Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Going to Extremes

The aftermath of Hurricane Sandy is a multidimensional study in contrasts and similarities.

The battered seaside estates of the obscenely wealthy and the flooded inner city housing projects of the neglected poor vie for our split screen attention.

Polished Mercedes Benzes and battered Ford pickups are equally vulnerable, it turns out, to falling trees and bricks and metal signs.

A Democratic Laurel and a Republican Hardy are equity actors in post-disaster consolation theatre. Even though Halloween was cancelled in New Jersey, Thanksgiving came early. They spoke their lines with barely a prompt, in what some critics are calling a blatant plagiarization of that disaster hit from yesteryear, "Heckuva Job Brownie."

Chris Christie: "And I cannot thank the President enough for his personal concern and compassion for our state and for the people of our state. And I heard it on the phone conversations with him, and I was able to witness it today personally."

Barack Obama: "At the top of my list, I have to say that Governor Christie throughout this process has been responsive; he has been aggressive in making sure that the state got out in front of this incredible storm. And I think the people of New Jersey recognize that he has put his heart and soul into making sure that the people of New Jersey bounce back even stronger than before. So I just want to thank him for his extraordinary leadership and partnership."

While the presidential wannabes of 2012 and 2016 respectively were careful to avoid Bush-like photo-ops of themselves peering at the New Jersey devastation from aboard their cushy helicopter, Mitt Romney was more ham-handed. His production company made the mistake of buying up all the diapers and infant formula and canned goods from a local Walmart SuperCenter to ship directly to the scene of the storm. If there is one thing the Red Cross always stresses during national disaster appeals, it's "Don't send STUFF. We don't have the time to sort and distribute it. Send MONEY."

If there is one thing Mitt Romney stresses during a national campaign, it's "Don't send money. We don't have the time to give some of it to the national treasury and distribute it for the common good." In Romney World, you can't teach an old dog new tricks, especially if the dog is tied to the roof of your car. (Sorry, Gail Collins.)

For me, the iconic image of Frankenstorm is the partially collapsed crane dangling dangerously over Manhattan. It is attached, sort of, to what has become the symbol of obscene wealth in this country -- a residential luxury skyscraper with units so expensive that only billionaires can afford to live in them. It is a pinnacle of the plutocracy, a monolith of greed. The crane is like a perverse Sword of Damocles misdirected at those hapless victims far, far below. Should it fall, it will plummet to earth like a bunker-busting bomb, tearing open the concrete, exploding gas and water mains, sending projectiles of concrete and steel to slash and impale any of the hapless lesser people lingering below.

It is just what happens when the top one percent of the population owns more than 40% of all the wealth. When wealth is disproportionately distributed toward the extreme top, the whole structure becomes unstable. Just as the lethal crane clinging precariously to the luxury high-rise threatens to destroy both the structure and what lies beneath, economic inequality leads to inevitable collapse of the whole society.

Frankenstorm is just one more freak of nature, one more indication of what happens in a society where regulations are few, where capitalism is unfettered, where the rich get rescued, and the poor just drown.

Back Online

We just got our internet/phone/cable restored in New Paltz after a two-day disruption, so I am still catching up on all the devastation outside my own little slice of real estate. Just a brief glance at TV and online news makes it apparent that the destruction wrought by Sandy is far worse than most people could have imagined.

Thanks to everyone who has written to me with messages of concern. We fared much better during this storm than we did with Hurricane Irene last year, when floods literally washed away whole towns. The latest damage to the Hudson Valley, where I live, was mainly due to high winds. There was little rainfall, comparatively speaking.

This is going to be a long recovery for untold millions of people in a huge, huge chunk of this country.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Good Night & Good Luck

The officials in the rolled-up sleeves are now going on TV to inform us that we may be off the grid for ten days or more. I suspect that this dire prediction is meant to make us idiotically grateful when they heroically restore our power in a mere week. We won't blame them like we did after Hurricane Irene. That debacle, you may recall, led to the resignation of more than one grossly overpaid utility CEO.

I have a friend who works for one of the utilities. Last year, he told me, they were too cheap to bring in extra crews. This go-round, they've got so many people in their control rooms that they forgot to get them enough chairs. They actually had utility trucks out aimlessly cruising the neighborhoods this afternoon, when the winds began howling at 5mph. It was Electric Company Theatre taking its cue from Homeland Security Theatre.

The only good thing I have to say about Hurricane Sandy is that he has one exquisite sense of direction. His priorities are straight. He is expected to directly unleash his wrath upon the sewer known as Wall Street. He will vomit saltwater all over Goldman Sachs and its fascist network of NYPD/Homeland Security fusion center spy cameras. The soakers shall become the soaked. The polluted financial swamp will become swamped with polluted river water. After the Stock Exchange bravely declared it would remain open and greedy throughout the storm, how it must have pained Mayor Forbes Shrillionaire Bloomberg to announce the evacuation of the entire Financial District and Club Cipriani Wall Street, home of the $25 hamburger. And what about those high-frequency computer trading vaults across the river in New Jersey? The Crawling Eye of the Storm is headed their way too. This is beginning to be almost bearable.

As far as this blog goes, I'll be back when I'm back. Unfortunately, I can't keep the comments open*, because lately I've been inundated with Spambots selling Uggs and Viagra. I did get spam from an actual person once. He picqued my interest by saying that he and his partner only discuss my subversive posts and those of Glenn Greenwald with their windows closed, for fear the government is eavesdropping on them. He included a link to his own blog. Turned out to be a commercial site for tinfoil hat software to prevent the National Security Agency from spying on malcontents. Oy vey.

For everybody in the path of Sandy, stay safe and dry and warm. Fill your bathtub with water so you can flush. If you forgot to buy designer water and batteries for your radio, you are probably out of luck. There are so many panic-stricken drivers out on the roads, looking for that last roll of toilet paper, that tonight's accident rate will probably exceed that of tomorrow and Tuesday.

* You can still write comments, but they may sit in limbo for awhile until they can be approved. As of 10:30 Monday I am still around to approve them -- we still have power, though for how long is the question. Winds are just starting to pick up here, about 20 mph w/higher gusts.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Adventures of Sandy the Storm

As a storm of apocalyptic proportions barreled toward a population center with millions of bodies, with damage already forecast to be in the billions, President Obama today addressed the nation on..... Personal Finance! Forget about stocking up on bread and batteries. Drop everything and check your credit score, right this very minute!

I get it that climate change denialism is an unwritten plank in both rotten sides of the Uniparty, but this is too much. Although President Obama disingenuously expressed mild surprise that the looming catastrophe of man-made global warming just wasn't brought up in any of the debates, it apparently never occurred to him to actually act presidential and proactively bring it up himself before audiences totalling well over 100 million.

Instead, he went on MTV to let MTV fans know that's he cool enough to occasionally ponder global warming.

“We are not moving as fast as we need to, and this is an issue that future generations, MTV viewers, are going to have to be dealing with, even more than the older generation is,” he admitted, obviously putting the onus on the crumbling, irresponsible Geezer Generation.

As "Frankenstorm" threatens to hasten the demise of a huge chunk of the also-crumbling infrastructure here on terra firma, it turns out that even though we landed a rover on Mars, we haven't been maintaining the aging satellite system designed to keep track of the megastorms of the future. A combination of bureaucratic inefficiency and deficit hawkery has spelled a gap of at least a few years in which the tracking of storms will be grossly impeded. Starting as early as next year, we may be reverting back to the time when hurricanes took coastal areas by complete surprise, resulting in thousands of deaths.

This is what austerity does. It endangers lives in the name of saving a few bucks. But even that rationale is a lie. Austerity is the excuse given so that the rich can get richer and the poor can get screwed. The mega rich apparently have not yet learned that megastorms can destroy their seaside estates, yachts and manicured lawns just as effectively as they flatten mobile homes in trailer parks. And the two candidates of the mega-rich, says The New York Times,"have seemed most intent on trying to outdo each other as lovers of coal, oil and natural gas — the very fuels most responsible for rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere."

