Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Pick Your Scandal

It's a fact that the government spies on all of us. What's that massive new data center in Utah for, anyway? But when the DOJ brazenly grabs the phone records of one of the biggest press organizations in the world, it not only makes Nixon grin in his grave, it gives him and all the paranoid autocrats who ever lived a huge dose of post-mortem Viagra. Barack Obama makes them all look like raving civil libertarians, even as he vainly tries to distance himself from his own abusive orgy.

The man is so obsessed with leaks, he's plugging the ephemeral dike holes not with a judicious little finger, but with an overkilling bushel of Tena Twists. His administration has engaged in an unprecedented war against whistleblowers, succeeding in freezing enterprise journalism into a glacier, even as he melts the hearts of media courtiers with carefully meted-out doses of glib surface warmth. Ben Smith of BuzzFeed has an interesting take on Obama's micro-targeting fetish, illustrated with a clever gif of Nixbama himself. 

The best thing about this latest First Amendment outrage is that maybe the media themselves will finally become outraged, now that the National Police State has personally affronted them. Of course, it will not affect the all-powerful infotainment industry. I don't think Andrea Mitchell and Chuck Todd and the rest of the sycophantic steno pool need worry about being tapped or taped. They're insiders. They only serve their masters, a/k/a Pete Peterson and the rest of the shadow government. The Obama Administration is only seeking to ensare legitimate investigative journalists, preferably Pulitzer and Peabody winners.

That is why what should be the Scandal of the Century will probably not be treated as such, since the paid corporate hacks of the plutocracy have bigger fish to fry. Such as:

Turnabout is fair play: Bloomberg news reporters have been spying on Goldman Sachs via their computer terminals. Incest in cyberspace. Or is it cannibalism. Or just a gross violation of the Affinity Fraud Doctrine. This scandal is actually pretty funny, just by virtue of the two names involved.

Benghazi: CIA is now in danger of being upstaged by IRS! OMG. Republican heads are exploding. Pundits are asking how the latest scandal placement will affect Hillary's chances in 2016. What about Obama's legacy and his bipartisan Grand Bargain budget deal? Frank Bruni has written a pretty good column on the petty politicization of just about everything.

An American diplomat was arrested by Russians on suspicion of being a CIA agent, and an inept one at that. This story was initially buried by IRS, but is now front page news. CIA has at least temporarily overtaken IRS in the Scandal Sweepstakes!  Our Man in Moscow was wearing a baseball cap -- a dead giveaway. The fact that he was also carrying "a brown and blond wig, three pairs of glasses, several stacks of 500-euro notes, and an embassy card identifying him as Ryan C. Fogle" was another red flag. 

Some scandals that are not getting their fair share of attention:

Almost two million American families are living on less than $2 a day. We have now passed the Third World finish line and entered into the fourth dimension.... otherwise known as the penultimate act in the final collapse of Empire. Rod Serling must be chain-smoking in his grave.

Speaking of which....remember that Twilight Zone episode where the airplane got caught in a primordial time warp? It's already happening. There is now so much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that it's a matter of when and not if climate change ushers in the next great flood, along with mass extinctions. But since so few people are scared out of their wits by impending catastrophe, the story is already up in smoke. 

Obama may have sent Jay-Z and Beyonce to Cuba not for P.R. and Cuban cigars, but to convince the Castro regime to smoke out exiled aging radical Assata Shakur, a/k/a Joanne Chesimard, given political asylum there after escaping from a U.S. prison. The renegade Justice Department has recently re-placed her on the FBI's most wanted list, doubling the reward to $2 million, after decades of obscurity. Margaret Kimberley theorizes that Shakur will be the quid pro quo for normalization of trade with the island nation. This development may or may not be related to another recent story out of Venezuela, where hip-hop artist/filmmaker Timothy Tracy was arrested on suspicion of being an American agent provocateur, dispatched by Obama to foment some destabilization.

Nothing would surprise me at this point. The recent front pages of the New York Times read like a collaboration between George Orwell and Graham Greene. Spies and lies and impending demise are the order of the day. 


annenigma said...

If any of those AP reporters called their Psychiatrists while the DOJ plumbers were working on the leak, they must be sweating bullets.

