Thursday, January 31, 2013

Pathetic, or Just Cynical?

The New York Times published an unsigned editorial today bemoaning the lack of spunk in the Democratic Party. They place the blame squarely on the shoulders of Harry Reid and Max Baucus, with the powerful Reid once again misrepresented as a Mr.Peepers milquetoast and Obama consigliere Max Baucus cast as the slimy corrupt renegade from a Wild West red state.

Not once does the editorial so much as wag a pinkie finger at President Obama. It embraces the same tired old canard that fear and timidity are at the root of inaction by the erstwhile party of the people:
 That’s particularly evident in the Senate, which the party controls. Last week, Democrats had a rare opportunity to change the Senate’s rules by majority vote and reduce the routine abuse of the filibuster by Republicans, which has allowed a minority to slow progress to a crawl. But there weren’t enough Democrats to support real reform, so a disappointing half-measure was approved. The reason was fear: Fear that they might return to the minority one day, fear that a weakened filibuster might hurt them, fear that Republicans might change the rules to the disadvantage of Democrats if they regain a majority. 

Come on. Do you really think Harry Reid and his cabal would have signed off on watered-down reform unless they got the big thumbs-up from The Boss? Here is my published comment: 

President Obama is the leader of the Democratic Party. Not Harry Reid. Not Max Baucus.
Liberal groups were rightly upset about the pathetic filibuster deal. Republicans were rightly pleased. But then, so was Obama! Here's what he said about continued gridlock and failure of the Congress to follow the will of the people for the next several years:
"In my State of the Union last year, I urged Congress to take steps to fix the way they do business. … And today, I am pleased that a bipartisan group of senators has agreed to take action."
Reid never would have made this tepid agreement without the president's okay. You have to conclude that the president's goal for the next four years is to be seen as trying to get things done, and then conveniently being able to blame Republicans when they don't get done. Meanwhile he is backing down on his promise in another past State of the Union -- to fight against the Citizen United decision.
Not only that. He now even has his own 501(C)(4) fund-raising machine, Organizing for Action. It is touted as a grassroots successor to his campaign apparatus, but it is also accepting anonymous corporate donations in order to "further the President's agenda." Why more liberals are not expressing shock and outrage at what amounts to an influence-peddling scheme by a sitting president is beyond me.
The inability of the Democrats to "get things done" may well be more cynical ploy than a sign of weakness. Follow the money.
Actually, a few liberal groups have been expressing outrage and demanding that Obama shut down his slush fund. From The Hill:
Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, this week said Obama should shut the group down “and remain true to the repeated warnings he has given the nation about the dangers of corporate influence-money and business as usual in Washington.”
Organizing for Action has pledged to reveal its donors to the public, and as a nonprofit group, can accept unlimited contributions from corporations, unions and wealthy individuals.
Former Rep. Bob Edgar (D-Pa.), the president of Common Cause, said Organizing for Action would be an avenue for special interests to gain access to the White House.
“I think labor is going to give to them. Corporations are going to give to them. Huge wealthy donors are going to give to them. They have no problem with that being known and will want to call up the White House for access,” Edgar said.
Labor unions, meanwhile, are holding on to their pocketbooks, waiting to see what Obama does about such inhumane ideas as Chained CPI for the sole purpose of further impoverishing Social Security recipients. They will not donate, they vow, if the president turns against the working stiff. You don't say!

Here is what my cynical little mind thinks about the rationale behind government by passive aggression.  By prearrangement, filibuster reform fails. Obama then sets himself up as lone crusader for the common man, entering full campaign mode as he endorses gun control (which absolutely horrifies Harry and Max). He goes on trips and energizes the crowds. Meanwhile, the White House directs the grassroots supporters to the OFA website where, right after they hit you up for money, you are urged to "have the president's back!"  They even provide you with a script to recite when you call your congress critter to "demand action." Meanwhile, the lobbyists pour into Congress, and the bribery coffers are stuffed to bursting as the bickering and the gridlock prolong the lucrative process for as long as possible. The NRA is as generous to the Reid Democrats as it is to the Republicans, of course. Everybody applauds Gabby Giffords and she goes to the White House for a photo-op. The corporate media mouthpieces do their own propaganda duty, and the suffering masses are corraled into the arena to mindlessly root for either the Democratic "humanistic" home team or for the GOP militia movement.

