Thursday, November 29, 2012


If you're as sick of lame ducks and austerity bombs as I am, how about we delve into some real excitement today: the annual debate on the Senate filibuster.

Just as he has done almost every year, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is again threatening to tweak the procedure that has allowed the Republican minority to essentially bring the business of the already lumbering body to a screeching halt. Last time, he and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell reached a "gentleman's agreement" in which both sides promised to play nice and not abuse the privilege. We can see how well that little wink, nod and handshake worked out for them (delays and drama and gridlock make for more money in their campaign coffers) and how abysmally for the little people.

Now, Reid again vows to blow up the works with the so-called "nuclear option" on the first day the Senate reconvenes in 2013. This would require a mere 51 votes to ram through the rules change, as opposed to the two-thirds majority otherwise required to end the filibuster. In other words, they wouldn't be allowed to filibuster the filibuster.

The new rules would prevent Senators from silently gumming up the works by forcing them to actually flap their gums in public if they want to talk a bill to death. Who's that talk, talk, talking on our chamber floor? Quoth the Filibuster Scold "Nevermore" when it comes to phoning it in, secretly holding up routine nominations just for the mean fun of it and otherwise acting all passive-aggressive.

Filibustering, while glorified as the lone bravery of a principled Senator in the film Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, actually has a more sinister original meaning. When it comes to Republican filibusters, they really do adhere to the original definition of the term: "irregular soldiers who act without authority from their own government, and are generally motivated by financial gain, political ideology, or the thrill of adventure". (Wikipedia) The etymology is as tortuous as the Senate itself: from the Spanish "filibustero" to the Dutch "vrijbuiter" to the English "freebooter."

While it's asking too much to imagine Mitch McConnell as the thrilling type, he does kind of remind me of Captain Queeg. You may remember Queeg as the rigid and compromised victim of The Caine Mutiny. McConnell, though, is the one who effectively led his own band of mutineers against the hapless Democratic crew. He and his cohort turned rogue on their own vessel, reaping an unfair bounty for the past four years. And given that he broke his "gentleman's agreement" with Harry Reid to not abuse the filibuster privilege, his hijacking of the ship of state was especially crass. Arrgh.

Filibuster reform will actually force Senators to spend time in the Senate. The more they're forced to show up and talk, the less time they'll have to fund-raise and meet behind closed doors with the influence peddlars of K Street. Majority Whip Dick Durbin 
remarked earlier this year that most Americans would be shocked if they knew how much time he and his colleagues spend dialing for dollars instead of serving the people who elected them, "And how much time we spend talking about raising money, and thinking about raising money, and planning to raise money." Double Arrrgh.

A recent survey had Senators admitting to spending 25% to 50% of their time raising cash. (I think they're being way too modest) and claiming they just hate doing it. So, now is their chance to hang up the phones, strut their stuff and regale us with their golden oratory. While they're at it, they can do something about the Fair Elections Now Act and other moldering legislation that provides for public financing of congressional campaigns.

Of course, I go overboard with my optimism. So sit back and watch helplessly as the interminable psychodrama plays itself out. I hate to be a spoiler, but here's a hint. The quacks always bomb in the end. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Coming Soon: A New Beginning

By Jay -- Ottawa

Don’t look out the window, whatever you do.  That guy parading up and down our wide blogger sidewalk every Monday morning – well, he’s back.  You know, the would-be prophet wearing boards saying in front, “The End Is Near” and in back, “It’s Global Warming, Stupid.”  I think his name is Hedges.  Never lets up, does he.  Cormac McCarthy can’t hold a candle to him. 

As youngsters we joked about the kid who didn’t quite catch the number mentioned by the science teacher on how much longer the sun would last.   

“Excuse me, teacher.   Did you say one billion years or one million years?"

“One billion years.” 

“Whew.  You had me worried there for a minute.” 

The proximity of global catastrophes was moved up when scientists got to examining the mega-volcanic eruption known as the Toba Event, about 70 thousand years ago.  Toba was followed by a volcanic winter, a decade long, which, it is theorized, coincided with a dramatic “genetic bottleneck” of flora and fauna.  World-wide, only around 10,000 mating pairs of humans survived, which may explain the dramatic pinch off of human genes that occurred following Toba’s fallout.

Supervolcano.... Lake Toba

“If you were the only girllllllll in the world,

and I were the only boooooyyyyyyyyyyyyy ….”  

Back then people paid attention when that tune came over the radio. 

Now we’re going in the opposite direction and pretty fast as geologists mark time.  If you think we live in interesting times now, wait until 2100.  Various studies tell us the temperature, if it keeps warming at current rates, will rise by 4 degrees C.  Not too bad, the difference between Ottawa and Washington on a summer day, but enough, as it slides up over a few decades to 4 degrees C every day, enough to turn the globe into a hell of sick and frantic beggars.  Adapt or die.  Nasty fights over food and water in all the ways Hollywood can imagine.  Enough to throw the world’s social systems into convulsions well before 2100.  Diplomacy, treaties, international borders, doctors, police and firefighters bye-bye. 

What can little people do besides reaching for the aspirin bottle, sackcloth and ashes?  The elites and their politicians, who might force effective change, ignore the scientists as much as they ignore us.  Establishing self-sufficient agricultural havens tucked away in the hills will be as laughable as squeezing your eyes shut, which happens to be the official policy that’s most appealing. 

