Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A Couple of Comments

Thought I'd paste my two New York Times comments in this space tonight, since the subject matter is interrelated. I was so busy writing my rich people post this morning that I missed Obama's presser, and didn't catch a replay of the sadness until later in the day. This guy is not only a lame duck, he's damn near a dead duck. All flapping wings, whiney quacks and absolutely no soaring flight to the oratorical heights. It apparently marked his 100th day of his second term in office. So, does that make him the ill-fated Barry of the Hundred Days, starring Daniel Day-Lewis? Is there actually any difference between Hollywood and Washington? I'd also caught a little hint of the new Obamian Defensive Dejection Syndrome in clips of the Co-respondents' Ball, a true parody of a parody of a parody if ever there was one. Or, if you took it seriously, mutual masturbation porn.

My first Times comment was in response to a pretty scathing editorial on Gitmo:

What was appallingly missing from President Obama's statement was any sense of empathy for the prisoners who are essentially being tortured.

HE doesn't want the prisoners to die. The hunger strike hurts US, champions of freedom that we are. It diminishes OUR standing in the world, "lessens cooperation with OUR allies on counterterrorism efforts" -- in other words, the almighty USA no longer has the moral standing to issue any sanctimonious "we deplore this" and "we condemn that" protests when other nations perpetrate their own human rights abuses.

It's not just the medical torture at Gitmo. It's the criminal failure to prosecute the torture of the Bush administration. It's the ongoing program of drone assassinations that is another prime recruitment tool for "extremists" or militants, defined by our leaders as any person in the prime of life, who dares to exist in the wrong place at the wrong time. The wrong place can be a wedding, a funeral, the site of a medical rescue attempt of drone strike casualties in the first round of attacks, farmers tending their crops, families sitting around the dining room table.

The president talks a good, self-serving game. Whether he walks the walk and now uses all the executive tools at his disposal in the face of some long overdue public pressure remains to be seen.

And as far as Lindsey Graham and his fellow GOP scare-mongers are concerned, I suggest they be sent to Gitmo immediately and force-fed a battery of psychiatric tests.


Now, on to Maureen Dowd. I felt compelled to pre-empt the usual veal pen criticism of her Obama snark, nip the usual bullshit in the bud, as it were:  

I know Maureen Dowd will take plenty of heat for this latest column on Obama's lack of parenting skills. She has obviously gotten under his skin, even earning a rueful mention at that dystopic celebrity bash over the weekend. She will be accused of such atrocities as sharpening her literary nails on thin presidential skin, jamming her stiletto heels into a good man when he's down.

When she criticizes Obama, she becomes the word that rhymes with what Babs Bush once called Geraldine Ferraro. Amazingly, every time she disses Bush, she deserves another Pulitzer. Like Obama, she just can't win. But she gets props for not bowing to the liberal blogosphere the same way Obama perpetually bows to Republicans.

What irked me about Obama on this particular day was his passive- agressive posture, joking about quitting and showing absolutely no empathy for the prisoners of Gitmo. It was all about our standing in the world, his personal need not to have them die on his watch.

Attempting to distance himself from his own policies, he insists that Gitmo is "Not Who We Are". Uh.... actually, it is. It's like his calling the cruel cuts to Meals on Wheels for seniors "stupid" and suggesting we replace them with "smart" Social Security cuts. Does he really not hear his own cognitive dissonance?

If Obama is feeling that beleaguered, he should take Mitch out for a drink, slip him a mickey, then render him down to Gitmo for a time-out in the naughty chair.

What Do Those One Percenters Want, Anyway?

It is a truth universally acknowledged that rich people have an outsized influence on politics. The wealthiest Americans and corporate persons just financed a two billion dollar presidential campaign, after all. That their weighted votes have borne fruit is most recently evidenced by the Congressional stampede to liberate the plutocrats who were mistakenly and outrageously caught up in the sequestration dragnet with meal-deprived old people and evicted preschoolers and ousted chemo patients.

On Friday, our legislators restored FAA funding to air traffic control towers. By Monday, frequent high-flyers were soaring unimpeded while the lesser people remain grounded in their economic gulags.

A group of Northwestern University researchers recently sat down with some 80 Chicago-area multimillionaires to find out just what else they expect from the politicians they purchase. The results are both exhaustive and exhausting, both predictable and surprising. For example, the revelation that only the tiny minority at the pinnacle of the wealth distribution pile pretend concern about Duh Deficit and yammer away for austerity is old news. Regardless of party affiliation, rich people tend to be fiscally conservative. Wealthy Democrats differ from wealthy Republicans mainly on social issues, such as reproductive rights and gay rights. (That's probably why millionaire faux liberals like the Clintons are falling all over themselves to Tweet their joy at the coming-out party of a millionaire gay basketball player while simultaneously ignoring Sequester cruelty to poor people.)

   Other findings:

-- Only 16% of the millionaires surveyed think climate change is "very important."

-- More than 80% of the ultra-rich Chicagoans are self-described political junkies, spending at least five days a week "attending" to political issues. A full two-thirds give money to political campaigns. Twenty percent bundle large sums of money for politicians.

-- Half the Windy City multimillionaires report enjoying regular face-to-face contact with their representatives, and are on a first name basis with such heavyweights as Mayor "Rahm" and "David" (former Obama adviser Axelrod).

-- Compared with a dozen spending priorities of the general population, the wealthy respondents favor increased government investment in only three: infrastructure, scientific research and education. In contrast to two-thirds of the public at large, only one third of rich people favor a Medicare for All national health insurance program. The rich favor spending less money on the SNAP (food stamp) program.

--While the majority of wealthy people are fully aware that income disparity is getting worse, only 19% believe the government should be responsible for providing jobs to the unemployed (as opposed to 68% of the general public). Less than half favor raising the minimum wage. Less than half think it is the government's job to see that nobody goes without food, clothing and shelter. While favoring cutting, rather than expanding, Social Security, the majority of the rich would not be averse to raising the current FICA contribution cap.