You may think that you are taking a side. But you are really just a pawn in the Money Party's games of Divide and Conquer and Winner Take All. And the winner, people, will never be you as long as the PTBs have their way.

Ignore what they say and watch what they do. Follow the money, and then get mad. Get very, very mad. And above all, create your own scripts.



Denis Neville said...

“Any fool can turn a blind eye but who knows what the ostrich sees in the sand.” - Samuel Beckett, Murphy

One would think that one of these days the American public is going to catch on to the flimflam shams and lies and bread and circuses offered by both parties. Obama and the Democrats are good with the propaganda, but that is just what it is. So they always let us down. The Republicans just plain despise us. Neither gives a rat’s ass about our dismal existence. Why would they? They are paid handsomely to maintain the status quo as upper servants of the plutocrats. After all, the comfort of the rich depends upon an abundant supply of the poor and we are all pawns of the rich in this Age of Neo-feudalism.

The last refuge of scoundrels isn't patriotism, it's philanthropy.

Ted Rall,"…if we are too weak, too disorganized and too apathetic to form the political movements that will liberate us, the least we should do is to denounce "generous" acts of philanthropy like Michael Bloomberg's for what they are: arbitrary and self-serving attempts to deflect us from hating the rich and the inequality they embody."

Kat said...

The praise heaped upon Bloomberg by the little people (us) in the NYT when they ran that story made my stomach turn.

Denis Neville said...

Hitler came to power 80 years ago today on the 30th of January 1933.

Fritz Lustig remembers it like yesterday. Lustig asks, “On the 80th anniversary of Hitler coming to power, can we still draw lessons from that episode in history?”

“The events of 30th January 1933 to me still serve as a warning of how quickly a conservative government can lose control of the situation when it starts to engage with political party further to their right – and there's a lesson in that for British politicians too. Eighty years are a long time, but the events of that day are still relevant now: if we forget what happened, it may happen again.”

Since we are likely to ignore Europe's striking warning that austerity is no solution by embracing austerity (“incestuous amplification”), there are also lessons for American politicians.

Germans were frightened by economic insecurity in the early 1930s. Millions were unemployed and without any prospects of employment. In 1932 the German novelist Hans Fallada asked the bitter question, “Little Man, What Now?”

Hitler came to power on the 30th of January 1933.

James F Traynor said...

If I get any madder my amygdala will be eating my neocortex - as it is the little bastard is sniffing around.
Get away from there!

James F Traynor said...

Read that Lustig article in the Guardian. Knew a woman like Lustig. She was Christian, middle class and her family stayed hoping for the best. She was still a nervous wreck, hated politics. Had a neighbor in upstate NY, a Dutch woman who ran screaming around her yard at about 3:00 AM one morning because she'd been woken up by a sheriff's car equipped with a new siren that sounded like the gestapo cars of her youth. Lustig was lucky.

Zee said...


As I tried to express to @Jay on the prior thread, I think that I am starting

“to catch on to the flimflam shams and lies and bread and circuses offered by both parties. Obama and the Democrats are good with the propaganda, but that is just what it is. So they always let us down. The Republicans just plain despise us. Neither gives a rat’s ass about our dismal existence. Why would they? They are paid handsomely to maintain the status quo as upper servants of the plutocrats.” --Denis Neville

Still, I read Ted Rall's preposterous rant—and your apparent endorsement of it—and I had to shake my head at its pure, self-righteous, tyrannical, venom towards the wealthy, filled with sociopolitical claptrap.

