Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Manning Verdict

 Bradley Manning dodged the "aiding the enemy bullet" and life imprisonment. What a relief it must be to him as he relishes spending only the next 136 years of his existence in the slammer for the offenses of embarrassing the power players of the United States of America and lighting the democratic spark for the Arab Spring.

Let's see.... President Bush immediately commuted the sentence of convicted felon Scooter Libby, who actually did endanger lives through his lies and leaks. And only a week or so ago, President Obama quietly arranged for the safe passage of a CIA agent who'd been convicted in absentia by an Italian court for "renditioning" a Muslim cleric to a black site prison. The spy was flown back to American safety after being detained in Panama. So it's not like there hasn't been a long history legal precedents of politicians cutting people some slack.

In a just world, the officiating judge in Manning's court martial would sentence him to time served, apologize profusely for the state-sponsored torture he has endured, and set him free.  Or, barring that gesture of humanitarianism,  President Obama could always commute his 136-year sentence. He could even give one of his folksy speeches, pledging that if Bradley Manning promises to work hard and play by the same rules, then he too can aspire to become a member of the great American middle class.  

By so doing, Barack Obama could regain some of the goodwill he has lost through five years of serial betrayals and half-measures. At this point, I don't think he cares. I don't think he ever cared.

The Manning verdict, in which an idealistic young man is declared guilty for revealing a panoply of state secrets, ranging from obscene war crimes to the boring petty intrigues of the satellites of American Empire, will only serve to widen the gap between the political power structure and the citizens who remain at its mercy. 

Our consolation is that Bradley Manning is getting wider attention than would normally have been the case, given the renewed glare of negative publicity shone by Edward Snowden on our deadly surveillance state. The evidence of public-private abuse against the citizenry is so rampant and egregious that even complicit members of Congress have nowhere to hide any more. There will be hearings tomorrow. Leaders will squirm, and truth-tellers will finally be given a voice.

The victory is moral, and it is ours.

From Loving Your Pain to Feeling Your Pain

How does President Obama telegraph his contempt for the working class?

By traveling to an Amazon distribution warehouse full of temporary wage slaves and calling for a cut in the corporate tax rate from 35 to 28%. And on top of that, bestowing our financial overlords with even more monetary incentives via training, at government expense, the workers for those low-paying jobs, and then rewarding the freeloading CEOs with even more financial perks when they then deign to hire the trainees. It's a trifecta for the plutocracy, a triple whammy for the rest of us. It's a perfect example of privatized profit at public cost. Or, if you prefer, corporate welfare.

The little guy pays the higher effective tax rate. The tax revenues, in turn, get sucked out the Treasury door by the corporate tax evaders. Most of it stays in their pockets, and only some of it goes to hiring a token number of laborers on the cheap. The already-manipulated unemployment rate will drop by a few points and politicians will make themselves look good for doing something that is actually quite bad. And that is the enablement of the closed feedback loop where money begets power begets more money begets more power. Ad infinitum.

And all this will be accomplished as President Obama purports to be concerned about the widening wealth gap between the haves and the have-nots. We are not supposed to notice that ever-widening gap between his words and his actions. Amazingly enough, there still appears to be a sizeable enough segment of his personality cult remaining willfully and faithfully blinded to how badly they are being had. I think this may have something to do with his recent guilt-inducing trip down racial-profiling memory lane. Gifted orator and social identity politics liberal that he is, he still enjoys an approval rating just south of the 50% mark. Not bad for the leader of a country ranking a dismal 27th in per capita income, 27th in life expectancy, and where four out of five people are now threatened with imminent poverty.

So I am now taking bets on how many times he will utter "middle class" at his speech today in Tennessee. Along with his usage of the word "folks," we should probably take Noam Chomsky's advice* and, Run Forrest Run! like a million desperate Gumps.

My only consolation is that many, many folks are taking sharp notice of the locale of his latest outburst of demagogy. Amazon was elevated to the ranks of history's most notorious employers a couple of summers ago when word leaked out (call the NSA!) that the company had actually stationed ambulance crews outside their buildings because workers by the dozens were passing out from the intense heat.  According to one investigative report, Amazon actually plucks its workers from an outside agency taking its own pound of flesh and rarely elevates them to permanent positions.  A story in the Huffington Post recounts how workers are forced to wait in line at warehouse security checkpoints for up to half an hour -- without pay -- to make sure they haven't stolen any merchandise on the way home.

And it's not just critics of Amazon's working conditions who are disgusted with Obama's choice of venue. The American Booksellers' Association has protested the visit, claiming that Amazon hurts small businesses by flouting sales tax laws and putting small independent bookstores out of business through predatory pricing.

Obama, meanwhile, will laud the fact that Amazon workers get health insurance cards, benefits not specified, as temporary, part-time and low-wage as they may be. It's called lowering expectations and calling it a win. Or, if you like, peeing on my leg and telling me it's raining.

I also got to wondering whether New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman had anything to do with the president's choice of Chattanooga as the locale for another stop on his Magical Mystery Tour. Friedman, who has been described as one of Obama's favorite media mavens, did after all write a piece last fall that he dubbed Obama's MomentHe waxed rhapsodic about that Tennessee City being a hub of IT nirvana and thousands of crappy factory jobs and the perfect geographical symbol of Centrism. Or, if you prefer, untold riches for the few and immiseration of the many.
There is a huge amount of innovative thrust building, bottom-up, in the U.S. economy today. If Washington could just get the macro picture right, you could see a real growth surge in America. We’re just a couple of grand bargains away from something big.
And that brings me to the news. It’s good to see the budget talks between President Obama and the Republicans getting off to a solid start, but we know there will be plenty of partisan fireworks before any deal is cut. With that in mind, I hope the president will reframe and elevate the debate. It is vital that he not frame this as a discussion of just new taxes and spending cuts. His guiding principle should be “growth.” Right now, the whole budget discussion reeks too much of castor oil — and which side will have to swallow the biggest spoonful.
 And that brings me back to Chattanooga, where, Mayor Ron Littlefield says, city elders looked themselves in the eyes 15 years ago and realized that “we were a dilapidated city going the way of the Rust Belt.” But, by coming together to make the city an attractive place to live and getting both parties to agree to invest in a fiber-to-every-home-and-business network in a 600-square-mile area, Chattanooga replaced its belching smokestacks with an Amazon.com fulfillment center, major health care and insurance companies and a beehive of tech start-ups that all thrive on big data and super-high-speed Internet. “We’ve gone from being a slowly declining and deflating urban balloon, to one of the fastest-growing cities in Tennessee,” said Littlefield. The fiber network now attracts companies that “like to see more and more of their employees able to work some of the time at home, which saves on office space and parking,” the mayor said.
Friedman spoke, and the president listened. That Big Data part especially had to have been a turn-on. NSA-Amazon Partnership, here we come! Obama put Chattanooga on his calendar, post-haste. After all, it's only a short verbal technocratic hop from Friedman's ridiculous Bottom-Up bromides to Obama's latest Middle-Out catchphrases. I'll be paying attention to Obama's words today just to see how many Friedmanisms (along with middles classes and folks and dropped Gs)  manage to worm their way into his rhetoric.