Well, while we can, let’s all try to get along.  Read Genesis about the Noah thing; it all worked out.  Consider Tao, Buddhism.  Read the Sufis, the Desert Fathers.  Don’t panic; meditate.  Breathe in … breathe out.  Our tepid measures against global warming just may do the trick.  Maybe another Toba will blow its top and cool things down for us just in time.   

However, if the catastrophe comes about as predicted, no matter what we do or don’t do between now and 2100, there’s always the ideal worst-case scenario to be thankful for.  I mean the realization of the secret wish we all wish sometimes.  That the clutter of our warped and rotten and broken systems be swept aside forever to make way for the noble savages who will emerge from the next genetic bottleneck.  All things new all over again. 

Always best to end on an upbeat note.   

Have a nice day.  Don’t wait too long to start on your Christmas shopping.  And did you see this week’s “New Yorker,” a special issue devoted to food?

An Rx For (Almost) Everything

By "The Doktor"

To solve the housing crisis, we could start with an agency (We could call it the Submoreme, for Subprime Mortgage Remuneration) with the power to seize bank accounts, and seize the accounts and holdings and property of every single lender, mortgage broker or banker or anyone else who made millions or even hundreds of thousands by writing bad paper to make some easy money. Then create an escrow account and use that money from the crooks, I mean lenders, to pay down the principle on the underwater mortgages. Those lenders and brokers and bankers are the people who are paid to know better, paid to pay attention to comps in any given area, paid to only give loans to people who can reasonably be expected to pay their bills in a timely manner, paid good money to NOT push a million dollar house on a couple who can't possibly make the payments.

This isn't about blame, it's about who got the money, and how to get it back. Putting people out of their houses, or forcing them to lose any hope of equity and then in a cruel twist have them pay someone else who gets the house that they wanted to own in the first place... that is just shepherding more money and wealth to the elite 1% and preventing working people from getting ahead. If they wanted to rent all they'd have to do is walk away!

There is no single panacea for the housing crisis because it is extremely complex and completely intertwined with the financial crisis and the unemployment crisis and the income disparity crisis, grasping at the same old fixes ain't gonna get it. One thing Obama has said repeatedly is very true, it took decades to get here, it won't be fixed overnight.We need some operating capital, so like it or not the people/corporations who have huge stockpiles of cash have some tough decisions to make ; hold onto it and continue to use the bogus greedy disgusting laws and lack of regulation that they bought and paid to get enacted and keep gutting our society until something snaps and people go berserk or start investing in America. We can help the mortgage crisis by doing several things simultaneously, lower interest rates substantially for what have been referred to as "good actors" immediately, freeing up some disposable income so people can start going back to home depot and buying flowers and lights etc, For those that request it there should also be a mortgage principle and interest payment suspension (deferment) allowed in 6 month increments of up to 60 months, interest will still accrue, you still have to pay your taxes and insurance, but the principle payments people can then use to spend on necessities, again freeing up necessary disposable income which will be spent immediately.

Lowering principles is going to be very damned difficult, done on a case by case basis, forcing people to sell defeats the purpose. The losses have to fall on the people who are responsible, the original lender mostly and partly on some original buyers, and in some fewer cases mostly the buyer, your "bad actors" who for the most part are strawmen propped up by right wingers spreading hatred among Americans. A moratorium on all foreclosures would be another first step measure, while this whole mess gets sorted out.

The hypocritical lying republican politicians have been caught with their pants down around their ankles again as they whine about cutting military spending and the job losses it will cause. After we've had to listen to their despicable lies about how the government can't create jobs for the last four years, while they knowingly tanked the economy for political gain. I have zero tolerance for any right wing talking points along these lines.

The American people paid for the infrastructure of this country and then it became the envy of the rest of the world. Large corporations made hundreds of billions of dollars using that United States infrastructure ( U.S. INF) and gaining access to the wealthiest consumers on the planet while they hired teams of lawyers and accountants to figure out how not to pay their fair share of maintaining the U.S. INF and then they hired teams of lobbyists to get laws enacted to make sure they couldn't be charged for using the U.S. INF. I think we need two new U.S. INF taxes implemented; #1 A use it or lose it U.S.INF tax on any corporation with over one hundred million in cash doing business in the U.S. has to invest in specific U.S. INF projects which may include U.S. building renovation and U.S. equipment purchases or U.S. job creation or face an annual 70% tax on these monies, onshore or offshore with new powers for the IRS allowing them access to all accounts anywhere in the world. #2 A 7% U.S.INF tax on ALL internet sales, e-bay, Amazon, everything. This tax would be collected by the seller and paid to the State of residence for the end user of the product sold. So if I live in Colorado and my Mom lives in Florida and I buy her a new TV for Mothers Day on Amazon, Florida gets the U.S.INF tax money for using their roads etc. The States are going broke because of falling revenues and small local brick and mortar businesses are facing increasing pressure to compete with internet sellers not burdened with taxes or sales staffs or rent, we can help level the playing field for small business ( real small businesses not the fake designations of late ) by at least making internet sellers pay their fair share for the roads and police and fire depts they count on to deliver their goods safely to American consumers. The end phenomenon of these policies is ideally to create jobs and promote local small business, and of course return our infrastructure to its former status.

