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.


Denis Neville said...

DINO Austerians to replace New Deal with Raw Deal

“Who won the debate? Billionaires, when Martha Raddatz said SS & Medicare are going bankrupt, and Biden didn't argue.” - Jon Schwarz‏@tinyrevolution

But that’s okay.

DINOs are not selling us out. They are only “tweaking” these “entitlements.” Never mind that Obama said his position did not differ that much from that of Romney.

It is paramount to “Remember the Supremes!”

“Even if Obama will sell out Social Security and Medicare to the conservative thugs and Wall Street criminals that surround him, many of us will vote for Obama and truly wish for four more years, because of the Supreme Court.”

Never mind that Obama has moved the Supreme Court, which doesn't even pretend to care about law over ideology, to the right. But we can count on him to move it left in his second term! LOL!

Will Obama’s Court appointees side with the Court’s right-wing faction in important rulings that guarantee immunity for the elites despite their most egregious crimes? Just be afraid of what Romney will do, not what Obama will do.

By giving Obama their unconditional support, because the other side is "more evil," they are ensuring that they will be further ignored if he is re-elected.

Glenn Greenwald on “Martha Raddatz and the faux objectivity of journalists,”

“That is what this faux journalistic neutrality, whether by design or otherwise, always achieves. It glorifies highly ideological claims that benefit a narrow elite class (the one that happens to own the largest media outlets which employ these journalists) by allowing that ideology to masquerade as journalistic fact.

These establishment journalists are creatures of the DC and corporate culture in which they spend their careers, and thus absorb and then regurgitate all of the assumptions of that culture. That may be inevitable, but having everyone indulge the ludicrous fantasy that they are "objective" and "neutral" most certainly is not.”

“Only the mob and the elite can be attracted by the momentum of totalitarianism itself. The masses have to be won by propaganda.” - Hannah Arendt

“The term propaganda rings melodramatic and exaggerated, but a press that - whether from fear, careerism, or conviction - uncritically recites false government claims and reports them as fact, or treats elected officials with a reverence reserved for royalty, cannot be accurately described as engaged in any other function.” - Glenn Greenwald, A Tragic Legacy: How a Good vs. Evil Mentality Destroyed the Bush Presidency

Pearl said...

My Russian mother-in- law, when faced with hearing or watching' unbelievable news items would passionately utter a colorful well known comment in its original tongue. Translated it was, "It's the same borscht, only thicker!" which covered the situation well. I often substitute the appropriate word "shit" which was probably what the original comment implied and more apropos of last night's debate).

Denis Neville said...

@ Pearl – your Russian mother-in-law’s colorful language brought back memories of one of the most enjoyable classes in my intensive Russian language education – slang, idioms, and vulgarisms, or how to swear like a Russian. Russian profanities are so much better than ours – more colorful and expressive.

There have been periodic campaigns against swearing in Russia throughout history. Tsar Alexis in the 17th century had special patrols who beat anyone caught swearing. Several years ago President Dmitry Medvedev launched another fruitless campaign, dictionaries listing obscenities with their more polite equivalents were issued, to “clean” the public air.

Denis Neville said...

Biden on Medicare,“Who do you trust on this?”

“It may not be what voters hear on the campaign trail from Obama and his surrogates, but converting Medicare from a government program that covers all of seniors’ health needs into subsidies that seniors use to buy private health insurance is the future - not the apocalyptic event Democrats would have voters believe.

“One private e-mail exchange illuminates this point well. In e-mail exchanges with the staff of the White House-appointed fiscal commission that were obtained by National Journal, David Cutler and Jonathan Gruber, who have both advised Obama, gave qualified support to a Medicare voucher plan offered by Ryan and former Clinton budget director Alice Rivlin in talks to reduce the deficit.”

“No American should ever have to spend their golden years at the mercy of insurance companies," says Obama.

“But back in Washington, [Obama’s] Health and Human Services Department is launching a pilot program that would shift up to 2 million of the poorest and most-vulnerable seniors out of the federal Medicare program and into private health insurance plans overseen by the states.