--The Chicago millionaires surveyed tend to favor teacher merit pay and charter schools. Only 35% think the federal government should spend whatever is necessary to ensure that all children get a quality education. Asked if it is the responsibility of the government to make sure that minority children get the same educational opportunities as white children, "even if it means you will have to pay more in taxes", only slightly more than half replied in the affirmative.

--While most wealthy people intellectually accept Keynesian economics (the government should run a deficit during times of recession and war), they paradoxically still prioritize cutting rather than spending. So much for the debunking of Reinhart-Rogoff.

-- Surprisingly, two-thirds of the wealthy and the general public alike favor progressive taxation. But paradoxically once again, the rich are adamantly opposed to actual income redistribution -- despite their intellectual awareness of the hazards of extreme income disparity. No amount of education can overcome that deep, ingrained greed. They're willing to pay taxes as long as those taxes go to pay for programs valuable to them. (safe highways for their Bimmers, safe buildings for their coddled bods, public money for charter schools, scientific research to cure their future diseases.)

-- The richer the plutocrat, the less he or she favors government regulations. The study's authors conclude:
The data show a significant tendency for wealthier respondents to take positions more toward the “cut back”than toward the “expand” end of this index. Each additional $10 million in wealth corresponded to a drop of nearly half a point on the 10-point scale. There was also a tendency for the wealthiest respondents to tilt even more than the less wealthy toward cutting back Social Security. ... If a similar or stronger tendency carries through to the highest levels of wealth in the United States as a whole, and if the wealthiest Americans wield especially large amounts of political power, this finding may help explain why cutting these popular programs has remained on the political agenda.
The influence of the rich and the donor class also explains why neither party gives a rat's patootie about campaign finance reform. Wealth begets power begets more wealth begets more power, ad infinitum. President Obama himself long ago abandoned any pretense of caring about the issue, despite constant pressure from public policy groups. From today's Washington Post:

But for many former allies, Obama’s decision to convert his campaign operation into a political advocacy group with unlimited funding was the final straw.
“The president has engaged in uncharted waters that open the door to influence,” said Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer, a longtime activist who describes Organizing for Action as “a precedent that other federal officeholders are likely to follow.”
The article notes that Obama has failed to fill vacancies on the Federal Elections Commission and even failed to replace his former counsel for ethics and government reform, a position he created during the early hope-and-change phase of his administration, and which lasted about as long as his plans to close Gitmo. That door to influence? It's not only been open for a long time, it's flown off its hinges. 

Ergo, the continuation of austerian policies and a Democratic president's continued desire for a Grand Bargain of social safety net cuts despite their terrible tolls on the economy and the health of ordinary people. Read the entire Northwestern report linked above, and marvel at how the selfish preferences of his rich Chicago backers uncannily mirror those in his budget. (the exception to the rule is in defense spending. Chicago millionaires want the Pentagon budget slashed right along with the Medicare budget. Except for the General Dynamics Crown Family, those war profits must not be trickling down to the Windy City!) 

"Let me tell you about the very rich," wrote F. Scott Fitzgerald. "They are different from you and me."

Yeah, replied Ernest Hemingway. "They have more money."

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Good Pain, Bad Pain

You might think that the long-overdue and comedic debunking of the Rogoff-Reinhart debt study, which had served as the prime rib basis for the austerity agenda of the deficit hawks, would have stopped President Obama from pushing for even more austerity. Well, harrumph to that, proles! His weekly address to the "Nation" (aka, the Plutocracy) should disabuse you of that notion, pronto.

If we had to give this week's presidential propaganda a title, it would be "Sequester Dumb. Cutting Social Security Smart."

He comes not to cancel the Sequester. He comes to replace with something just as bad, if not even worse. He calls it a Balanced Approach. We call it a Grand Betrayal.

The irony, of course, is that he could easily have vetoed Friday's Congressional bill that restored FAA air traffic control staffing, thus gaining a ton of leverage over the GOP. He could have used inconvenienced travelers as bargaining chips, to begin his longed-for destruction of the social safety net. The Republicans would have caved under all that plutocratic pressure. But Obama serves the same masters as all the other bought-off politicians of the Duopoly. And Pete Peterson and the Koch Brothers and the Waltons -- as much as these billionaire psychopaths hate the thought of poor people having a comfortable retirement and health care -- absolutely cannot, must not, be kept waiting on the tarmac in their Lear jets.

So, in a weird sort of way, I guess we can count ourselves lucky. The Tea Party saved us from his Grand Bargain before. This time, the supreme selfishness of the Masters of the Universe got in the way.  

Obama disdainfully calls the vote a "bandaid" approach, sequestering the part of the Sequester that made the Richie Boo-Boos feel bad. But as other commenters have pointed out, Obama is not about to pull a stunt using displaced PreK kids, Medicare chemo patients and the homeless as bargaining chips in a veto threat. That is not who he is. His backdrops are the military stoics, the first responder-uniformed, the beaming factory workers happy to earn a low wage instead of a no-wage, the attractive students who haven't had the chance to become unemployed yet and still have a ways to got before the onslaught of student loan collection agents, the well-dressed, coiffed and dwindling denizens of the monied Beltway burbs. You won't see old people, impoverished children, untreated and emaciated cancer patients, depressed people in rags, anyone obviously sulking or suffering, anywhere near him at his carefully scripted events.

 The people truly being hurt by the Sequester were never really part of his base to begin with, even though it was their votes that propelled him into a second term. He merely used them as occasional actors in campaign films in order to display what a mean son-of-a-bitch Mitt Romney was. Bit players are as expendable as they are interchangeable.

