Monday, September 30, 2013

The Insecurity of the Security State

The good folks of the Surveillance State are terrified that we are not afraid enough of the bogeyman. They worry that we're not comfortable with our roles as domestic targets of our own government. So, instead of scaling back the surveillance, the spooks are simply ramping up both the fear and the guilt. They are striving mightily to wipe the Snowden egg off their faces even as they cravenly try to hide their faces.

Therefore, it's no big surprise that, having slunk and lurked on the dark side for so many decades, they are N.S.A. (Not So Adept) at filling this tall public relations order in order to justify their own continued, useless, bloated and lucrative existence.

But they're trying, they really are. Just in time to respond to the news of another blockbuster of an impending revelation that the Not-So-Adepts are in cahoots with the C.I.A. over an assassination program, the Obama administration has again commandeered the Paper of Record for use as its propaganda mouthpiece of record. In a masterpiece of the genre, the N.Y. Times has relied solely upon unnamed "present and former" officials to actually blame one of its rivals, McClatchey Newspapers, for an alleged August bombing plot leak that supposedly led to the "terrorists" clamming up and preventing the USA from monitoring them. The Times, of course, has proclaimed itself innocent of such enterprise journalism, patriotically and idiotically bowing to White House demands that it sit on the story to prevent the danger of official embarrassment.

The Times piece, homophonically and homogeneously written by a couple of reporters named Schmitt and Schmidt, is actually quite hilarious in places. For example, it takes seriously a complaint by Obama officials that the only chatter they've been able to pick up from Al Qaeda lately is terrorist gossip about the Snowden revelations! How dare they, when it is the duty of bad guys everywhere to broadcast their actual plans for mayhem. Idle chit-chat has no place in Spookville. As we all know, the Mid-east miscreants always, always stupidly allowed the American spooks to listen in, until Snowden and journalism happened along to spoil all the fun. Come on.

But the Times dutifully forges ahead anyway:
“The switches weren’t turned off, but there has been a real decrease in quality” of communications, said one United States official, who like others quoted spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence programs.
The drop in message traffic after the communication intercepts contrasts with what analysts describe as a far more muted impact on counterterrorism efforts from the disclosures by Mr. Snowden of the broad capabilities of N.S.A. surveillance programs. Instead of terrorists moving away from electronic communications after those disclosures, analysts have detected terrorists mainly talking about the information that Mr. Snowden has disclosed.
In other words, the "terrorists" are rubbing their faces in it. A lot like the American citizens who, suddenly made privy to state secrets, are now sending greetings to eavesdropping N.S.A. cubicle dwellers who might be feeling left out from the conversation, or who've run out of LoveInt targets to peep upon.

The data hoarders are also theorizing that since newspapers sometimes publish news, the terrorists have now discovered how read newspapers. The subliminal message, of course, is that information presents a clear and present danger. Ignorance is good. We must not know things, lest the Bogeyman tap into our knowledge:
“We have seen, in response to the Snowden leaks, Al Qaeda and affiliated groups seeking to change their tactics, looking to see what they can learn from what is in the press and seek to change how they communicate to avoid detection,” Matthew Olsen, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, told a security conference in Aspen, Colo., in July.
And worst of all, the terrorists might stop using the Internet and communicate in person! And just when the Surveillance State had finally built its multi-billion dollar Data Resort out there in the Utah desert:
The government’s greatest fear concerning its counterterrorism operations is that over the next several months, the level of intercepted communications will continue to fall as terrorists most likely find new ways to communicate with one another, one senior American official said. It will likely take the government some time to break into that method and monitor communications.
One way the terrorists may try to communicate, the official said, is strictly through couriers, who would carry paper notes or computer flash drives. If that happens, the official said, terrorists will find it very difficult to communicate as couriers take significant time to move messages.
There's only one thing for it. Yank the cubicle-dwellers away from their computers and send them out on the trail of the paper-pushers. Commandeer the thousands of courier bikes from the streets of New York City and start an international counter-courierism campaign. The Tour du Yemen can be filmed from above by Reaper drones for our viewing pleasure. Where there's an insatiable will for the corporate suits of the Surveillance Industrial Complex to make a stash of loot, they will always find a way. 