“President Obama is currently campaigning against the Republican proposal to privatize Medicare through a voucher program that would move Medicare patients into private plans. Yet, based on provisions in the Affordable Care Act, the administration is moving Medicare patients whose coverage also is supplemented with Medicaid (dual eligibles) into private managed care plans”

According to the National Senior Citizens Law Center, “DHCS report assessing the quality of health plans in the Medi-Cal Managed Care (MCMC) Program, seven of the eight plans received a global health plan rating of 1 out of 5 stars. California has proposed a three-year demonstration project to enroll individuals dually eligible for Medicare and Medi-Cal (dual eligibles) into managed care. An analysis of both Medicare and Medi-Cal quality ratings for the eight health plans selected by the California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) for the first phase of the project raises cause for concern.”

Medicare and Social Security, who do you trust?

“Of course we believe these things. We believe in Social Security. We believe in work for the unemployed. We believe in saving homes. Cross our hearts and hope to die. We believe in all these things. We will do them better. And most important of all. The doing of them will not cost anybody anything.”

spreadoption said...

Hey Pearl and Denis, Can you refer us to a website or other resource on Russian swearing? I had a year of Russian in college but my education lacked the relevance and utility of yours. I'd love to learn a few things I could apply liberally and vociferously to our media and all manner of politician.

Pearl said...

Denis: I commend you for attempting to learn Russian I presume as a second
language. It is a most difficult language to learn especially with different
lettering involved.

My parents were Russian Jews who emigrated to the U.S. at a young age and
English became their primary language. Yiddish would be spoken to older
relatives and many of their expressions and descriptive jargon have become
part of the regular American vocabulary, especially when insulting others.
Here are some, all apropos of describing our current political cast of

Kvetch, to complain or a complainer; Gonif, a rascal a no goodnik; Meshuga, crazy; Putz or Shmuk:, referring to the male anatomy and someone who is a jerk; Chutzpah:, bold arrogance; Bupkis, something worthless or meaningless; Dreck, shit or ugliness; Klutz, an awkward person; Nudnik, a pest; Shlemiel, a loser a jerk.
And finally to sum it all up: Oy Vey, woe is me, how terrible things are which says it all. Somehow all colorful and more effective than our normal jargon.

James F Traynor said...

Why not admire good old Anglo-Saxon swearing? George Carlin was pretty good at it. Swearing is pretty much universal at the prole level. Being a prole to the core, I enjoy it myself on occasion. Well, maybe more than occasionally.

Ryan is a brown nosing bastard, for instance. And Romney? There's a sleazy piece of shit, if there ever was one. Obama and Beiden? The mind boggles. 'Crazier than a shit-house rat', comes to mind. Then there is 'Slippier than snot on a hoe handle.' Ah, the language, the language.

Valerie said...

This is how the discussion is shifted - by asking questions that presume facts that really aren't facts - That Social Security and Medicare are entitlements as opposed to government retirement plans, that Social Security is broke, that it is contributing to our national deficit. It is an insidious tactic the plutocrats have used very effectively - remember Bush lumping WMDs, Saddam Hussein and 9/11 all in the same sentence? It shows just how shabby mainstream journalism has become - the journalists are part and parcel with the backroom guys spinning the message.

Tell me how this is fundamentally different from the Soviet Union and the state controlled media we used to despise?

James F Traynor said...


The quality of Soviet propaganda was much inferior to ours, and ours was envied by at least one NKVD agent. We're getting sloppier all the time.

Jay - Ottawa said...

I praise Democracy Now for sandwiching into this year’s presidential debates the response of Third Party candidates like Stein and Anderson. DN is a valuable news agency engaged in a noble attempt at breaking the monopoly of the Duopoly and its pet, the MSM.

But after reading Karen's analysis of Raddatz's questions in the vice-presidential debate – and, later, also reading Glenn Greenwald's critique of reportorial objectivity, derisively called the "View from Nowhere" – I now realize you cannot level the playing field simply by tacking on Third Party answers to MSM moderators’ questions. The questions of the moderators are as important as the answers of the candidates.

Seventy million people watched the MSM version of the first presidential debate. How many of those viewers later read correctives, like Karen's essays, to get a balanced account about what was falsely inserted and what was oddly left out?