Meantime, here's my comment to the Friedman column as published last year:
So, Mr. Friedman is advocating a massive government propaganda campaign to convince the proles that cutting back on our Social Security and Medicare and other "middle class" goodies will be fun for us. Something like a Mary Poppins for grown-ups. A spoonful of sugar in the form of better internet connections will help the medicine of retiring at 70 go down. Or some such nonsense.
CEOs and pundits throughout the land are serenading us with the same tired old tune called "Love the Pain." And Friedman's use of such words as "thrust-building" and "bottom-up" even add a sexy new slant to the genre of fiscal S&M. The plutocrats wield the whips, and we will swoon under their lashes. The president will do his part by making austerity excitingly patriotic. Friedman's multimillionaire financial guru is at the ready to impart some economic Viagra, keeping that dreaded deflation at bay.
Risky start-ups, here we come! But, if the addition of an Amazon warehouse to the Chattanooga landscape is your idea of boom-time, think again. These fulfillment centers have a less than stellar reputation in how they treat their poorly paid, no-benefit workers.
You know what would really stimulate the economy? A national living wage law to lift retail and warehouse workers out of poverty. Scrapping the cap on FICA Social Security tax contributions to make the trust fund solvent for generations to come. Medicare for All.
Forget the shared sacrifice. We should be demanding some shared prosperity.
Keep in mind that Obama's latest new and improved "Grand Bargain", while purporting to be a call for jobs, is simply Austerity by another name. Obama's offers of chained CPI as a method of cutting Social Security, along with other safety net cuts, are still very much on the table. He is not calling for taxes to pay for infrastructure and a government jobs program. He is calling for we the taxpayers to keep funneling our dwindling resources straight to the top.

He is advocating pure Trickle-Down Reaganomics. He always has. Only the weasel words have changed due to circumstances that were never beyond his control at all. (see: Geithner, Rubin, Summers) The natives are restless, so now he is pivoting, out of pure political necessity, from Tighten Your Belts to Feel Your Pain mode. But make no mistake. Those belts are still being tightened. Or, if you prefer, the nooses are being finessed.

And that, said Forrest Gump, is all I have to say about that.

* "When a politician uses the word 'folks' get ready for the next series of lies."

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Hypocrisy In the Age of Obama

You know that letter Eric Holder wrote to Uncle Vlad promising that he will neither kill nor torture Edward Snowden if Russia sends him back? I suspect it was nothing more than a cute public relations ploy meant for the consumption of mere citizens. It's the Obama Administration's way of telling us that we're a bunch of paranoid sillies for thinking that America is anything but a big old cuddly teddy bear. And to prove its point, the White House immediately and magnanimously released two whole Guantanamo prisoners on the very same day! Scratch that -- it cleared them for transfer. They are not actually free yet, after years of being not-tortured. Torture American-style does not include force-feeding, mandatory nudity, crotch-groping, solitary confinement and all the various and sundry pleasantries used to enhance the lives of our guests.

The Holder letter is small potatoes, coming as it did right on the heels of some truly monumental White House hypocrisy, with Obama's insistence that Congressional debate does not count as debate when it comes to impeding the ability of the police state to police us. Voting to take money away from the surveillance-industrial complex is just way too blunt. (in other words, way too public.)
Want more hypocrisy? A son of one of the most self-serving philanthropists on the planet has written an op-ed skewering the emergence of what he calls the Charitable-Industrial Complex. This is the bait and switch scam in which the warts of the greedy right hand are hidden beneath the pristine softness of philanthropic left hand. I was happy to see this piece, because it exposes the growing and nefarious substitution of private guilt-washing for a strong government safety net. Writes Peter Buffett:
Philanthropy has become the “it” vehicle to level the playing field and has generated a growing number of gatherings, workshops and affinity groups.
As more lives and communities are destroyed by the system that creates vast amounts of wealth for the few, the more heroic it sounds to “give back.”
It’s what I would call “conscience laundering” — feeling better about accumulating more than any one person could possibly need to live on by sprinkling a little around as an act of charity.

 The Obamas are huge aiders and abettors of the conscience-laundering industry. Michelle, for example, recently parachuted into Chicago to Empower Black Youth by boosting a charity of tycoons that uses poor black youths as poorly-paid interns. It was on the very same day that Mayor Rahm Emanuel had fired over 2000 teachers from the schools attended by the same poor black youths.

Barack, meanwhile, started a new White House task force on community service of, by and for philanthropists just days after the House of Representatives decoupled food stamp funding from the Farm Bill. There's a word for this state of affairs. It's called feudalism. But  in 21st Century noblesse oblige America, they prefer to call it Empowerment.

Which brings us to yet another piece of White House propaganda. I got an email yesterday with this headline: "Michelle Obama Empowers Latino Community!" Say what? With enemies like Steven King (R-Xenophobia) accusing Hispanics of having "cantaloupe calves", who needs friends like the first lady telling a roomful of mamacitas to stop stuffing their offspring full of tacos? Of course, it's totally up to the women working two or three minimum-wage jobs -- not Big Ag or Big Retail -- to do the stepping up. (another weasel phrase used by the powerful to instill guilt into the souls of the hopeless.) Thus spake Michelle:
Today, the Latino community’s buying power is more than one trillion dollars – you hear me? Trillion with a “t” – and it’s expected to increase to $1.5 trillion by 2015. So make no mistake about it, with the choices that you make, you all could completely transform the marketplace…you all have the power right now, today. So when companies step up and provide healthy choices…we all need to step up and actually take advantage of those choices.”  
Highlighting the influence of the growing Latino community, she offered these final words of advice to attendees: “In the end, we create the demand for these [healthier] products…and it’s up to us to demand quality."
That was a sneaky way of saying it's really no longer "on" Walmart. According to a recent piece in the Los Angeles Times, Michelle Obama has quietly abandoned her passive-aggressive effort to cajole the biggest corporate welfare recipient on the planet to sell healthy food at affordable prices. Walmart, it seems, is not "stepping up." Even after she gave them a whole bunch of guilt-washing publicity when rolling out another one of those public-private partnerships with the Walmart CEO last year. (Who, by the way, makes more than a thousand times the salary of the average Walmart employee.) According to Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, the first lady has gotten cold feet when it came to going to the extreme of actually holding Walmart and other corporations up to public scorn for continuing to market unhealthy food to children.

Mrs. Obama also failed to note in her speech that one of the other main causes of obesity in poor children is the de-funding of physical education in poor neighborhood schools. She neglected to mention that the Latino community does most of the low-paid crop-picking of the food that ends up on Walmart store shelves. And that her husband's White House last year even killed a regulation that would have protected the children of migrant farm families, so as not to eat into the profits of Big Ag -- and that also includes the toxic tobacco industry.