None of the debate moderators brought up climate change because the oil and gas industry is a major sponsor of TV news shows. We've all seen those incessant "I'm Beavis, and I'm an energy voter" pro-fracking and drilling commercials sponsored by the industry. This propaganda attempts to convince us that what is good for their bottom line is good for the average Joe. We are not told that Big Energy is not in the profit-sharing business, that increased drilling does not ease the pain at the pump. Prices are set by international cartels. What's extracted in this country doesn't necessarily stay in this country. The much-touted jobs are temporary and dangerous, the damage to the earth and our health is incalculable.

The talking heads are not about to bite the oil-soaked hand that feeds them. The corporate-run Commission on Presidential Debates is itself owned and operated by lobbyists and CEOs, for whom climate change is the inconvenient truth that must not be told. Regulations attempting to ameliorate the effects of climate change eat into corporate bottom lines. Politicians daring to introduce climate change legislation will find the corporate wealth funding their billion-dollar campaigns drying up faster than a fracked community's water supply.

Maybe if we can overturn Citizens United and get the money out of politics, our voices will become louder than their dollar signs.

Oh, and speaking of dollar signs, don't forget to log on the internet and check your credit score so you can run up more debt and enrich the bloated banks and buy a ton of junk that you don't need and can't afford. It's the new economic patriotism.

I believe that the free market is one of the greatest forces for progress in human history, and that the true engine of job creation in this country is the private sector, not the government.-- Barack Obama, pre-Sandy presidential manifesto.

A Mighty Wind

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Hand-Wringing in Liberal Land

How's this for leverage: nervous liberals are operating under the theory that they can wait until Obama is safely re-esconced in the West Wing before convincing him to protect the New Deal. According to The Hill, a coalition of so-called progressives will be launching a campaign "immediately after Election Day to pressure Obama and Senate Democrats not to endorse any deal that cuts Medicare and/or Social Security benefits."

They are so fearful of their Leader co-mingling them with the maligned purists of the "professional left" that most of them won't even reveal their own identities. They are loath to betray their incipient betrayer. They have apparently forgotten that gay rights groups helped Obama "evolve" on marriage equality when they threatened to withhold support and money. Ditto for immigration reform activists, who demonstrated their own discontent with his lackluster support and "made him" order temporary amnesty for Dream Act candidates -- again, by threatening, not cajoling.

Independent Vermont Senator and self-described socialist Bernie Sanders, famous for his marathon anti-plutocracy filibuster and frequent indignant letters to the White House, is apparently the spokesman for the cravenly pragmatic crew of anonymous malcontents. He has urged passionately, and he has urged often that President Obama be held to account, that he should promise to protect the safety net as a condition to his re-election.

But at no time has Sanders gone so far as to suggest that we actually withhold our vote for this Democratic president, and vote Green or Socialist instead. Despite all his populist rhetoric, Sanders is still giving his tacit endorsement for another Obama term.

After running themselves ragged door-belling, phone-banking, contributing their meager dollars, and mindlessly cheerleading the incumbent, the groups will begin to apply their pinky-finger pressure on Nov. 8, two days after Election Day. (They need 48 hours to gather steam for the Big Offensive. They will take two bold baby steps forward on the road to recovery in the wake of their mass exodus from collective sanity during Horserace 2012.)

The AFL-CIO, which showed up at the Democratic National Convention for the purposes of improving their own unfair thuggish image, rather than making demands on their candidates, will also join in the attempt to put the toothpaste back in the tube. One bold agitator even dared give his name ahead of time:

There’s going to be a major effort by lots of groups to make sure the people we vote for don’t sell us down the river,” said Roger Hickey, co-director of the Campaign for America’s Future.

“People, groups, organizations and networks are working very hard to get Obama and the Democrats elected, and yet we are worried that it is possible that we could be betrayed almost immediately,” he said.

Ya think, Roger? Why, it was only yesterday that Obama salivated, for the umpteenth time, over the prospect of ripping open that can of Simpson-Bowles Catfood to shove it down our throats. After thinking he could importune an Iowa newspaper into endorsing him on the basis of an off-the-record interview -- and the paper subsequently calling him out on his ridiculous secrecy -- this is what Obama said:

It will probably be messy. It won’t be pleasant. But I am absolutely confident that we can get what is the equivalent of the grand bargain that essentially I’ve been offering to the Republicans for a very long time, which is $2.50 worth of cuts for every dollar in spending, and work to reduce the costs of our health care programs.

And we can easily meet -- “easily” is the wrong word -- we can credibly meet the target that the Bowles-Simpson Commission established of $4 trillion in deficit reduction, and even more in the out-years, and we can stabilize our deficit-to-GDP ratio in a way that is really going to be a good foundation for long-term growth. Now, once we get that done, that takes a huge piece of business off the table.

Obama is obviously still operating under the debunked notion that austerity helps grow the economy in the middle of an economic recession. If he reads Paul Krugman, it is obviously not sinking in. Then again, Paul Krugman is so focused on how bad a President Romney would be that he is essentially giving the incumbent a free pass. Presumably, he will return to form once the election is over.

And I don't know if Roger and Bernie and the rest of the gang have noticed.... but have you ever picked up on the fact that President Obama always promises to negotiate with the Republicans, yet never expresses the slightest interest in talking to the so-called Progressive Caucus of his own party? These doe-like Congress critters, led by Raul Grijalva of Arizona, have put together a "People's Budget" that puts people back to work, imposes a living wage, slashes the deficit, scraps the cap on Social Security FICA contributions and all kinds of good stuff.

It sounds great, but that's about it. You don't hear Grijalva and the other progressives forming a schism and walking away from the Blue Dog prez, do you? These people are what we can kindly call "useful idiots". They form the pretend-left flank of the spineless Democratic Party, which exists solely to provide a cosmetic balance to the right wing extremism of the Ayn Rand Cult. We feel better listening to them liberally and impotently rant and rave on MSNBC, and then the right-center President and his Senate lackeys swoop in to split the difference and pretend that they tried. They really, really tried. But you know... gridlock and stuff.

So-called pragmatic progressives are fond of maligning their backwoods, mouth-breathing kin for voting against their own interests when they elect Teapublican crazoids. And if the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and still expecting different results, then perhaps immediate self-commitment in a fancy liberal rest home is in order. The differential diagnostic grounds for admission: cognitive dissonance disorder consistent with battered spouse syndrome, complicated by addiction to a designer drug of the Obamopiate class.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Hawks & Vultures

Everything I needed to know about American foreign policy, I learned at last night's presidential "debate".

I learned that no matter their side of the Duopoly, our politicians are firm believers in raining down democracy from the skies upon recalcitrant bodies in dire need of some crushing American freedom.

I learned that is vital for America to champion education and gender equality in Iran at the very same time we surround their country with military bases and destroy their economy with sanctions.

I learned that our political and media leaders persist in the notion of American exceptionalism even though a sizable chunk of the world is feeling neither the love nor the respect.

I learned that "foreign policy" does not encompass either of our immediate neighbors, Canada and Mexico. The world is comprised of China, Israel, the Muslim nations of the Middle East, and Russia. It apparently does not include Europe, although South America did get a brief mention from Mitt Romney based on all the "opportunities" it presents for people like him. (I think South America should maybe think about watching their skies for both circling capitalist vultures and drones.) They didn't mention Japan, maybe because American soldiers are still raping women on Okinawa, which we have occupied for no apparent reason since World War II. Judging from what the contenders were saying last night, Sinophobia is now vying with Islamophobia for first place in the American Fear-Mongering Industry sweepstakes.

I learned that presidential candidates and the corporatized Commission on Presidential Debates seem to be going out of their way to choose over-the-hill, inside the Beltway, right wing and preferably incipiently senile "journalists" to act as facilitators for the dissemination of political bullshit. Although Bob Schieffer did have one fantastic line: "Obama's bin Laden."

Other memorable (not to mention frightening) moments of verbiage:

"Syria is Iran's only ally in the Arab world. It's their route to the sea." -- Mitt Romney. (Iran has a nice coastal area all its own, thank you very much.)

"But unfortunately, in nowhere in the world is America's influence will grow. But unfortunately, in -- nowhere in the world is America's influence greater today than it was four years ago." -- Mitt Romney. (needs remedial English as well as remedial geography.)

"America is the one indispensible nation." -- Barack Obama. (the rest of the world is not important and therefore, dispensible garbage.)