There are multiple arguments to be made for raising taxes on the wealthy, especially as so many republicans are clamoring for high troop levels to remain in Afghanistan. Small businesses aren't making any money off of these wars for profit, it's mega-corps who should be getting hit with taxes, we should have a tax holiday, but for small businesses and workers; Put the SS tax back in place and grant a real payroll tax holiday, no payroll tax on the first $30,000 in earnings for working class people who earn up to $75,000 a year, and a matching holiday for real ( not the Koch Bro.s or Bechtel or Apple etc. ) small businesses that employ them. Then let's see President Obama simply do what he said he would do, up the taxes on those earning over $250,000 a year, and raise capital gains taxes back up to 35% for anyone in that bracket as well. As far as the corporations who have been gaming the system hoping for a tax holiday tell them they've got 30 days of "The Good Ole Days" left and then the IRS is coming after them with a vengeance and will be charging penalties and interest like you've never seen... We've had to listen to that slobbering drunk Boehner for months telling the entire world the United States is broke, so blame it on him and go get the money these cheaters owe us; the hard working taxpayers who live here and play by the rules. We've got a revenue problem coupled with waste and fraud being committed by some of the very same corporations saying President Obama is anti-business while working class Americans ( I think he could even get some tea party supporters out of this ) are getting the rug pulled out from underneath of them after doing what they were supposed to do for decades. And by all means lower the corporate rate and broaden the base by eliminating loopholes.

We'll need even more cash I'm sure, so let's legalize marijuana and tax that, not as ridiculously as we do liquor, but even so that will provide jobs and revenue and we can cut the DEA's budget providing even more money for a much more worthwhile program known as Job Corps! It's a great training program with decades of proven success in helping underprivileged youth, that is kind of like a cross between the military and a technical school, kids live on campus away from home, are supervised by trained counselors and dormitory monitors who tend to be ex-military or ex-teachers, they accrue savings for every successful month of training, get a clothing allowance and have a job placement service available to them. They are scattered across the country in varying sizes and complexity of training, giving instruction in many critical areas such as but not limited to; Carpentry- Apprenticeship etc., Nursing, Secretarial, Computers, Automotive, Heavy Duty Diesel, etc. etc., but it is a great program that needs to be aggressively funded.

More Money you say? No problem say I; There seems to be a segment of society that loves ostentation and burning copious amounts of fossil fuel... for this demographic I suggest a symbol of their opulent ostentation for all to see; A GOLDEN EMBLEM for their windshield that must be renewed each and every year, for every single mile per gallon under 30mpg that chosen vehicle averages they will have the privilege of paying $10,000. So if you want to drive a Hummer that gets 4mpg it will set you back $260,000 to register that pig. Or your Rolls or Bentley or Lamborghini or what have you...

And of course we'll stipulate the registration fees are for non-farm use only.

As the U.S. treasury starts to fill up after we have gone after offshore accounts and cheaters like romney finally start paying their fair share, maybe we can finally start working towards a living wage, which I think should be instituted along with a return to apprenticeships. So the basic problem facing small business owners who want to hire someone is how can the person being hired generate enough profit to pay his own wage and earn the business itself enough money to justify his/her employment. trading dollars just won’t work, consumerism is based on repeated sales for repeated and growing profit margins. As we begin to look a little deeper into the hiring and another often overlooked aspect is the training of a new hire... if we’re talking about a younger person, even into the mid to late 20’s, rarely 30’s, these people have never held a job before so they have no idea how to “work” at a job. There is a complete and total different set of rules and expectations than there is for socializing or attending school or University. Before I get too far into the weeds on this let’s back up and arbitrarily pick a white kid from an average home in the suburbs whose family consists of four people, one son ( our subject) a daughter, Mom & Dad, and they gross about $140,000. They are college educated, successful people with no major worries about having a nice home, nice cars, 4G phones and iPads, and good health insurance. This kid wants a really nice car and his parents have told him he has to help pay for it by getting a job. The way it works now, unless one of his parents knows somebody, he’ll get a job paying minimum wage at $7.25 an hour doing something mindless for the most part. But at first, it actually costs the business owner quite a bit of money to train the first time worker. He doesn’t even know how to stand still and pay attention without looking slovenly or dozing off. He doesn’t understand that he has to actually produce something of value to justify his employment and paycheck. I know people who have worked their whole lives and not come to full comprehension of those two facts! It is precisely these issues that make it so difficult for an employer to survive in todays market, I propose a new age apprenticeship program funded by a number of new taxes and fees placed on multi-national corporations and monopolies who use clever euphemisms to engage in monopolistic practices every day. We have recently been informed that there are vast amounts of cash being kept out circulation, to the tune of 21 to 32 trillion dollars, numbers remarkably close to what was lost in the Bush recession.... So, we would use a sliding scale to pay the employee a living wage, the employer would pay very little at first and the new hire would be subsidized by the Living Wage Apprenticeship Program ( LWAP ) while he/she is being trained on the job, obviously a 17 year old living on his/her own would need to make a lot more money than our affluent white kid. The employer would need to be compensated as well, once again on a sliding scale based on the type of business, difficulty/danger of the work etc.

Campaign finance reform; trying to get money out of politics would be like trying to get money out of prostitution.... I've been meaning to start a petition to fix the problem thusly; ALL political contributions have to be 50/50- 50 percent to whoever you donated to and 50 percent to a taxpayer lobbying group comprised of working Americans who direct the money into schools or recycling, environmental cleanup, research, job training, lobbying certain members of congress for citizen concerns etc. So let 'em donate all the billions they want because we'll get half of it to do the peoples business.

In my opinion we need to forego political demagoguery and actually come up with a workable plan to liberate the United States from the shackles of foreign energy imports. At least from countries that don't like us, because we only have access to 3% of the worlds oil reserves and we consume 25%, so in order to free ourselves we have to have a reduction in oil consumption no matter what.