The rest of the press must be feeling a serious chill. That was the point, after all - no one is safe from the prying eyes and ears of the Police State, Constitutional rights or not.

James F Traynor said...

Yesterday I received my used and yellowed Penquin edition of "Getting to Know The General" by Graham Greene. It arrived, I don't know why, by way of Sussex, England and Royal Air Mail. I'd ordered it from Amazon through a dealer here in Florida.

The general was Omar Trujillo and this sort of thing has been going on for years. We and others have been clandestinely spying and murdering our way around the world for the past 5000 years at least. It has just become more transparent of late. I don't know if this is good or bad, whether it's because of greater candor or a 'fuck 'em, who gives a shit what they think' attitude on the part of government. I strongly suspect it's the latter and manifest in the persona of people like the Mephistophelean Elliot Abrams, the Republican button man for South and Central America.

Greene's prose is quaint, exact, or so it seems to me, perhaps it was compensation for his somewhat chaotic personal life. Whatever, I really enjoy it and the thought of what it did to our CIA and State Department at the time. No wonder he had 'visa problem', as he put it, with traveling through the U.S..

A wig and packets of money. Christ, what a bunch of clowns.

Zee said...

Regarding the IRS scandal, this seems to be breaking news.


Just what, one might ask, was the IRS doing leaking confidential applications for nonprofit status to the media outlet, Pro Publica?

From the WaPost article,

"ProPublica on Monday reported that the same IRS division that targeted conservative groups for special scrutiny during the 2012 election cycle provided the investigative-reporting organization with confidential applications for tax-exempt status.

That revelation contradicts previous statements from the agency and may represent a violation of federal guidelines. Lois G. Lerner, who heads the IRS sector that reviews tax-exemption applications, told a congressional oversight committee in April 2012 that IRS code prohibited the agency from providing information about groups that had not yet been approved. "
(My bold emphasis.)

The application information was evidently requested of the IRS by Pro Publica which is pretty strange in and of
itself, suggesting--to suspicious me, at least-- that Pro Publica, too, was up to no good.

Much though NixObama would like this to go away, I suspect that there is much more to this story, none of which will reflect well
on this administration.


Also, loved the image at BuzzFeed in which Obama morphs into Nixon.

Denis Neville said...

As Joe Bageant once wrote, “The saddest thing is that Americans are cultivated like mushrooms from birth to death, kept in the dark and fed horseshit.”

We can pick our scandal, but, in the end, both parties deliver our asses to the big dogs who own this country.

“Republican or Democrat, this nation's affluent urban and suburban classes understand their bread is buttered on the corporate side. The primary difference between the two parties is that the Republicans pretty much admit that they grasp and even endorse some of the nastiest facts of life in America. Republicans honestly tell the world: "Listen in on my phone calls, piss-test me until I'm blind, kill and eat all of my neighbors right in front of my eyes, but show me the money! Let me escape with every cent I can kick out of the suckers, the taxpayers, and anybody else I can get a headlock on, legally or otherwise."

"Democrats, in contrast, seem content to catalog the GOP's outrages against the Republic, showing proper indignation while laughing at episodes of The Daily Show. But they stand behind the American brand: imperialism. They "support our troops," though you will be hard put to find any of them who have served alongside them or who would send one of their own kids off to lose an eye or an arm in Iraq. They play the imperial game, maintain their credit ratings, and plan to keep the beach house and the retirement investments if it means sacrificing every damned Lynndie England in West Virginia.” ― Joe Bageant, Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America's Class War

James F Traynor said...

" 'They play the imperial game, maintain their credit ratings, and plan to keep the beach house and the retirement investments if it means sacrificing every damned Lynndie England in West Virginia.' ― Joe Bageant, Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America's Class War"

And as long as those rednecks keep hunting deer with Jesus and voting Republican it's going to stay that way. Imagine any of them voting Green? Before they'd do that they'd vote for whatever fascist comes along. Bageant was right. but I don't have a hell of a lot of sympathy for those people in their invincible ignorance.

steve beck said...

Iloved and do so miss Joe Bageant.

Zee said...