"...we're going to have to have training programs that work for our workers and schools that finally put the parents and the teachers and the kids first, and the teachers' unions going to have to go behind." -- Mitt Romney. (and lo, the angels of privatized education shall vanquish the demonized teachers' unions. No argument from Barack on that.)

"We need to be thinking about cyber security. We need to be talking about space. That's exactly what our budget does, but it's driven by strategy. It's not driven by politics. It's not driven by members of Congress, and what they would like to see. It's driven by, what are we going to need to keep the American people safe? That's exactly what our budget does, and it also then allows us to reduce our deficit, which is a significant national security concern. Because we've got to make sure that our economy is strong at home so that we can project military power overseas." -- Barack Obama. (slash the social safety net at home so we can impose our almighty will on the rest of the planet as well as on other planets and throughout the space-time continuum. Cutting your Social Security and Medicare benefits will keep the military industrial complex safe, fat, happy, bloated and financially secure forever. The goal of a strong domestic economy is not to serve the citizens, but to flex our military muscle and 1000-and-counting military bases, a k a mini-occupations.)

"We then organized the strongest coalition and the strongest sanctions against Iran in history, and it is crippling their economy. Their currency has dropped 80 percent. Their oil production has plunged to the lowest level since they were fighting a war with Iraq 20 years ago. So their economy is in a shambles." -- Barack Obama. (I create human misery, and I'm proud of it.)

"I'd make sure that Ahmadinejad is indicted under the Genocide Convention. His words amount to genocide incitation. I would indict him for it. I would also make sure that their diplomats are treated like the pariah they are around the world." -- Mitt Romney. (If he meant the Geneva Conventions, somebody should tell him that the United States stopped abiding by their precepts when it legitimated torture, extraordinary rendition, detention without trial, and presidentially decreed drone strikes against civilian populations. And in what justice system would Mitt even indict him? The USA has refused, for example, to participate in or ratify the World Court, in order to shield the Bush War Criminals from an international tribunal.)

"There -- there are people in Iran who have the same aspirations as people all around the world for a better life.... And it turns out that the work involved in setting up these crippling sanctions is painstaking. It's meticulous. We started from the day we got into office. And the reason is was so important -- and this is a testament to how we've restored American credibility and strength around the world." -- Barack Obama. (I want you to believe that crippling sanctions abroad, not to mention austerity here at home, will somehow stimulate people's aspirations for a better life. Earth to Barack: the only credible thing is that poor opinions of American boorishness have been growing and spreading exponentially.)

"And when it comes to our military and Chinese security, part of the reason that we were able to pivot to the Asia-Pacific region after having ended the war in Iraq and transitioning out of Afghanistan, is precisely because this is going to be a massive growth area in the future. And we believe China can be a partner, but we're also sending a very clear signal that America is a Pacific power; that we are going to have a presence there. We are working with countries in the region to make sure, for example, that ships can pass through; that commerce continues. And we're organizing trade relations with countries other than China so that China starts feeling more pressure about meeting basic international standards." -- Barack Obama. (Oh, before we get to that nation-building here at home, I am deploying my military might to surround China on all sides. War is forever, baby. We make friends the old-fashioned way. We saber-rattle with a predatory smile.)

"I've been -- Ann was with someone just the other day that was just weeping about not being able to get work. It's just a tragedy in a nation so prosperous as ours, that the last four years have been so hard." -- Mitt Romney (I run from weepers like the plague. I send the missus out to deal with the floods of lachrymosity.)

"But I love teachers. But I want to get our private sector growing and I know how to do it." -- Mitt Romney (I despise teachers' unions, which are an impediment to the charter schools and privatization of education for the sake of my crony capitalist profiteers. Here, Barack and I are in total agreement. Did you ever hear me saying I'd get rid of his Race to the Top? I love Rahm Emanuel!)

"And we've been through tough times but we always bounce back because of our character, because we pull together and if I have the privilege of being your president for another four years, I promise you I will always listen to your voices. I will fight for your families and I will work every single day to make sure that America continues to be the greatest nation on earth." -- Barack Obama. (Embrace the power of magical thinking and believe you will bounce back from the misery created by the unindicted criminal financial class just by dint of my stunning moralizations. Continue to believe the ridiculous canard that America is the greatest nation on earth. Feel the fear, beat the drums. Rah rah, zis boom bah.)

"I want to make sure our take-home pay turns around and starts to grow." -- Mitt Romney (Our profits will grow, not your lousy minimum wage, peons! Did I say anything about a living wage? Less FICA deductions, less withheld tax = less Social Security and Medicare, less revenues, less government and more misery.)

"I leave you with the words of my mom, who said: 'Go vote; it'll make you feel big and strong'". -- Bob Schieffer (Sure, Bob. It'll make us feel big and strong for all of 30 seconds. Then we can go back to living our solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short Hobbesean lives. Go USA!!!)

Monday, October 22, 2012

Links / Open Thread

Some Pakistani victims of American drone strikes are going to court requesting that arrest warrants be issued for two former CIA officials thought to have ordered two specific attacks in 2009. A separate case is seeking court action to declare the drone strikes to be illegal acts of war, requiring the government to shoot down the drones hovering over the tribal regions of Waziristan.

One of the plaintiffs is a TV journalist with two masters degrees whose son and brother were killed while the family was eating dinner on New Years Eve. The son was a quiet studious youth who enjoyed playing cricket and hunting partridges. The brother taught English. This does not exactly fit with the American propaganda of drone victims as illiterate militant peasants plotting mayhem in mud huts off the beaten path, does it?

The extended Romney family apparently owns a large stake in an electronic voting machine company, with some co-investors even implicated in a busted Ponzi scheme. And did you hear that the United Nations will actually be monitoring our elections this year? We are now officially a Banana Republic.

Paul Krugman explains for the umpteenth time that Mitt Romney's numbers don't add up. What does add up, however, are the number of Bush-era advisers and debunked economic policies surrounding him. (My comment is first under "oldest".)

The third and final presidential debate will be held in Boca Raton, site of the infamous 47% Romney fundraiser. But tonight, the two preapproved candidates of the plutocracy will be discussing something only 4% of American voters actually care about: foreign policy. Since our imperialistic war machine operates by totally bipartisan consensus, the bickering will no doubt be centered on who knew what when on the Benghazi attack and the various talking point inconsistencies.

Since the Democratic Party is now the party of rich white centrists, rich white guys like David Brooks and Mike Bloomberg should just come out of the closet and admit that Obama is the guy for them.

If you haven't seen the Bill Moyers interview with Chrystia Freeland and Matt Taibbi on "Plutocracy Rising", you can catch it here. The extreme wealth inequality now affecting the entire globe cannot hold. The so-called New World Order is bound to collapse. Globalization is not only economic, it's social. People do revolt, and it's already happening in austerity-torn Europe as well as the middle East.

"He Never Sold His Soul" -- Chris Hedges has written an affecting piece on George McGovern.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Garden Variety Ignorance

Much is being made of DNC Chairperson Debbie Wasserman Schultz's fantastic claim on Debate Night that she'd never heard of President Obama's Kill List. The jury is out as to whether DWS is truly an ignoramus (Glenn Greenwald)or just a disingenous obfuscator.

I will go with the latter. It is pretty obvious that Democratic surrogates have gotten their marching orders and talking points should they ever face the embarrassing question of Obama's self-appointed role as judge, jury and executioner of suspected terrorists (a k a Muslim males in the primes of their lives residing in Middle Eastern backwaters largely inaccessible to Western journalists.)

A reporter from Gawker had confronted various Democratic bigwigs and propaganda flacks at last month's DNC confab in Charlotte, asking if we can trust Mitt Romney with the Kill List. For the most part, they did what Debbie Wasserman Schultz did. They played stupid and walked away. Or else they played stupid and immediately launched into their preapproved scripts.