One final entry in today's Hypocrisy Sweepstakes: the much ballyhooed national boycott of Florida over its Stand Your Ground law appears to be running out of steam before it even got started. Celebrities who initially joined the cause are backing out in droves. Their excuse is that you can't punish the masses by withholding their entertainment. Disneyworld trumps Trayvon. Capitalism rules.

President Obama himself never dreamed about cancelling his own trip to Jacksonville on Thursday in order to pimp out yet another public-private partnership to improve the port system. He lent his star power for the continued taxpayer enrichment of billionaire industrialists, while once again couching it in terms of helping the middle class. His proposal would deepen a channel, enabling more supertankers to come in from Asia via the Panama Canal as part of the very top-secret Trans-PacificTrade Partnership.

Obama did not even try to disguise his contempt for working people while spewing the same old trickle-down theories so beloved of his idol, Ronald Reagan: 
Bringing in more supertankers "works for everybody,'' he said, because it means "more contractors are getting jobs" and have more money "to spend at the restaurant," which brings more money for the waitress "to buy her iPod."
He noted that manufacturing jobs are the cornerstone of the middle class, as are investments in education, science and research, but "too many folks in Washington have been cutting these investments."
Isn't that sweet? All that trickle-down tip money from rich folks will help a lovely little wage slave of a waitress buy herself a cheap iPod arriving on a Chinese supertanker. Your money will continue to flow into the Sunshine State, the secretive free trade deals will continue to flood the globe, and the Stand Your Ground law will be laughing all the way to the bank. So shut up and step up so your leaders can empower you.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Better to Eat You With, My Dear

I was going to do one of my occasional Parse-a-Presidents today in the wake of yesterday's unusually protracted Obamian assault on the American people. But since Michael Hudson did it first, and did it exceedingly well, I won't be redundant. You can find his smackdown here.

In the midst of all the G-droppin' populist pabulum designed to disguise the reality that Barack Obama considers all of us potential terrorists and wants to continue sweeping up all our phone and internet records, he also signaled that he finds us despicable enough to still want to impose his wildly unpopular chained CPI safety net cuts and other bargains. Now that austerity as an economy-booster has been debunked, he of course must be more circumspect than ever in dog-whistling to the plutocrats of the Fix the Debt crowd. He can no longer brag openly about cutting the deficit better and harder and crueler than any other president in modern history. He dare not openly proclaim his love for Simpson & Bowles. So he was more effective than usual in disguising his hatred under the mask of Populist Hero. Here are the salient weasely parts about the safety net (the parentheses are my own thought-bubbles): 

We’ll need Democrats to question old assumptions, be willing to redesign or get rid of programs that no longer work, and embrace changes to cherished priorities so that they work better in this new age. For if we believe that government can give the middle class a fair shot in this new century, we have an obligation to prove it. (Grandma eating three meals a day is one of their sacred cows. Get over it. Be bold and cut her off at the knees. Bring on the cat food. Since the middle class can never get ahead because of his Wall Street-friendly policies and the Wall Street crowd that makes up his cabinet, he'll just keep dusting off the generational theft canard so beloved of David Brooks.)
And we’ll need Republicans in Congress to set aside short-term politics and work with me to find common ground. The fact is, there are Republicans in Congress right now who privately agree with me on many of the ideas I’ll be proposing, but worry they’ll face swift political retaliation for saying so. Others will dismiss every idea I put forward either because they’re playing to their most strident supporters, or because they have a fundamentally different vision for America – one that says inequality is both inevitable and just; one that says an unfettered free market without any restraints inevitably produces the best outcomes, regardless of the pain and uncertainty imposed on ordinary families. (his people are meeting with the Republican leadership even as we speak, to try and hammer out a Grand Bargain and set up another phony debt ceiling crisis to make him come smelling like a rose at the bitter end. It'll be something along the lines of cutting Social Security and raising the Medicare age in exchange for them not de-funding Obamacare. Just you wait.)
In either case, I say to these members of Congress: I am laying out my ideas to give the middle class a better shot. Now it’s time for you to lay out yours. If you’re willing to work with me to strengthen American manufacturing and rebuild this country’s infrastructure, let’s go. If you have better ideas to bring down the cost of college for working families, let’s hear them. If you think you have a better plan for making sure every American has the security of quality, affordable health care, stop taking meaningless repeal votes and share your concrete ideas with the country. If you are serious about a balanced, long-term fiscal plan that replaces the mindless cuts currently in place, or tax reform that closes corporate loopholes and gives working families a better deal, I’m ready to work – but know that I will not accept deals that do not meet the test of strengthening the prospects of hard-working families. (Like any good passive-aggressive liar, he is laying out ideas like a rug. And here again is the clue that he will cut programs that benefit the retired, the disabled, the poor: he limits his great deals to working families. Contrary to what the Pope said the other day, old and disabled and prematurely and permanently unemployed-because-they-gave-up people are not part of the American dream equation. He does not mention them. They don't produce anything for Late Capitalism.)
We’ve come a long way since I first took office. As a country, we’re older and we’re wiser. And as long as Congress doesn’t manufacture another crisis – as long as we don’t shut down the government just as the economy is getting traction, or risk a U.S. default over paying bills we’ve already racked up – we can probably muddle along without taking bold action. Our economy will grow, though slower than it should; new businesses will form, and unemployment will keep ticking down. Just by virtue of our size and our natural resources and the talent of our people, America will remain a world power, and the majority of us will figure out how to get by. ( He must be dying for a cigarette as he nears the end of his harangue, so his speech-writers put in the Virginia Slims marketing slogan to ease the nicotine craving. He's come a long way, baby. And he's dragged you right along with him. By your feet, face down, choking in the fumes),
But if that’s our choice – if we just stand by and do nothing in the face of immense change – understand that an essential part of our character will be lost. Our founding precept about wide-open opportunity and each generation doing better than the last will be a myth, not reality. The position of the middle class will erode further. Inequality will continue to increase, and money’s power will distort our politics even more. Social tensions will rise, as various groups fight to hold on to what they have, and the fundamental optimism that has always propelled us forward will give way to cynicism or nostalgia. (To show that he still has some lingering fear of the Occupy movement, which he was so instrumental in quashing by virtue of both police state repression and co-optation by MoveOn, he offers some lip service to income inequality without actually offering to do one damned thing about it. But by 'putting it out there', he does manage to fool some of the people at this particular sometime.)
That’s not the vision I have for this country. That’s not the vision you have for this country. That is not the America we know. That’s not a vision we should settle for, or pass on to our children. I have now run my last campaign. I do not intend to wait until the next one before tackling the issues that matter. I care about one thing and one thing only, and that’s how to use every minute of the 1,276 days remaining in my term to make this country work for working Americans again. Because I believe this is where America needs to go. I believe this is where the American people want to go. It may seem hard today, but if we are willing to take a few bold steps – if Washington will just shake off its complacency and set aside the kind of slash-and-burn partisanship we’ve seen these past few years – our economy will be stronger a year from now. And five years from now. And ten years from now. More Americans will know the pride of that first paycheck; the satisfaction of flipping the sign to “Open” on their own business; the joy of etching a child’s height into the door of their brand new home. (this is over-the-top demagogy, even for Obama. Actually, this is the America we know. And drone strikes and authoritarianism are who Obama is. Did you ever notice the human shields he uses as back-drops at all these speeches? They clap, they cheer. But their faces remain impassive. Are they on drugs? Does the NSA vet these people for original thought before they're allowed in? Are they promised a plea deal if they cooperate?  Where the heck were the hecklers at this shindig?)
After all, what makes us special has never been our ability to generate incredible wealth for the few, but our ability to give everyone a chance to pursue their own true measure of happiness. We haven’t just wanted success for ourselves – we’ve wanted it for our neighbors, too. That’s why we don’t call it John’s dream or Susie’s dream or Barack’s dream – we call it the American Dream. That’s what makes this country special – the idea that no matter who you are, what you look like, where you come from or who you love – you can make it if you try. (the incredibly wealthy will continue to get incredibly wealthier. And they of the ruling class retain their ability to give you a chance of scrambling for the meager leftovers the politicians throw your way, He, Barack of Barackistan, will boldly admit to being one of them, will make them all feel less guilty by pronouncing that it is their good intentions that count, not the deeds that they never get around to actually doing. It's the process, not the policy, that keeps him going at an unbelievably high and probably faked 45% approval rating. The Republicans playing the part of fools in Congress will comedically thwart his every good intention, so it will never be his fault if you suffer and die. His function is to be perceived as caring. And that is all, folks.)
As I pointed out yesterday in a Times comment, that little House rebellion against the Spy Who Pretends to Love Us did bring out in glaring relief that the myth of Congressional partisan gridlock is just that -- pure fiction. Call it the Snowden Effect. Contrived political gridlock is the magical glue what keeps the rich rich and the rest of us in our places. When Michele Bachmann embraces Barack Obama, you know it's not GOP vs. Democrat, ignorant white racist bitch vs. beleaguered black politician. It's rich vs. poor. It's the powerful against the powerless. For one brief shining moment, they let their masks fall off. We always knew who the Republicans were, and now we know who the real populists are. You may find some of the results surprising. I did, despite my cynicism. For example, I always thought Jan Schakowsky was a decent sort. Then again, she's from Illinois, and knows better than to mess with the controlling purse strings of the toothsome mob boss.

