Monday, September 23, 2013

Good Cop/Bad Cop Kabuki

You know that this country is in deep doo-doo when the latest annual Census report on poverty in America bears the ironic imprimatur of that Forbes billionairess/ heiress/ Obama patroness, fondly known here on Sardonicky as Moneypenny.

That would be Secretary Penny Pritzker, anti-heroine right out of Dickens, she of Hyatt Hotel heat lamp torture of striking chambermaids fame, she of gentrification of Chicago through urban renewal real estate scams and evictions made easy through failure of her family-run subprime bank. Pritzker, you may remember, was just recently anointed by a grateful Barack to lead the commerce of our great nation, because he no longer has to run for re-election or pretend to care what voters might think.

Of course, she didn't write the Census report, despite the fact that her name is prominently displayed at the top of the Intro. We don't know that she has even bothered to read it, given how busy she must be with the Trans-Atlantic and Trans-Pacific "free trade" negotiations, which will amount to the most massive Trans-fer of global wealth in history to a handful of multinational corporations. Obama is scrambling to get carte blanche Congressional approval of the still-secret pacts, lest somebody actually sit down and read about how, for instance, he will allow Big Tobacco to sell cancer sticks to children in third world countries.

In our own third world country, according to the Census Bureau, about a fifth of the population remains mired in poverty, while people like Penny Pritzker have reaped more than 90% of all the gains since the Collapse of Aught-Eight.

But I digress. The big news this week, that the corporate media really, really wants you to pay attention to as you quake in your boots, is the Battle Royale between the elites of the two right wing factions of the National Money Party. A piece in The Hill this morning -- Strained Relationships Increase Likelihood of Fiscal Calamity!!!!!! --  is typical of the "framing":
President Obama and Republicans have clashed repeatedly on many fiscal matters. But this fall’s showdown is more personal than prior battles. Trust and respect for the other side of the aisle have deteriorated to the point of being non-existent. (Oh No-o-o-o-o-o!)
Both parties have scars from the 2011 debt limit fight as well as a slew of other economic disputes. It remains to be seen if they can put aside their differences in the coming weeks.

Dueling Duopolists

So, I guess the actual citizens of Ameriguh, those whose real festering wounds have yet to heal, are superfluous to this discussion. The only people who matter are the actors on the Beltway stage. Beleaguered Barack "The Republicans keep messin' with me!" Obama, whose "frosty relationship" with John Boehner has prevented the two from golfing together for an unbelievable, anti-consensual, two whole frigid years! Nancy Pelosi, the damsel in distress of the Eternal Triangle, trying vainly to rally her troops to support a Grand Bargain for the Grandees! Barack and Mitch have outrageously never even had a drink together for the good of the reaching across the aisle!

To steal a phrase from the estimable Charles Pierce, all this talk of frigidity is enough to make you guzzle antifreeze.

So, to save your sanity, skip The Hill and The Times and Politico and go directly to this bracing antidote to bullshit by Joe Firestone, in which he cogently explains how the latest manufactured fiscal crisis is one more great big steaming pile of manure, and how the many  ways it can and should be avoided are being ignored by the mainstream media. For unless the drama is kept alive, the important people cannot be enriched, and the regular people can't be screwed in their sleep.

 Dean Baker writes on how even Paul Krugman has been trapped in the partisan veal pen. Through the magic of facts, he explains how even the best newspaper in the world is complicit in obfuscating basic truths.

Only through obfuscation might the longed-for, eleventh hour Grand Bargain be sealed. Obamacare, in all its intact insurance predator-enriching glory, will be traded for enforcing chained CPI on veterans, retirees, the disabled, widows and orphans. The oligarchs must be vindicated. The contrived skirmish over Food Stamps is a distraction, designed to elicit outraged boos and cheers from the throngs of the unwashed.

Of course, if you use your New York Times commenting privileges to point all this phoniness out, you are immediately attacked by the corralled herd. I was soundly chastised for this response on Saturday to Gail Collins' latest, on "Knowing When to Worry":
 I wouldn't worry about the latest Disaster Capitalism kabuki if I didn't already detect the noxious smell of yet another last-minute Grand Bargain for the Grandees wafting from the Capitol swamp.
The president has appealed directly to the plutocrats at the Business Roundtable. We have to face our long-term "challenges on entitlements," he said. Meaning: let's cut Social Security and Medicare now, because we might have a shortfall in half a century. And reduce those corporate tax rates! Why won't the GOP grab a deal made in Rich People Heaven when they see it? 
And here was Debbie Wasserman-Schultz on MSNBC today, dishing to Mrs. Alan Greenspan on the cruelty of the GOP, and just how hard the Dems plan to fight back for the common folk:
"We've ALL got to set rigid ideology aside and sit down and find common ground .... I know, look I'm the chair of the DNC, I know it can't be my way or the highway. I'm willing to put my vote on the line and go back to my constituents and explain why I didn't do it exactly the way they wanted me to. "
If you're as sick as I am of Dems whining and pleading and being complicit in the continued immiseration of millions of struggling people, just withhold your support and explain why you won't vote exactly the way they want you to.
Instead of sending them donations, give money and supplies to your local food bank. Neighbors must help neighbors. Because the politicians surely won't. 
Janet Ellingson of Salt Lake City was having none of this. My words must have been like fingernails scraping across the blackboard of her brain, seeing that I am as "obnoxious as the Tea Party." And Stu of Brooklyn surmised that I probably voted for Ralph Nader in 2000, thereby becoming personally responsible for all the atrocities of the Bush administration. But at least they didn't call me a fascist, as did my other regular troll, Dave the Pain of North Strabane in a recent Maureen Dowd column on Barry's ham-handed speech on the economy within hours of another mass shooting. 