Oil shale is basically a rock that has to be fracked and mined and then have the oil extracted from it, that process burns a lot of energy and oil to accomplish, giving the process an ROEI of almost one to one; you burn a gallon of oil to get a gallon of oil, making oil shale basically useless....

Natural gas could be a good transitional fuel because we could convert gasoline burning delivery fleet trucks without too much trouble, but natural gas as a fuel for the internal combustion engine yields lower horse power, shorter overall distances, and fails to lubricate and cool certain valve train components. It is because of the latter problem that gas burning engines would need an extensive conversion to be able to burn NG successfully, which could be done on ALL local garbage trucks, and delivery fleets of UPS, Fedex, Beer Trucks, etc. you name it -who don't do long haul OTR or mountainous routes.

The aforementioned conversion could be done as an added scheduled maintenance procedure, however it would still cost thousands of dollars, which is why I suggested the business owner should be able to write at least a substantial part of that expense off of their taxes at the end of the year.

Hybrids and electrics hold great promise for urban commuters and as more are sold and developed the price will come down and the need for tax breaks ( subsidies ) will decrease over time.

Volkswagon TDI diesel technology has consistently been way ahead of the curve compared to other fossil fuel burning vehicle efficiency. They can actually rival or exceed some hybrids!

I mention these because they all achieve the goal of lowering oil consumption.

We don't know all of the consequences from fracking for natural gas, so the "Haliburton Exemption" needs to go so we know what's happening and where.

I am also very intrigued and excited by the possibility that thorium fueled nuclear reactors which produce 99% less waste than uranium, could provide safe clean power for a thousand years with the fuel available inside of the United States. Thorium was initially under consideration as a fuel source for small portable reactors in long range bombers, which raises the possibility of continuing along those lines of development as well...

In addition, thorium reactors can't melt down ( utilizing Carlos Rubbia's ADS ), the little waste they do produce has a half life of 200 years, instead of 200,000, and can actually burn our current stockpiles of nuclear waste! Harry Reid should be trying to build the first thorium reactors in Nevada, thereby killing two birds with one stone.

Hydrogen powered vehicles face many of the same obstacles as NG vehicles, but with virtually no dangerous emissions it must of necessity be considered as well.

Also I think every new residential home should have both a wind turbine and a solar array installed at the time of initial construction, which will cut the cost of installation by as much as 70%. Use the power for the hot water heater which can store electricity as latent heat energy in the water itself- if they are as inefficient as some on these threads say they are. If they are more efficient then we'll all get a bonus. 

(Painting by Norman Rockwell)
This is my work, sloppy, stupid or brilliant. I would be thrilled if any of my ideas could help this great country or even better- Our Amazing Planet and it's inhabitants. Feel free to make fun of any of my ideas...

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Attack of the Fiscal Cliff Elf

 How low can you go in the name of a Grand Bargain with the Grandees and a betrayal of the people who voted you back into office? President Obama will perform an inverse Scrooge with one and a half twists this week as he pays a visit to some jolly toymakers in Pennsylvania. Far from spreading the cheer, though, he'll be fomenting the fear. Unless Mom and Dad and Congress get behind his plan to cut the social safety net to appease his plutocratic puppet masters, he warns, Santa may not be coming this year. 

It won't be the Grinch that steals Christmas, proclaims the White House Council on Economic Advisers. It will be the dreaded Invisible Fiscal Cliff Elf. According to the latest presidential propaganda, the ticking Austerity Bomb will blow up the consumer confidence of otherwise doting and indulgent parents. They might not be buying any toys for the tots unless he can cut a deal before Fiscageddon!
Sales figures for the holiday weekend were encouraging: total spending was $59.1bn, 12.8% higher than last year, according to a survey from the National Retail Federation. An estimated 139.4m adults visited US stores and websites from Thanksgiving through Sunday, up 6.4% from last year.
But Monday's report from the White House National Economic Council, entitled The Middle-Class Tax Cuts' Impact on Consumer Spending and Retailers, warned that consumer confidence, currently at a five-year high, was at risk. "The hard-earned rise in consumer confidence will be at risk if the middle-class tax cuts are not soon extended with a minimum of political drama," it said.
So if you were making your list, the Paternalist-in-Chief wants you to check it twice before over-confidentally spending any more of your hard-earned cash. He wants to make sure you are very, very afraid. So afraid that you won't even notice that in order to protect your paychecks now, you will be retiring later with a smaller monthly Social Security check. So afraid, that you'll willingly wait a few years more for Medicare to kick in. So afraid, that a temporary tax hike for the rich will give you the illusion of everything being fair.

But here is what he isn't telling you: if no deal is reached, and all the Bush tax cuts expire as planned, the slight reduction in your paychecks will not be immediate. Moreover, Congress will have plenty of time and leverage to restore the middle class deductions retroactively, if need be. President Obama is not telling you this, because he desperately want to make this deal with the devil. He's wanted it since Day One.

While it is heartening to read that at least some Congressional Democrats are hitting back against President Scrooge, their posturing may be just more Kabuki Theater to make us believe there are still some good politicians left fighting for the little guy. Only time will tell.  Meanwhile, a few lone voices in the wilderness, such as economists Paul Krugman and Dean Baker, continue speaking truth to the mendacious power of the Fix the Debt crowd and other phony deficit hawks.  The best deal, they say, will be no deal at all.

So bah humbug to the Fiscal Cliff Elf in Chief. By the way, the toy factory he is visiting on Friday manufactures Angry Birds. If there really is a Santa Claus, they will go all Hitchcockian on him.