Glenn Greenwald has more on the fakery. Be sure to give him a read.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Call Your Congress Critters, Stop the Spying

Update 6:58 pm: The House amendment that would have banned the indiscriminate collection of all our phone and internet records was very narrowly defeated minutes ago. Final vote was 217 for continued spying, 205 against.

As one of the C-Span callers pointed out during the phone-in discussion prior to the vote, even if the House and then the Senate had agreed to officially ban spying on Americans, the all-powerful security state would have easily found work-arounds. These people operate with impunity. They always have.

The one positive thing about this vote is that our Congress Critters are now on record for their allegiance or lack thereof to the Fourth Amendment and privacy rights. I'll post their names when I can get them. Then their constituents can decide whether or not they keep their jobs in 2014.

One point of amusement: You will be pleased to know that Tea Party maven Michele Bachmann sided with President Obama on this one, echoing bipartisan fear-mongering for the enrichment of the surveillance state. She very truthfully stated, "National Security is a clear and present danger."


A vote to de-fund the National Security Agency's sweep of
everybody's phone records may be coming as soon as today (h/t Jay and Fred in comments below). To call your reps and urge them to vote for the Amash-Conyers amendment to H.R. 2397, here's the page with all their phone numbers. (Make sure they vote against the red herring of the Nugent Amendment however.) Give them a buzz, and thus help ensure that yours will be among the last records in history ever to be swept up into the NSA dragnet before the money spout that keeps the monstrosity alive is finally turned off. Let's not stop until the entire Patriot Act is repealed.

Barack Obama and his police state henchmen are desperate for this measure not to be passed. Although he usually plays the hapless helpless victim when it comes to Congress, he is acting quite the thug via this White House threat issued last night, warning the People's House that they had best not adhere to the actual will of the people:
In light of the recent unauthorized disclosures, the President has said that he welcomes a debate about how best to simultaneously safeguard both our national security and the privacy of our citizens. The Administration has taken various proactive steps to advance this debate including the President’s meeting with the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, his public statements on the disclosed programs, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s release of its own public statements, ODNI General Counsel Bob Litt’s speech at Brookings, and ODNI’s decision to declassify and disclose publicly that the Administration filed an application with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. We look forward to continuing to discuss these critical issues with the American people and the Congress.  
However, we oppose the current effort in the House to hastily dismantle one of our Intelligence Community’s counterterrorism tools. This blunt approach is not the product of an informed, open, or deliberative process. We urge the House to reject the Amash Amendment, and instead move forward with an approach that appropriately takes into account the need for a reasoned review of what tools can best secure the nation.
 Got that, proles? Obama met with some people behind closed doors, so it's all good. Endless talk is his antidote to populist dissent, so how dare representatives play along with mere citizens and actually do their jobs in the public interest for a change? How dare they stop the money that tamps down the populist dissent? This situation calls for obfuscation, not the blunt hammer of truth, says he. Barack Obama has sworn allegiance to the Military-Surveillance complex. Mr. Bipartisanship can't stand the fact that a bipartisan coalition of progressives and libertarians is actually staging a revolt.

All the more ironic that he is giving a speech today purporting to support the middle class.

Because Barack Obama thinks closed-door meetings should trump open Congressional votes. He is not only the anti-Democrat. He is downright anti-Democratic. We have met the enemy, and contrary to what Pogo said, it definitely ain't us.

Stay tuned.....

TGIHD (Thank God It's Hump Day)

The U.K. can be forgiven for going overboard on the Plutocratic Parturition, a.k.a. the birth of the Royal Heir (the proper pronunciation of which, I learned from watching the CNN coverage, is Aaah: an elongated short "a" spoken directly through the nose.) After all, the birth is expected to pump tons of money -- an estimated £250m -- into the sputtering British economy. That is even more than the Olympics brought in.

But why the fascination on this side of the pond?

Like the Brits, we are absolutely desperate for some good news, some good vicarious escapism as an antidote to the misery, caused by increasing wealth disparity, in our lives. Our own American Boy King, Barry, just doesn't do it for us any more. Although, even as I write this, his larynx is about eight centimeters dilated, ready to gush out another afterbirth of populist propaganda, this one called Middle-Out Economic Growth. Somebody actually needs to call the midwife to give us all a hit of the laughing gas they still use in the U.K. for labor pains.