Besides implementing the sneaky chained CPI method of both cutting Social Security and raising middle class taxes, the other pressing reason Obama wants to end sequestration is because he desperately wants to stop the cuts to the Pentagon budget. Notice how smarmily he hides the operation of a thousand military bases, billion-dollar weapons systems, drone operations, fighter jets and welfare for defense contractors under the weasel term "military communities" --- immediately juxtaposed with "families" to make you think that it's only the low-paid grunts and the spouses left behind he's concerned about:
Because of these reckless cuts, there are parents whose kids just got kicked out of Head Start programs scrambling for a solution. Th ere are seniors who depend on programs like Meals on Wheels to live independently looking for help. There are military communities – families that have already sacrificed enough – coping under new strains. All because of these cuts.
And while he admits the deficit is shrinking, he still calls for "responsible" cuts.  Why? Because, they're in response to the ruling class. Because the Pete Peterson Fix the Debt crowd representing the richest 1% who've raked in almost all of the gains in the economic "recovery" want it that way. They don't want FICA taxes imposed on their unearned wealth. 

 Obama never once mentioned chained CPI in his speech today, never once acknowledged that his budget would reduce the lifetime benefits of military veterans right along with those of disabled civilians. He knows his ideas are not popular. So, the austerity and the pain are disguised by more weasel words:
A couple weeks ago, I put forward a budget that replaces the next several years of these dumb cuts with smarter cuts; reforms our tax code to close wasteful special interest loopholes; and invests in things like education, research, and manufacturing that will create new jobs right now.
So I hope Members of Congress will find the same sense of urgency and bipartisan cooperation to help the families still in the crosshairs of these cuts. They may not feel the pain felt by kids kicked off Head Start, or the 750,000 Americans projected to lose their jobs because of these cuts, or the long-term unemployed who will be further hurt by them. But that pain is real.
He feels our immediate pain, but will do nothing to stop it unless we agree to a lifetime of it. And make no mistake. The kind of long-term pain he wants to impose will smart like hell.

Obama may well already be a lame duck, as he quacks out  marching orders to the masses, urging us to goose-step happily to our own destruction.  

Friday, April 26, 2013

They Got Flights

Surprise, surprise, surprise. Congress and Barack "Red Line in the Sand" Obama will only cancel the part of the sequester that inconveniences rich people. And just in time for the weekend, as they all blow town without waiting on the tarmac. Also just in time for the Hollywood celebs to blow into town for the horrific White House Correspondents Dinner after first blowing off the TSA security lines just because they can. 

Don't get mad. Get even. And while we're thinking about how on earth we will actually accomplish that, here's a little ditty, sung to the tune of Johnny Cash's "I Got Stripes" (video here)

On a Monday, their flights got arrested (uh huh)
On a Tuesday, those plutocrats got mad (oh crap)
On a Wednesday, they found they'd been sequestered
On a Thursday, the Senate met and blurted out "Our Bad!"

So they got flights
Flights in all their Lear Jets
While we got chains
Chains around our feet (CPI!)
They got their rights
But we still got no jobs, yo.
And those chains, those chains
Are about to drag us down.

On a Monday, the kids still had no Pre-K
On a Tuesday, the cancer clinics closed (oh boy)
On a Wednesday, the Navy cancelled Fleet Week
On a Thursday, we still were getting hosed.

But they got flights
Flights in all their Lear Jets
And we got chains,
Chains around our feet (oh my corns!)
They got their rights
And still we have no jobs yet
And those chains, those chains
Just keep on draggin down.  

On a Monday, they cut the AIDS relief off    
On a Tuesday, the schools they got de-staffed
On a Wednesday, they even turned the heat off
On a Thursday, the politicians laughed. (hee-haw)

'Cause they got flights
Flights in all their Lear Jets
And we got chains,
Chains around our feet
They got their rights
And we still got no jobs yet
And those chains, those chains
Just keep....on....draggin.... d-o-o-o-w-n. 

(Feel free to add more lyrics. Inspiration can be found here.)

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The World's Most Exclusive Club

A mighty wind, about an F-5 on the narcissism scale, bore down on Texas today. It was a nationally televised club meeting to which you weren't personally invited. If you did have the effrontery to show up anyway, and you got just a little too close for their comfort, you got your ass kicked. No matter that you were an Iraq veteran whom the club members all professed to love and honor. Besides, the corporate media were more interested in FLOTUS's couture and what Babs and Barry were burbling on about than in the hundreds of protesters gathered outside the gates.

The wind soared mellifluously -- Barack Obama blew them all away:
When all the living former Presidents are together, it’s also a special day for our democracy. We’ve been called “the world’s most exclusive club” — and we do have a pretty nice clubhouse. But the truth is, our club is more like a support group. The last time we all got together was just before I took office. And I needed that. Because as each of these leaders will tell you, no matter how much you may think you’re ready to assume the office of the presidency, it’s impossible to truly understand the nature of the job until it’s yours, until you’re sitting at that desk.
I, I, I, I.  Couldn't help noticing convicted felon Silvio Berlusconi, the bada-bing Italian president, in the audience. He's not in our club, you know, we American presidents are all family men. We don't own strip clubs -- we just help private equity vultures strip assets. We don't cheat.... on our wives. Hmmm.... Bubba? It depends on what the meaning of is, is. But back to Barry Windrip. Absolutely right, the post-presidency thing is like a support group; the club really is confronted with the Herculean task of serially holding each other up and holding each other unaccountable for high crimes and misdemeanors. And I-I-I Obama, even more than Bush, desperately need the next guy (or Hillary) to never hold me accountable for drone assassinations, for Gitmo, for continuing to outsource torture to black sites. Today's homage to Bush is nothing less than a dog-whistle plea for clemency from future club members.