Guest Posts

A few of you have submitted your own longform commentaries, which I will begin publishing this week. I always welcome contributions to the blog. So if you're interested, please send me your piece via email ( 

Always include sources to back up your facts, and when quoting another writer from the web, please give attribution along with a link to the original piece. I will take it upon myself to do whatever minor editing/spelling corrections may be needed.

Besides opinion pieces, I am also interested in "spot news" and personal anecdotes. In the past (especially during the heyday of the Occupy movement) some of you sent in colorful reports and photos of your own participation in various events, protests, encounters with politicians and the like. If you want to share your "activist" experiences with readers of the blog, you are highly encouraged to do so!

Note to regular commenters: many of the guest posts have been born of intended comment-box posts that go past the character count. So if you feel cramped in that milieu, please consider the guest post format. Thanks.  

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Kill Lists for Dummies

The White House was so freaked out over the specter of a President Mitt Romney getting his hammy hands on its drone death program, operatives were frantically scrambling before Election Day to write an official handbook on the fine art of presidential murder. 

According to Scott Shane of the New York Times, Team Obama had planned to bequeath the secret tome to Romney in particular and future presidents in general, outlining the who, what, when, where, why and how of assassination-by-drone. The article did not say whether Barry planned to personally pass the volume to Mitt under cover of darkness on Inauguration Day, or just discreetly leave it behind in the executive throne room, wedged between copies of Uncle John's Bathroom Reader.

Two unnamed Administration officials leaked to Shane that there has been quite a bit of internal disagreement about whether executing people is the right thing to do. Therefore, they are still going ahead with their plans for a cover-their-ass rule book. But with the recent electoral victory, it will now be a leisurely process. After all, what's the hurry when the War on Terror is slated to go on indefinitely?

The planned codification of assassination by presidential fiat is not even a new revelation. The existence of a "Disposition Matrix" was leaked to the media right before Election Day. According to The Washington Post,
"Over the past two years, the Obama administration has been secretly developing a new blueprint for pursuing terrorists, a next-generation targeting list called the 'disposition matrix'.
"The matrix contains the names of terrorism suspects arrayed against an accounting of the resources being marshaled to track them down, including sealed indictments and clandestine operations. US officials said the database is designed to go beyond existing kill lists, mapping plans for the 'disposition' of suspects beyond the reach of American drones."
Former CIA Director David Petraeus was effectively running the drone strike program as part of the spy agency's transformation into an unaccountable branch of the military; his ouster may serve to rein the attacks in somewhat, Shane theorizes.

Although President Obama officially refuses to even confirm the existence of the drone program, he's not above humblebragging about it in entertainment venues. As Shane notes, (without a trace of irony) Obama even went on Comedy Central's The Daily Show just last month to schmooze about it with Jon Stewart. Meanwhile, the writing of the Official White House Assassination Handbook is so fraught with anal retention that draft copies are being carried by hand from office to office. There will be no email trail, no mountains of evidence to furnish to nosy reporters and civil rights lawyers under the Freedom of Information Act. The president will continue on in his accustomed Orwellian doublespeak mode.

But if things start getting too dicey for him, what with the ACLU lawsuit and the looming United Nations human rights probe into the Kill List, perhaps he can have his fan base spring into action. He did just ask them to participate in his Grand Betrayal of safety net cuts, after all. Any day now, our in-boxes will be bombed with Obama for America drone bomb appeals. Just a few small edits to their last appeal should do the trick:


Karen --
Right now, President Obama is working with leaders of both parties in Washington to reduce the deficit in a balanced way  to codify clear standards and procedures for targeted drone strikes so we can lay the foundation for long-term middle-class job growth and prevent your taxes from going up. the inevitable destruction of the Bill of Rights to make you think you are safe from terror.
Your voice and action helped re-elect President Obama, and hundreds of thousands of you have already responded to our survey, which will help shape our next steps as well as justify giving myself unprecedented imperial powers. Thanks to your feedback, we're taking immediate action on one of your suggestions: keeping you informed in the dark about how the President is fighting for you by secretly killing Muslim males of military age so you can continue to talk to your friends, family, and neighbors. So here's the deal:
I believe in a fair shot and a fair shake. Deciding which militants to kill and which New Deal programs to obliterate will be given equal time. As I have made perfectly clear, all deaths will be approached in a balanced, bipartisan way. The elimination of both suspected militants and tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans is my mandate, as perceived by me and accepted by you via your votes.
 These problems are challenging, but they're solvable. In fact, the Senate has already passed bills to keep your taxes low and keep suspected enemies of the state indefinitely detained without trial. The House needs to pass it, and Congress should get it to the President as soon as possible to give both this President and future Presidents some utterly bogus legal cover.
There's a lot at stake. With your help complicity, we'll continue to move this country forward, trample on human rights, and trumpet American Exceptionalism the wide world over. Please forward this email and spread the word propaganda on Facebook and Twitter. Escape the Safety Net and become a Safety Nut for Obama!
Yes, I am exaggerating. But don't discount some form of public disinformation campaign coming down the pike pretty soon. The only thing holding Obama back is the supreme difficulty of spewing propaganda over an illegal policy he wants you to blindly accept without even acknowledging its very existence. He wants you to believe he cares about due process even as he willfully disdains it. Said a very Orwellian Obama to CNN last month:
Our most powerful tool over the long term to reduce the terrorist threat is to live up to our values and to be able to shape public opinion not just here but around the world that senseless violence is not a way to resolve political differences. And so it’s very important for the President and for the entire culture of our national security team to continually ask tough questions about, are we doing the right thing? Are we abiding by rule of law? Are we abiding by due process? And then set up structures and institutional checks so that you avoid any kind of slippery slope into a place where we’re not being true to who we are.
 One of the most chilling aspects of the drone program is that the administration has decreed that all military-age males are presumed to be terrorists unless they are proven innocent.... post-mortem! Since the Kill List does not even officially exist, the White House is conveniently under no obligation to investigate, let alone apologize to, the hundreds or thousands of "collaterally damaged" human beings who've have the bad luck to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