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Lowdown on the Countdown to the Showdown

With government shutdown Armageddon only days away, is the stock market  freaking out? Will brokers be jumping out of windows if the contrived debt ceiling isn't raised? Well, apparently not. Fear is only for the little people. The Market is cool, calm, and collected.... and collecting, extracting, counting and hoarding.

Despite the crisis atmosphere whipped up by the concentrated ownership media conglomerates, those in power, those with all the wealth, those in the know, are apparently not panicking -- either over a looming government shutdown if Congress fails to pass  a CR by Tuesday (continuing resolution to keep the bureaucracy humming)  or later next month, when its failure to pay the nation's bills would breach the imaginary debt ceiling.

Pay the Damned Bills and Let Me Outta Here!

That is because The Market (whom, we have been led to believe, is a living, breathing entity not controlled by mere greedy humans) fully expects the two right wings of the Money Party to come together in the usual series of last minute negotiations. The plutocrats have seen this movie before. It always ends well for them. They expect to make a ton of money by the time all the manufactured dust has settled. The more it comes right down to the wire, the more profitable it will be for them. It's how disaster capitalism always works. Create a crisis, cash in while the freak-out is in full throttle, and the stunned populace will never know what hit them. All they will know is that the crisis has been averted and the world has been saved.

In the event of a government shutdown this week, the Bureau of Labor Statistics will not be able to issue its Friday jobs numbers, the abysmal nature of which usually causes a slide in the market. Therefore, what can't be told will not endanger the bottom lines of the investor class. Our ignorance is their bliss.From Reuters:
In a second explosive Washington cliffhanger, Congress must agree to increase the $16.7 trillion limit on federal borrowing, which the administration says will be reached by October 17. If Capitol Hill fails to act in time, the unthinkable could happen and the United States could default on its debts.
But even in the options market, which is often seen as the place to offset risk and make protective bets against a decline in the stock market, there is little or no volatility premium priced in for the debt ceiling debate.
A growing number of market participants are even viewing the battle in Washington as an opportunity to jump into equities.
"Every situation we've had like this over the past few years has been a buying opportunity. This is just another wrinkle, not a time to change your strategy," said Andres Garcia-Amaya, global market strategist at J.P. Morgan Funds in New York with $400 billion in assets under management.
During the federal government shutdown from December 15, 1995, to January 6, 1996, the S&P 500 added 0.1 percent. During the November 13 to November 19, 1995, shutdown, the benchmark index actually rose 1.3 percent, according to data by Jason Goepfert, president of
An unthinkable tragedy of epic proportions if we default on our debts and merely threaten to drown government in a bathtub is a tried-and-true buying opportunity for the chosen few. Welcome to the feudal states of America.

Meanwhile, the official story from the Paper of Record is that the House of Reprehensibles is meeting in one of those increasingly common "rare Saturday sessions" (the crisis atmosphere is immediately ramped up just thinking of the spectacle of politicians working on weekends. It seems like only six months ago that Congress was meeting in a whole series of rare weekend, middle-of-the-night sessions, the better to screw us as we slept unaware in our beds.)

And President Obama, in his all-too-common Saturday dose of pabulum, proclaimed that "the American people have worked too hard to recover from crisis to see extremists in their Congress cause another one.”

Huh? I was not aware that the American people had actually recovered from anything. Most of us are hardly working, through no fault of our own, thanks to the real crisis: a decades-long unraveling of the social safety net and government for the common good that culminated in an epic crash and burn and the opening of the most extreme wealth chasm in American history.  Even during the times of outright slavery, the income inequality was not as bad as it is now.


