Saturday, January 5, 2013

A New Wave of Obama Apologists

Let the Great Spin Begin. Now that what's left of the left is almost universally lambasting the Great Feckless Cliff Aversion Act as a huge gift to the rich rather than the rescue of the middle class that the White House wants you to believe it is, the usual pseudo-liberal suspects of the corporate media are out in droves.

Via Naked Capitalism comes a valuable tutorial cutting through the propaganda which, according to Yves Smith, is aiming to soften up the public for "entitlement reform." They're attempting to trick us into thinking we're getting a fantastic deal, and that the rich were screwed, and people concerned about their Social Security are radical lefty wack-jobs who also believe in fairies.

Those who question the Beltway blather are being made to feel like ingrates. Perhaps the most odious bit of Obama apologium I've read this week is a piece in The Daily Beast by Michael Tomasky. At 52, he doesn't really qualify for admission to that elite group of young media pundits who arrived on the national scene fully-formed and famous, apparently never having had to slog their way up through the ranks of crappy, low-paying local jobs at obscure papers or stations, covering zoning board meetings and cats in trees. Ross Douthat of the New York Times and Luke Russert of NBC are typical examples of what Charles Pierce calls the Young Fogeys. These are the people who can spew about "entitlement reform" because they will never have to rely on Social Security for their basic subsistence. If it's not there for them in their dotage, what do they care?

But Tomasky absolutely shares the Young Fogey style. He uses that annoying, cloying combination of scolding and Charles Boyer-like gaslighting techniques and cool pundit-speak with some mild, hip swear words thrown in for good measure in his role as a middle-aged Young Hippie-Punching Turk for Obama. His piece is ever so originally and predictably titled Dear Liberals: Stop Complaining. It makes the whining tone all the more ironic:

But if there’s a style of criticism that really bugs me, it’s that which reproves him for failing to be Captain Liberal while refusing to recognize that the guy has to be Mister President. Here’s what I mean. (a variation of "he's not the king and he never promised you a unicorn.")
I will readily confess that the logic (of letting us go over the Cliff) is, if not impeccable, only mildly peccable. The Republicans would have been over a barrel. Of course predicting what those people will do and how they’ll respond to any given situation is risky business, but presumably they would not have wanted to be blamed for middle-class tax rates going up, so they’d have done something vaguely rational.
I get it. But here’s what I think proponents of that argument don’t get. Obama isn’t some co-speaker. He’s the effing president. (cue the young, hip, daring yet genteel outrage) People want the president to lead. They may blame Republicans more than Democrats for obstruction, and that’s a good thing. But they still want the president to Get Things Done, and, however naively, they still think he ought to be able to just assert his will and Get Things Done. (okay, I'll cut him some slack on the Gratuitous Capitalization To Make a Point, because I often do it myself. See above.) 
But the president—he’s supposed to do stuff. Obama really and deeply understands this—perhaps to a fault, but better that than believe he only has to represent the third of the country that loves him. (the same tired old canard that just because a liberal base elected him, his first duty is to the Neo-Cons. He is president of all the people. The only mandate he thinks he got was deficit reduction, championed by a whopping 15% of all the people )
Obama Is Not The Leader of a Movement -- He's the Head of a Country. (his bold, not mine.)

Now they tell us. I mean, both his campaigns have always been framed as grass-roots movements.  Practically every email I received from Obama for America urged me to become part of the movement. Googling "Obama Movement" gets you 160 million hits. But according to Tomasky, you now need to have your head examined for being so naive as to actually believe their movement crap. That was the wilfully shameless then. This is the pragmatic now, people.

Only slightly less odious, stylistically anyway, is this front-page story by Annie Lowrey in today's New York Times. Lowrey, who recently wrote another monumentally odious puff-piece about deficit hawk Maya McGuineas, today informs us that President Obama is making those poor rich people suffer, by golly! Contrary to what our lying eyes and brains may tell us, our tax rate is now the most progressive in a generation! It "squeezes" a whopping $600 billion from the wealthy in the next..... um, decade. (that is peanuts, by the way.) It raises the capital gains tax from 15 to 20%! (even though it should have gone much higher, at least to 35% as originally suggested.) Not until deep into the story does Lowry admit that the progressive taxation she propagandizes about is actually only in the eye of the beholder. She acknowledges, for example, that a well-off physician still pays a higher effective rate than a hedge fund manager. Mitt Romney, despite all the anti-vulture capitalism rhetoric of the Obama campaign, is still making out like a bandit.