Included among those fleeing the questioner in abject panic without saying a single word were Senators Kay Hagen of North Carolina and Carl Levin of Michigan. Cory Booker, that hedge fund-loving mayor of Newark who got in so much trouble for defending Bain Capital on a Sunday talk show, has definitely learned his lesson. He simply adopted the other tried-and-true tactic of first demeaning the reporter before walking away. Publicity magnet Gloria Allred, a delegate, replied that she would not trust Mitt Romney with her body, or the bodies of any women. But she trusts Barack Obama with bodies in general. Rival publicity magnet Sen. Chuck "never met a camera he didn't like" Schumer just ignored the question and burbled out a word salad of non sequiturs. Lanny Davis (whose DNC position was defined by Gawker as "asshole") derided the question as beneath his dignity as a party hack.

And last but not least was the unidentified character in a fright wig, who said he trusts Obama with the Kill List, because his decisions to obliterate certain people are derived from a sound moral character. Mitt Romney, on the other hand, would even kill people who are not on the Kill List.

So, it is really unfair for Glenn Greenwald to single out Debbie Wasserman Schultz on her "remarkable, unfathomable ignorance." The ignorance is all too deliberate, common and banal. The ignorance spreads itself out in a putrid puddle a mile wide and half an inch deep. Despite its murkiness, it's shallow enough to see straight down to the bottom.

George McGovern

In his own words: (Op-ed published in The New York Times on April 3, 1982)

WASHINGTON— Ralph Waldo Emerson has assured us: ''A man may love a paradox without either losing his wit or his honesty.'' It is good that we have this assurance because these are certainly days when paradox rules.

There is, for example, the paradox of an allegedly conservative Republican Administration programming Federal deficits so enormous that if offered by a liberal Democrat, they would confirm conservative suspicions that liberals have no respect for the dollar. I'm supposed to be a liberal, but I find the Reagan deficit astonishing and irresponsible. If, as the Democratic Presidential nominee in 1972, I had even hinted at the acceptability of a $100 billion deficit, I would not even have carried Massachusetts!

When people ask me, as they do in growing numbers, ''What do the Democrats offer as an alternative?'', so sweeping an answer is required as to leave the questioner dazed or bored.

I can find almost nothing to support in the Reagan economic, military, foreign, or budget policies. Indeed, except for the first appointment of a woman to the Supreme Court, I disagree with virtually every action of this Administration. Mr. Reagan does not appear to understand the simplest economic truths. In foreign policy, he is splitting the North Atlantic Treaty Organization alliance while reuniting the Sino-Soviet bloc and repeating, in Central America, the mistakes of Vietnam; his military budget is so wasteful and poorly conceived as to be a threat to the security of the nation; and he seems blind to the greatest danger of our age - the mounting threat of extinction posed by an uncontrolled nuclear-arms race.

What can the Democrats do? They can stop drifting along with policies that they know are weakening the nation and threatening world peace. They can stop endorsing sweeping tax cuts that feed inflation and unbalance the budget. They can stop endorsing illplanned weapons, while neglecting our real defense needs. They can stop supporting budget policies that weaken such productive investments as education, transportation, energy, agriculture, job training, nutrition, drug rehabilitation, public assistance, and dignity for our older citizens. They can stop supporting such nonproductive expenditures as tax relief for the wealthy, high interest rates for moneylenders, and gold-plated weapons that aren't needed and won't work under combat conditions.

At the risk of oversimplification, I would say that the proper Democratic agenda is to oppose Mr. Reagan at every turn and to offer an alternative. In other words, the Democrats' job is to offer tax justice and a balanced budget in place of tax concessions and a $100 billion deficit; to reverse the arms race and press for the ratification of a verifiable nuclear-arms agreement with the Soviet Union; to reduce the sky-high interest rates that are choking the economy; and, instead of encouraging the merger mania, take steps to buttress small business and family farms. The Democrats' job is to increase the productivity and usefulness of our people by investing more in such human capital as education, training, and whatever is necessary to provide work for everyone willing and able - in the private sector where possible, and in public works where that is the only recourse - instead of drifting along as we now are with nearly one out of 10 workers idled.

There is no excuse for a great nation such as ours failing to provide a job opportunity for every able worker. Nothing can be more wasteful than idleness when there are houses to be built, railways to be modernized, topsoil to be preserved, and young people to be redeemed from ignorance, drugs, and crime.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, perhaps our greatest President with the possible exception of Lincoln, led us through the Great Depression and World War II. Today's issues are of course different from those that faced F.D.R. The nuclear peril, the energy crisis, the environmental challenges, the decline of industrial productivity - these were not the problems that engaged F.D.R., but his innovative, pragmatic spirit may well be required to solve them. Right now, we could use the vision of Franklin D. Roosevelt, the bluntness of Harry S. Truman, the inspiration of John F. Kennedy, the Congressional leadership skills of Lyndon B. Johnson, and the essential fairness of Jimmy Carter. I yearn, too, for the wit and courage of men who were not elected President - Adlai E. Stevenson, Hubert H. Humphrey, Robert F. Kennedy.

In short, I'm not yet ready to surrender the New Deal, the Square Deal, the New Frontier, the Great Society -or the hope that America will again become the great land it can be when it is faithful to its founding ideals.

Friday, October 19, 2012

What a Racket

(Saul Loeb, Agence France Presse)

That the political system is corrupt is no longer even up for debate. That the two mainstream presidential candidates are beholden to the plutocracy is a foregone conclusion. That the United States will eventually collapse from its own imperialistic weight is a matter not of if, but of when.
The torrents of daily outrage are cascading so furiously that we can barely even keep track of them. Party tribalism is so rampant that if you're a Romney fan, you psychotically believe his opponent is a socialist. If you're an Obama supporter, there seems to be nothing he can do that will not meet with your cowed, tacit approval. Drone strikes against innocent civilians? That's just your godfather president keeping you safe. Having the Secret Service arrest two third party female candidates and chain them to chairs while your guy champions the rights of women? Never mind all that, as long as your birth control pills are safe. Obama is the presidential John Gotti, the Teflon Don. And Campaign 2012 is starting to look more like a mob war than a presidential battle.

It took an independent labor journalist named Mike Elk to discover a months-old audio of Mitt Romney subtly threatening anti-union bosses to strong-arm their employees into voting for him.... or else. In his New York Times column today, Timothy Egan wrote about the real Romney coming out of the closet at Tuesday night's debate. My response:
Romney just forgot where he was on Tuesday night. He was probably having an oligarchic flashback to that conference call he had with a cadre of so-called small business owners last spring. That was when he gave his consiglieres one of those offers they best not refuse.

"I hope you make it very clear to your employees", he warned, "what you believe is in the best interest of your enterprise and therefore their job and their future in the upcoming elections. And whether you agree with me or you agree with President Obama, or whatever your political view, I hope, I hope you pass those along to your employees."

This guy doesn't want to be president. He wants to be mafia boss. Cajole, threaten, shake down, kneecap, repeat. The photo of him accompanying this article actually does look like a publicity shot for "The Sopranos."

Mitt as mob boss, however, is a ham-handed Tony Soprano-type who likes to off his victims direct and in person and then foolishly brag about it later. Barry, on the other hand, is a more circumspect capofamiglia. He subcontracts his hits out to his underlings and makes sure his Wall Street earners are well-protected by his underbosses in the Justice and Treasury branches of the hierarchy. He throws figurative block parties in the neighborhood, handing out trinkets of gay rights and temporary amnesty for Dreamers and health care for a few sick kids. He flirts with the ladies even as he has his underlings literally kidnap Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala, bind them to chairs in a Long Island warehouse, releasing them only when the coast is clear and the fake debate is over.

Oh, and once in awhile people do get collaterally damaged. Shit does happen. To its credit, the New York Times ran an editorial taking both mobsters to task for not caring about assault weapon proliferation in the streets of America. My comment:

Whenever you hear politicians promising that they look forward to having a conversation on an issue, you can rest assured that it will be swept under the rug asap. Ms. Gonzalez is to be commended for asking one of the few questions at the stage-managed debate that was not bland, candidate-friendly and made for boring TV.

You expect a Republican NRA panderer like Romney to obfuscate, but there is no excuse for Mr. Obama, who'd vowed to push for a renewal of the assault weapon ban during his first campaign. What I found particularly off-putting was this remark:

"But there have been too many instances during the course of my presidency, where I've had to comfort families who have lost somebody. Most recently out in Aurora. You know, just a couple of weeks ago, actually, probably about a month, I saw a mother, who I had met at the bedside of her son, who had been shot in that theater.