In countless courtroom dramas we’ve seen an attorney jump up shouting “Objection!” to interrupt a question in mid sentence, before it has a chance to confuse the jury. If only we had such a quick-minded objector at presidential debates, a questioning ombudsman questioning the questions themselves. Maybe one of those chess-playing IBM computers would do, stationed beside moderators to immediately object to questions larded with errors, propaganda and false assumptions.

Too disruptive, you say? OK, well, how about having the Presidential Commission on Debates compile a list of vetted questions – factual and appropriate – behind the scenes before broadcasts. Which questions the moderator would simply read, then be herself/himself to moderate the discussion from there? Sardonic laughter from all sides.

Valerie said...

Great point, @Jay - Ottawa. I am wondering why - if the candidates know what the questions are going to be ahead of time, why the public can't also know these questions. Then people - real journalists like our Karen Garcia - can point out the built in biases. Then after the debates I want REAL journalists to point out all the lies that are told by the candidates.

Thank God for the Internet and the blogs - They serve as the equivalent of the underground newspapers that used to be run by the Resistance - getting the truth out when the mainstream media was purely a propaganda tool for the authoritarian governments. I know that sounds a little over-the-top but without this blog and fellow commenters giving me links to other good blogs and good works of journalism - and thought-provoking quotes - I would have a very different (unrealistic) image American politics.

Pearl said...

Let's face it dear friends. The capitalistic system is on its way out and we are seeing the desperate death throes of it trying to stay alive. Had it been honorably regulated with money not permitted as part of the voting process, had it encouraged and permitted truly qualified citizens to become part of the system allowing democracy to flourish, had it been conceived with iron clad regulatory of corporate interests, and had it recognized the necessity of communication and compromise with the rest of humanity by avoiding war, it might have had a chance to flourish. It is siphoning off resources which will before long, not be able to be bought for any kind of money and thus paralyzing even the wealthy. Not until then will the average citizen begin to think out of the box but the time table on this is very murky.

We have to continue our battle, but think clearly what we want in its stead, as putting band aids on the current system will only prolong the agony. If there had been real understanding of the possibilities with other parties with other leaders and made a dent this time around perhaps things would be different. I am not writing all this to discourage you because the truth that emanates from Karen's website has a very important ripple effect, but we desperately need more Karens and more honorable and educated responders to fill the airwaves.

I think what we are doing in a small (but really quite gigantic) way, is the door to a better future which I am convinced is possible. Sometimes I wonder why I am still alive at such an advanced age but I realize this is my opportunity to use all the energy and purpose I have left to try and help and contribute what I can that might be the wave of the future. I have a feeling in my bones that a year or two of either candidate in office will begin to affect the thinking of more people and force some honesty in the media.

I feel this wind of change in Canada which has a better base for the exercise of democracy. Remember the adulation and respect after Jack Layton' death last year and the surge of the NDP to second place party, breaking historical records? This impetus is continuing and it will eventually hit America but the climb out of the mud is more difficult there. Forgive this long diatribe, but I feel so deeply not only about what is happening in history, but how wonderful it is to work with people who have great hearts and minds as well as courage. I believe we are making more of a dent than we give ourselves credit for and I sympathize with all your aingst (another borrowed word) which affects my sleep these days.

I am inspired to write so personally in honor of a dear friend who has miraculously escaped the possibility of death when recent surgery revealed his cancer history is now in remission. He is a political Science Professor at Georgetown University, discouraged by the lack of passion and interest in the topics of the day among his students, yet he struggles onward hoping to light their fire.

John in Lafayette said...

While we're off on a tangent, I've often thought there's a PhD waiting out there for someone who wants to write about American scatological slang. Voter suppression tactics, for instance, are chickenshit, while the excuses put forth for justifying them are bullshit. Paul Ryan is batshit crazy, and Barack Obama's siding with Romney on Social Security and Medicare is horseshit. We all know the differences among the terms, but how? Why? Any doc students in English out there care to explain?

Denis Neville said...

James F Traynor said...“Why not admire good old Anglo-Saxon swearing?”


One of my favorite HBO’s The Wire episodes was where Bunk and McNulty are examining a crime scene. The whole scene was an insider’s homage to a veteran Baltimore police officer, who had predicted that police would eventually create their own language consisting entirely of profanity. It was comedy at its best.