The first event that briefly tore CNN from Blessed Event coverage was an airplane accident Monday at New York's La Guardia Airport. (If it bleeds, it leads. No exceptions.)  Only hours after the Queen's Aaah landed headfirst in hospital, a passenger jet landed headfirst -- sort of -- in Queens. It swooped in normally enough, but then collapsed right on its nose, without warning, as its front wheels fell off. There wasn't even time for a "Brace Yourself!" let alone an epidural. Ouch.

As if that painful imagery were not enough, the domestic media bliss of Will and Kate and Baby Aaah was rudely interrupted yet again -- the very next day!-- by their counterparts from hell. Again, no time to brace ourselves. Anthony and Huma , at least, didn't show up on TV with their adorable kid in tow to give them cover. Mrs. Weiner succeeded in giving a whole new meaning to the term Deer in the Headlights, and not much else. The New York Times is now huffily demanding that the Sexster drop out of the mayoral race, only months after they crowned him the Boy King of New York in a magazine puff piece. Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Or not. There are as many rebirths in politics as there are gullible people willing to celebrate them and wallow in them.  

And here we are, still wondering why we are so enamored of British royalty. It's just one more fleeting distraction among many. A relentless barrage of media infotainment has served to deaden our pain, mute our outrage and stifle our dissent. Brace for impact. God Save Us.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Oligarchy Rising

One of the favorite canards of the deficit hawks is blaming youth unemployment in particular and human misery in general upon those greedy, healthy care-consuming old folks. They are the scapegoats of the financial predatory class. Even our Democratic president frequently uses the "generational theft" propaganda meme to hammer home the need for chained CPI and other Wall Street-friendly measures to justify our slide into serfdom.

 In the world view of the austerians, we simply can't have early childhood education unless the old people  first "share the sacrifice" by retiring late and eating less.  No matter that austerity as an economy booster, a la Rogoff & Reinhart, has been thoroughly debunked. Obama advisers are negotiating more of same even as we speak. The Fix the Debt crowd keeps rising from the grave like a smelly old corpse. White House sources say the president still is hoping against hope for a Grand Bargain of massive safety net cuts tempered by a few token dollars of revenue from the rich. His original offering of the poor and middle class on the altar of austerity still stands.

So, it was all the more gratifying to read the remarks of Pope Francis this morning as he traveled to Brazil, where the peasants are rising up against such things as bus fare increases and the funding of sports arenas. The Pope goes where no politician dares to go. He is traveling to the stark territory of the global class war, where all the generations are being victimized by an Oligarchy Rising:
Speaking to journalists on board his plane, Francis expressed concern about how many young people have no jobs and condemned a "disposable" culture which also hurt the elderly.
"The world crisis is not treating young people well ... We are running the risk of having a generation that does not work. From work comes a person's dignity," Francis said in prepared remarks to the papal press corps.
"Young people at the moment are in crisis," the pontiff said. "We have all become accustomed to this disposable culture. We do the same thing with the elderly, but with all these people out of work even they are afflicted by a culture where everything is disposable. We have to stop this habit of throwing things away. We need a culture of inclusion."
 Francis said young people must not be isolated.
The elderly are also the future of a people.... what a concept.  And one that is totally foreign to the American duopoly, where retirement and bodily decline are viewed as character deficits. Tell it to staunch Catholic people-eater Paul Ryan and the whole bipartisan crowd that sequestered Grandma from Meals on Wheels, and still thinks raising the retirement and Medicare eligibility ages are just what the Medieval leecher ordered.

Maybe the Pope can be convinced to make a detour to Detroit or Washington on his way back to the Vatican, and guilt-trip the vulture capitalists into stopping their attack on pensioners and public employees. Of course, sociopaths are incapable of feeling guilt. What they really need to feel is fear. And they need to feel it good and hard. If you haven't already seen it, be sure to watch Chris Hedges on the efficaciousness of instilling abject terror into public officials. 

Meanwhile, here's my comment to Paul Krugman's latest, on the class war in Detroit:

If a hard-right turn into fascism and continued racial and class animus are what our leaders are striving for, then Detroit is just what Dr. Moreau ordered.

They obviously love what they're seeing in the
experimental labs of the Greek isles. Where Democracy was born, so shall it die. Youth joblessness is at 60%, as the oligarchs merrily go through the spoils with a fine tooth comb. Violence is on the uptick, and there's no money to pay for police. Politicians have taken to calling sick people "health bombs." Sound familiar?

Gov. Rick Snyder, for his part, is enthusing that the rape of Detroit is the creatively destructive dawn of a new day. The CEOs of Quicken Loans and Little Caesar’s are rushing in to buy downtown property on the cheap, turning blight into profit and thousands of pensioners and poor people out onto the streets.

The growing Greek fascist party, incidentally, is called "New Dawn". When it comes to the annihilation of the poor and middle class, weasel words all sound the same when they're spewed by the economic vultures circling the globe.

Meanwhile, as our pols sad-facedly sigh, there is "no appetite" to bail out Detroit. Maybe it's the $85 billion a month the Fed keeps showering on Wall Street, whose profits skyrocketed between 30 and 70% last quarter.

When the people of Detroit take to the streets, we must all cheer them on and join right in. Because this is all set to go national. I can see the headlines now:

U.S. Government to You: Drop Dead!


Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Person Who Asked Why

Four years before a churlish Washington press corps booted her from her coveted front row seat in the White House briefing room, Helen Thomas had pissed them off in a big way. In 2006, she'd partnered with Stephen Colbert for his famous public skewering of the churlish Washington Press corps during his stand-up routine at their annual prom. Helen Thomas was an integral part of that show. And she had a seat at the table of honor.

Helen Thomas had to go. Why, she wasn't even a paying member of their Association!She only wrote an opinion column! She was not a stenographer to the powerful, like them. When, in 2010, she made what some considered to be imtemperate remarks -- to an ambushing rabbi with a video cam! -- on Israel and its attack on a humanitarian aid flotilla -- it was just the opportunity the Washington establishment had been waiting for. Helen was gone from her front-seat perch in a Beltway swamp minute. They could barely contain their glee. Obama press secretary Robert Gibbs courageously scolded her empty chair in order for the cameras to capture the enforced silencing of a woman who had practiced the art of afflicting the comfortable for half a century. That empty chair was eventually, and symbolically, contaminated by Ed Henry of Fox News.

Like I said, they're a churlish bunch. They were not happy when Colbert, with a hysterically cackling Helen Thomas by his side, reviewed the function of journalists in the Age of Inverted Totalitarianism:
But, listen, let's review the rules. Here's how it works: the president makes decisions. He's the decider. The press secretary announces those decisions, and you people of the press type those decisions down. Make, announce, type. Just put 'em through a spell check and go home. Get to know your family again. Make love to your wife. Write that novel you got kicking around in your head. You know, the one about the intrepid Washington reporter with the courage to stand up to the administration. You know - fiction!
Helen Thomas was perhaps the last intrepid reporter left in Washington. So she had to go. She was not a member of the club, and did not adhere to their rules. Had she been allowed to stay, she probably would have asked Jay Carney if Obama gets a hard-on at Terror Tuesdays, as he decides who lives and who dies by predator drone. 