Here are reprints of my New York Times comments from yesterday and today. First, from Charles Blow's excellent piece on a Congress full of demented Ahabs stalking the whale of an Obamacare law:
Take a 2,000-page law that nobody's read, in large part because the average American reads about a book a year. Throw in ownership of 90% of all media outlets by six conglomerates. Add a coup d'etat by a minority faction owned by the Koch cabal, with its billionaire-bloated tentacles winding and squeezing their way around the Supreme Court to the halls of Congress, to the state houses, to K Street, cable, the hinterland, and beyond -- and you've got yourself one epic mess, a tragedy in its final act.
And yes, right along with the pathological greed of the plutocrats, racism in the Age of Obama has blown up like a tempest in a Tea Pot.
Those Koch-funded alien abduction probe ads seem to be doing the trick. Because, according to another poll, while 46% of Americans view Obamacare negatively, only 37% view the Affordable Care Act negatively. Another 30% had no opinion, because explaining things is not in the pollsters' job description. Nor is it the job of the media, according to NBC flack Chuck Todd. They aim to please their sponsors by mastering the script.
In a sane world, in a real democracy, our politicians would be hounded daily over the fact that the vast majority of us want Medicare for All.
Just think. The law that created the Canadian single payer health plan is all of 13 pages long. But that is way too complex, when the continued spin of the closed feedback loop -- wealth begetting power begetting wealth -- depends upon keeping us simple, stunned and quiet.
And from yesterday's editorial on the Republican Ransom Note, in which the unnamed writer warns against a possible Democratic cave to extortion:
Here's how Disaster Capitalism kabuki always works (unless the Tea Party crashes the party again.)
The GOP submits its usual laundry list of impossibly outrageous demands. The Democrats, rather than countering with demands of their own, such as a Robin Hood transaction tax on Wall Street trades, a living wage bill, lifting the contribution cap on Social Security taxes -- whine and complain and waffle. And then, phony disaster looming, they begin to capitulate, bit by teensy bit. Because they're the adults in the room. Also because the plutocrats of Fix the Debt are back in town, clamoring for Social Security and Medicare cuts.
Republicans want to slash $40 billion from SNAP? The Senate, bless their little adult hearts, already agreed to "snip" $4 billion, on top of the planned expiration of the increase in the program that was put into effect under the 2009 stimulus package and that nobody even dreamed of renewing. And the Dems are willing to cut even more. They haven't a clue or a care about the millions of people who might miss a few meals because of their grand bipartisan horse-trading.
As Gore Vidal observed, this country boasts one political party with two right wings. And we're drifting ever closer to the bipartisan-manufactured, plutocrat-approved point of no return from de facto feudalism.
It could be avoided if the president did his constitutional duty and invoked the 14th Amendment, simply ordering the government to pay the bills.
And finally, my comment on Paul Krugman's Plutocrats Feeling Persecuted:

If the malignant rich had as many brains as they do dollars, they'd know better than to whine and complain. The magnates have become magnets -- for the seething anger of the great unwashed masses.
They feel compelled to rub our noses in it, with their insatiable need to criminalize poor people every bit as compelling as their endless craving for yet another financial fix. The extraction of rents, the extraction of 350 times the income of the average worker is not enough, nor is their reaping of 90% of all the gains since the collapse that they themselves instigated. 
The thing about this new breed of plutocratic class warriors is that they ain't got no class.
Take the Extell Corp. of NYC, income disparity capital of the world. Developers (big political donors) wanted to get some special state subsidies for themselves, and tax deductions for the purchasers of luxury condos in their new high-rise. So, they grudgingly agreed to include some affordable apartments in the same building. The tenants, who already pay regressive tax rates on their own labor in order to fund the rich, are thus double-dipped through their rent payments. Oh -- and they must use their own special back door to get in. Plus, they're barred from using the pool and the full-sized basketball court.
Economic apartheid is now the de facto policy of the feudal states of America. We are subsidizing our own serfdom and perpetuating our own inequality, just so that the rich may be quantitatively eased.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

America the Exceptional

I owe my readers an apology. I neither watched nor read Obama's sermon at the United Nations yesterday. I did not savor his appearance at the Clinton Greed-Washing Rich People Confab. I am not joining the required liberal mock-fest of Ted Cruz's phony filibuster. I did not and do not eat Green Eggs and Ham. (the progressive blogs are reverse-orgasming over the Cruzian rape of Dr. Seuss. I imagine Gail Collins will devote a full column to it)

Okay. So my denial of watching the latest American Atrocity Exhibition is a fib, kind of. Because, although I did turn on CNN yesterday, I  kept the mute button on my remote firmly in the ON position the entire time. Did you ever watch Obama speechifying with the sound off? Let me tell you, the body language was a pretty scary sight to behold. It was a non-stop hodgepodge of  ambidextrous scolding, defiance, self-righteousness and barely disguised surliness. 