By the way, here's Debbie Wasserman-Schultz again, vowing to prove her adulthood by agreeing to cut "waste" in the SNAP program, even though, as Dean Baker says, it accounts for only the tiniest fraction of a percentage point of the entire federal budget, and is a totally gratuitous showboating gimmick solely designed to rev up the partisans. Making a political point on the backs of the most vulnerable to show how bipartisan you can be. Cruelty stretches its claws right across the aisle.

Wake up and smell the Good Cop/Bad Cop Kabuki.


Pearl said...

Karen, I thought your response to Collins' article was vintage Karen
Garcia - no holding back in order to keep the shock of truth at a digestible level for the quivering liberals. And if you had not been criticized for what you wrote, I would be worried. It is high time to get to the next level of reality for NYTimes readers, especially since several columns and editorials have been astoundingly relevant, often quickly disappearing into
the nether regions among the search articles when too controversial. You
have brought the readers along these past years to a higher level of dot
connecting and there is no longer anything to lose by telling it like it
really is.

We need leaders like you to bring some enlightenment to the people who lack courage and need a strong prodding to move off the fence of finding excuses for our current leadership. Thank goodness for Sardonicky where we get the
unvarnished truth which is beginning to touch the mainstream press. I only
wish your columns on your website reached a larger audience. And I believe Debbie Wasserman Schultz supported Obama's military plans for Syria.

Fred Drumlevitch said...

Yeah, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz is symptomatic of what is wrong with Democratic politicians. Renunciation of progressive ideology is easy for them --- because they don't have much remaining commitment to any. Over the course of the past three decades, they've piecemeal surrendered most of what the Democratic Party once stood for.

"Ideology" shouldn't be a derogatory word --- it only takes on derogatory connotations if it is either faulty or opportunistic. An ideology of decency, social and economic justice, adequate regulation, and true opportunity should have been an easy sell (particularly when Great Depression programs, the post-WWII GI Bill, and fifties and sixties economic growth for the lower and middle classes were still remembered). Rather than surrender or compromise away what once was a progressive ideology, Democrats should (over the past thirty years, but lacking that, at least more recently) have been focused on 1) making the case for progressivism to the public, and 2) properly implementing it via well-conceived, well-designed, well-run, efficient programs.

Obviously, point 1 is easier to achieve if the people perceive a real commitment to point 2, but I think both have been inadequate. And the deterioration is actually a circular feedback situation. Point 2 can't be properly achieved without true internalization and forceful advocacy of progressive ideology. Without genuine progressive ideology, cutting governmental expenditures and serving business become the most important measures of the governmental "efficiency" that modern politicians are always arguing for. Back in February, former bank regulator William K. Black authored a great article on how the Clinton-Gore administration, still held in high esteem by so many Democrats, actually set the stage for systemic economic failure due to its faulty ideology and measures of governmental efficiency:

Of course, Wasserman-Schultz can't match the obfuscators-in-chief Clinton and Obama when it comes to twisting and diluting older, progressive Democratic ideology and message. I didn't get around to complimenting you, Karen, on your September 17 post "Dog Whistling to Wall Street: Anniversary Edition", but that was a truly great deconstruction of contemporary Democratic bloviation.

Jay - Ottawa said...

Reading Karen’s posts may not be healthy for your mainline Judeo-Christian belief system. The same goes for you smirking agnostics and atheists, yeah. Throw in the academic social scientists, as well. What do I mean? Well, the strains of Buddhism that declare reality as illusion are beginning to make more sense to all thinking people lately.

For instance, would there be much difference, when nailing down a hard point about the situation within the Washington Beltway, in opening a sentence with “The illusion is…” or “The reality is….”?

The real –– if I can still use that word –– cause of today’s illusion is yesterday’s illusion, on and on back through all the illusions of every administration of the past two hundred years, at which point we will have to disembark from the Exceptionalism Streamliner and transfer to another train of illusions.

