some Chomsky, to boot. And great comments, quotes, and web info from so many commenters. Until Karen mentioned it (and I learned additional details from the MSNBC site), I wasn't aware that MSNBC was planning a new self-advertising campaign around the "Lean Forward" slogan, and that Obama had delivered a "Moving America Forward" address. "Lean forward", "move forward", the President, the Congress, the mainstream media, the plutocracy, the military, the corporations — there is a great deal of “servicing” occurring between these players, but it is the greater American public that always gets the shaft. (And it may not be coincidence that the supreme American legislative body is named after a word that also means coitus). Despite the occasional kiss blown to progressives, MSNBC and Obama know who the real clients are, and it is to those clients that they have delivered — and will continue to deliver. Yet a look at the comments at MSNBC and elsewhere on the web show a large number criticizing the network, and Obama, as "leftist". If that isn't cognitive dissonance, I don't know what is. Perhaps it's inevitable. The American public has "been down so long, it looks like up" to them.

Fred Drumlevitch said...

Part II:

"Regardless of the more controversial aspects of this approach such as drone strikes, President Obama has crafted a more sustainable way for the United States to use its hard power to advance its interests in the world." [Peter Juul, The Center for American Progress].

Ah, yes, the ever-important "sustainability". But apparently, it doesn't matter if our economic system, our democracy, or the Earth's climate is sustainable, as long as our projection of power is. Nor is there any introspection regarding the need for a change in our concept of national interests. No, this country will continue on the same path as before, with the renewed vigor that comes from a reduction in those American casualties that were becoming troublesome to American public opinion.

The real gaming that Obama has done, in this and other matters, wasn’t of the GOP. The most important result of the “marathon session of 11-dimensional chess” during the past three years of the Obama presidency was that progressives got rooked. Obama’s most recent betrayal of the people — instead of the veto of the NDAA that should have been forthcoming from a Constitutional scholar, he delivered signing statement assurances that aren’t worth shit under his presidency, and in any event wouldn’t be binding on future office-holders — is simply a frosting of smooth words applied to dangerously infective manure that will lead to the demise of the American democratic republic.

While the response described at this link

is undoubtedly a put-on (and were it true, would probably result in prosecution for sending prohibited substances through the mail), perhaps it could be implemented photographically, as a deluge of New Year cards sent to the White House and Congress.

Anonymous said...


Nope. Not expert on anything.

There is also a line or two on Wiki.


Zee said...

@Fred Drumlevitch--

I am intrigued by your reference to an historical question for me. I will do my best to keep my eye out for it, but I'm afraid that I am unable to follow Sardonicky as closely as I would like, nor am I accustomed to following multiple threads, back and forth in time, as seems to be the norm here at Sardonicky.

If you post your question and I don't respond quickly, it's because I didn't see it, not because I'm blowing you off. If Ms. Garcia doesn't mind, either post it again later, or refer me to the past post at a later date.

Hope that you see this, but I'm not sure where "in time" to post it.