A number of years ago there was an issue concerning the PBS broadcast of Ken Burns’ documentary "The War" - A soldier's-eye view of World War II" and the need to censor some of what the soldiers said in the documentary. It was no longer enough simply to bleep out offensive words audibly when the camera showed a full view of the speaker's mouth. The on-camera speaker's mouth had to also be obscured by a digital masking process with cartoonish and clumsy results. In addition, profanities expressed in compound words were audibly bleeped in their entirety so that viewers could not decipher the words. In the past, PBS was required to bleep only the offensive part of the compound word. Comedy at the other end of the spectrum.

Visit any police department or construction site; our soldiers, marines, sailors, and airmen doing thankless and dangerous multiple extended tours of duty fighting wars that cannot be won; hospital nurses trying to do more with less; etc., etc. They all have created a profane language of their own in dealing with the stress and hypocrisy of their situation and those who put them in such untenable positions.

My personal journey into the universe of profane language started at an early age. My mother washed my mouth out with soap. Besides puking my guts out, I failed to see her objections. I loved language and it seemed to me that there was a heck of a lot of expression in profanity being denied use. When my own children started using profanity, I did not wig out. I simply told them profanity was a part of language and expression, but they must not waste it and should use it only for total and effective impact. There is a deep sense of satisfaction after a profane volley has been totally and effectively fired. Definitely something not to be denied or missed.

Denis Neville said...

Soviet and our post-truth propaganda

The aim of the Soviet regime’s propaganda, which they went to great efforts to hide, was to convince Russians of the truth of its lies. It was imposed on an unwilling population.

The propaganda, the willingness to say anything to attract support, in our post-truth society is so transparent that it deceives only those who want to be deceived. They just do not care. There is no risk in lying. They rely only on deceiving those who are happy to be deceived and these people are numerous in both political parties. They accept this propaganda willingly to the detriment of their own freedom. Lies don’t hurt, in terms of getting votes, so that is why they do it. What about those of us who don’t buy this post-truth propaganda? It isn’t necessary that we do. It’s not a problem. It makes no difference.

Our nation needs to be saved, not from external dangers, but from ourselves, from the consequences of these demoralizing processes that kill our noblest human qualities.

"Casual duplicity picks at the threads of our social fabric." - Ralph Keyes

James F Traynor said...


I think it is American, laissez faire capitalism that is the problem. Below is a link that leads to an article on why Walmart failed in Germany. It is unregulated capitalism that will lead to our downfall (if it hasn't already).

Jay - Ottawa said...

In these parlous times sparkling profanity is fitting and just as we scan the lies passing for news. I do appreciate the contributions of others here in giving us all license to swear as one time-tested response to lies. But we must strive to swear correctly.

If we can believe Mark Twain, profanity is a supplement to prayer itself. He said "Under certain circumstances, profanity provides a relief denied even to prayer." Why, I’ve even heard Jesuits – I will not betray them by giving names – suggest that Christ himself indubitably resorted to scatological terms and profanity. He was fully human, right?

Elsewhere, Twain said, "If I cannot swear in heaven I shall not stay there." So you’re in good company when you let loose when duly provoked.

I confess I reflexively mutter something dreadful now whenever I hear certain politicians speaking.

Somewhere in his biography of “Samuel Clemens/Mark Twain” Justin Kaplan describes Twain kindly explaining to his wife one of the key essentials for being an adept in profanity. I can’t lay my hands on Kaplan’s book at the moment, but, thankfully, a Professor Lyle Larsen, on his website at Santa Monica College, has written this account of the incident. The moral of the story: profanity demands practice and involves a lot more than the words themselves.

Now from Professor Larsen’s account:

“Clemens's wife, Livy, was one of the few who did not appreciate her husband's swearing, and he tried to keep watch on his tongue when she was close by; but one day something irritated him, and, thinking his wife could not hear, he launched into a torrent of red-hot profanity. When he entered his wife's room a short time later, she coolly repeated word-for-word everything he had said.
"Livy," he replied, astounded yet amused, "did it sound like that?"
"Of course it did," she said, "only worse. I wanted you to hear just how it sounded."
"Livy, it would pain me to think that when I swear it sounds like that. You got the words right, Livy, but you don't know the tune."