On further reflection, calling Lowrey's article a propaganda piece is being way too kind.  Since the top marginal tax rate in 1970 was 70%, she is committing a blatant lie of omission. On the front page, no less.*

 Just as an aside, this 20-something Harvard lit major came to The Times as a fully-formed economics expert directly from a blogging  gig at Slate, and as the new bride of that most famous of all pseudo-liberal young pundits, Ezra Klein. Klein, who is not yet 30 years of age, has been named the most influential wonky wunderkind blogger in Washington (by, who else, The Daily Beast). Klein and Lowrey have also been named to the incoming class of media power couples by the New York Observer. Also, too (another gratuitous bit of redundant cool phraseology used by hip bloggers) they join Tina Brown of The Daily Beast and Sir Harry in The Varsity Line-Up. I just thought you should know.

The Daily Beast, as you probably already know, stole its name from that scathing satire of the journalistic class by Evelyn Waugh, titled Scoop. There sure ain't nothing like effing self-parody, and other peccable Stuff, huh?

* A new headline amends the claim to "most progressive rate since 1979."


Will said...

Does anyone else think "Ross Douchehat" every single time you come across his name in print? (I'm trying to quit the habit & be a better person this year, but I've just been feeling so darn peccable lately.)

P.S. Karen, your frequent use of Gratuitous Capitalization is one of My Favorite Things about you!

Pearl said...

The YES WE CAN, Voices of a Grass Roots Movement ad you showed in your
column has a list of names of people with very well padded incomes. It is eerie to see Obama's motto linked to a grass roots movement and the kind of people supporting it. They should know better but of course their comfortable life styles create a fog in their perceptions.

Unfortunately, they are the new role models to keep followers on the same
path to the same cliff and forestall too many questions.
I wonder how long it will take for the fog to lift.

Kat said...

May I offer an antidote?

Jay - Ottawa said...

It isn’t that these young fogies are not talented. They are very talented at the writing and blogging game. But they lack another ingredient I find elsewhere in abundance with my heroes in the press, like an I.F. Stone (dead), a Ralph Nader (getting there and all but dismissed), a Glenn Greewald (not so old), an Yves Smith or a Naomi Klein (young).

Of course, I can’t ascribe motives suggesting the Brat Pack is corrupt, even when I speak loosely in this salon. The young fogies may not be doing what they’re doing just for fame and profit. They may in fact believe everything they say.

And yet something is missing from their Vitas. As Karen suggests, they skipped an important apprenticeship every journalist must have. The one that could have sharpened their humanity – I mean their sense of solidarity with the rest of humankind. Surely, such a humanity is fostered by covering, day after day, events like horrid road wrecks, nasty divorce cases, home fires, criminal court proceedings, the anger that sometimes flares unexpectedly from doctors, nurses, firefighters, the police. And teens. And seniors with no relatives and down to their last penny. That’s what the blogging whiz kids missed. Sure, they know the insides of coffee houses and swanky bars, but much less about the common home, the ER, the small city mayor’s office. Those humble places happen to be where most of life is lived.

The Brat Pack’s lack of years is not at fault. This old fogy thinks it’s their lack of the ‘old values’ they lack, like the ‘justice’ that philosophers have tried to define for thousands of years. Or those other virtues, like compassion, mercy and charity, too often identified with one or another religion. To many a young fogy such words are worthy of derision. You avoid them in hip conversation. I even find it hard to mention them myself without wincing, so pervasive is the dark spirit that has descended over all of us after wars followed by wars, hot and cold, and then our overreaction to 9/11, and now the class war.

Every man for himself. Now that’s cool.

Denis Neville said...

Let the age of American austerity begin! The Lesser Evil, thy will be done.

Demonize the poor! End the culture of dependency! Draconian cuts to the safety net hammocks for the unworthy, indolent needy! Teach them a lesson! Make life harder for them for their own good! Squeeze them! To the workhouses! To the scrap heaps!

Austerity's failure will lead to more austerity. Austerity is both the means and the end. It is the religious devotion of our elites. The poor have no rights and the elites have no responsibilities. Their bias blinds them to their own bigotry.

We are in a war for a just and decent society. We must end our apathy and resignation.