"And her son had been shot through the head. And we spent some time, and we said a prayer and, remarkably, about two months later, this young man and his mom showed up, and he looked unbelievable, good as new." (page 7, debate transcript.)

It reminded me of the time when Bush blithely comforted maimed Iraq war vets with the promise of "we'll get you some new legs" and then invited them for a round of golf.

Prayers, platitudes, and bromides -- that's all our elected officials offer shooting victims. But what else can you expect in America, the biggest arms dealer the world has ever known?

If you believe the polls, Obama may win the electoral college vote and lose the popular vote, just eking out a victory that is more like a wash. But Mitt
Romney will prevail and be forever protected by the oligarchy. Paul Ryan will continue rising through the ranks, whether it be in Congress, K Street, or Fox. The rubout of democracy will continue, until the peasants and the wage slaves finally and inevitably reach the breaking point. Strikes and pitchforks are looming on the horizon.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Post-Debate Blather

Barack was all jacked up on a variation of his stump speech. Mitt was his usual smirky, stammering, gushing self. For a minute there, I thought these two one percenters were gonna get physical. But sadly, only the platitudes flew fast and furious.

Still, it was edifying to learn that both contenders are such staunch defenders of a tenth of the Bill of Rights (Second Amendment.) We absolutely need more armed militias. The president told a heartwarming story of how one survivor of the Aurora mass shooting who took a bullet to the head is now good as new. You wouldn't even know he'd been shot to look at him today! So it's all good, even though a few unlucky duckies died. Mitt bragged that back in Massachusetts, the AK-47 lovers and the AK-47 haters made nice and compromised. He did not say how, but maybe they split the difference and agreed on AK-23.5's.

Both of them want to deport the foreign gang-bangers made possible by the government's criminally misguided War on Drugs. The undocumented folks who want to stay here may be able to score green cards if they first demonstrate willingness to spill their blood for the sake of American Empire. Mitt said one solution is for them to self-deport, because there sure as hell aren't many opportunities left here.

Barry name-dropped Lily Ledbetter as proof that he likes females. That law he signed, by the way, does not guarantee equal pay for equal work. It guarantees women the right to find out how much more their male co-workers are making compared to them, so they can try and find a pro-bono lawyer to sue in their behalf. Mitt bragged that he used to hire whole "binders-full"of women. He said he is different from George Bush. If elected he will complete the BTK Trifecta of the presidency. Bush tortured, Obama killed, and Mitt will bind. The serial imperial presidency writ large, skewed and disordered.

If you're a Romney fan, then Romney won. Obamabots are just orgasmic that their guy didn't nod off again. Except for the woman who asked about gun control, the questions were soft as a baby's butt, designed to pit the two preapproved duopolists against each other in a way that was vapidly devoid of all meaning. Both the wives wore hot pink, and the pundits pontificated how awwwwkward that was. Awwwwwgh.

Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala, the Green Party candidates, were arrested before the debate as they tried to get in. Even though they are on the ballot in 85% of the states, they were barred from participating. The corporatists have decreed that third party candidates have to be polling at least 15% to get invited. And since none of the pollsters include the Green Party in their surveys, the results were preordained. When the Quinnipiac people called me a few weeks ago, for example, asking if I wanted Romney or Obama, I said Jill Stein. And they said she wasn't on the list, so they were putting me down as "undecided". What a democracy.

Pre-Debate Blather

Mitt Romney and Barack Obama may be Harvard Law School grads, but you wouldn't know it based on their abysmal understanding of basic contract law. The two campaigns had signed a "memorandum of understanding" in which they decreed that Candy Crowley's moderation role would be limited to introductions and enforcing time limits. The only problem is, they didn't tell her their rules and she isn't agreeing to them. She's been going around threatening to ask follow-up questions of the candidates if they don't come clean with their citizen-subject inquisitors. And Mitt and Barry are in panic mode over this unprecedented show of journalistic independence.

Both campaigns have now appealed to the corporate-run Commission on Presidential Debates, demanding that Ms. Crowley stick to her preordained role as factotum for the staged travesty. But since you can't sign a contract enforcing conditions on a third party without that party's consent, they don't have a legal leg to stand on. Not that it really matters, of course, when you are running for president. The unitary executive job description has long been exempt from the pesky rule of law. If Candy Crowley asks a tough question on the illegality of targeted assassinations on American citizens, she could be declared a terrorist sympathizer and end up on a presidential kill list. Very theoretically, of course. The law is that dangerously and intentionally vague. A federal judge just ruled as much, before her ruling was overturned by a higher court based on a panic-stricken appeal by the White House.

The two sides did, however, deign to grant Ms. Crowley the power to shut off the microphones of audience questioners if they happen to go off-script from their pre-approved queries. Participants reportedly have been chosen from among undecided Long Islanders as determined by a Gallup poll.

And this whole canard about there being gridlock in Washington based on the insane polarity between the two sides of the Uniparty is just that -- a canard. Bipartisanship is alive and well when it comes to waging forever wars, and protecting the interests of the elites, and keeping the hoi polloi in their places. Here is the joint statement put out by the Rombama and Obamney people:

As stated in the document: “In managing the two-minute comment periods, the moderator will not rephrase the question or open a new topic … The moderator will not ask follow-up questions or comment on either the questions asked by the audience or the answers of the candidates during the debate or otherwise intervene in the debate except to acknowledge the questioners from the audience or enforce the time limits, and invite candidate comments during the two-minute response period.”

The Commission on Presidential Debates, as I've previously outlined, is run by lobbyists and corporate CEOs, for lobbyists and CEOs. Until Time Magazine's Mark Helprin leaked the "gentleman's agreement" the CPD had very undemocratically refused to divulge the terms and conditions whereby predigested drivel would be spewed into the undecided living rooms of the Banana Republic States of America. The document is really kind of a yawn. Mitt and Barry, prima donnas that they are, are allowed to bring their own make-up artists. (nothing about nails ladies, though). The "green rooms" where they will hover while awaiting their big entrances will be close enough to the stage so they won't be sweating like pigs from a too-long walk into the limelight. Panning camera shots of dismayed spouses and nose-picking spawn in the audience are verboten. Each man will be allowed to bring along his own own still photographer for posterity. No Leni Riefenstahlish documentarians allowed, though. All camera angles will be flattering. The mics will be wireless so as to avoid accidents. The little tables holding their designer water will be close enough to avoid any untoward stretching or embarrassing spills.

Amazingly enough, the Debate police will ensure that neither Mitt nor Barry sneaks any electronic device, prop, or other "tangible thing" to the stage with them. Whether they will actually be frisked or body-scanned is not known, but the agreement does allow Candy Crowley to interrupt the whole shebang if she discovers either one of them cheating in any way. We can only hope. We can also hope that one of the pre-approved, "undecided" citizen questioners launches into a tirade against war, unfettered capitalism and the corruption of politics by the monied interests before the microphone is turned off. That is the only reason I'll be tuning in.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Suppress the Truth, Feel the Fear

Why don't more corporate media outlets challenge President Obama on his criminal drone strike assassination policy? New York Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan not only asks that question in her Sunday column -- she challenges her own newspaper to step up to the plate and actually do its job, and become relentless in demanding accountability from our increasingly secretive government.

Taking her cue from the recent Stanford/NYU report that used interviews with Pakistani civilians in order to disprove White House claims of little to no "collateral damage", Ms. Sullivan posits that the lack of citizen outrage at the American killing campaign is at least partly attributable to the lack of hard-hitting coverage by the paper of record:

With its vast talent and resources, The Times has a responsibility to lead the way in covering this topic as aggressively and as forcefully as possible, and to keep pushing for transparency so that Americans can understand just what their government is doing.