 The first thing I found in that desk the day I took office was a letter from George, and one that demonstrated his compassion and generosity. For he knew that I would come to learn what he had learned — that being President, above all, is a humbling job. There are moments where you make mistakes. There are times where you wish you could turn back the clock. And what I know is true about President Bush, and I hope my successor will say about me, is that we love this country and we do our best.
Sorry, should have said the presidency is a humbug job. We all make mistakes, which is Newspeak for politicians committing felonies. I know this is true about Georgie. And he knew he was he and I was him even before I knew it myself. His gut told him. So here's hoping that my successor will tell the same lies about me at my own special lie-berry day.
So we know President Bush the man. And what President Clinton said is absolutely true — to know the man is to like the man, because he’s comfortable in his own skin. He knows who he is. He doesn’t put on any pretenses. He takes his job seriously, but he doesn’t take himself too seriously. He is a good man.
But we also know something about George Bush the leader. As we walk through this library, obviously we’re reminded of the incredible strength and resolve that came through that bullhorn as he stood amid the rubble and the ruins of Ground Zero, promising to deliver justice to those who had sought to destroy our way of life.
President Bush, he is the man. I lifted that part about his sheddy reptile skin directly from the puffball interview he gave to the Dallas Morning News last week. He is one comfortable lizard brain, is George. If we weren't all comfortable with who we are and the crimes we commit in the name of freedom, we couldn't sleep nights. And please, folks, forget everything I ever said against the Iraq War when I was running for my first term. George, as he stood in the rubble that day at no personal risk to himself, was salivating over what a perfect excuse 9/11 would be for the invasion, what a lucrative opportunity for Big Oil, for Bechtel and Northrup Grumman and Boeing and Blackwater and General Dynamics and Halliburton. As my old pal Rahm once said, "Never let a crisis go to waste." And Afghanistan.... still there, always will be. There's gold in them thar hills, drones in them thar skies. Enriching the plutocrats is what is meant by "our way of life" -- just in case I was not being perfectly clear. 

And finally, a President bears no greater decision and no more solemn burden than serving as Commander-in-Chief of the greatest military that the world has ever known. As President Bush himself has said, “America must and will keep its word to the men and women who have given us so much.” So even as we Americans may at times disagree on matters of foreign policy, we share a profound respect and reverence for the men and women of our military and their families. And we are united in our determination to comfort the families of the fallen and to care for those who wear the uniform of the United States. (Applause.)
Forgive my boilerplate jingoism. Weasel words: "solemn burden" = lying our complacent asses off with a straight face and pretending it's a huge drag. "Profound respect and reverence for the men and women of our military and their families" = we'll say a prayer, but forget about those benefits even after ten years of soul-crushing deployments. With the exception of Bush Sr. and Jimmy Carter, the good old boys in the Exclusive Club have never put their own hides at risk. Their families will never have to put themselves at risk. That's for other people's sons and daughters.  And if they do come back, they will wait months and years for their disability claims to be chained-CPI'd or even denied, they'll commit suicide at the rate of 22 every day, and their PTSD and traumatic brain injuries combined with their weapons expertise will make them more dangerous than the foreign terrorists we speciously claim are trying to destroy our way of life. But when the Homeland Security secretary warned about such an eventuality, her report was maligned by the offended wingnuts across the beloved aisle and across the reactionary spectrum. 
No one can be completely ready for this office. But America needs leaders who are willing to face the storm head on, even as they pray for God’s strength and wisdom so that they can do what they believe is right.
George always listened to his gut. Like all of us, he left whatever vestigial conscience he may once have possessed at the Oval Office door.  Because when it comes to killing and maiming and spying and torturing and giving ourselves and the criminal financiers who destroyed the entire world economy free rein, we the members of The World's Most Exclusive Club will simply blame it all on our invisible friend in the sky.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Wednesday Links / Open Thread

Horror in Bangladesh: a substandard building that housed several clothing factories supplying American retailers has collapsed, killing at least 70, injuring hundreds and trapping hundreds more. Employees had noticed a crack in the building, but were forced by bosses to enter and start working anyway. A fire in another Bangladeshi clothing factory killed more than 100 people only five months ago. Walmart, of course, sees no evil, hears no evil, speaks no evil and knows nothing, nada, zilch about its outsourced slave labor camps.

The devastated tiny town of West, TX is already being forgotten as the Boston bombing continues to hog all the mainstream news coverage (although that may change tomorrow when POtus and FLOtus, a.k.a. the Obamas, fit in yet another memorial service. But only after first licking the designer cowboy boots of George W. Bush at his lie-berry extravaganza and attending a DLC fundraiser stuffed with unregulated and unrestrained Texas tycoons.) Labor journalist Mike Elk has written an excellent piece on the West disaster and the dearth of workplace safety reporting since Walter Cronkite shamed the nation with coverage of the 1968 West Virginia mine explosion. 

Oh, and speaking of fund-raising: I got an email from Elizabeth Warren last night, seeking donations for the Boston One charity for victims of the Marathon bombing. The catch? You need to go through Organizing for Action, the Obama slush fund, so that they can grab your email address and personal info before sending your money on to the actual recipients. I just scratched Warren off my ever-dwindling list of tolerable politicians. But to be fair, she's only helping the Obama outfit catch up with Debbie Wasserman Shultz's DNC data-mining email blitz that smarmily urges recipients to thank everybody in Boston -- and then allowing a respectable interval to elapse before hitting them up for campaign cash. 

The Senate finally held a hearing on drones yesterday, with Majority Whip Dick Durbin actually chastizing the Obama administration for failing to show up. An Air Force colonel warned that we should not even be uttering the D word, because saying it will only help Al Qaeda. The certifiable GOPer Lindsey Graham continued in his whole-world-is-a-battlefield mode, praising Obama for using his drone killing program in a "a very commander-in-chief-like way." If you think the Duopolists are going crazy with role reversal, not to worry. Like the earth's magnetic poles, they're flipping all the time. And nobody even notices, because in the end, money holds the whole shebang together.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Nuclear Options

Oh, how the ironies abound. On the heels of deploying one of the biggest shows of domestic military force in recent memory, President Obama is now accused of being a lily-livered, noodle-kneed manager for failing to muster enough votes to pass even the most tepid of domestic gun control legislation.

Maureen Dowd, in a rather half-hearted piece being universally lambasted for its mean girl tone, adds poor leadership qualities to the legendary lack of Obamian schmoozing ability to explain the Senate defeat last week. A front page article in today's New York Times lamely ascribes a lack of Johnsonian arm-twisting skills for the failure. None of the Times writers saw fit to mention the lack of the so-called "nuclear option", as perennially threatened by passive-aggressive Majority Leader Harry Reid. Filibuster reform theoretically could have passed background check legislation without a 60-vote supermajority (the final vote was 54-46).