I'm sitting out on the back porch in the twilight, watching, listening—and feeling, too—the blessed pouring rain. We don't often have calm, steady drizzles here in New Mexico save for when the mid-summer “monsoons” come, which, they have NOT done much over the past few years. Usually, we have thunder, lightning, pouring rains and howling crosswinds that end all too soon. Such is it tonight, as it has been for the past couple of evenings in drought-stricken New Mexico.

The winds are moderate to heavy tonight, and I worry a little bit about the safety of my laptop out here as I am steadily showered by the mist that's driven in under the patio cover by the gusting winds.

Still, we have had so little rain and snow this year that it is worth the risk to the computer to enjoy the sounds and smell of the rain in my tiny, xeriscaped backyard. Several times I have thought the downburst to be ending, but, to my delight, it has picked up again and the winds have swept new smells to me as the drought-resistant plants and weathered granite that constitute my yard soak up the moisture. As I hope the mountains to my immediate east are doing, too. The currrent fire danger is very bad, and this may help.

Alas, it will not persist much longer. In an hour or two, it will be as if the storm had never been, as it so often happens here. Already, it is starting to die down.

Still, I've gotten to enjoy the rare sound, smell and feel of pouring rain for the first time in a long time. While I wish that it could last the night, with my sheltered doors open to let the breeze and moisture and sound waft through the house, I'll take such blessing as has been offered.

Will said...

So depressed by the incessant onslaught of bad news for good people these days. On the bright side, thanks to the Google, I'm now familiar with previously unfamiliar things like Tena Twists and xeriscaping. So I got that goin' for me, which is nice. :)

annenigma said...

Hurray for Karen's outstanding comment to 'Spying on the Associated Press in today's NYT.

Karen wrote

"Besides indicting the six whistleblowers under the Espionage Act, this administration has also imprisoned Bradley Manning under conditions that the United Nations has found to be abusive. The government has also kept WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange trapped in the Equadorian embassy in the UK, due to the very high probability that Eric Holder has a sealed indictment waiting for him somewhere in the dark recesses of our injudicious department of justice.

The A.P. is just the latest prey in the Obama White House's continuing abusive campaign against the dwindling ranks of the truth-tellers and the embarrassment-causers.

Holder has all the time and energy and resources and chutzpah in the world to sweep a dragnet over journalists. But somehow, he thinks it's too hard to prosecute the financial criminals who brought down the whole world economy, destroying the hopes and dreams of millions of people, wiping out trillions of dollars in household wealth in the process.

If the journalists and whistleblowers who expose the war crimes and reveal the presidential Kill List, and afflict the comfortable are now considered enemies of the state, then it must follow that the Obama regime is an enemy of the people. And that goes for any Congress member, government appointee, or talking head who gives the White House a complicit free pass on this, the latest in a whole series of outrages that would be crimes if we still lived in a country whose leaders believed in the Bill of Rights."


Jay - Ottawa said...

Thanks, annenigma, I would have missed that if you hadn't posted it here.

Let's hope this AP story gets legs, or whatever the expression for staying on the front page long enough to stir a powerful reaction.

With this event, democracy in America is on the last barricade.

Karen Garcia said...

Yes, Thanks Anne for posting my comment in this thread. I'd c&p'd it in the previous one by mistake last night (tired.)

Will said...

I agree with Anne & Jay: Karen's comment is crazy good. I'm a little nervous about it, though. It appears our dear leader may have been a little too truthful with her remarks. (Labeling the Obama regime an enemy of the people is my fave!) I thought you had a pull-your-punches-just-a-little-so-the-Feds-don't-come-a-knockin' policy, Karen. What gives?

Jay - Ottawa said...

I saw the masked men
throwing truth into a well.
When I began to weep for it
I found it everywhere.
- Claudia Lars (El Salvador)

That's the problem in America today. Too few shed a tear for what's being thrown down the well day after day. In place of tears, a stream of oaths uttered around thousands of water coolers would do.


If, against all odds, justice caught up with Montt in Guatemala before he died, maybe it could work its corrections against the mighty perps of North America before they pass into history without a fair accounting.

Denis Neville said...

Talking heads who give Obama a complicit free pass:

Steve Clemons, “astute liberal/progressive” political and foreign policy blogger/Editor at Large, The Atlantic, tweets, “Obama admin blowing up a lot of good will w/@AP phone record subpoenas This is something Bush/Cheney would have done. Not Obama.”