The Sullivan column was published in tandem with a just-released report from the Columbia Law School Human Rights Clinic, which points out the flaws in the tracking of civilian deaths from drone strikes. It notes that a "non-partisan" think tank called the New America Foundation has underestimated civilian casualties, as has the aptly creepy and presciently-named Long War Journal. On the other hand, the NYU study results jibed with those of the independent London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which had effectively broken the American campaign of death-by-drone story wide open. Of course, says the NYU report,

The discrepancies in counts by the tracking organizations—credible and well-resourced institutions—underscore the difficulty of gaining an accurate understanding of the impact of drone strikes from media reports alone. The public and some policymakers are compelled to rely on these estimates to judge the impact of drone strikes because the U.S. government has not officially provided information on drone strike deaths. While touting the success of the drone program and particular high-profile strikes, U.S. officials have avoided providing specifics—and cited national security. The public has no information on how and whether the U.S.
tracks and investigates potential civilian deaths.

But about those "credible, well-sourced institutions" -- The Long War Journal is run by an outfit called the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. It touts as its vague goal "fighting terrorism and supporting freedom." Its contributors form a veritable laundry list of current and former members of the military/industrial/spy state/corporate media complex -- a who's who of those inside-the-Beltway national security pundits who go on cable TV and spew propaganda, provide quotes to reporters at the New York Times and elsewhere. The Foundation was spawned in the wake of 9/11 by a group of "visionary philanthropists" for the sole purpose, apparently, of keeping fear of The Other (a/k/a Muslims) alive amongst the American populace. This includes conducting "studies" serving to dehumanize the victims of drone strikes, ensuring that we never see the torn bodies or learn the names of the innocent women and children are being killed in our name by the hundreds or even thousands.

The New America Foundation, besides taking it upon itself to undercount victims of the targeted assassination program, also imparts wisdom on asset-building, the economy, education, health... you name it. It's run by Steve Coll, a former editor at The Washington Post. CNN National Security reporter Peter Bergen is the expert on foreign policy. Would it surprise you to learn that the New America Foundation also is in the forefront of the Beltway centrist cult of deficit reduction? Connect the dots, people! Your information is being provided to you courtesy of the shadow form of government known as the Corporatocracy. You are being made to Feel the Fear in preparation for Sharing the Sacrifice (a/k/a willingly forgoing Social Security cost of living increases, cutting back on health care, privatizing education and demonizing labor unions so that your tax money can go for financing endless war and endless profits for Superpower USA.)

It really is quite remarkable that Margaret Sullivan's column even made it into print. The online version, of course, is conveniently buried at the very bottom of the Opinion Page where nobody will see it.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Austerians at the Gate

You could tell the fix was in just by the way Martha Raddatz phrased her question at the creepy veepy debate last night:

MS. RADDATZ: Let’s talk about Medicare and entitlements.

Both Medicare and Social Security are going broke and taking a larger share of the budget in the process. Will benefits for Americans under these programs have to change for the programs to survive, Mr. Ryan?

Social Security is not an entitlement and it's not going broke. It has not contributed one penny to the almighty deficit. It's not part of the United States budget. But Beltway insider Martha Raddatz blithely made that assumption in her question. And she is being universally lauded this morning for being the bold, hard-hitting journo who was not Jim Lehrer.

Paul Ryan predictably took the cue and waxed orgasmic with her leading question:

Absolutely. Medicare and Social Security are going bankrupt. These are indisputable facts. We've all had tragedies in our lives. My mother and grandmother blah blah blah sob blah whine slurps water blah.

And then Joe Biden did his lesser-evil part and promised he'd never turn the national retirement insurance fund directly over to Lloyd Blankfein and Jamie Dimon. So everybody breathed a huge sigh of relief. But did Joe repeat his full-throated promise of just a few short weeks ago that he'd never lay on finger on Social Security? He most certainly did not:

And with regard to Social Security, we will not -- we will not privatize it. If we had listened to Romney, to Governor Romney and the congressman during the Bush years, imagine where all those seniors would be now if their money had been in the market.

That's it. Not a word about not raising the retirement age to 68 or 70, thereby reducing lifetime benefits. No promises not to tinker with the cost of living formula and thereby reducing lifetime benefits. Nothing about means-testing the program, which would give truth to the lie that Social Security is an entitlement/welfare program. Did you notice how he stammered slightly after "we will not"? This is a guy who'd obviously gotten his marching orders from his boss.

Remember, it was only a few months ago when Joe wandered into a restaurant and a regular person buttonholed him on Social Security. The veep's famous words:

Hey, by the way, let’s talk about Social Security. Number one, I guarantee you, flat guarantee you, there will be no changes in Social Security. I flat guarantee you.”

Biden was immediately taken to task for his "pandering" by The Washington Post editorial board, which gets it marching orders from the White House. Biden's "gaffe" made it that much more difficult for Obama to tweak the program later. It had temporarily endangered the president's legacy as the Democrat who renounced FDR and made history by dismantling of the New Deal.

It was apparent last night that grinning folksy Joe Biden had suddenly seen the light and is on the merry road to right-wing austerity with the rest of the Democratic gang. Three weeks before the Election, and the Democrats are refusing to take Social Security off the table. They're hoping the liberal class won't notice. And so far they're successful, thanks to the rank extremism of Romney and Ryan.

The Republicans will stab you in the aorta without anesthesia, and the Democrats will wait till you're napping, sneak into your room and slowly phlebotomize you. The choice the Duopoly is presenting you with is this: instant exsanguination, or insidious anemia. Either way, you'll never know what hit you. You can die quickly, or you can turn 75 and realize you no longer have enough to eat. Drip, drip, drip.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Plutocrat-Assisted Suicide Cult

It's bad enough that the titans of finance got away scot free after tanking the economy and wiping out trillions of dollars in household wealth. It's bad enough that real unemployment is still close to 20%, one five Americans lives in poverty, 50 million of us have no access to medical care and Republicans and Democrats alike are waging war on unionized labor and public schools.

At least the odious Lloyd Blankfeins and Jamie Dimons and Business Roundtables of the world used to work behind the scenes as their lobbyists wrote the laws and bribed the politicians. No more. The oligarchs are right out there in the open. They own the United States of America. They're saying it loud and they're saying it proud.
Taking the Koch Brothers' co-optation of the Tea Party movement a giant leap forward, they are urging all us proles to go marching in the streets in their behalf, in the name of populist debt reduction.

I am not kidding. The CEOs of America are blatantly conducting power-point presentations in the workplaces of America, pressuring their wage slaves to voluntarily cut their own social safety nets. They are engaging us in a campaign of corporate-assisted suicide. They are urging us to become direct parties to our own destruction.

You may have heard their rallying cry buzzword from President Obama himself. They're euphemistically calling it "economic patriotism." Basically it means you should whip yourself into a nationalistic fervor to ease the pain of your decline.

Via the Progressive Change Campaign Committee comes word of the astroturf Campaign to Fix the Debt, run by Catfood Commissioners Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles and funded by billionaire capitalist Pete Peterson:

To pass this unpopular plan, Simpson and Bowles have amassed a massive $25 million war chest. As the Huffington Post just reported, it is likely that the group is being funded by the right-wing billionaire Pete Peterson; its steering committee includes billionaire CEOs like Honeywell’s Dave Cote.

If you sign up as a volunteer for the group, you’ll be e-mailed a “toolkit” that you’re supposed to use to engage in pro-austerity activism on behalf of the billionaires who run the group.

One of the instructions in the tool kit is to “bird dog” campaign events and town halls that feature Members of Congress.

To give you an idea of their idea of a balanced approach, David Cote has suggested raising the retirement age to 75 and doing away with corporate taxes altogether. Since billionaires like him are living longer, laborers and nurses should work an extra ten years. (Cote is an Obama pal and another member of his Catfood Commission.)

If you were still wondering why the president mentioned at the debate that he and Mitt Romney have similar ideas on Social Security, it's because they really do have similar ideas on Social Security. Alan Simpson also helps run the Commission on Presidential Debates and he is making sure the presidential candidates are cool with cutting the retirement program. As a matter of fact, the plutocrats were crowing with glee on their own website that both Romney and Obama fell into line during the debate. It is so, so cool to have bipartisan support in the campaign to fool the muppets into slitting their own wrists!

Something remarkable happened Wednesday night in the first Presidential Debate:

The candidates actually started discussing their plans for how they will bring down our deficits and deal with our debt!

We didn’t get an entire debate about the debt as we’d asked, but the major focus of the evening was on our most important fiscal issues – and that’s a major victory.

It means they’re hearing us!