As other commenters have pointed out, the blowback from the victims and their relatives is a matter not of if, but of when. Make no mistake. Our own government is waging a campaign of state-sponsored terrorism. We have become what we claim to abhor. Lecturing other countries about their own human rights records is no longer even an option.

This White House leak to the media of the planned codification of its drone assassination policy for the edification of future presidents  is a pathetic attempt to justify the unjustifiable.


Friday, November 23, 2012

Eyasses for Obama

What with all the holiday hoopla this week, I had utterly neglected to check my email spam folder until this morning. And there, smooshed between "Your Arrest Record Online!" and "Remove Skin & Moles" was something from Obama for America, with the ominous subject "The Fiscal Cliff."

Not only is the OFA outfit still alive and kicking and flush with cash, it has pivoted from re-election mode to mass suicide pact mode. It's not enough that you re-elected the Manchurian Candidate to another four years of stealth Republican governance. He expects you to continue knocking on doors for him, to convince your friends and family to support his Grand Bargain of trillions of dollars of cuts to programs that benefit your friends and family. 

 Become an official Eyass* for Obama! Take the Fiscal Fledge Pledge. Spread those little deficit hawk wings of yours and fly like an eagle in the name of economic patriotism and allegiance to Your President. Strike while the afterglow of pretend victory is still hot. Spread the word far and wide: OFA now officially stands for Obama For Austerity.

Work Till You're 70.....Awwwwk.

Delving even further down in my spam bucket, I discovered I had missed the chance to participate in a survey of Obama supporters about "where we go from here." Whatever. Because, although the campaign committee failed to publish any alleged results of this alleged survey, the president seems convinced he has a popular mandate to gut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, food stamps and heating assistance! And it is up to us to spread the Cat Food Gospel!

Of course, the email does not say this in so many words. It is simply full of pablum and cartoonish numbered graphics. The never-ending Obama campaign is devoted to "keeping you informed about how the President is fighting for you so you can continue to talk to your friends, family, and neighbors. So here's the deal".....


"There's a lot at stake. With your help we'll continue to move this country forward. Spread the word on Facebook and Twitter."

Hmm. Nowhere does he give the exact details of his "concrete plan", but based on what he said during the campaign. the so-called balance is heavily weighted toward cuts -- at least three times the amount of what might be gained from revenue. It's a concrete plan, all right. Kind of like what happened to Jimmy Hoffa. One day the New Deal is here, the next it's gone. 

He still persists in the notion that cutting the deficit will grow the economy, too. President Obama does not want to believe in the Keynesian warning that austerity during a recession will only make the recession worse. You worry about the debt during boom-times, not during hard times.

You have to ask yourself why this "grassroots" deficit hawk campaign was officially launched right at the start of the Thanksgiving weekend, that most popular of all times for stealth news dumps. The New York Times, as far as I can tell, is not touching it. They were, predictably enough, live-blogging about the Black Friday flocks of consumerists. But in the U.K., where the overindulgence holiday is not celebrated, The Guardian has a piece on it.

The Guardian does offer an explanation of sorts for the OFA email campaign, which is actually sort of heartening: Obama is desperate!!!
It (the grassroots effort) comes after reports of no progress by the Republican and Democratic teams left behind in Congress over the Thanksgiving holiday period to start work on a compromise package.
They (Democrats) have left staff members from their teams to begin work on the framework of a deal, but the initial negotiations have not been fruitful. Republicans and Democrats have accused one another just setting out their standard party policies, with little in the way of compromise being offered.
According to The Guardian, House Speaker John Boehner has insisted that Obamacare, the president's signature achievement of a grand giveaway to private insurance predators, be put on the table, and he won't budge on the Bush tax cut extensions for millionaires. So, because there is simply no way that Obama can dismantle the New Deal without Republican collusion, he is seeking to hypnotize the starry-eyed masses into doing it for him. Be partners in your own destruction, proles. Show Barry you still have his back, even if it kills you.

So far, the only true grassroots supporters that Obama has are his millionaire CEO puppet-master rentier class at Third Way and their corporate media shills. As Paul Krugman laid out in a recent blogpost, CNBC has transformed itself into Austerity Broadcasting Central. The CBS Nightly News, too, has been running a feel-good Thanksgiving week propaganda campaign of how we will all die later unless we agree to die sooner. It featured such paragons of virtue as unindicted Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, who offered the following  cultured pearls of wisdom:
You're going to have to undoubtedly do something to lower people's expectations. The entitlements, and what people think that they're going to get, because it's not going to–they're not going to get it....And you can go back and you can look at the history of these things, and Social Security wasn't devised to be a system that supported you for a 30-year retirement after a 25-year career. So there will be certain things that the retirement age has to be changed, maybe some of the benefits have to be affected, maybe some of the inflation adjustments have to be revised.
You're not going to get it. Get it, proles? This multimillionaire banker wanker and master of mile-a-minute Doublespeak thinks that working slobs retire at 40, and that your laziness is costing him your money. The sad part is that our so-called journalistic class seeks him out, panders to him and never once thinks of challenging his outright lies. But as interviewer Scott Pelley breathlessly informs the viewers, the Blankfein interview was a coup of sorts, a rare "get" in broadcast parlance, because Masters of the Universe rarely deign to pontificate in public. We should all be so honored to have a plutocrat of his stature telling us that suffering is good for us, and even better for the likes of him.