Obama, according to The Times, also could have used threats against his own party's outliers, such as Mark Begich of Alaska and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota. He could have made crucial financial support for their campaign war chests and pet projects in their home states contingent upon their support for his gun control measures.  For some weird reason, according to The Times, he just doesn't use the standard quid pro quos at his disposal. He hasn't learned how to play dirty politics. He's no LBJ.

Which brings us to another important story that The Times is choosing not to cover, possibly because it proves that the conventional portrayal of Obama as a principled but weak Mr. Nice Guy is hilariously and patently false. According to The Guardian, Obama is very adeptly trying to bribe those recalcitrant boobs in the Senate with a nuclear option that even the faux-gridlocked dinosaur leadership could love. Even as he calls for more and more crushing domestic austerity, Obama's budget proposes spending $11 billion to retrofit our entire stockpile of nuclear weapons. He wants to make them every bit as accurate and streamlined and precise and surgical as his beloved predator drones. Plus, those drones are coming back to haunt him. He might need the nuclear option backup plan.

Obama, who campaigned on a pledge to reduce our stockpile of nuclear weapons, is now reneging on that promise in order to reward the defense industry-heavy districts of Congress critters whose votes on other deals he may need in the future.  That's according to the various anti-proliferation public policy groups quoted in the piece. This has nothing to do, mind you, with his failed domestic arms control legislation. It's a backdoor gambit has everything to do with enriching the Military-Industrial Complex which, in turn, enriches legislators with campaign donations, who then line the pockets of defense contractors, and ad infinitum.

Domestic gun control failed because life is cheap. The bank accounts of corrupt politicians and merchants of death are more precious than the lives of 20 six-year-olds, more precious than the lives of the estimated 30 people killed every single day by guns in America. It failed because the United States is the biggest arms dealer in the world, with annual sales of almost $67 billion now constituting almost 80% of the world market, actually tripling in the past few years.

But back to that Other Nuclear Option That is Not Filibuster Reform. According to The Guardian,  
Under the plan, nearly 200 B61 gravity bombs stockpiled in Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy and Turkey would be given new tail fins that would turn them into guided weapons that could be delivered by stealth F35 fighter-bombers.
"This will be a significant upgrade of the US nuclear capability in Europe," said Hans Kristensen, a nuclear weapons expert at the Federation of Nuclear Scientists. "It flies directly in the face of the pledges Obama made in 2010 that he would not deploy new weapons."
In its Nuclear Posture Review in 2010, the US undertook to do reduce the role and numbers of its nuclear weapons, in part by not developing new nuclear warheads, and pledging it would not "support new military missions or provide for new military capabilities".

What will be going back to Europe will be a guided nuclear bomb," he said. "Especially when you combine it with F35 with stealth characteristics, that expands the targets you can hold at risk from Europe, because by placing the explosion closer to the target you can choose a lower explosive yield. That is very important as there is less radioactive fallout. For many people this is a great concern because it means making nuclear weapons more 'usable'."
Joe Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund, said he believes Obama is displaying a "schizoid" mindset, because although he "sincerely" wants to reduce nukes, he also needs to expand nukes in order to buy off his political frenemies. "I'm convinced the president wants to the continue his efforts to reform US nuclear policy," he said.

The Guardian article should have explained that Cirincione's own apparently schizoid thought processes might have something to do with his serving on Secretary of State John Kerry's international advisory board as well as on the Council on Foreign Relations.

I suppose that this impossible melding of opposing viewpoints in one brain is an example of what is known as progressive pragmatism in contemporary Newspeak. Obama wants to reform nuclear policy by refining weapons, making them humanely more accurate in order to spare millions of innocent bystanders a hundred miles away any genetic damage affecting future generations. It's kind of like impoverishing current seniors in order to save Social Security for the unborn. It's like removing government food inspectors from poultry plants. People will die, but look at how much cheaper a Pic-of-the-Chick pack will be in your local Walmart! Look how the plutocrats will prosper! The benefits will radiate and then they'll trickle down, down, down to the permanent underclass.

Win the Future, look toward the North Star, ignite that ephemeral middle class engine. As Obama says, we Americans just refuse to be terrorized:
If anyone wants to know who we are; what America is; how we respond to evil and terror – that’s it. Selflessly. Compassionately. And unafraid.
Through days that would test even the sturdiest of souls, Boston’s spirit remains undaunted. America’s spirit remains undimmed. Our faith in each other, our love for this country, our common creed that cuts across whatever superficial differences we may have – that’s what makes us strong. That’s why we endure.
Now watch in amazement as the biggest arms dealer in the world, that brave purveyor of streamlined weapons of mass destruction known as USA, deflects attention away from itself by elevating a pair of psychopathic losers to the status of an invading rogue nation, complete with their own unsanctioned weapons of mass destruction. Be not terrified of them, but abide in your awe of America the Compassionate. Gaze upon distant mushroom clouds through rose-colored glasses. Duck and Cover.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Patriotic Anti-Terror Cult Rises Again

Our long five-day national nightmare isn't over till it's over. Now begins Part Two of the long national nightmare of media frenzy, political pablum, the noblesse oblige honorifics from the austerian ruling class to the brave first responders whose wages and ranks they're freezing and whose pensions they're raiding, mindless flag-waving, obsessive-compulsive quoting of biblical scripture. It won't stop, until we all lose interest and it stops.

The stoppage will be sudden and as if by mutual consent of all the players. But do look for non-stop non-stoppage throughout this slow-news weekend period.

Just a bit of preliminary opinionating on What It All Means.

1. The fact that the perpetrators are Muslims will unfortunately give further justification to the Islamaphobic ethnic profilers in our militarized police state. The no-fly list will expand to include Russians, Czechs (whom many are now confusing with Chechens) and all Eastern Europeans with unprononouncable names. FBI agents provocateurs will be able to expand their terror-manufacturing capabilities far beyond the Middle Eastern demographic. In general, the civil liberties of all us will be taking another huge hit. And most of us will ovinely accept it. They'll tell us to run for our freedoms, and we'll run. But we can't hide.  