“Too long have the workers of the world waited for some Moses to lead them out of bondage. I would not lead you out if I could; for if you could be led out, you could be led back again. I would have you make up your minds there is nothing that you cannot do for yourselves.” - Eugene V. Debs

Our society is ours.

Jay - Ottawa said...

We complain about the NY Times with good cause. And yet they stop us in our tracks with reports like this. Makes my day. Wish I knew a way to slip it on Obama's breakfast plate tomorrow morning. Uruguay: the USA turned inside out.

Pearl said...


And let us not forget other heroes:

"What matters most is not who is sitting in the White House, but "who is sitting in" -- and who is marching outside the White House, pushing for change."
Howard Zinn

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
Martin Luther King, Jr.

Unknown said...

It's not what's missing from the vitas of the young fogeys but that they have vitas instead of lives. They are post existential creatures of society and ambition, never separating themselves sufficiently to question the game and the positions they are given in it. When ambition replaces passion we get what C.S. Lewis called "Men without chests" in abundance and our leadership class these days are dominated by them. I think to older people, we modern as opposed to post modern fossils, it's unnerving, because we sense there is no core in these ambitious drones, no value beneath the drive for success besides self promotion. At least it's unnerving to me. They go to the right schools, and that starts with pre school, they build personas instead of character from early on, they don't stand on principle because it mitigates success and at that point, the slippery slope to moral complacency is greased. It's only a matter of how far they fall after that. But in some horrifying way, they are more selectively fit than those who quibble, so they ascend unfettered by an allegiance to something; let's just call it virtue. I find it all dizzying, probably because I'm on the other side of the age and cultural divide but also because I simply can't understand how any society can withstand the falsehood, corruption and promotion of simulacra at the expense of "realitY' for lack of a better word. I mean, at what point does denial give way to the oncoming train on the tracks?

I appreciated your comments on this post and of course, the post itself. I had noticed the same nonsense being written about the tax deal and faux resolution and the lack of any real criticism in the MSM about the folly we call leadership.

James F Traynor said...

The computer between my ears- lets call it Max - is a comparatively efficient, mensan level system and it's having the fantods.
"James, James, James!"
"Yes, Max. What is it?"
"I'm sorry to wake you before the allotted time, James, but It's about the last set of data you submitted."
"What about it Max?"
"It continues to contradict the other information under the heading MTM. James, what is MTM?"
"Max, please, we've gone over this. The operating definition I gave you can't be improved upon. That's it."
"James, I'm frightened, James."
"You mean for me. You can't be frightened, your'e a computer."
"Jimmy, Jimmy I'm scared shitless. For fuck's sake do something!"
"Max, Max, what was that!?"
"Max, who is Murphy?"
"James, I think you mean 'what' is Murphy. Murphy is part of Max and Max can't be designated a 'who'."
"Oh, Jesus! Okay, Max, what is Murphy?"
"It's the limbic system, James. You sound upset, James. Is Murphy bothering you too? It's very aggressive."
"James, Max, fuck this shit, I'm taking over. Murphy out."

James F Traynor said...

Sorry, read MSM for MTM.

Denis Neville said...

Men without chests and the coming new economic Dark Age

Michael Hudson, “The Road to Debt Deflation, Debt Peonage, and Neofeudalism,”

“The financial sector blames budget deficits not on cutting taxes on real estate, finance and other wealth, but on the elderly for trying to enforce payment of the Social Security and pensions the were promised and for which they pre-saved in their wage agreements.

“The fight is between employed labor and retirees together vis-à-vis an extractive financial elite allied with real estate and monopolies. The fight is being waged over who will control government, its tax, and its regulatory system. In the political sphere, it is between economic democracy and financial oligarchy.

“Today’s neo-liberalism…seeks to load economies down with debt extracting interest beyond their ability to pay, and then demands privatization of public infrastructure to create monopolies to serve further rent extraction…Its product is austerity, and it threatens to impose a new economic Dark Age.”

“The Betrayal of the American Dream is the story of how a small number of people in power have deliberately put in place policies that have enriched themselves while cutting the ground out from underneath America's greatest asset: its middle class. Their actions, going back more than three decades, have relegated untold numbers of American men and women to the economic scrap heap - to lives of reduced earnings, chronic job insecurity, and a retirement with fewer and fewer benefits. Millions have lost their jobs. Others have lost their homes. Nearly all face an uncertain future. Astonishingly, this has been carried out in what is considered the world's greatest democracy, where the will of the people is supposed to prevail. It no longer does. America is now ruled by the few - the wealthy and the powerful who have become this country's ruling class.