Get their backs, for the privilege of getting stabbed in yours. It's the Class War, and so far they are winning. They remain confidently  convinced that the rest of us are assholes. But whether their flocks of potential eyasses will actually take flight only to commit hara kiri for the plutocratic cause remains to be seen.

Barry & His Blankie 

*Eyasses: raptor birds, such as hawks and falcons, still in that vulnerable downy stage.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Since this is my blog and I make the rules, I hereby decree that you don't have to give thanks today if you can't help but feel like ungrateful little wretches. Personally speaking, I am always grateful on Thanksgiving when it turns out that my turkey has nicely thawed. There is nothing worse than trying to pry out a frozen congealed mass of guts from the belly of the beast at 7 in the morning. I did that under-the-faucet operation several years ago, and I don't ever want to go through it again.

If anybody is unsociably huddled in front of a computer screen on this day of family togetherness and joy, and would like to share a link, anecdote, dirty joke, or just complain, go for it. Last year I included a link to Howard Zinn which didn't work, but here again is  the traditional Addams Family Thanksgiving Massacre video. An excerpt:

 {as an Indian, ad-libbing during a Thanksgiving play}
Wednesday: Wait!
Amanda: What?
Wednesday: We cannot break bread with you.
Amanda: Huh? Becky, what's going on?
Becky: [whispered] Wednesday!
Wednesday: You have taken the land which is rightfully ours. Years from now my people will be forced to live in mobile homes on reservations. Your people will wear cardigans, and drink highballs. We will sell our bracelets by the road sides, you will play golf, and enjoy hot hors d'oeuvres. My people will have pain and degradation. Your people will have stick shifts. The gods of my tribe have spoken. They have said, "Do not trust the Pilgrims, especially Sarah Miller."
Amanda: Gary, she's changing the words.
Wednesday: And for all these reasons I have decided to scalp you and burn your village to the ground.

Happy Thanksgiving from All of Me Here at Sardonicky!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Pre-Thanksgiving New York Times Kvetching Edition

Get all your bitching out of your system today. There will be plenty of time for forced bonhomie and fellow-feeling tomorrow.

I am in the middle of baking, so I am just going to list a few items  to inspire, enrage, or possibly just contribute to your profound state of numbed apathy.

First of all, here are two things that the New York Times is not covering today:

Thing One: the Gray Lady threw a hissy fit when a satiric Twitter site illegally used its trademark snooty Old English font "T" in tweets making fun of the newspaper's insipid trending stories. The paper of record sent its army of lawyers after law student Benjamin Kabak  and forced the shutdown of his account. It later relented, but only on the condition that the obviously satiric site officially identify itself as such. Because, we had no earthly idea that tweets like these were satire:

GUYS, there are *gasp* fake profiles on Facebook, and The Times is ON IT.

Thing Two: the Gray Lady did not see fit to print the fairly blockbuster news that the United States Government allegedly hacked into the personal computer of then-President Nicolas Sarkozy of France as he fought his losing re-election battle against Francois Hollande. According to a French newspaper, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano issued a non-denial denial: " We have no greater partner than France; we have no greater ally than France. We cooperate in many security-related areas. I am here to further reinforce those ties and create new ones.”

 Napolitano, according to a White House statement, dismissed the hacking accusation out of hand with much cackling and guffawing laughter because she considered it “preposterous.” Yeah -- she just assumed it was, like, satire or something. She and her BFF DiFi wouldn't know Stuxnet if it hit them in the face.

But back to that humorless, yet hilariously funny, New York Times. Thomas Friedman's latest column is written in that trendy new genre known as Austerity Porn. It is all part of media-industrial complex's propaganda campaign which seeks to convince the masses that suffering is not only good for us, it will provide epidemic orgasms if we only give it a chance. A choice Friedmanesque tidbit:
There is a huge amount of innovative thrust building, bottom-up, in the U.S. economy today. If Washington could just get the macro picture right, you could see a real growth surge in America. We’re just a couple of grand bargains away from something big.   
The Times chose to  suppress my comment by quickly performing the Times Pick Segregation Trick. If they don't care for a popular comment, they simply highlight their own picks from the rest of the pack by presenting them in the first layer. Most people won't bother searching for their rejects. So in case you missed it, here is mine:

So, Mr. Friedman is advocating a massive government propaganda campaign to convince the proles that cutting back on our Social Security and Medicare and other "middle class" goodies will be fun for us. Something like a Mary Poppins for grown-ups. A spoonful of sugar in the form of better internet connections will help the medicine of retiring at 70 go down. Or some such nonsense.
CEOs and pundits throughout the land are serenading us with the same tired old tune called "Love the Pain." And Friedman's use of such words as "thrust-building" and "bottom-up" even add a sexy new slant to the genre of fiscal S&M. The plutocrats wield the whips, and we will swoon under their lashes. The president will do his part by making austerity excitingly patriotic. Friedman's multimillionaire financial guru is at the ready to impart some economic Viagra, keeping that dreaded deflation at bay.
Risky start-ups, here we come! But, if the addition of an Amazon warehouse to the Chattanooga landscape is your idea of boom-time, think again. These fulfillment centers have a less than stellar reputation in how they treat their poorly paid, no-benefit workers.
You know what would really stimulate the economy? A national living wage law to lift retail and warehouse workers out of poverty. Scrapping the cap on FICA Social Security tax contributions to make the trust fund solvent for generations to come. Medicare for All.
Forget the shared sacrifice. We should be demanding some shared prosperity.
Deficit Scold Theatre is playing out on virtually every TV station and in every corporate-controlled newspaper in America. Friedman is just going with the noxious flow. 