2. Congress will bipartisanly appropriate many more billions for Homeland Security vehicles, Homeland Security couture, Homeland Security bunkers and fusion centers, Homeland Security sound-blasters and all the other stage props of the intrusive and inept police security state that were put on full, over-killing, terror-theater display on Friday. They will refuse, however, to fund a government jobs program to increase hiring the unemployed in Boston and all other municipalities.

3. With a few rare exceptions, mainstream journalists also clinched their reputations as one amazingly shallow and inept bunch. (the award goes to CNN, which at least had the sense to yank premature arrest ejaculator John King off the air on Friday)

4. U.S attorney Carmen Ortiz is still amazingly on the job in Massachusetts after her outrageous prosecutorial misconduct in the Aaron Swartz case, and has chosen to not give the surviving bombing suspect his Miranda rights. There's already a hue and cry from the usual suspects (Lindsey Graham) to send Dzokhar Tsarnaev to Gitmo as an "enemy combatant" instead of trying him as a murder suspect in a domestic court. By the time he is maybe, eventually, put on trial, actual media coverage will be sparse to sporadic anyway. But the War on Terror will have taken on a whole new life.

5. The bombings might provide a perfect excuse for our political xenophobes to put the kibosh on immigration reform. Unless, of course, their addiction to border drones and cheap household help and farm labor trumps their ideology. Stay tuned.

6. President Obama is looking more and more like President Buzz Windrip (the fascist demagogue of It Can't Happen Here) as he drones on in one church after another, one disaster scene after another, his appeal rapidly eroding as his populist campaign promises devolve into the bleak, harsh double agenda of National Security and Economic Austerity. 

And although more people are beginning to notice his hypocrisy, as well as the victims on the receiving end of our own exceptionally American brand of terror, we will continue to meekly acquiesce in droves as we wave our flags and send our prayers.

Until, as if by mutual consent, we suddenly wake up and smell the cognitive dissonance.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Arrested Developments

Wolf Blitzer is not in custody. John King is apprehensive but not apprehended. As a matter of fact, he made a significant breakthrough in a dramatic shift, falsely alerting the public to a dark-skinned man in a hoodie and backwards baseball cap. Homeland Security maven Fran Townsend is still at large after getting out ahead of herself with her trusted sources. Chris Cuomo is conflicted, simultaneously applying the brakes and "accelerating incredibly quickly".  

An arrest has been made, no arrest has been made, an arrest has been made.

In case you missed the afternoon's adventures in comedically inept journalism, you can watch a recap right here.

In other news, Capitol Police mistakenly removed the wrong people from the Senate chamber this afternoon, for the offense of publicly shaming public officials who are psychopathically incapable of feeling any. Joe Biden, wiping away some eye liquid, outrageously admonished the Tucson heroes to observe the proper decorum instead of properly directing his wrath toward his colleagues.

He continued weeping as President Obama strained to simulate anger in a Rose Garden gun control defeat ceremony. Earlier in the day, Majority Leader Harry Reid had delivered a self-absolving whine-a-thon in order to let advocates of gun reform know that they can't blame him when the next slaughter goes down, simply because he simulated bucking the NRA at the last minute, when it was far, far too late to make a damn's worth of difference. He's a grandpa, you see.

Since Harry Reid failed to reform the filibuster when he had the chance, his zero-hour crocodile tears were just an obvious effort to save face, to place all the blame on the other side of the Money Party, to maintain the illusion that the Democrats are still the party of the people, and to give the president the cover to display some righteous public indignation. (without having to mention that it was only a few months ago that he had heartily congratulated Reid on his pretend filibuster reform efforts)

What Obama did get right, though, was his statement that our elected officials pay no attention to the will of the people they allegedly serve. (Whether he saw himself reflected in the camera lens, thinking about his own grand betrayals as he delivered his remarks, is up for debate.)

 Just a few more justifications today for a huge, long-overdue outpouring of public dissent and protest, flying shoes and rotten tomatoes.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Beatings Will Continue.....

There's only one thing wrong with today's New York Times headline, "U.S. Engaged in Torture After 9/11, Report Shows." It's written in the past tense. It insinuates that the war crimes have stopped under the Obama Administration.

 If anything, they have only gotten worse. Torture is still ongoing at Guantanamo, as evidenced by yesterday's powerful oral history of an editorial dictated by a hunger-striking unindicted inmate chained to a bed and undergoing forced feeding. It's still being outsourced to so-called black site prisons. Worst of all, waterboarding and other "harsh interrogation techniques" have largely been supplanted by the ultimate torture. Euphemistically known as the Disposition Matrix, it is effectively The Final Solution, Obama-style. This is the Terror Tuesday Kill List, the ongoing program of  "signature" drone strike executions, conducted simply on the basis of age, ethnicity, and location, location, location.

Not only is the Obama Administration continuing the Bush-era war crimes, it is going out of its way to punish whistleblowers coming forward to report on them. It has just issued yet another blanket gag order on all federal agencies in the convenient name of "national security," hoping to ensure that the chilling effect on journalism solidifies into a monolithic glacier of unprecedented opacity.

Of course, with yesterday's terror attack in Boston, the last thing to enter the minds of the leadership class will be anything remotely resembling regretful self-reflection. They have officially never heard of Blowback, or chickens coming home to roost. Instead, they'll double down, stand their ground, burst into an off-key cacophany of America the Beautiful.  They'll ratchet up the price of admission to National Security Theater, a grotesque show of authoritarianism in which we once again become both the actors and the audience.

They are all George Bush now. They're comfortable with what they did, they're comfortable with what they'll keep on doing. They're too big to fail and too big to jail. The government of the United States maintains its function as a monstrous protection racket for the rich and the powerful. 