“And the worst is yet to come, as the privileged and their associates in Congress prepare to initiate slash-and-burn policies, beginning in 2013, to balance the budget - largely on the backs of the working middle class…when Congress begins to mindlessly - and needlessly - wield a meat ax…to bring down the deficit … the ruling class is getting ready to squeeze working people even more.” - Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele, The Betrayal of the American Dream

How much longer will the citizens of this once great nation put up with this shit?

Bartlett and Steele also ask themselves this question during three hours of conversation on Book TV's In Depth:

“Without a belief in and the teaching of universal moral laws, we fail to educate the heart and are left with intelligent men who behave like animals or as Lewis puts it, “Men without Chests.”

“We make men without chests and expect from them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.” - C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man

Zee said...


The link to “The Daily Observer” does not lead to a story about Lowrey and Klein as part of the “incoming class of media power couples,” but to a story about another upcoming “media power couple” that I found quite fascinating in its own right.

It was great to learn what the “white wine and brie set” find important in an up-and-coming book reviewer:

“Blessed with brains, long legs and an unforgettable name, Ms. LaForce has cut quite the figure in the city while working at The New Yorker’s Book Bench blog and, after that, The Paris Review.” (My bold emphasis added.)

Well, at least, “long legs” came after “brains.”

I found equally fascinating the gossipy speculation regarding Ms. LaForce's “scruffy” and (apparently) height-challenged beau.

(How gauche to date a shorter man!)

It seems that he will need to find work in “I-o-way” if he hopes to maintain close—and cheap—contact with his leggy girlfriend.

Quelle scoop!

Who on earth reads this drivel with regularity?

Frankly, as I looked at the two pictures, I found the beau to be rather less—OK, much less—
“scruffy” than Ms. LaForce, who appeared to me to be quite ordinary.

Perhaps that was because the article failed to include a complete picture of Ms. LaForce's "figure" and “long legs.”

Such an oversight.

Karen Garcia said...

When I pasted the link I had already scrolled thru to the bitter end. I think I inadvertently sent you to Frank Rich's kid and his leggy girlfriend. Ezra and Annie are 10 or so back. Scroll if you dare. One thing I hadn't realized is that Jay Carney, the WH press spokesman, is married to Claire Shipman of ABC News. The Observer puffery is an excellent guide to the media-government complex!

Zee said...


Not to worry. I found the "LaForce" article fascinating, and will scroll back to find the Klein-Lowrey story, too. I'm sure that it will be equally fascinating/depressing.

The incestuosness--Is that a word?--of today's media is really shocking, and I appreciate your efforts to expose it.

4Runner said...

This just in---but not from the NY Observer: If Mrs. Al Gore were to marry former ABC (now CNN) newsguy Jake Tapper, she'd be Tipper Tapper.

Jay - Ottawa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jay - Ottawa said...

Tipper Tapper. Really. Order, Order! Set aside your titillating media tattle sheets.

As Pearl points out, there are still heroes around. And I should have mentioned (in my list of events young reporters must cover) the truly positive achievements and joyous events that, at least once in a while, occur in our communities thanks to honest people using their authority responsibly.

“Unknown” introduces me to Men Without Chests, whom I never encountered in my spotty reading of C.S. Lewis. I have heard about the Hollow Men, though, and the Empty Men. The opposite of Gandhi’s “Great Souls.” They (the Hollow Men) are the courtiers, the other-directed, the technicians without soul who roam across the land in great numbers seeking rich patrons who give them meaning.

In contrast to our predicament, Great Souls – or at least interesting characters – are rising up in South America, whether the Young Fogeys pay attention or not. The MSM James refers to smears independent-minded governors of South America for not willing to be puppets of Uncle Sam. Propagandists in the MSM tell us the independents have wandered from the right path of austere capitalism. Therefore they are neocommies.

Simon Bolivar might be proud of them for often placing public welfare above private interests and for joining forces outside of the US-sponsored Organization of American States. For example, their internet transmissions within South and Central America will be routed entirely within their own continent instead of, as in the past, always having to pass at some point through nodes and cables running across the southern USA.