But now that Helen Thomas is safely dead, they're coming out of the woodwork with their effusive phony praise. She was a maverick. She opened doors. She broke the glass ceiling. She broke their precious little hearts.

Here's a quiz. See if you can guess* when the following remarks were made: whether after Helen Thomas broke the forbidden rule about speaking ill of Israel, or after Helen Thomas died:

1) "It's a shame, because Helen really was an institution in Washington." -- President Obama.

2) "Many in our profession who have known Helen for years were saddened..." -- White House Correspondents Association leadership.

3) "Michelle and I were saddened ... Helen was a true pioneer, opening doors and breaking down barriers for generations of women in journalism." -- President Obama. 

4) "Helen Thomas made it possible for all of us who followed" -- Mrs. Alan Greenspan (Andrea Mitchell.)

5.) "A sad way for her career to end." -- Mrs. Alan Greenspan (Andrea Mitchell.)

The treatment given to Helen Thomas by her colleagues a couple of years ago is  very much being echoed in the current criticism by the establishment press of Glenn Greenwald. Here's smarmy Chuck Todd of NBC -- the poster boy of fawning access reportage --  waxing hysterical about the uppity Helen Thomas in 2010:
Well, I think there were a lot of people that have been uncomfortable with the fact that she's been an opinion columnist for years now. You know she's not been a reporter for a long time. And you know the definition of reporter and columnist has gotten, the lines have been blurred now for over a decade. It gets even worse in this case in distinguishing the two. And this was something that was a topic, frankly that I think a lot, in the White House Correspondents Association, everybody was kind of avoiding. Right? This issue of talk radio. Look there's a couple of talk radio hosts that hard passes, too. They just don't have a front row seat. But they ask very opinionated, you know it's not really a reporter. You can't call them a reporter, these folks. They're really just sort of on the, you know they're columnists. They're, talk radio hosts are nothing more than, sort of, verbal columnists. And so you wonder what is the line here? And I think that this is reigniting that debate on, you know, who is there to do reporting on the White House and who is there to just write a column? No one should say that they shouldn't occasionally be allowed in the press room But do you get a front row seat? Do you get a seat at all? And I think that's reigniting that debate. And I think you're gonna see some more stringent rules form the White House Correspondents Association going forward.
And here's Chuck again, whining about Greenwald's un-clubby backtalk to fellow steno David Gregory:
Glenn Greenwald, you know, how much was he involved in the plot? It's one thing as a source, but what was his role –did he have a role beyond simply being a receiver of this information? And is he going to have to answer those questions? There is a point of law. He's a lawyer. He attacked the premise of your question. He didn't answer it.
And Helen Thomas dared ask Bush why he invaded Iraq. She dared have a point of view. She dared to be the dreaded breed known as Activus Journalistus. She belonged to that rare, increasingly marginalized species known as reporters with an independent brain: Greenwald, the late I.F. Stone, Chris Hedges. Had Helen Thomas been embarking on her career today, she would have had her own blog. Those newspapers and wire services where she got her start? Either all gone, or sucked up into the voracious maw of the corporate conglomerate.

Goodbye, Helen. You were an inspiration to me. Your star will long outshine all the feeble little winky-blinks that have sputtered to life over the years, only to choke and die from inhaling too many of their own toxic fumes.

You were a breath of fresh air. You still are.

A year after she was fired, Helen Thomas was asked how she'd like to be remembered . After tearfully predicting she'd only be remembered as an anti-Semite, she responded,
“As the person who asked why. That’s what I want as my epitaph: ‘Why?’ It’s always been my favorite question, even though it rarely gets answered."

1) Career obit.
2) Career obit.
3) Corporeal obit.
4) Corporeal obit.
5) Career obit.


Saturday, July 20, 2013

Vindication: A Requirement, Not an Option

I know that Eric Holder is reviewing what happened down there, but I think it's important for people to have some clear expectations here. Traditionally, these are issues of state and local government, the criminal code. And law enforcement is traditionally done at the state and local levels, not at the federal levels. That doesn't mean, though, that as a nation we can't do some things that I think would be productive. So let me just give a couple of specifics that I'm still bouncing around with my staff, so we're not rolling out some five-point plan, but some areas where I think all of us could potentially focus. 

In an otherwise affective "I Feel Your Pain, Because It's My Pain Too" speech yesterday, did Barack Obama just announce that federal hate crime charges against George Zimmerman will not filed? It sure sounded like it.
He's got Eric Holder "down there" looking into the possibility, but let President Obama be perfectly clear. The Florida jury has spoken. We have to respect the verdict. Meanwhile, among those other "things" that he is "bouncing around" with his staff is one more innocuous task force comprised of officials and athletes and celebrities (in other words, the wealthy Democratic donor class) to figure out how to help black youth assimilate. Are you kidding me?

 His claim that the federal government can't do much about institutional racism in general (it's a "traditional" states' thing) and the Zimmerman verdict in particular is pretty weak, to put it kindly. More compromising Millard Fillmore than Abe Lincoln, to be sure. (or, heaven forfend, John Brown.) The subtext of his remarks is that we should have one of those national conversations in lieu of hauling creepy-ass crackers into federal court. We acknowledge that evil exists in this world, but must remain serene in the knowledge that the younger generation to which his daughters belong are more tolerant than we are.

A Sardonicky reader named Eleanor, who is a California attorney, emailed me after Obama's remarks, noting that "under the dual sovereignty doctrine, the feds are not barred by 'double jeopardy' from bringing criminal charges against the acquitted Zimmerman based on the same facts
underlying the state case. Here's the federal  civil rights criminal statute that Obama goes to extravagant verbal lengths to  pretend is irrelevant  to the "traditionally state and local" Zimmerman criminal case.   It most emphatically is NOT."

The especially applicable points are in her bold:

United States Code

18 U.S.C. § 249. Hate crime acts
(a) In General (1) Offenses involving actual or perceived race, color, religion, or national origin — Whoever, whether or not acting under color of law, willfully causes bodily injury to any person or, through the use of fire, a firearm, a dangerous weapon, or an explosive or incendiary device, attempts to cause bodily injury to any person, because of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, or national origin of any person — (A) shall be imprisoned not more than 10 years, fined in accordance with this title, or both; and (B) shall be imprisoned for any term of years or for life, fined in accordance with this title, or both, if — (i) death results from the offense; or (ii) the offense includes kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill. (2) Offenses involving actual or perceived religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability (A) In general — Whoever, whether or not acting under color of law, in any circumstance described in subparagraph (B) or paragraph (3), willfully causes bodily injury to any person or, through the use of fire, a firearm, a dangerous weapon, or an explosive or incendiary device, attempts to cause bodily injury to any person, because of the actual or perceived religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of any person — (i) shall be imprisoned not more than 10 years, fined in accordance with this title, or both; and (ii) shall be imprisoned for any term of years or for life, fined in accordance with this title, or both, if — (I) death results from the offense; or (II) the offense includes kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill. (B) Circumstances described — For purposes of subparagraph (A), the circumstances described in this subparagraph are that — (i) the conduct described in subparagraph (A) occurs during the course of, or as the result of, the travel of the defendant or the victim — (I) across a State line or national border; or (II) using a channel, facility, or instrumentality of interstate or foreign commerce; (ii) the defendant uses a channel, facility, or instrumentality of interstate or foreign commerce in connection with the conduct described in subparagraph (A); (iii) in connection with the conduct described in subparagraph (A), the defendant employs a firearm, dangerous weapon, explosive or incendiary device, or other weapon that has traveled in interstate or foreign commerce; or (iv) the conduct described in subparagraph (A)— (I) interferes with commercial or other economic activity in which the victim is engaged at the time of the conduct; or (II) otherwise affects interstate or foreign commerce. (3) Offenses occurring in the special maritime or territorial jurisdiction of the United States — Whoever, within the special maritime or territorial jurisdiction of the United States, engages in conduct described in paragraph (1) or in paragraph (2)(A) (without regard to whether that conduct occurred in a circumstance described in paragraph (2)(B)) shall be subject to the same penalties as prescribed in those paragraphs. (4) Guidelines — All prosecutions conducted by the United States under this section shall be undertaken pursuant to guidelines issued by the Attorney General, or the designee of the Attorney General, to be included in the United States Attorneys' Manual that shall establish neutral and objective criteria for determining whether a crime was committed because of the actual or perceived status of any person.
(b) Certification Requirement (1) In general — No prosecution of any offense described in this subsection may be undertaken by the United States, except under the certification in writing of the Attorney General, or a designee, that — (A) the State does not have jurisdiction; (B) the State has requested that the Federal Government assume jurisdiction; (C) the verdict or sentence obtained pursuant to State charges left demonstratively unvindicated the Federal interest in eradicating bias-motivated violence; or (D) a prosecution by the United States is in the public interest and necessary to secure substantial justice. (2) Rule of construction — Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to limit the authority of Federal officers, or a Federal grand jury, to investigate possible violations of this section.
(c) Definitions — In this section — (1) the term "bodily injury" has the meaning given such term in section 1365(h)(4) of this title, but does not include solely emotional or psychological harm to the victim; (2) the term "explosive or incendiary device" has the meaning given such term in section 232 of this title; (3) the term "firearm" has the meaning given such term in section 921(a) of this title; (4) the term "gender identity" means actual or perceived gender-related characteristics; and (5) the term "State" includes the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and any other territory or possession of the United States.
 Karen here: So for all the apologists and wimps out there in TV Punditland who claim it would be just too, too hard for the feds to prove that George Zimmerman had racial animus in his heart when he stalked and killed Trayvon: there is nothing in the law that says they even have to. It not the perception that counts. It's the reality. The reality that a black boy is dead. That is evidence, in and of itself, of a hate crime. A thousand character witnesses insisting that Zimmerman was not a racist would not and could not factor into any federal case.

 And then there is the issue of the Florida verdict not being in the anti-bias national interest. When it comes to hate crimes, the federal interest always trumps the state interest. The Florida jury does not get the last word, because Trayvon's death was not vindicated.

Here's the rest of the federal statute. Congress could have tailor-made it for the Trayvon Martin case:

(c) Definitions — In this section — (1) the term "bodily injury" has the meaning given such term in section 1365(h)(4) of this title, but does not include solely emotional or psychological harm to the victim; (2) the term "explosive or incendiary device" has the meaning given such term in section 232 of this title; (3) the term "firearm" has the meaning given such term in section 921(a) of this title; (4) the term "gender identity" means actual or perceived gender-related characteristics; and (5) the term "State" includes the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and any other territory or possession of the United States.