His facial expression was a contorted mélange of sanctimony, prissiness, and general aggrievement. Watching with the sound off sort of reminded me of the old films of those World War II despots that Walter Cronkite used to show on his 21st Century TV show. My fondest memory of childhood Sunday nights is being curled up in the den with my dad, watching Hitler and Mussolini and Stalin gutterally bloviate. Of course I didn't understand a word they said. And what really baffled me was that they always seemed so consumed with rage. They really seemed to hate the whole human race. And yet, there were those infinite throngs of people, cheering their every word!

But back to Obama. I did read the New York Times version of the United Nations event. Some editor, I suppose out of a sense of smarmy fairness, inserted one token dismissive paragraph of Dilma Rousseff accusing America of criminal behavior deep within the body of the Obama hagiography. Talk about burying the lead! When the seventh largest economy on Earth calls out America for breaking international law, you'd think there would be banner headlines. The gratuitous Times mention so jarred with the whole tone and gist of the piece that it was obviously a last-minute decision, lest the wrath of the Public Editor be evoked. And nobody managed to call out the president for being for war before he was forced to be for diplomacy. Or, how much he seemed consumed by the Cheney borg, trumpeting American Exceptionalism. Or, as a precious few journalists noted, how he took his allotted 15 minutes of fame and tripled it without so much as a by-your-leave from the Lesser Countries.

It was apparently a Big Lie-a-Minute extravaganza. See David Swanson's excellent deconstruction here.

Maureen Dowd, meanwhile, waxed vituperative about the photo-op of Barry shaking hands with the successor of the "provincial Iranian fruitbat" never coming to fruition before he fled into the "sweaty and freighted embrace of the Clintons". And by the way, I think Dowd is getting a bad rap from the commentariat. She is an equal opportunity abuser. Her schtick is the display of the Inside-the-Beltway Shallowness in all its atrocity, for which she herself is accused of being shallow. She has the gift of showing, not telling. She is increasingly a parody of herself, and she does it exceedingly well.

Most readers of her latest column were incensed over her shockingly mean-spirited lead, in which she wrote that "The One" had once been heralded as the Messiah. Nobody seems to remember that, yes indeed, he and his handlers did actually embrace the Barack as Christ meme. It was Oprah who called him The One, saying that "we need politicians who know how to Be the Truth." (as opposed to a mere mortal who might only be expected to tell the truth.) Michelle promised Americans that he could heal "the hole in our souls." At one campaign speech, Obama himself intoned in response to the cheering crowd, "I give all praise and honor to God. Look at the day the Lord has made." 

So, I says to the embattled Maureen, who I am sure reads all the comments:
But didn't you know America is exceptional? It was announced at the U.N., as the whole world listened ever so politely. With the refreshing exception, of course, of Dilma Rousseff. And Ted Cruz in his ostrich Keds, filiblustering his heartless heart out. 
We have the most billionaires, paradoxically coupled with the highest wealth disparity ranking on earth. We're 24th in both life expectancy and per capita income. We imprison more people than any other country on earth. And why not? We have more prisons than the lesser countries. 
The USA ranks a dismal 19th in retirement security, yet the Serious People all agree we need to cut Social Security. Our kids, a shameful quarter of them poor, scored 25th in math, 17th in science and 14th in reading. Ergo, they're closing schools and firing teachers. 
We have the most expensive health care system in the world with some of the worst outcomes. Seven people get shot every hour -- but six are lucky enough to live another day!
So God Bless Us. With our 1,000 military bases and our long history of doing the greatest good for the fewest number, we are truly exceptional. 
And God Bless Hillary. Looking toward 2016, which began for the pundits In November 2012, she actually makes me glad that Obama is still president. Because the only thing worse than a potential prez bragging about American exceptionalism is a politician telling a magazine that she loves elephants, stupid movies, laughing at dogs, and going for walks. 
God help us.