Something really special is happening as this movement grows. Ten days ago we said our goal was to get 250,000 signers of the Citizen’s Petition to Fix the Debt, and we’ve already reached that goal. That’s more than 100,000 in only a matter of days!

We also saw something pretty incredible start to happen last night in Denver where the debates were taking place: local citizens took photos of themselves holding a tin can with the word of something that mattered to them – like healthcare or education – imploring our leaders in Washington:


It was so cool. And it’s something we can all do. So, to get started, we’ve added a new section of our website to make it easy for you to look your representatives in the eye and tell them why we care about fixing the debt. Simply visit this “Why I Care” page, and upload your photo.

The only thing that prevented President Obama from successfully completing his Grand Bargain last summer was the recalcitrance of the Tea Party and Grover Norquist. So now, billionaires like Lloyd Blankfein are getting directly involved, hoping to give their Congressional puppets needed cover in the Billionaires' Bipartisan Battle for Balance. From today's Politico:

While many on the Hill are skeptical that even the clout of the Wall Street could force a deal, optimists believe that the outside help would pressure lawmakers to sign onto a deal, or at least to give them political cover if they do. The logic: If business says a deal will help jump-start the economy, how could Congress and the president be against it?

“I just think that if we’re going to end up in a place where we’re actually going to be able to compromise, move off their positions and get to a comprehensive deal, we’re going to need external forces that are helping us do that,” said Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), one of the so-called Gang of 8 senators who have been working for more than a year to fashion a deficit-reduction compromise. “The business community is one of those groups that we’ve got to get involved, and there are lots of other groups as well.”

But he stopped short of predicting New York money would make a difference. “Hope so,” he said.

If there is any consolation to be gleaned from all of this, it's that mainstream outlets are actually covering the fascist coup in all of its glaring corruption.

Capitol Hill is turning into Hemlock Hill. But we must not go quietly into that good night.

Update: And Big Bird refuses to be co-opted by either of these phony candidates. Sesame Street has demanded that Obama pull the campaign ad touting his fake populism. As Marcy Wheeler notes, the ad uses crooks prosecuted under the Bush regime as examples. Lloyd Blankfein not only will not be prosecuted, he's running the show.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Panhandlers for Romney

Mitt Romney will give you money. You don't even have to ask. If he sees you on the street and your hand is outstretched, he will put cash into it. He said so himself. Watch this clip of a 2002 Massachusetts gubernatorial debate. About 50 minutes in, he'll tell you about his one-man campaign of charitable giving.

If you don't feel like looking at his smirky face any more, here's the quote: "I made a commitment when I was 19 years old that I would not pass a person with their hand out without putting money in that hand. This is something I continue to do."

Mind you, this was 10 years ago, before Romney became a household name... specifically, that dark part of your household under the sink, or wherever your toxic cleaning products and insecticides are stored. And despite the humblebragging, he still managed to show his true colors by whining that he couldn't deduct his charitable donations on his state income tax returns.

What I found intriguing was that Jill Stein was talking about income disparity, "the one percent" of elites hoarding all the wealth, the class war, and a living wage a whole decade ago, long before the Crash of '08 and the Occupy movement brought the topics into the national lexicon.

Stein, the current Green Party candidate for president (and three other women candidates) were pitted against Romney, who ultimately won the office. I wanted to watch the clip, because the private corporatized Commission of Presidential Debates of course has barred her and other candidates from participation. The state debate was lively, yet civil, and extremely well-moderated. More than two people on the stage tends to discourage any one person from being rude and boorish, lest the incipient bully in turn become the bullied.

Meanwhile, if you're short on cash you have only one more month to head for the Romney rope lines. Stretch out your hands, palms up. Stretch early, stretch often.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

A Confederation of Muppets

The dueling duopolists of the presidential pageant are creating and fund-raising off yet another phony wedge issue. They are so desperate to take our minds off the fact that participatory democracy is a mere illusion that they're not even bothering to be original this time. It's the Second Coming of Big Bird in only one campaign season! Republicans have been threatening to de-fund PBS since time immemorial, and it's always been an empty threat by posturing phony deficit hawks. But starting today, the latest skirmish in The Wars of Sesame Street has been officially been declared. So pick a side, and let the bloody battle begin.

Suddenly jolted into action by a cacophony of Tweets after his lackluster debate performance, President Obama voiced his indignation about the loathsome Mitt before a crowd in Colorado today. Mitt, he trilled, is the anti-Muppet. Mitt wants to privatize Bert and Ernie's Medicare! (Barry will chain their Social Security cost of living increases and make them work till they drop, but that's another story.)

Now that the well has run dry on their Rush Limbaugh-enabled War Against Women defense fund, Democrats are wasting no time with the email appeals to feather their nests with the lucrative golden plumage of Big Bird. (Did you ever notice how they always have to coyly hide asking for money behind a phony petition? Just Say No to Republican vaginal wands and gimme gimme gimme.)

Sen. Jeff Merkley wrote me today, not noticing or caring that my New York locale is 3000 miles, as the bird flies, away from his Oregonian flock.

Not on our watch! Sign my petition, and tell Mitt Romney: No Ads on Sesame Street!.... My kids watched Sesame Street growing up. Like many Americans – including Mitt Romney - I’m a huge Big Bird fan. But America's children need quality, educational, advertising-free television. For 43 years, Sesame Street has led the way for our kids. Putting commercial advertising on Sesame Street won't make any difference in our national debt, and just hurts our kids. For Big Bird, Jeff.

Yeah, right. Maybe if the Democrats go all pro-Sesame Street, we'll forget that they're totally run by Wall Street. We'll forget that they screwed Main Street. It's no coincidence, after all, that the crooks at Goldman Sachs refer to their prey as Muppets. In banking circles, it's a pejorative term for easily cheated stupid people.

Next time you get a fund-raising appeal from a needy politician professing a smarmy attachment to Snuffleupagus, write back. Disabuse them of the notion that we are a Confederation of Dunces, and just tell them to stuff it upagus.

Tell Politicians: No Money from Wall Street

Battle of the Blahs

All I can say about last night's debate is that this is what happens when two right-wingers run against each other. If you're a Democrat, you knew you were in trouble when your guy's opponent actually started attacking him from the left.

Your heart sank when Mitt Romney suggested that the too-big-to-fail banks should have been broken up, and you realized your bank-friendly President doesn't have a leg to stand on. You collapsed in a heap when Barry bragged that his great insurance company giveaway of a health plan was not only copied and pasted from a conservative think tank, but that his severely conservative opponent beat him to the punch on it. You had to have shaken your head in wonder as these two Wall Street flacks argued about who likes Simpson-Bowles better, and how the whole discussion revolved around how both of them want to make us suffer. Mitt will do it fast and Obama will do it slow -- but do us they both will, with a vengeance. And the president was the one who uttered the word "deficit" first. He was probably proclaiming victory in his own head on that coup alone. It's what passes for a zinger in his world. That, and "Eat your peas."

I am enjoying the shocked liberal handwringing this morning almost as much as I took a grim pleasure in last night's debate. Romney was a big bad lying bully! Lehrer is senile and let the night slip out of his control. Obama was too nice, too professorial, too tired, too aloof. Or, he was just playing rope-a-dope, 11-dimensional chess, leading from behind. He did not want to come across as an "angry black man" in the wake of that just-unearthed old video of him speaking in a really awful imitation of Angry Black Preacher. Outside of election season, we've heard the same litany of disappointment from the phony liberal class every time the president supposedly "caves" to sheer, overwhelming Republican nastiness.

I channel surfed for a few minutes after the ordeal was finally over. The deflated crew over at MSNBC were a sight to behold. Chris Matthews' hair was literally standing on end. They expressed disappointment that the president had not even been watching his own channel to discover how to blast Mitt into oblivion.

I look at it this way. Obama approached this debate the same way he apparently negotiates. He is bipartisan all the way. He is more interested in reaching a consensus than he is fighting for the people who elected him to represent their interests. He loves to agree for the sake of agreement. He is a conservative disguised as a Democrat, and he isn't much trying to pretend otherwise any more. He didn't fight for himself last night, and he certainly didn't put up a fight for the people who are needlessly suffering every single day.