Jaysus! This isn't Sleepy Hollow.

The Obama administration has prosecuted double the number of whistleblowers under espionage statutes as all previous administrations combined.

Radio silence of imperial game playing Democrats:

“What is most striking about this story is the sense of complete immunity and lack of concern shown by the Administration. That sense of impunity has developed over four years as Democrats have gone into radio silence over abuses by the Administration from Obama’s “kill list” policy to other rollbacks on civil liberties. There will come a day when this president is no longer in office and many Democrats and Liberals will be faced with the imperial presidency that he created in the hands of someone they do not revere. When that day comes, it will be hard to climb over the mountain of hypocrisy to find a principled ground for criticism.” – Jonathan Turley, http://jonathanturley.org/2013/05/14/nixonian-or-obamaesque-obama-administration-spied-on-associated-press-editors-and-reporters/

Anonymous said...

It doesn't really matter whether the president knew this was going on. As the guy in charge he should have known. He's also responsible for putting in place the people responsible for overseeing these operations. If he's empowering people who would allow this sort of thing to happen, we really need to question his judgment.

Of course we already knew about this inclination on Obama's part. We knew he was bombing people indiscriminately. We already knew he was intercepting all our international phone calls. We already knew he was jailing people at Guantanamo without hope of release despite the fact he knows they are not guilty of any crime.

But now that the MSM find this abuse of power is being brought to bear on them, NOW they get all worked up. If they had been as worked up about Obama's abuses of power when other people were the targets, perhaps they wouldn't be the targets today.

No more selective outrage. Get angry when it happens, even if it happens to people you don't much care for.

Denis Neville said...

@ Jay – excellent comment

Ronald Reagan, accessory to genocide:

“Amid the hagiography surrounding Reagan’s death, it was probably too much to expect the media to mention his meeting with Ríos Montt,” wrote Corey Robin in “Dedicated to Democracy.”

In 1982 President Ronald Reagan, after meeting Guatemalan president Ríos Montt, declared him to be “a man of great personal integrity . . . totally dedicated to democracy.”

“The next day, one of Guatemala’s elite platoons entered a jungle village called Las Dos Erres and killed 162 of its inhabitants, 67 of them children. Soldiers grabbed babies and toddlers by their legs, swung them in the air, and smashed their heads against a wall. Older children and adults were forced to kneel at the edge of a well, where a single blow from a sledgehammer sent them plummeting below. The platoon then raped a selection of women and girls it had saved for last, pummelling their stomachs in order to force the pregnant among them to miscarry. They tossed the women into the well and filled it with dirt, burying an unlucky few alive. The only traces of the bodies later visitors would find were blood on the walls and placentas and umbilical cords on the ground.”


“The courage of the Guatemalan people and the integrity of their legal system to exact some accountability on a still-influential political figure also put U.S. democracy to shame. For decades now, Americans have tolerated human rights crimes by U.S. presidents who face little or no accountability.” - Robert Parry, http://www.globalresearch.ca/ronald-reagan-accessory-to-genocide-ex-guatemalan-dictator-rios-montt-guilty-of-mayan-genocide/5334855

Pearl said...

Sometime back, I wrote a comment about a coming strong reaction to the
status quo that might come from the right wing when their financial empire might be threatened. Now that their constitutional rights are being attacked by invasion of their privacy, we have the reaction. This could be more
effective than our feeble or strong complaints that no one pays attention
to. But now is the time to ramp up the dialogue and I wouldn't worry whether
or not Karen has overstepped the usual bounds (Will).

In unity there is strength even with oppositions strangely singing the same tune. Keep singing, Karen, people are starting to listen. Great response to the NYTimes editorial. They seem to be waking up over there since their newspaper empire is being threatened by privacy invasion.

James F Traynor said...

Yes, it seems Karen has reached some sort of threshold in her columns here, as Will has mentioned. "Exit,Voice, and Loyalty" is a book (treatise) by Albert O. Hirschman of whom I've just become aware. There is a summary of it in Wikipedia. It seems to explain Karen's, and our, dilemma. This AP thing is truly chilling, but in a way, inevitable. Another step in the progression to tyranny. I truly wish I could Exit but can't (not out of Loyalty) and have little faith in Voice.