It's official. Running for president is now just like auditioning to be the new Miss America. Hillary (whose resume-padding State Department stint Maureen rightly castigated as being nothing but a marathon international good-will tour) is starting to sound like a better-educated version of that hapless beauty contestant from a few years ago:

I personally believe that U.S. Americans are unable to do so because, uh, some, uh, people out there in our nation don't have maps and, uh, I believe that our education like such as in South Africa and, uh, the Iraq, everywhere like such as, and, I believe that they should, our education over here in the U.S. should help the U.S., uh, or, uh, should help South Africa and should help the Iraq and the Asian countries so we will be able to build up our future for our children.

Are you there, God? It's us, the holey-souley United Statesians.

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.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Legends of the Fall

Happy First Day of Fall, Y 'all! (It's not till Sunday, but better early than never.)

The seasons may change for most of us, but the  manufactured fiscal crises dreamed up by our leaders for the sole purpose of scaring us and screwing us always seem to remain the same. Our political system, ruled as it is by the moneyed interests, has all the seasonality of Antarctica: forever frozen in phony bipartisan gridlock, the better to attract the campaign and lobbyist cash while they pretend to fight over war, citizen surveillance, immigration reform and gun control.

Or conversely, (as long as I'm gridlocked into seasonal metaphor mode) another way to look at the American political machine is to compare it to the enervating climate of the equatorial regions, where there are only two kinds of weather -- Dry and Wet.

Dry season just ended. Nothing much happened, because the congress critters were all on vacation, soaking up the sun and the cash, as were the star nattering nabobs of corporate media land. The exception, of course, was War or Not To War. That was then.

Now comes the utterly predictable phony budget crisis deluge. The monsoon of disaster capitalism is upon us once again. The tainted money will flow, the fast-revolving doors between government and corporations creating their own virtual whirlpool of graft and corruption.

The inquiring little minds of the self-important poobahs all want to know: will we sink into the manufactured quagmire, or will we swim toward those happy bipartisan shores, celebrating from afar the continued pleasures of the entitled rich? Will President Obama cave to the Republicans, or will he allow the government to shut down, endangering the treasured family values of the NSA, now "weathering" their own storm of bad publicity? Will Obama pretend to fight back, only to sign his long-desired backroom Grand Bargain deal that saves Obamacare at the expense of Social Security and the rest of the safety net? Do Americans stupidly and paradoxically think that Congress should both refuse to raise the debt ceiling, but also pay the government's bills on time? (unfortunately, that last one is a definite Yes. Forty-four percent of Americans have no idea how the economy works.)

And that reminds me. I've been reading an excellent book on the French Revolution by Simon Schama, called Citizens, and I just learned something rather shocking. I had no idea that the literacy rate in late 18th century France was higher than it is in present-day America the Exceptional. Even peasants and servants, denied the right to vote, could read. Education combined with anger and hunger made that revolution possible. Not to mention their vibrant versions of blogging and social media, composed of a wealth of newspapers, broadsides  leaflets and pamphlets readily available on every street corner. The hurling of invective became an art form. Even the aristocrats were scrambling to save themselves by joining the ranks of the oppressed vocal majority.

So, it's really no wonder that the leaders in both American political parties want to transform our public schools, with their qualified, unionized teachers, into dumbed-down charters run by testing companies and staffed with low-paid freshly minted instructors with an online diploma. The revolution may or may not be televised, may or may not be coming to pass at all. But stay tuned.

In that vein, here are my two New York Times comments from today.