(d) Statute of Limitations (1) Offenses not resulting in death — Except as provided in paragraph (2), no person shall be prosecuted, tried, or punished for any offense under this section unless the indictment for such offense is found, or the information for such offense is instituted, not later than 7 years after the date on which the offense was committed. (2) Death resulting offenses — An indictment or information alleging that an offense under this section resulted in death may be found or instituted at any time without limitation. ( Added and amended Pub.L. 111-84, div. E, Secs. 4707(a), 4711, Oct. 28, 2009, 123 Stat. 2838, 2842. )
2009 — Subsec. (a)(4). Pub.L. 111-84 added par. (4).
Pub.L. 111-84, div. E, Sec. 4709, Oct. 28, 2009, 123 Stat. 2841, provided that: "If any provision of this division [see Short Title of 2009 Amendments note set out under section 1 of this title], an amendment made by this division, or the application of such provision or amendment to any person or circumstance is held to be unconstitutional, the remainder of this division, the amendments made by this division, and the application of the provisions of such to any person or circumstance shall not be affected thereby."
Pub.L. 111-84, div. E, Sec. 4710, Oct. 28, 2009, 123 Stat. 2841, provided that: " For purposes of construing this division [see Severability note above] and the amendments made by this division the following shall apply: 
" (1) In general — Nothing in this division shall be construed to allow a court, in any criminal trial for an offense described under this division or an amendment made by this division, in the absence of a stipulation by the parties, to admit evidence of speech, beliefs, association, group membership, or expressive conduct unless that evidence is relevant and admissible under the Federal Rules of Evidence. Nothing in this division is intended to affect the existing rules of evidence. 
" (2) Violent acts — This division applies to violent acts motivated by actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of a victim. 
" (3) Construction and application — Nothing in this division, or an amendment made by this division, shall be construed or applied in a manner that infringes any rights under the first amendment to the Constitution of the United States. Nor shall anything in this division, or an amendment made by this division, be construed or applied in a manner that substantially burdens a person's exercise of religion (regardless of whether compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief), speech, expression, or association, unless the Government demonstrates that application of the burden to the person is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest and is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest, if such exercise of religion, speech, expression, or association was not intended to — 
" (A) plan or prepare for an act of physical violence; or 
" (B) incite an imminent act of physical violence against another. 
" (4) Free expression — Nothing in this division shall be construed to allow prosecution based solely upon an individual's expression of racial, religious, political, or other beliefs or solely upon an individual's membership in a group advocating or espousing such beliefs. 
" (5) First amendment — Nothing in this division, or an amendment made by this division, shall be construed to diminish any rights under the first amendment to the Constitution of the United States. 
" (6) Constitutional protections — Nothing in this division shall be construed to prohibit any constitutionally protected speech, expressive conduct or activities (regardless of whether compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief), including the exercise of religion protected by the first amendment to the Constitution of the United States and peaceful picketing or demonstration. The Constitution of the United States does not protect speech, conduct or activities consisting of planning for, conspiring to commit, or committing an act of violence. " 
Pub.L. 111-84, div. E, Sec. 4702, Oct. 28, 2009, 123 Stat. 2835, provided that: " Congress makes the following findings: 
" (1) The incidence of violence motivated by the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of the victim poses a serious national problem. 
" (2) Such violence disrupts the tranquility and safety of communities and is deeply divisive. 
" (3) State and local authorities are now and will continue to be responsible for prosecuting the overwhelming majority of violent crimes in the United States, including violent crimes motivated by bias. These authorities can carry out their responsibilities more effectively with greater Federal assistance. 
" (4) Existing Federal law is inadequate to address this problem. 
" (5) A prominent characteristic of a violent crime motivated by bias is that it devastates not just the actual victim and the family and friends of the victim, but frequently savages the community sharing the traits that caused the victim to be selected. 
" (6) Such violence substantially affects interstate commerce in many ways, including the following: 
" (A) The movement of members of targeted groups is impeded, and members of such groups are forced to move across State lines to escape the incidence or risk of such violence. 
" (B) Members of targeted groups are prevented from purchasing goods and services, obtaining or sustaining employment, or participating in other commercial activity. 
" (C) Perpetrators cross State lines to commit such violence. 
" (D) Channels, facilities, and instrumentalities of interstate commerce are used to facilitate the commission of such violence. 
" (E) Such violence is committed using articles that have traveled in interstate commerce. 
" (7) For generations, the institutions of slavery and involuntary servitude were defined by the race, color, and ancestry of those held in bondage. Slavery and involuntary servitude were enforced, both prior to and after the adoption of the 13th amendment to the Constitution of the United States, through widespread public and private violence directed at persons because of their race, color, or ancestry, or perceived race, color, or ancestry. Accordingly, eliminating racially motivated violence is an important means of eliminating, to the extent possible, the badges, incidents, and relics of slavery and involuntary servitude. 
" (8) Both at the time when the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to the Constitution of the United States were adopted, and continuing to date, members of certain religious and national origin groups were and are perceived to be distinct 'races'. Thus, in order to eliminate, to the extent possible, the badges, incidents, and relics of slavery, it is necessary to prohibit assaults on the basis of real or perceived religions or national origins, at least to the extent such religions or national origins were regarded as races at the time of the adoption of the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to the Constitution of the United States. 
" (9) Federal jurisdiction over certain violent crimes motivated by bias enables Federal, State, and local authorities to work together as partners in the investigation and prosecution of such crimes. 
" (10) The problem of crimes motivated by bias is sufficiently serious, widespread, and interstate in nature as to warrant Federal assistance to States, local jurisdictions, and Indian tribes. "
For definitions of "State" and "local" used in section 4702 of Pub.L. 111-84, set out above, see section 4703(b) of Pub.L. 111- 84, set out as a note under section 3716 of Title 42, The Public Health and Welfare.
Karen again: We don't need a celebrity White House task force or newspaper editorials celebrating the first black president's personal agony, allowing his personal narrative and struggles to be substitutes for enforcement of existing laws and initiation of official public policies. 
Don't get me wrong. There was a lot to admire in the president's address. It was obviously tough for him -- he, who has always striven to rise above it all -- to give voice to some  basic, ugly truths. The usual right wing suspects are predictably pouncing, going into self-victimizing overdrive. My own criticism, from the left, doesn't preclude my being moved by his words. But I was not moved to the point of forgetting that he has done little to nothing to alleviate black poverty during his tenure. As I noted in a previous post, it took him more than two years to finally admit the Congressional Black Caucus to his inner sanctum for a very brief meeting. He may have experienced racial profiling at some points during his own life, but it has not translated into the elimination of racial profiling for the rest of the brown and black population. As a matter of fact, he has done the exact opposite.
He directs his drone strikes against dark-skinned people. He has heartlessly refused to explain to the grandfather of one his American victims, a boy the same age as Trayvon Martin, why he was killed as he sat outside with friends eating pizza. Just a few days ago, Obama all but nominated one of the worst official racial profilers in American history as director of Homeland Security. He has deported more Hispanics than any other previous administration, and has "reluctantly" endorsed the institutionalized racial profiling in border states as proposed in the current immigration "reform" legislation. He has intensified the War on Drugs that disproportionately sweeps up minorities into a prison system that is the largest in the world. His Race to the Top education reform program has closed schools and laid off thousands of teachers in poverty-stricken minority neighborhoods. He has remained silent on the economic implosion of predominately black Detroit.

On the same day that former Obama consigliere, Chicago Mayor  Rahm Emanuel announced the firings of more than 2000 teachers in one fell swoop, first lady Michelle just happened to be in town schmoozing it up and smoothing it over. It was a private confab for yet another P3 (Public-Private Partnership: in which wealthy individuals get tax breaks via their greed-washing noblesse oblige and therefore don't have to pay more taxes for the maintenance of the government social safety net.) This one was orchestrated by Mrs. Rahm, all about how to "career-train" and mentor -- and let's not forget empower --  a select few lucky duckies among the thousands of evicted black youths who will soon be forced to walk to schools far from their own neighborhoods. The unlucky many will be in the direct line of gunfire from an epidemic of violence in that increasingly windy city. But if there's one thing the Obamas are good at, it's salving the liberal consciences of their backers as they maintain the neoliberal status quo and pretend to do something about what Michelle calls "gang-banging."

 The first couple's image as caring, kind, uplifting meritocrats is well-crafted and camera ready. They supply the band-aids of do-gooderism to cover up some really nasty stuff, greasing the skids for the privatizers and charter school plutocrats. They are the gifted inspirational symbols for the very people they are helping to keep down. (If We Can Do It, So Can You! I've been "down there", but look at me now. So if you work hard, play by the same rules, you "should" be able to climb the ladder right behind me. We'll leave the door open for you, in any case. Your student loans will be through the roof, the Sequester is here to stay, and that chained CPI will eat right into your retirement. But we got the birth control covered. So you go, Girl!)
Up until his Friday afternoon chat, Obama rarely mentioned Poverty. He never mentioned fighting for poor people in his re-election bid, never campaigned in poor neighborhoods. He was fighting for the mythical middle class.... or at most, those who "aspire" to the middle class.
As matter of fact, on the very same day that he paid angst-ridden lip service to black poverty, he was sending out yet another fund-raising email blast to his "base" --
 I will spend the next three and a half years doing everything I can to work with anyone -- Democrat, Republican, or independent -- to fight for middle class families.
But I'll tell you what: it would be a lot easier if I had a Democratic House and a Democratic Senate.
(The Money Ask is inserted here.)
Circumstances (rising public criticism by that same Democratic base of his "hidden hand" approach to crises) finally dictated that Barack Obama once again acknowledge the color of his skin while acknowledging racism. It was also time for him to acknowledge that racism is not only morally repellant, it also happens to be against the law when people act upon it. We do have to make a federal case out of it.
An anonymous Florida jury may have spoken. But it shouldn't get the last word. Especially when Number B-37 admitted on national TV that her mind was made up from the very beginning and she blamed a child for his own death.