Sorry, but there's simply no other way to put it, so I sincerely hope that I am misunderstanding you.

Moreover, I'm just not prepared to hate anyone, anymore at this late stage in my life, even those who want to essentially do away with my way of life. While I may oppose certain points of view in the extreme, believe it or not, I try to do so without hatred anymore. Silly, huh?

Yes, Jesus may have been a “commie.” In fact, I'm sure that He is. But only someone with His perfect knowledge, and equally perfect senses of justice and mercy could fairly take from those according to their ability, and give to others according to their need, providing all with an equal share. Any such system run by mere humans would degenerate to Animal Farm, or, worse yet, 1984.

I certainly wouldn't trust a Ted Rall--or any bloody Citizens' Committee of Ted Ralls--to run such a system.

You quote Orwell frequently, and as I recollect, you have praised the Founding Fathers for their understanding of human nature, and their creation of a governmental system with checks and balances that keep the worst of human nature under control while providing that necessary evil, governance itself.

What am I missing here?

Karen Garcia said...

Here are my comments today to Brooks and Krugman. First, regarding Brooks: actually a pretty decent effort, albeit classist. Brookings talking points. But he at least did not call for more border security. I wrote, probably too kindly:

One paragraph in an otherwise excellent column is giving me agita: "Thanks to the labor of low-skill immigrants, the cost of food, homes and child care comes down, living standards rise and more women can afford to work outside the home."

You imply that child care is low-skilled labor. It is, in fact, both physically and mentally labor-intensive and those providing it deserve a living wage. So that higher classes can thrive economically at the expense of the hired help is not a good reason to push for immigration reform. Also, farm labor is not low-skilled labor. It takes talent to pick crops and pick them fast before they rot.

So along with reform, we need to make sure all people are paid what they're worth, that work schedules are humane and family-friendly and that workplace conditions are monitored stringently for the safety of both immigrants and native-born people. and that child labor laws are adhered to, regardless of citizenship.

Otherwise, great column. Maybe next week you can suggest Medicare for All and debunk the deficit hawk hokum. Just keep smoking what you're smoking.
Krugman is keeping up the anti-austerity crusade, but never touches on the criminal/corrupt forces behind it. My take:

Icelandic President Olafur Ragnar Grimson said his country was wise enough to let the banks fail, choosing to help and heal the victims of the financial miscreants rather than imposing austerity upon them. Leaders who worship at the "Holy Church of the private economy" are indulging in one sick, perverted religion.

But fortunately, we have a newly elected heretic in our midst. Senator Elizabeth Warren is demanding that our so-called government watchdogs come clean about the sudden shutdown of their investigations into mortgage fraud by the big banks. At this near-tipping point of no return in the class war, I believe that we need a scandal of epic, Watergate-like proportions to even begin to purge austerity from the lexicon. Money must be banned from the halls of Congress. The Treasury must stop approving obscene salaries for bailed-out CEOs who make more than 300 times as much as their underpaid, overworked employees.

The charts don't lie. We are the worst of the worst in terms of life expectancy, health, education and social and economic justice. And still, the fiscal zealots are whipped into a frenzy of creating even more austerity in a bid for salvation. Their own salvation, that is. They may be promising us a highway to heaven if we only "share the sacrifice" and "make the hard choices". But what they're delivering is a descent into hell.

The only thing we have to fear is Austerity itself. It's toxic, it's cruel and it's dangerous. Let's declare war on it.

James F Traynor said...


What you're missing is that Bloomberg and his kind are the enemy. Pure and simple; his actions over the years have amply demonstrated that fact - calculated philanthropy notwithstanding. I didn't start the class war, but there it is and class struggle always will be with us, one of the probable reasons we made gods out of Jesus and Gautama. I didn't read Rall's comments the way you did, though I thought them a little heated. You don't have to hate the enemy or your adversary - actually it's better not to - in order to fight or bargain with him.

Denis Neville said...