Paul Krugman, The Crazy Party:
If you turned on CNN Thursday, the big news was that the Grand Guignol Party is now eating its own. And not only that. According to Dana Bash, rumors are swirling on Capitol Hill that Ted Cruz has no gonads! That clip was played all day, in between those annoying ads for Norfolk Southern, which keeps America running, hauling all that fracked oil along our crumbling rail lines.
When the corporate media starts mocking the GOP, a faint ray of hope emerges. Unless you're careful, your imagination may start running wild. You picture a time when the "right" will consist of a fusion of repentant old-style Republicans and insipid centrist Dems, strongly countered by a progressive faction of humanists going full steam ahead (due left) and not stopping until we have Medicare for all, expanded Social Security, a huge jobs program, restoration of Glass-Steagall, punitive taxes for profit-hoarding corporations, living wages, a Robin Hood tax on Wall Street trades, strong gun control laws, a drastically reduced military, an eviscerated surveillance state, the repeal of Citizens United, and federal funding for public schools.
In other words, majority rule and people over profits.
Yes, my imagination may be out of control. But not as out of control as the sorry bunch of nihilists in Congress. With their sadistic votes against both Obamacare and food stamps, they are now officially on record as wanting to starve, sicken and kill people.
They've finally gone too far, even for them.
And, in response to an editorial called Another Insult to the Poor (on the $40 billion in food stamp cuts approved by the House yesterday):
Calling the Republican vote against food stamp funding an act of supreme indifference is being a bit kind. When you willfully snatch the sustenance right out hungry people's mouths, it's more akin to pathological hatred.
Rather than simply barring the action from a Senate vote, rather than simply threatening a presidential veto, now is the time for the Democrats to go into full attack mode. The Senate has already done the unconscionable, agreeing to cut a "reasonable" $4 billion from the SNAP program to appease the GOP. They should rescind that pathetic compromise immediately, and insist that funding be increased, rather than cut by a single penny. That is, if they still want to retain their credibility as the party of the poor and working classes.
The time for compromising with the GOP nihilists on anything is over. The time for standing up for suffering people has never been more urgent. The time for strengthening the entire social safety net is now.
We must refuse to sustain luxury for the few by perpetuating poverty for the many.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

We Are NSA (Not So Adept) At Noticing the Mentally Ill

You'd think that with a multi-billion dollar surveillance state monitoring our every move, somebody would have been alerted to the fact that Aaron Alexis, a guy with security clearance to work in a military installation, had been complaining about hearing voices in his head and thinking that stalkers were sending microwave signals to his body. Classic symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia.

From Reuters:
Alexis told police he believed people were following him and "sending vibrations into his body," according to a Newport police report.
He told police that he had twice moved hotels to avoid the noise he heard coming through the floor and the ceiling of his rooms, and that the people following him were using "some sort of microwave machine" to prevent him from sleeping.
"Based on the naval base implications and the claim that the involved subject, one (Aaron Alexis) was 'hearing voices,' I made contact with the on-duty Naval Station police," a Newport police officer wrote, adding that he faxed his report of the incident to Navy police.
The Newport police report said Navy police had promised to check if Alexis was in fact a naval base contractor.
 Maybe it's because the military-industrial-surveillance complex has nothing to do with keeping us safe, and everything to do with profits, control, and power for a group of doddering old fools with shiny medals for their chests and Star Trek captain chairs for their padded rumps. Maybe it's because the alleged shooter was not a Facebook fan, and didn't Tweet, or send emails to act as magnets for the NSA dragnet. He just didn't fit the mold of the mythical tribal militant internet chatterer or Occupy subversive anarchist.

He wasn't political enough for the spooks to notice. He didn't threaten the power structure. He wasn't a whistleblower. He didn't worship at a Mosque.

He was just sick. According to several published reports, he had sought help from the Veterans Administration. Whether he was rebuffed, or put on terminal hold, or just got lost in the shuffle like so many sufferers of mental illness remains to be seen.

When I read about Aaron Alexis, I was reminded of an incident in the 70s when I'd just started my first reporting job, and was assigned to the police beat.

Early each morning on my way to the newsroom, I'd stop in at the municipal cop shop in Newburgh, N.Y. to inspect the blotter for the previous night's arrests. One day as I was sitting in the lobby, scribbling my notes, a middle-aged man walked in and approached the desk sergeant.

"You gotta help me," he pleaded. "They're out to kill me."

After failing to elicit any cogent details from the complainant, the cop sent him on his way. As the man shambled out, the officer glanced in my direction, rolled his eyes and shook his head, muttering something about a full moon.