You'd think that Grand Compromiser and Consensus Builder Obama would praise the bipartisan nature of the torture report released today by the Constitution Project.  Don't hold your breath. After all, it does criticize Obama for his own abject failure to investigate the Bush era abuses, even as it stops just short of indicting him for his own ongoing reign of terror. But it at least suggests that Obama himself is guilty of war crimes for failing to hold his predecessor accountable. It also criticizes him  for his "excessive secrecy." 

With more and more people expressing revulsion at everything from the slashing of the safety net, to inhumane treatment of people both here and abroad, to the relentless kowtowing to private interests at public expense, the very legitimacy of this administration is becoming rapidly eroded. The scales are falling off, the blinders of the populace are coming off.

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Bombing of Boston

Another day in America, another outburst of violence. I am not going to speculate or opinionate, except for this one thing -- when I watched the coverage, saddened yet shockingly not shocked, the only thought that did not enter my mind was what our kill list president would eventually intone:  
I’ve updated leaders of Congress in both parties, and we reaffirmed that on days like this there are no Republicans or Democrats -- we are Americans, united in concern for our fellow citizens.
He just can't get away from his obsessive legacy-burnishing, consensus-building, bipartishit meme, even on "days like this", coming at ever shorter intervals, illustrating that this nation is indeed crumbling into a million tiny pieces.

You'd think that on "days like this" he would spare us the bromides. Our leaders are about as committed to their fellow citizens as BP is committed to the Gulf.

To really show how sincere is his appreciation for all the first responders and National Guard personnel on scene, Obama should immediately light a fire under the VA about those languishing disability claims, reverse his effective pay cut on federal workers, and forget all about his proposed regressive tax hikes on all working class people.

The people of Boston don't need a politician to tell them that ordinary Americans are on their side. Regular people always do a lot better than fleeting thoughts, bogus prayers and empty promises of government aid. Just look at who stepped up to help the Hurricane Sandy victims.

With No Due Regrets

Get ready for yet another spate of horrific George W. Bush memorabilia. The fawning courtiers of the national media, along with every fawning living president, will soon be descending upon Texas to witness the dedication of his lieberry. (that's how we pronounced it during my Long-goyland childhood, arright?)

To get you all fired up and ready to go for the grandiose occasion, the Dallas Morning News has published a blockbuster interview with W. And here's the big scoop: along with his recently revealed talent for primitive folk art, George has also developed skills in primordial self-reflection. He rudimentally ruminates:
 I'm comfortable with what I did. I'm comfortable with who I am. 
One of the real challenges of life is that when you complete a chapter, you don’t atrophy, that you continue to find ways to contribute.

Freedom is universal. Free markets are fairest. Free societies are based upon good education. Those who fought for freedom should be honored. To whom much is given, much is required.

Of course, some people are surprised I can even read.
Some people would be surprised if he even had a soul. How otherwise is he even able to venture out in public after receiving that gut-wrenching farewell letter from dying Iraq war veteran Tomas Young? (I know, I know. See last quote)

 Like too many veterans, Young has had to wait an unconscionable length of time to be "honored" with disability benefits and therapy. The workings of the Veterans Administration are even more primitive than Bush's attempts at painting, with wounded veterans waiting years in some cases to have their claims heard, and often denied. Young wonders if Bush & Co. will ever have the moral courage to apologize for the damage and destruction they have wrought.

 If he read the Dallas Morning News, he just got his answer. Like most psychopaths, and I'd wager, most modern politicians, Bush is comfortable inside his own skin. He's comfortable with what he did. He's comfortable with who he is. He's just comfortable.

I don't think the man has ever known an uncomfortable moment in his whole cosseted life.

Friday, April 12, 2013

RIP Jonathan Winters

If anybody deserves a state funeral, it's this guy. His brand of insanity kept a lot of us sane over the years.

With All Due Regrets, Click Youse Meme-ber & Go Stifle Yourself

Thanks to Nan Socolow for sharing this (useless, she says) response to a query about her New York Times commenting profile:

In order to change your profile picture you first must be logged into your account. When you are logged into your account on nytimes.com, at the top right hand corner of the screen you click on your memeber (sic) ID. When the drop down box appears click my profile. Once on your profile the change your photo will be the first available option to you.
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Gray Lady Falls Into Smelting Pot?


Salmonella Nation

Remember when President Obama assured us that no Americans would ever be placed on his Targeted Kill List? Well... not so fast. If he has his way, thousands of us will get sick, even die, from eating tainted eggs, meat and poultry. Michelle Obama's Let's Move program touting healthy diets will morph into Let's Move to get to the bathroom on time.

Even though studies show that at least two-thirds of the chicken sold in this country carry bacteria, President Obama's budget is calling for an unbelievably drastic reduction in USDA poultry inspectors. He apparently thinks that the Wall Street method of self-regulation, which has obviously worked out just fine for defrauded homeowners and looted pension plans, will work just as well for factory farms. He apparently thinks that thousands or millions of  new cases of salmonella a year are the price we must pay in order to have a thriving free market. He apparently has learned no lessons from the hundreds of cases of fungal meningitis caused by that self-regulating compounding pharmacy in Massachusetts. 

It's the usual blatant pro-corporate rationale behind most of this administration's deregulatory actions. Firing federal poultry inspectors who protect the public health would actually save only a paltry amount of taxpayer money. But firing poultry inspectors who protect the public health will greatly enhance the bank accounts of the factory farms. Their profits will bloat even faster than a salmonella-infested oven stuffer roaster. The fox-guarding-the-henhouse way of doing business will be taken to a whole new literal level.

Under current procedures, teams of USDA inspectors working at America's poultry plants are now able to examine about 35 chickens a minute as they come flying down the assembly lines. Under Obama's proposal, the reduction in staff would result in a lone token inspector having to examine 175 birds in the same time frame -- a physical impossibility. As a result, the rate of production could potentially increase by five-fold.