How much longer can deluded Democrats cling to their Obama fantasies?

Case in point: the Affordable Care Act (bka Unaffordable Care Act) and the Newspeak “shared responsibility payment”

Starting in 2014, the individual “shared responsibility” provision calls for each individual to have basic health insurance coverage (known as minimum essential coverage), qualify for an exemption, or make a “shared responsibility payment” when filing a federal income tax return.

The penalty for being uninsured used to be called a tax or a fine. Now Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services calls it a “shared responsibility payment,” a payment to be made when filing a federal income tax return.

Yesterday, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services listed nine categories of individuals who are exempt from the “shared responsibility payment.”

Don McCanne MD @ Physicians for a National Health Program points out one concern:

“the exemption for individuals who would otherwise have to pay more than 9.5% of their income for their share of the premium of an employer-sponsored plan applies only to the employee’s coverage, but not to coverage of the family members as well. At today’s premiums, this means that an employee could pay much more than 9.5% of income if the family were to be included under the employer-sponsored plan, and that would be just for the premiums. The deductibles and other cost sharing would be in addition.”

According to the IRS, the cheapest health insurance plan - bronze family plans for 4 and 5 person families - available in 2016 under Obamacare for a family will cost $20,000 for the year!

Obama, once again serving the interests of his corporate masters, drives up the costs of private health insurance premiums with his much vaunted ACA. No wonder he likes to call it Obamacare rather than the Affordable Care Act.

The one thing the upper servants of the elites all agree upon is that money is good for rich people and bad for poor people. Just who are the takers?

“Bustling with images salvaged from the costume trunks of American history, the amplified voices of conscience ascend the pulpits of liberty to proclaim their faith in nobody knows exactly what, but something that has to do with a noble spirit, a just society, and America the Beautiful. As always, the language is abstract, the speakers being careful to avoid overtly specific reference to campaign finance reform or the depletion of the Social Security Trust Fund (questions best left to the sounder judgment of the permanent government) and directing their passion to the telling of parables – about character, thrift, integrity, family values, individual initiative, points of light.” – Lewis Lapham, Waiting for the Barbarians

Zee said...


I understood the part about Bloomberg as "the enemy," and the self-serving "charitable giving" of the plutocrats in general, and agree with both.

Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them...when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. --Matthew 6:1-4

I read Rall's other remarks as extreme, you saw them as a little heated; honest people can have honest differences in such perceptions.

Denis Neville said...

Karen’s nice take down of David Brooks’ tin pot sociologist views on low-skilled labor reminded me of Brooks’ “The Follower Problem,”

“We live in a culture that finds it easier to assign moral status to victims of power than to those who wield power...our fervent devotion to equality, to the notion that all people are equal and deserve equal recognition and respect makes it hard to define and celebrate greatness, to hold up others who are immeasurably superior to ourselves…To have good leaders you have to have good followers — able to recognize just authority, admire it, be grateful for it and emulate it.”

Yes, we don't give the peasants, who make the comfort of the rich possible, credit. And, above all, we don’t give authority, which demands that abundant supply of the poor, enough submission and respect. We are not good followers.

Because God had chosen America as the site of the earthly Paradise!

“Seeing is believing, and if an American success is to count for anything in the world it must be clothed in the raiment of property. As often as not it isn't the money itself that means anything; it is the use of money as the currency of the soul.” - Lewis Lapham, Money and Class in America

"If we Germans have a fateful flaw in our national character, it is forgetfulness. This failing speaks well of our human decency and generosity, but not always for our political wisdom or intelligence. We think everyone else as is good natured as we are." - Joseph Goebbels, 1943

“Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about.” - G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

James F Traynor said...

Yeah, the fourth estate is really beating the drums for austerity. Shows the independence of the mass media or, really, who owns what and we're not the 'who' but the 'what' and the 'who' is telling us 'what' where we're at - which is actually nowhere. So there. But we can rant - for now.