Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Shut Down and Out

Government shutdown is actually kind of a misnomer. That is because the leaders who actually run things have not been shut down, nor will they ever shut up. The Congress critters have not gone home. To the contrary, they're boozing it up* like it's 1929. The White House is open for business and schmoozing it up. Obama is reportedly feeling pretty chipper. Because as far as I know, Terror Tuesday has not been disrupted by Shutdown.  As a matter of fact, economic terrorists Lloyd Blankfein and Jamie Dimon and a whole passel of their unprosecuted little bankster buddies will be dropping by tomorrow to give their factotum in the Oval Office instructions on how best to save the world for the Masters of the Universe.

One National Zoo will be closed down, but the one known as Congress will go right on roaring its terrible roar and gnashing its terrible teeth and grazing at the corporate lobby trough. The Panda Cam is going dark, and the pandering will continue in the dark.

The troops on the battlefield will continue drawing their paychecks thanks to a laudable and "rare" show of bipartisan unity, but the troops wounded in mind or body  are out of luck. Money for their benefits will be gone by the end of the month.

The NSA and the Surveillance State will lumber on, unimpeded due to their budget being secret and infinite. Keith Alexander's Star Wars chair will not be yanked out from under him, and the ribbons and medals will not be yanked off his chest. But real crime? Real terrorism?  Not being fought so much any more. Poor victims and witnesses are not being protected. And this has nothing much to do with Shutdown, but everything to do with Sequestration.... which goes on, and on.

Eight hundred thousand federal workers are being sent home, and millions more are being ordered to work without pay. But Obamacare is open for business in what is cutely known as a soft "anti-climatic" launch. Or, the opposite of a mass orgasm. Or, the letdown in the shutdown. Starting today, assuming that you still have enough money to pay your Internet bill, you are invited to log on and shop around for partial insurance from for-profit middlemen.

Let's just put it this way. The Great Shutdown of Thirteen will not inconvenience the elites and their essential services (war and wealth extraction) in any great way. The only people being made to suffer are the poor and the dwindling middle class. It's business as usual, only more noticeable. But maybe that's a good thing. Maybe the people will finally revolt.

* The New York Times, in its infinite wisdom and political correctitude, axed a totally tasteless comment I wrote last night in response to Joe Nocera's Those Banana Republicans. It went something like this:
More like Banana Daiquiri Republicans, judging from the Tweets of enterprising Capitol Hill reporters gagging on the legislative fumes. (Although hemochromatotic Weeper John Boehner is said to favor Merlot.)
Although it is politically incorrect to say that "both sides do it", when it comes to boozing while legislating, both sides do it. Which is why Boehner and the lesser boozers will probably never be brought up on ethics charges or be treated to an intervention by their peers. So it is up to the media. Why the NYT silence on the problem of alcohol abuse in the chambers? Those enterprising reporters could maybe cop some strands of congress-critter hair or even capture a drop of flying demagogic spittle to forward to a lab for immediate chemical analysis.
With these sloppy drunks immiserating millions of already struggling people through sequestration and shut-down and furloughs and closings of essential services, the whole nation could probably use sponsorship in an Al-Anon chapter for the constituents of sick abusive pols. If Boehner and his Caucus of Creeps won't honorably resign from their leaky ship of state, we should just kick the bums out. Let them, inebriates in the service of inebriates that they are, lurch away into the political oblivion they so richly deserve.
Remember George W. Bush? He was an untreated alcoholic, a "dry drunk". And look where he got us. 
And Ted Cruz is a whole 'nother story from a whole 'nother country. He is probably more into stimulants than depressants. Before he left Houston to begin his 20-plus hour marathon filibluster on the Senate floor, I think he must have made a detour to a certain laboratory in Albuquerque, because he came across as more of a meth-head than a drunk. Either that or he is congenitally hypomanic. Judging from his marathon glittery-eyed appearances on cable TV all week, I don't think he ever sleeps.
Meanwhile, Paul Krugman blogs that it probably wouldn't be rectitudinal to post on the Times website what he considers to be the best commentary so far on the whole Shutdown Mess:



Jay - Ottawa said...

Conundrums, continued from previous post.

If the progressive solution to the healthcare crisis was single payer medicare for all, and Obama’s Affordable Care Act was nothing more than a continuation and major expansion of the broken private insurance system, isn’t Ted Cruz’s effort to trash the ACA a wise and noble and progressive act?

Obama gave up his declared populist principles (i.e., pre-2009) in signing the ACA. Ted Cruz has lately threatened ACA legislation, which supports the profiteers in healthcare. Have these two, Obama and Cruz, like competing soccer players, traded jerseys?

And the lesser of two evils IS … ???

Pearl said...

Why does Obama fight so hard for things that will not work out such as
shoving aside any possibilities for a
decent health care bill when first elected, and now the ACA which is an
extension of poor Obamacare which may fill a few holes but is
basically unworkable? If only he would fight hard for the things we really need to get the ship of state on balance.

Jay: You and I know how the Canadian health care system works in a much
poorer country than the U.S. and even with some weaknesses and attempts by the present party in power to cut back in some areas, it does quite a remarkable job. Of course, the U.S. would have to shift to a progressive tax system and hand over health care supervision to the government which doesn't look too likely presently, and therein is the basic problem. We need a three party system which we have in Canada to allow space for opposition ideas to be heard and responded to. This will make it possible in two years for a
change to better leadership in Canada which I believe will occur.

Zee said...


I don't “do” Twitter, but in your essay you made reference to various “tweets” which suggest that a lot of our legislators have problems with alcohol, and that some are even attempting to “legislate under the influence” (LUI). Could you pass along a few such examples to us “non-tweeters?”