Tony Corbo, of the public policy group Food and Water Watch, notes that a pilot program replacing government Agriculture inspectors with self-policing industry employees has already been proven dangerous. Salmonella cases actually increased, and even carcasses bearing obvious fecal contamination were being missed. In an interview with the Real News Network, Corbo said the Obama Administration is well aware of these dire statistics, but is playing fast and loose with the public health anyway:  
I mean, when the administration proposed their regulation, they had a report doing an evaluation of these pilot plants. And it showed the last two years of data that they collected, that the pilot plants had actually higher salmonella rates than the conventionally inspected plants. And lo and behold, just this past month--USDA does a monthly report on the testing that the government does in these plants to test to see if the salmonella rates are either high or low, and two of the pilot plants showed up as failing the salmonella test.
So here's the ultimate irony. The administration keeps on going around and saying that this new model, this new inspection model is going to be able to reduce salmonella, and yet all of the evidence points the other way.
And just as an aside: the Office of Management and Budget, largely responsible for the relentless deregulation frenzy in the Obama Administration, will now be headed by Walmart executive Sylvia Mathews Burwell. Walmart sells a whole lot of chicken. Just sayin'. 

And here we thought Chained CPI represented the ultimate in  cruelty. Not only will we be forced to eat cat food, we'll be forced to eat tainted Walmart cat food.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Being Margaret Thatcher

Barack Obama opened his oversized vintage 80s handbag this morning and dumped the entire contents on a sleepy unsuspecting public. No cash -- just a pile of IOUs payable to the Wall Street elites, to be drawn from our Social Security trust fund to go straight to their trillion-dollar tax-free offshore bank accounts and CEO pay packages.

The only shocker is that there are still a few hold-outs who are still shocked by the Great Betrayal. Happily, most New York Times reader-commenters are up in arms, with one woman (Renee of Manhattan) even suggesting that Barack be dragged bodily from the White House. I hope she does not receive a visit from the Secret Soyvice! Here is my comment:

Mr. Obama will dine with a dozen Republicans tonight, feasting on gourmet goodies as they discuss imposing a diet of cat food on a nation of struggling retirees, veterans, widowed parents and orphans, and the disabled.
Despite what the president says, his is not a balanced approach. Economist Dean Baker has crunched the numbers, and the upshot of Chained CPI will be that poorer people will be contributing at three times the rate as those making over $450,000. And those pesky tax loopholes? They'll be closed temporarily, and then lobbyists bearing scissors will descend upon Congress to let the snipping open begin anew.
But the cuts to our safety net would be permanent, and Obama's proposals represent a sneaky backdoor way to eventual privatization.
More than 80% of Americans polled do not want Social Security, which has added not one dime to the deficit, touched. If anything, we should scrap the cap on FICA contributions to ensure the program's solvency into perpetuity. In this time of chronic unemployment and underemployment, with one in five Americans living in poverty, we should actually be lowering the retirement age and raising benefits.
That a Democratic president is doing the cruel bidding of Wall Street and the deficit hawks instead of doing the bidding of the people who re-elected him is proof positive that lesser evilism is still pretty darned rotten. I hope he's ready for a fight -- because he'll be getting a big one.
I usually don't sign petitions, (they're just hooks for endless fund-raising appeals) but I made an exception this week, and for the hell of it added my name to 2 million other signatures delivered yesterday to the White House by Sen. Bernie Sanders and a while contingent of demonstrators. As you can tell by the contents spewing out of his Thatcher carry-all today, Obama must have cackled gleefully if he even deigned to give it a glance. Of course, when people like Sanders and the other sundry inhabitants of the veal pen preface their protests with "I am a big supporter of the president, but....", who wouldn't burst out guffawing? Also humorous are the hordes who continue to insist that the president is being "forced" to cut the safety net by all those nasty Republicans. 

But if you like gallows humor as I do, what could be more laugh-out-loud hilarious than Obama sending his new Treasury Secretary to Europe to lecture them on the dangers of austerity?  As Yves Smith writes today, it must be getting awfully hard out there for an Obamabot.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Maundering Monday (Links, Chains & Threads)

The Iron Lady: rust to dust.  

Eleven dead Afghan children are just a thorny issue in the American side. But a couple of Americans killed during the endless aggressive American occupation of their country? A deplorable humanitarian tragedy of epic proportions. Dead Muslim babies are a sticky wicket, having the nerve to get themselves murdered in the middle of a valiant American effort to protect American lives during American airstrikes in which Americans shockingly also get killed anyway, when they're only there to help Afghan children learn to read American books. (NY Times.)

President Obama is running out of legacy-burnishing time, probably because the American corporate media are wasting their rags and apple polish on the rotten little crab The One. He's only got 10 days to close the deal on guns, 'gration, and gutting (the safety net.)

According to Obama's former bankster-budget director-turned bankster pal Peter Orszag, chained CPI won't even save much money as it condemns millions of Americans to needless suffering and early deaths. So, sez Pete, the fact that Obama is pushing for it anyway makes him one brave crusading asshole.

The president is having second thoughts (or pretending to) on his Terror Tuesday baseball card collection. The likely scenario, of course, is that he's just resorting to more liar's poker, gushing anonymously to NY Times reporters in yet another bout of legacy-burnishing propaganda, preparatory to his much-anticipated burble to the American people on Drones. Having killed thousands of people "over there", he could well be running out of victims. Maybe the killing game is boring him. Plus, killing people is not who he is as a country. Plus, the ends don't necessarily justify the means, especially when there's plenty of domestic means-testing on his plate already.

Apparently feeling no tinglings of cognitive dissonance, let alone irony, the president is traveling to Connecticut today to shed more glycerine tears for dead American children and to deplore the civilian use of American-manufactured terrorist weapons and ammo.

When the town of Mayflower turns into the town of Oilslick, the real government of Exxon-Mobil takes over -- the water, the land and even the skies are off-limits to reporters. Deja Deepwater Horizon vu all over again. It even looks like they're cleaning up their mess with cheap Oil Baron Koch Brothers Bounty paper towels:  

The Quicker Slicker Picker-Upper