Musings on this are coming in from various points of the compass in the West. Yesterday, on Greenwald’s site (following the rolling revelations about the NSA’s reach and its administrators’ deceptions) there was this snip from a comment, among others, on the illusions we once held about our governments’ (UK & US) once-solemn obligations to govern with openness while protecting the privacy of its citizens:

“But, now that the government has been (and continues to be) exposed, they have taken a different stance. The have decided that they are going to continue doing exactly what they've been doing, only now they are telling us to STFD and STFU.

“So which is better for your mental health? Living in ignorance or knowing what the government is doing to you and being powerless to stop it? Is it better to think you have some control over your government or to understand that your power is simply an illusion?

“For most people, delusion is preferable to the anxiety, anger, and panic of knowing that their government no longer answers to them or to the Constitution. They want to believe in the U.S. as they were taught (indoctrinated) in school: a beacon of peace and freedom for the rest of the world to aspire to.”
--Dave Krueger 23 Sept 2013 3:21pm

Through that same thread I picked up another link that may advance the Buddhist line among us in the West. In a glossy MIT journal a big name geek explains his dismay over the deception of internet security programs, which we paid good money for, that really opened the door wider to snoopers, governmental and otherwise:

“…the NSA has commandeered the entire Internet and turned it into a surveillance platform.”

If shaved heads, orange togas and the vision of emptiness don’t appeal to you, there’s always the dark comfort of sardonic laughter.

Back inside Plato’s Cave, everybody.

Jay - Ottawa said...

As we continue to trudge back willingly to the Cave, do take a moment to read about Dilma Rousseff’s speech in the UN today. WOOF! Can’t wait for the full transcript. (She once did jail time under dictators and can claim some authority on defining the ways tyranny.)

annenigma said...


Here is Dilma Rousseff's prepared text of her speech to the UN. What a breath of fresh air. New York Times surely won't cover it.

Jay - Ottawa said...


Muito obrigado!

stev-oe said...

@Jay - Ottawa
I happened to catch a segment of NPR this evening talking about Mr. President Peace Prize's day at the UN. I understand that he sat in the room, patiently listening and smirking, while Dilma Rousseff ripped him, the NSA and the USofuckingA government a new asshole. I was secretly smiling. He then proceeded to explain why it is in the best interests of everybody that these things continue. I changed stations. I too am looking forward to the full transcript.

Will said...

“The illusion of freedom will continue as long as it's profitable to continue the illusion. At the point where the illusion becomes too expensive to maintain, they will just take down the scenery, they will pull back the curtains, they will move the tables and chairs out of the way and you will see the brick wall at the back of the theater.” -Frank Zappa

Zee said...


Jeeze! What a downer at bed-time!

In 1977 I thought Frank Zappa was a drug-addled, burned-out husk of a human being, but, then, I was a bit absorbed with grad school and fitting in to "the system."

Now, he looks to me to have been a prophet.

But when your back's against that brick wall at the end of the theater, well, then what?

I guess we all have to find different answers to that next question.

Noodge said...

Frank Zappa was anything but drug-addled. He had a bit of a libertarian streak in him, and supported legalization of drugs, but did not use them himself. He also forbade members of his band from using them while rehearsing or performing.

He was also one of the most eloquent, persuasive opponents of censorship of our time. Zappa went to Congress to speak out against Tipper Gore's Parents Music Resource Center and their drive to label, stigmatize, and eventually do away with what they deemed to be offensive lyrics in recorded music.

Zappa said, "The PMRC proposal is an ill-conceived piece of nonsense which fails to deliver any real benefits to children, infringes the civil liberties of people who are not children, and promises to keep the courts busy for years dealing with the interpretational and enforcemental problems inherent in the proposal's design. It is my understanding that, in law, first amendment issues are decided with a preference for the least restrictive alternative. In this context, the PMRC's demands are the equivalent of treating dandruff by decapitation ... The establishment of a rating system, voluntary or otherwise, opens the door to an endless parade of moral quality control programs based on things certain Christians do not like."

Frank Zappa was also a brilliant composer and guitarist. Thoroughly original. He is missed.

Pearl said...

Jay; Fred:

Maybe I am lucky as I was surrounded from my early years onward by people
who knew which way the wind was blowing and were under no illusions.
Regardless, they still fought for the things they believed in which during
the depression and for some years after had some success and it was possible
to envision a just society down the road. Although when it became obvious that things were morphing into an unfettered capitalistic society with the results we now live with taking over, there was anger and disappointment. However, my father and his generation and my
generation of those who knew what was cooking behind the various iron
curtains fought even harder. Those left with courage and accurate knowledge
are still being heard from and refuse to be distracted by the current
circus. Karen is a perfect and marvelous example of this.