There was not one word about the crisis of unemployment and what, if anything, he plans to do about it in a second term. Just a lot of more of the same.... reaching across the aisle and to be seen as caring.

I'll leave the fact-checking to others, though suffice it to say that in this particular Comedy of Errors, Mitt did the committing and Barry did the omitting. And is it me, or did both these guys look like they were on drugs? Mitt was definitely hopped up on something, barely able to contain himself behind the podium. Lots of twitching, grimacing and muted seizure-like movements. At one point near the end he actually wiped his runny nose. So my guess is a big snort of coke before taking the stage. Barry was not only a downer, he was on downers. I diagnosed a couple of Ativan washed down with some of that designer White House home brew and a too-heavy meal.

Like the old Fred Astaire song says, too many people were building up to an awful letdown last night. Obama's defeat on the stage of manufactured democracy is nothing like the defeat the rest of us are in for in this coming season of Austerity, when the rich get richer and the poor get screwed.

Poor old Humpty Dumpty,
He got the toughest break,
And yet his fall
Was nothing at all
Like the tumble I'm gonna take!

I'm building up to an awful letdown
By playing around with you.
You're breaking down my terrific buildup
By treating me as you do.

My castles in the air,
My smile so debonair,
My one big love affair,
Is just a flash;
Will it go smash
Like the nineteen twenty nine market crash?

(The transcript of the debate which the real progressives were permitted to speak is now available here.)

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Ball of Confusion

It's a truth almost universally acknowledged that since 9/11, the USA has been rapidly disintegrating into the Orwellian nation of Oceania. But it's also true that while vast swaths of data are being collected and stored on every man, woman and child on the planet, they're not serving any earthly purpose except as junk food for the insatiable maw of the Department of Homeland Security. (DHS)

Those DHS "fusion centers" are bastions of delusion sinking under the weight of their own bureacratic excess. Like the old Temptations' protest song, our spy state is just one great big Ball of Confusion. I have been saying for awhile now that as they're frantically scouring cyberspace for every last bit of information on us, they still don't know what in hell to do with it. I'd suggested copying all million pages of Remembrance of Things Past in a chain email to thousands of our closest friends just to punk them and keep them busy in their thousands upon thousands of DHS cubicles. The Fusionistas seem like an illiterate lot, with reports neglecting to include even the Basic Five: who, what, when, where and why. The average training period before they get to work culling our emails and Tweets? One whole week. I mean, we knew the government was in a race to the bottom vis a vis education, but this is de trop.

A Senate subcommittee finally did come out with a report today confirming what we already knew: while the spy state is shredding our civil liberties, the information they're coming up with is truly shredder-worthy itself. James Risen of the New York Times writes:

The report found that the centers “forwarded intelligence of uneven quality — oftentimes shoddy, rarely timely, sometimes endangering citizens’ civil liberties and Privacy Act protections, occasionally taken from already published public sources, and more often than not unrelated to terrorism.”

The investigators reviewed 610 reports produced by the centers over 13 months in 2009 and 2010. Of these, the report said, 188 were never published for use within the Homeland Security Department or other intelligence agencies. Hundreds of draft reports sat for months, awaiting review by homeland security officials, making much of their information obsolete. And some of the reports appeared to be based on previously published information or facts that had long since been reported through the Federal Bureau of Investigation

Even worse, DHS has "lost" more than $1 billion and even outright lied about the very existence of certain fusion centers. They're called fusion centers because they are supposed to link federal resources with local police agencies. The centers have been implicated in the coordinated national crackdown against Occupy camps last year. Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information law revealed

....that on November 9, two days after a demonstration by 1000 Occupy activists in Chicago protesting social service cuts in that city, the NOC Fusion Desk relayed a request from Chicago Police asking other local police agencies what kind of tactics they were using against Occupy activists. They specifically requested that information be sought from police departments in New York, Oakland, Atlanta, Washington, D.C. Denver, Boston, Portland OR, and Seattle — all the scene of major Occupation actions and of violent police repression.

DHS tried to cover its tracks over its anti-Occupy activities, which were patently illegal. The Fusion Center employees, funnily enough, had obtained most of their information on the Occupy camps from public records and blogs. They were copy-and-pasting plagiarizers as well as spies! Risen recounts several other incidents of DHS incompetence in his Times piece. They range from the comical to the bizarre to the downright frightening. One example:

Last November.... an Illinois center reported that Russian hackers had broken into the computer system of a local water district in Springfield and sent computer commands that triggered a water pump to burn out. But it turned out that a repair technician had remotely accessed the water district’s computer system while he was on vacation in Russia.

Homeland, Homeland Uber Alles is being run by a gang that can't straight-talk, let alone shoot straight.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Occupy the Debates

I know you're all champing at the bit in anticipation of Debate Night this week. How many pre-approved fake spontaneous retorts will erupt from the mealy mouth of Mitt? Just how carefully is Barack Obama being trained to suppress his million-dollar grin as a charm-offensive prelude to every non-answer to every softball question?

Since the trio of presidential Q&As (they're not really debates at all) are privately planned and funded by the exclusive Commission on Presidential Debates, only the two apparatchiks of the Duopoly will be allowed to participate. There will be no Jill Stein, Rocky Anderson, Virgil Goode and Gary Johnson in attendance to rock the leaky ship of state. It's unlikely that the questions most people have on their minds will even be asked.

So to give you the illusion of a participatory democracy, Occupy the has a website that does allow you to ask those questions and generally kvetch. You can take a survey about pressing issues. Find out how you can get on Mutiny Radio to rebut the buttheads. There truly are ways to cope with the blatherfests other than drinking and doping and tuning out. It cannot be merely coincidence that our friendly DEA designated this past Saturday as "Get Rid of Your Prescription Drugs Day". As Molly Ivins so wisely said, satire is a deadly weapon when used against those in power.

The League of Women Voters, you may remember, used to run the presidential debates. But that all ended during the 1988 Bush I-Dukakis race, in which those particular duopolists reached a "gentleman's agreement" to throw democracy out the window. They demanded control over the stenographers asking the questions and the height of podiums as well as a new rule making it impossible for third party candidates to share the stage. The League refused to go along and thus was born the corporate Commissariat on Presidential Debates.(CPD)

To give you an idea of how contrived Debate Theatre is, the New York Times ran a puff piece in its Sunday Review section profiling the CPD's executive director, DC socialite Janet Brown. As the candidates over-prepare for their roles in the optical illusion, Ms. Brown is concentrating solely on the optics:

Lately it’s mostly debate set diagrams, which are more like architectural renderings than anything else. They describe the sets, where the candidates are positioned, where the moderator sits, where the eight cameras are placed. They are very detailed and specific in terms of dimensions, the lighting grid and camera placement for exact coverage and clarity of the candidates.

We also get the earthshaking scoop that Janet Brown adores Marvin Hamlisch tunes (she and hubby Michael Brewer, former Harvard VP, former Wall Street executive, venture capitalist, president of the National Symphony Orchestra, knew him personally!) and eating littleneck clams and Oreo milkshakes, but not together. The Times kindly provides us with a link to the restaurant where the elites get their eats.

And that's about all we unwashed masses apparently need to know, as far as The Times is concerned. But my further research reveals that Janet Brown's Washington socialite mother was the model for a Jeffrey Archer novel. She was not only a member of Nelson Rockefeller's inner circle, she became even more fabulously wealthy marketing a product that resulted from the experimental dipping of her brittle manicured fingers into a concoction of preserved fruit. Those maligned nails ladies made famous by a snobbish attendee at a Romney Hamptons fundraiser could very well be using product invented by the ancestress of the directress of Presidential Propaganda Theatre, Inc.!

Still hoping there will be a lively discussion on the class war and the evils of free market capitalism Wednesday night, or any night? Think again. Just keep track of all the "My Name is Beavis and I'm An Energy Voter" pro-fracking/drilling ads paying for the propaganda, and you'll soon get the drift... the drift to the Far Right. The only cliff we have to fear is the the make-believe cliff where all hope teeters and tumbles down to oblivion.

** Update: The CPD is still mum on the exact terms of the contract Rombama hammered out to ensure each side looks good and remains protected from all scrutiny. A few advertisers have even decided to boycott the event in protest of its anti-democracy format.