Some of these legislators hold security clearances at the top level; mine was just middling high. But had DOE received any hint whatsoever that I had a problem with alcohol, you can bet that my clearance would have been yanked faster than a striking barracuda can snatch its prey. And my clearance would have been withheld until (1) I could prove that the reports were false, or (2) I entered into a treatment program and was deemed “rehabilitated” by a therapist of DOE's choice. Failing both, I would have been terminated.

So there is much more at stake here than just being amused at a collection of boozey, incompetent good old guys and gals.

And on the topic of security and security clearances, this picture and brief story tickled me no end this morning:


Now, as far as I know, it is not a serious breach of security to show a photograph of an untitled, generic cover of a classified document, as long as the document remains in a secure area appropriate to the level of its classification, although cameras are usually totally prohibited in such secure areas, anyway. So, unless there was no actual document under the cover, just in getting the photograph, some kind of security violation clearly took place.

Also, it's considered an “infraction” just to have the document in proximity to people who lack the requisite clearance level, and, oftentimes, “need to know.”

Given that “Shotgun Joe” was holding the document at a “press event” wherein some reporter of unknown clearance level was able to snap a photo of the cover, I suspect that Joe was guilty of at least two security infractions.

Will someone please yank Joe's clearance until he receives—and passes—his required training on the handling of classified materials?

Zee said...


While I am supremely confident that Ted Cruz will not push for a single-payer system—if and when he succeeds in destroying the ACA—I suspect that both he and his followers do see themselves as “populists” in some ways. Some may actually be “true believers,” while others cynically see that their interests coincide enough with those of the people to allow them to play populist heros while, at the same time, achieving their own ends, which neither you nor I would see as honest populism.

True, they hate ObummerCare right down to the absolute inner being of their collective existence, and not for the same reasons that you and I might respect.

Still, the implementation of ObummerCare appears to me to have been illegal—and, perhaps, unconstitutional—from the outset. And distinctly unfair.

I accept that the law was passed by both houses of congress, was signed into law by the Prez, and now has passed constitutional muster in the Supreme Court, albeit by the usual narrow, 5-4 margin.

It's the “law of the land.” But doesn't that mean that the whole bill is the “law of the land,” to take effect in its entirety on October 1? (Except, of course for some elements that were to be delayed for a few years as specified by the law? )

But now, the Prez has decided—under questionable authority—to personally and arbitrarily delay or refuse implementation of parts of the law for patently political purposes.

» He has arbitrarily granted thousands of businesses and unions waivers from immediate implementation of various portions of the law without explanation, and, insofar as I am aware, without provision by the law.

» He has ordered the OPM to provide healthcare insurance subsidies to members of congress, their staffs, and other government officials when there is no such provision—as I understand it—under the law. What's good enough for us penny-groundlings ain't good enough for Congress, the Prez, and their pals. “Some are more equal than others.”

» He has delayed the implementation of the “employer mandate” for a year, while the potentially burdensome “individual mandate” still stands, again without any apparent provision under the law.

» It is clear that as of October 1, many of the “exchanges” are just plain not working, and the supposed beneficiaries of the ACA are simply told to expect a few “glitches” in the months and years to come. (What has this administration been doing since the passage of the law early in 2010? Wishing that everything would fall into place on time, as Obama seems to do with so many other things?)

» Finally, the law appears to still be immensely unpopular with the public, down whose throat this bill was passed, virtually under cover of darkness in 2010. See the graph, here:


Doubtless, Cruz is ultimately a tool of corporations and other monied interests, as are just about all our elected officials. But given the foregoing real concerns about ObummerCare, I think that it's possible that he sincerely thinks that what's going on is “unfair,” and cynically believes that his interests and the common folks' coincide this one time. So at the very least, he's a “temporary populist of convenience.”

If it happens to earn him a whole bunch of campaign contributions along the way by pretending to be a “real man of the people,” well, so much the better!

Jay - Ottawa said...

Pearl, I agree with you entirely on the situation north of the forty-ninth parallel, as well as south of that border.

We have good reason to be sad whenever we look south. Whatever his core motives, whether a cynical liar or a bumbling incompetent, Obama will be known as the President of Lost Opportunities. Always the appeaser. Forever in retreat.

What might have been…. (Recall his speech in Grant Park following his 2008 election victory. Recall our elation over the end of the Bush/Cheney night.) Obama chose instead to miss his destiny. That will be his legacy.

His surges, drones and sanctions don’t hide the fact that he is weak at home and weak abroad, the head of the state he severely weakened. Who abroad looks up to him or America anymore?

He could have been a big contender. Among other things, he could have fought for some variation of Medicare for all, which he had promised to do. Even if he had lost that battle, he would have been remembered as a champion for justice, a statesman, someone who, in the process of actively defending single payer, educated millions about its efficacy and made the very idea of single payer less foreign.

The lure of money sucked out all meaning from his high-blown rhetoric. He charmed us with his smoothness, which merely turned out to be a lack of energy. He played the meek card again and again and left the field of battle to others. He applauded as the violent bore it all away.

He is now fighting, apparently for real this time around, for the survival of the ACA, his big item for the legacy. Most thinking people agree the ACA is at best a half a loaf. With the same energy he is expending now, he could have been fighting for the whole loaf: Medicare for all and the corresponding elimination of the Private Health Insurance Ripoff.

The House of Representatives has taken his measure. The only question is how he’ll end up taking a dive in this fight –– by agreeing to cut the ACA half load down to a few slices (which, as Zee reminds us, he has already begun to do) or by slicing and dicing an established program that is much more valuable. With this guy, you no longer hope for wins, only lesser losses.