The shock of our current state of affairs is no surprise to many of us but merely proves that our concerns are valid and the picture we have of what could be has never lost its focus. The inability of those who cannot accept the results we are living with never had the grounding I and others have been fortunate enough to be exposed to. And seduced by the consumerism and corruption of our present state of affairs they are wallowing in despair or joining the activities of Wall Street and what it represents. Being wealthy
is their shield of protection which they will never relinquish.

So what to do? We are reaching the limits of what the planet can take, of
what people can live with regarding violence and killing,
and even the 1% ers are no longer safe from inroads into their financial
lives. How many people can we watch becoming ill and dying due to inadequate health care regardless of all the marvelous discoveries to eliminate disease, and the continuing loss to society of joblessness and poverty will hit everyone eventually. You and I cannot take over responsibility for everyone, we have to work for improvement within our limitations and the
rest of humanity will eventually be forced to wake up when survival is
threatened. The beauty of Sardonicky is all the relevant information coming
in which is our ammunition to use constructively. And every gain, as small as it may be, should be appreciated (like the courageous speech by the Brazilian president you quoted). I am reading articles and columns in various journals and newspapers now that I never thought I would live to read and reality is making headway.

I know how difficult life has become for so many people I know and cherish,
and although I am fortunate to be living in a more civilized environment in Canada, able to live comfortably in my final years thanks to the hard work of people who protected me, the disastrous effects of the political process on my family's lives has never been forgotten. I sorrow with others
who see no way out and can only lend my support where possible.

Thank you Jay, Fred and other loyal Sardonickys for all your honest, deeply felt comments, and if nothing
else, we can have pride in living with truth no matter how difficult to
accept. It is our oxygen.

Jay - Ottawa said...


The good guys (that’s us) can also use the tactic implied in Karen’s title for her essay about the bad guys. You know, good cop, bad cop.

Both of us (and many others here) are really on the same page, even though we sing different notes. Lots of us at Sardonicky tend to the base notes, the dark tones and the flats. You’re so much better at lifting the music by sounding the bright notes and the highs.

Our strident chords –– to further torture this metaphor –– are necessary to the tune, not to be interpreted as a sign of surrender to absolute bitterness. We use our mockery as a rough prod to shame the ultra-selfish opponents who stand against –– if I may borrow the timeworn French bumper sticker –– freedom, equality and fraternity. And we’re especially trying to wake up those less than innocent bystanders deaf to just about any sort of appeal. That’s my way of remaining engaged, not a prelude to dropping out.

At the same time, to keep this endeavor from turning into a dismal dirge, we badly need your voice. Some among the 1% and the multitude of sleepers out there will only be aroused and moved to change with a certain grace and the positive chords you sound about the vision of what could be.

In our different ways, we can both toast a new day: me with my glass half empty, you with your glass half full.

Zee said...


Thank you for setting me straight regarding Frank Zappa. My interest in, and knowledge of, music and musicians is pretty limited which, I suppose, says a lot about me.

I found the Wikipedia article about Zappa to be extremely interesting, and also extremely long and detailed in contrast to any of the other musicians that I tend to listen to in my dotage, mostly when driving or exercising.

Something that particularly caught my attention was the following:

“Describing his political views, Frank Zappa categorized himself as a "practical conservative." He favored limited government and low taxes; he also stated that he approved of national defense, social security, and other federal programs, but only if recipients of such programs are willing and able to pay for them. He favored capitalism, entrepreneurship, and independent business, stating that musicians could make more from owning their own businesses than from collecting royalties. He opposed communism, stating, "A system that doesn't allow ownership [...] has—to put it mildly—a fatal design flaw." Zappa expressed opinions on censorship when he appeared on CNN's Crossfire TV series and debated issues with Washington Times commentator John Lofton in 1986. He had always encouraged his fans to register to vote on album covers, and throughout 1988 he had registration booths at his concerts.”

Sounds like someone I could have gotten on well with.

Zappa was incredibly prolific. These days I listen mostly to classical guitar and and jazz. Any suggestions as to which of his many albums/songs someone with such tastes might care to sample?

James F Traynor said...

Karen, I do wish you'd stop sprinkling your pieces with photos of Obama. It keeps my mind off the print. I see enough of him as it is. And it makes me anticipate with distaste the probability of seeing, in the immediate future, the Clintons, the whole damn family, in his place (I suffer terribly from comma splice). Oh God, will it never end!

James F Traynor said...

Karen, I do wish you'd stop sprinkling your pieces with photos of Obama. It keeps my mind off the print. I see enough of him as it is. And it makes me anticipate with distaste the probability of seeing, in the immediate future, the Clintons, the whole damn family, in his place (I suffer terribly from comma splice). Oh God, will it never end!