Now excuse me while I go check on my pie.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thinking Outside the (Big) Box

Black Friday, that uniquely American holy day of consumer obligation, has always depressed the hell out of me. It is the day when people all over this great land give up pretending to be thankful for family and friends. It is the annual orgy of self- indulgence. We are encouraged to partake in the twin national pasttimes of greed and competition. We pledge our retail allegiance by patriotically waiting in line for hours for the chance to jostle our fellow human beings aside in our quest for cheap crap. 

On Black Friday, whatever else is happening in the world always takes a back seat. There may be wars, there may be strife, there may be misery. But news broadcasts and front pages always lead off with the size of the crowds, the trepidation of the retailers, the pomp of the bargains, the circumstance of the cash registers.  

And we are all shocked, shocked when the inevitable and utterly unexpected tragedy occurs. There was that unfortunate $7.50-an-hour Walmart greeter who died few years ago when unruly New York shoppers broke down the doors and trampled him to death. In 2011, a deranged California woman attacked her fellow Walmart consumers with pepper spray to keep them from grabbing up the Chinese electronics.

Have you ever wondered what would happen if all that human energy could be channeled away from consumerism, and into social revolution for the greater good? George Orwell did:

He remembered how once he had been walking down a crowded street when a tremendous shout of hundreds of voices, women’s voices—had burst from a side-street a little way ahead. It was a great formidable cry of anger and despair, a deep, loud ‘Oh-o-o-o-oh!’ that went humming on like the reverberation of a bell. His heart had leapt. It’s started! he had thought. A riot! The proles are breaking loose at last! When he had reached the spot it was to see a mob of two or three hundred women crowding round the stalls of a street market, with faces as tragic as though they had been the doomed passengers on a sinking ship. But at this moment the general despair broke down into a multitude of individual quarrels. It appeared that one of the stalls had been selling tin saucepans. They were wretched, flimsy things, but cooking-pots of any kind were always difficult to get. Now the supply had unexpectedly given out. The successful women, bumped and jostled by the rest, were trying to make off with their saucepans while dozens of others clamoured round the stall, accusing the stallkeeper of favouritism and of having more saucepans somewhere in reserve. There was a fresh outburst of yells. Two bloated women, one of them with her hair coming down, had got hold of the same saucepan and were trying to tear it out of one another’shands. For a moment they were both tugging, and then the handle came off. Winston watched them disgustedly. And yet, just for a moment, what almost frightening power had sounded in that cry from only a few hundred throats! Why was it that they could never shout like that about anything that mattered?
He wrote: Until they become conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious.  
Well, that was 1984. And this is so 2012. The Occupy movement just marked its first anniversary! The winds of rebellion and consciousness are finally in the air! The proles who work and the proles who shop are revolting against Big Box Empire. Minimum wage slaves are walking out of Walmart and setting up picket lines in the parking lots. The high cost of low price will be forced into the consciousness of even the non-boycotting faithful as they file into the national cathedrals of consumerism this week.

If you are willing to join the ranks of the retail heretics, here is a handy tool where you can find a Walmart non-shopping event near you. Some demonstrations will be starting as early as Thursday, given that the greedy Big Box bosses have decreed that the mad dash must start before the turkey carcass even gets cold. So plan accordingly, support your local Walmart refugees, and shop locally this year.

Retail workers make barely a subsistence wage. The average Walmart pay is only $8.80 an hour, in a corporation whose heirs own more wealth that 45 million American families. That's right. The Waltons have as much money as 40% of the entire combined population of the United States. They reside so far out in the stratosphere of prosperity that they might as well be God. Yet, they unmercifully send their employees out to apply for Medicaid and food stamps. The Waltons are not only not makers, they are those dreaded "takers" on a grand scale. They are the poster children of the corporate welfare state.

Paying their retail workers a living wage would not hurt the Walmart bottom line. To the contrary, it would benefit the entire economy. The public policy group Demos has just released a report revealing that if the retail employees could be lifted out of the crushing poverty that they now endure, we would all be lifted up. Even the Waltons would grow richer, because their worker bees would probably end up spending most of their extra money right there in Walmart! And the effect on other shoppers of a wage increase would be negligible -- mere pennies more per shopping trip, according to the Demos study.

The greed of the Waltons is not an economic necessity. It is a self-interested choice. It's time that they and their ilk realize that extreme wealth inequality is not good for them, and it's not good for the planet. Every civilization that has all its riches concentrated at the very top has collapsed. Every single one. Divide-and-conquer is also a losing philosophy. Pitting public worker against private worker, pitting oppressed worker against impoverished spender creates a giant vacuum that eventually sucks down even the gilded garbage at the pinnacle of the landfill.  

So let the banging of the pots and pans begin. Let's start jostling the plutocratic oppressors instead of each other. Let's shout about the stuff that really matters.