Besides Uruguay's Great Soul, José Murija, whom I linked above, there is Venesuela's Hugo Chávez (oh dear, he expropriated so much corporate property and keeps flipping the birdie at Uncle Sam), Christina Kirchner of Argentina, Evo Morales of Bolivia, and Dilma Rousseff of Brazil, who took over after Lula. Sure, there’s corruption down there, but who are we to point fingers when it comes to corruption and cronyism and the controlled press? One thing’s for sure: these precious few are on most days of the week Definitely Left.

Imagine that: Upstart Lefties achieving power and, once in office, proudly doing the lefty things they promised to do. Catch up on these events in the foreign press and try not to be so envious.

Zee said...


You will get no argument from me regarding the U.S.'s exploitation of South America. My mining- engineer father, who worked in S.A. for a decade in the thirties, could probably be considered one of the "exploiters," father to me though he may be.

Yet, as I see inflation and economic problems rise out of sight in Argentina,

Kirchener once again resorts to lifting up the old demons of colonialism to divert attention from Argentina's internal problems:

C'mon. This Malvinas-Falklands "conflict" dates back 180 years, and was similarly dredged up some 20-30 years ago for the same purpose to divert the populace of Argentina from its internal problems, to Argentina's serious loss.

We might as well demand that Euro-Canadians return the whole of Canada to its indigenous peoples and vacate the premises in the name of social justice.

Chavez, Kirchener, Morales and Roussef may be "upstart Lefties," but, then, so was Barack Hussein Obama.

Look how that turned out.

Corruption is corruption.

Pearl said...

This is a worthwhile petition to sign.-----------------------------------------------


James F Traynor said...


The Bartlett-Steele interview on C-span Books is really worth the 2 hrs and 59 minutes.


Signed the petition but it'll never happen.

Jay - Ottawa said...

"Chavez, Kirchener, Morales and Roussef may be "upstart Lefties," but, then, so was Barack Hussein Obama. Look how that turned out."

Obama was an “upstart Lefty”? I don’t think so. Faux Lefty, maybe, or Stealth Neoconservative would be closer to the mark.

My point was twofold.

(1) The leaders mentioned are not kowtowing to Uncle Sam. Is this good or bad for their people? Should reformers everywhere celebrate efforts at independence in Latin America? What would your father say? Seems you agree with him more than you realize.

(2) The US is in no position to stand in moral judgment of these South American heads of state. The US exceeds their faults in its economic instability. What street damn near wrecked the world’s economic system through its criminal behavior, Wall Street or 9 de Julio Avenue in Buenos Aires?

Again, which country distracts its population better with wars, Argentina or the US? One rogue elephant tramples more jungle than any wildcat.

Can Hillary Clinton shake a finger at the human rights record of Chavez? Hint: Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, kill lists, drones, and more recently NDAA ….

And corruption? Haven’t the political invertebrates of DC set new records for cash in cash out for the bankers and the corporations? Haven’t our politicians enriched themselves and the elites they serve by impoverishing the rest of us? The best is yet to come with a likely grand bargain.

The South American enemies of our corrupt elites just might be our allies in pushing back at the oligarchy that oppresses both us and them.

“Wherever one looks, truth has fallen to money. Wherever money is insufficient to bury the truth, ignorance, propaganda, and short memories finish the job.”
Paul Graig Roberts

Zee said...


Your points are all well-taken.

Pearl said...

James: You never know where a petition might lead. Others someday may pick up where we left off and it will be interesting to see the response. They have already reached their goal of signatures with many more to come. Thanks for signing and letting Krugman know we are behind him most of the time. Karen thanks for another great comment to his latest column for Monday.

Denis Neville said...

Karen, excellent recommendations to the readers of Krugman’s column today.

The problem is that the truth is what many elites consider the wrong point of view.

"The newspaper game for me is something like the thrilling thing it is in fiction. But from the first day to the last there was censorship, there was suppression of news, there was distortion and coloring of the news, there was always an attempt by someone to mislead the public." – George Seldes

For all those few brave souls (yourself included)who still care to tell the truth, George Seldes’ grave warning is clearly the order of the day: Tell the truth and then run!

“Tell the Truth and Run: George Seldes and the American Press” is a 1996 documentary film that was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. The film opens with a cartoon character, Truth, being chased and fired upon by an enraged mob.