An American said...

Too bad the Republicans won't initiate impeachment proceedings against Obama. I don't believe the Lords of our government would allow them to do that, at least until they have a new tool sharpened up to take his place, and that wouldn't be that dull tool Joe Biden.

Just think of what impeachment proceedings would do to the soaring stock market! Obama has been so good for them - they can't risk rocking the yacht. If they were wise, the Lords would realize that at least they could control the proceedings and outcome, unlike what the People might opt for in lieu of impeachment. Heads up, Plutocrats!

We need to beware of the strategies of the Powers-That-Be to protect themselves, such as campaigns to further divide and conquer us by keeping us fighting each other instead of them, such as what they did with the Occupy movement. Despite conventional wisdom, I know that the movement formerly known as Occupy Wall Street is still alive and well. Being created and given a name by an advertising agency should have been an omen of how it would fade from view - being packaged, labeled, and negatively branded by the corporate media. Now without labels we can share ideas with each other without artificial barriers. We are all Americans first and foremost.

Now is exactly the time to make our voices LOUDER and BOLDER than ever, not to be silenced by fear of authority. If we don't robustly exercise all our rights, we are not living as Americans. The old adage remains true: Use it or lose it. Cowardice should have no place in our national character.

Zee said...

I seems that I'm not the only one who is thinking that Obama--what with Benghazi, AP, IRS, and now, possibly EPA--is making a fine, conservative case for a smaller and more accountable Federal government:


Some interesting observations by James Buchanan--another Nobel-Prize-winning economist about whom we never hear--regarding politicians--and bureaucrats--who are NOT necessarily "agents of the common good."

"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." --Lord Acton

To which I would add that the larger the government, the more that corruption can work its will in secret, out of sight of both the public and any such internal watchdogs as one cares to appoint.

Jay - Ottawa said...

“She had known she would be asked, she had decided what she would answer, and, without the slightest hesitation, she had moved her hand to the right.”
--- Frank Stockton, “The Lady or the Tiger”

When I clicked on what looked like a long-awaited story at…


…I first had to x-away a pop-up that covered the screen. It showed a picture of the beaming First Lady opposite the (presumably) no-nonsense Junior Senator from Massachusetts. The unexpected pop-up carried this unexpected message:

“You and a guest could win free round-trip travel to Boston, luxury hotel accommodations, and a special lunch with Michelle Obama and Elizabeth Warren! Sign up here to enter!”

My baloney detection kit began to sound the alarm. Are there two people in the Senate called Elizabeth Warren? More questions began to flood my mind, I was about to state them here, but a serious attack of vertigo forces me to lie down.

Zee said...


Lie down, stay calm, breathe deeply, and this, too, shall pass.

You've just learned your first important lesson about politicians--even those who claim to seek office in order to represent the common good--once they have been elected for the very first time:

"One election down; now, on to the next one! It's not too early to start grubbing for the next campaign war chest."

The rest of Elizabeth Warren's career--if she is to have one--will be, at best, to balance trying to do some good against selling the remainder of her soul just to stay in office in order to do such good as she imagines she can.

And that's only if she doesn't entirely shed her conscience; otherwise, she will quickly and completely sell herself off to the dark side simply in order to enrich herself like all the other members of The Club. Just like my good New Mexico Senator buddy, Jeff Bingaman, did.

My advice, if you have the stomach for it: Follow the growth of her net wealth over the next few years. You may be surprised.

James F Traynor said...

It's not the size of government, it's the kind of government. The government grew under FDR but it served most of us well. It's nonsense, silly libertarian nonsense that the smaller the government the better. The world is full of small and several large authoritarian states of both left and right. And it's pure bull that the government that governs the least, governs the best. More pure libertarian bull!

Zee said...


I don't believe that I said "the smaller the government the better." I am not a Grover Norquist-type, raving Libertarian, no matter how much you care to typecast me as such.

But until you can persuade me that you can construct a government run largely by angels--and regardless of its type --many of those who do run the government will inevitably be flawed human beings who will take advantage of their power and prestige. Just as they do now.

That's just human nature, as some Progressives appear to be discovering--to their regret--about the most recent, apparent "savior" who was elected President. Twice. And who has let a lot of people down.

The fewer the rotten apples in a given barrel, the less likely the entire barrel will be ruined.

It's just that simple.

Now, Mrs. Zee has just returned from a few days out of town, and I have better things to do at the moment than argue the obvious.

Karen Garcia said...

Here's my latest NYT rant (in response to Gail Collins on Scandals -- what else?)

The politicans might as well pull an Eric Holder and recuse themselves from the pretense of actually doing their jobs. Instead of ostentatiously pledging allegiance to the flag, (which, let's face it, has been reduced to a cheap lapel pin signifying liberty and justice for only the wealthy) the miscreants should be forced to take the Hippocratic Oath. Not because they're hypocrites (which they are) but because they'd have to vow to "first, do no harm."

The heels could become healers by doing absolutely nothing. No applications of medieval leeches by the deficit hawkers of snake oil in a sequestered torture chamber. No Grand Bargain to cut our earned benefits. If only scandal-mania would addle their brains long enough to make them forget to fund the eternal war machine and the national security state!

Their scandals pale in comparison to the real thing. Benghazi bathos helps them avoid dealing with the crisis of unremitting unemployment, wage stagnation and income disparity. People are giving up. Our national suicide rate has increased by a shocking 30% in the past decade.

The IRS tempest in a tea party is cover for the true scandal of corporations destroying our democracy with unlimited money and calling it social welfare -- and not one politician suggesting that Citizens United be overturned.

A.P. spied upon by the government? Join the club.

It's all political theater. We'd ask for a ticket refund, but the box office proceeds are all locked up in a Wall Street vault.

Denis Neville said...

@ James – Excellent Zee smackdown!

The root problem is not big government. It is the kind of government.

The malignant symbiotic relationship between corrupt crony capitalists and corrupt politicians is the core problem.

“Political parties exist to secure responsible government and to execute the will of the people. From these great tasks both of the old parties have turned aside. Instead of instruments to promote the general welfare they have become the tools of corrupt interests, which use them impartially to serve their selfish purposes. Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people. To destroy this invisible government, to dissolve the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics, is the first task of the statesmanship of the day.” – Theodore Roosevelt

Before 1932, public relief was widely regarded as politically corrupt. Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal removed a lot of that corruption. Political opponents of the New Deal often complained about the use of relief for political purposes, but by 1940, these criticisms of corruption and political manipulation had decreased considerably.

Many politicians — senators, representatives, governors, and mayors — wanted to get their hands on a share of the billions of New Deal dollars being spent.

How did the nation enter the Depression with a public welfare system riddled with political corruption and emerge with one that was not?

What did F.D.R. do?

“Politics was paramount in the structure of New Deal relief programs; it just turned out that the best political outcome meant a reduction in corruption at the state and local level. This does not mean that Roosevelt did not use the administration of relief for his own political ends. There is ample evidence that presidential politics mattered in the distribution of relief funds. Corruption by others was curbed because it was in Roosevelt’s political interest to see it curbed."

“During the New Deal, when the relief programs were reorganized to give the Roosevelt administration more control over the distribution of funds within states, it used that control to limit state and local political manipulation and increased the responsiveness of the allocation of funds within states to the high-minded goals of relief, recovery, and reform.”

“He sought to curb corruption at the state and local level by his influence over the discretionary allocation of relief funds, by establishing offices to investigate complaints of corruption, and, in the long run, by bureaucratizing the administration of public welfare.”

F.D.R. created a powerful "division of progress investigation" to look into complaints of malfeasance in the W.P.A. That division proved so effective that a later Congressional investigation couldn't find a single serious irregularity it had missed.

- John Joseph Wallis, Price V. Fishback, and Shawn Kantor, “Politics, Relief, and Reform; Roosevelt’s Efforts to Control Corruption and Political Manipulation during the New Deal,” http://www.nber.org/chapters/c10006.pdf

F.D.R.’s commitment to honest government reflected a political imperative - to show that government activism works.

As James said, “The government grew under FDR but it served most of us well.”