Fast forward a couple of days, and all hell had broken loose in police headquarters. There'd been a hostage situation overnight. A man had barricaded himself with his victims in an upstairs apartment. Shots were exchanged with police, and one hostage died of a bullet wound to the heart.*

Later that afternoon, as the suspect was led into court for arraignment, I recognized him as the same man who'd pleaded for help at the police station. And it turned out he'd also sought help in the local hospital emergency room, and from a Catholic church. He was rebuffed at those sanctuaries, too.

There are thousands of people with severe mental illness in this country, getting rebuffed, every single day. We rarely notice them until (and let me emphasize that this is the exception to the rule) they become violent.

Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, a psychiatrist, appeared on the PBS News Hour last night to speculate on what could have been tormenting Alexis:
Somewhere, something went wrong with his brain in his 20s, and now you're looking at symptoms of the disease, one of which is acting out, in this case killing people. And in his mind, he was doing it based on delusions.
My guess is that he was terminated by the Navy, more or less, discharged on. He probably thinks the Navy were doing all of these things that he's experiencing in his mind, and he was going to get back at them. And so this episode makes no sense to us, but to him it made perfect sense.
And, as to how he could have escaped notice both during the vetting process and on the job: 
First of all, it's important to emphasize, Judy, that most people with schizophrenia don't become violent. It's only a small been who are not being treated who become violent. In terms of -- we put everything together now, and you say this guy was potentially dangerous. He had a brain disease. He had alcohol abuse. Apparently, he had episodes of violence.
 Nobody had that information to put together, and so that -- also people with paranoid schizophrenia actually can look pretty good in an interview. And so it's difficult. This is a man who didn't know he was sick. He had what we call anosognosia, where he has no awareness of his illness. He would have been hard to treat.
It's estimated that about half of all people suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and severe bipolar disorder are going untreated at any given time. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, that amounts to about 3.5 million people.

Since it appears that even the most innocuous gun control laws don't stand a chance in this country, maybe it's time for us to just concentrate on the humanitarian crisis of neglected mental illness.

After all, although the most vulnerable among us don't have a lobby, at least there is no NRA-like anti-mental health lobby skulking around Capitol Hill, threatening congress critters with primaries if they speak up for healthy minds.

Of course, I am being naïve.

* I tracked down a Google archive of my article. To read it, you have to use the "drag" technique.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Dog Whistling to Wall Street: Anniversary Edition

Barack Obama might have lost the battle to appoint one of Wall Street's own to control the Fed and run the world, but the Class War of the rich versus the rest shall continue. For, cynically hidden within his self-serving, platitude-ridden retrospective of the collapse, in which he ascribed virtually no blame to the criminal financial cartel which continues to terrorize and prey upon us, was yet another presidential dog whistle of reassurance to the Malefactors of Great Wealth.

The occasion for this week's presidential speechifying (besides another un-shocking mass shooting rampage) was the fifth anniversary of the result of yet another deregulation-caused rampage: the 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers, and the ensuing loss of trillions of dollars in household wealth. And since the traditional fifth anniversary gift is a product made of wood, Obama decided to bonk us all over the head with another oratorical baseball bat.

 As is usual for him, Obama surrounded himself during Monday's speech with living statues of stone-faced fanboys and girls, to serve as hoi polloi props. Although forced to acknowledge that glaring income inequality has risen to historic proportions in the five years of his tenure, he persisted in portraying himself as part innocent bystander, part hero of the continuing debacle. As is usual for him, he blamed a generic "Congress" instead of the rising plutocracy of which he and they are simultaneously facilitators and members.

Since the entire speech was nothing but a great Big Lie from beginning to end, I will only parse about half of its repetitive mendacity in order to make my points about his weasely subtext. Italics are Obama's actual bloviations.

I want to be clear, though, that even as we’ve dealt with the situation in Syria, we’ve continued to focus on my number-one priority since the day I took office — making sure we recover from the worst economic crisis of our lifetimes and rebuilding our economy so it works for everybody who is willing to work hard; so that everybody who is willing to take responsibility for their lives has a chance to get ahead.

(Dog Whistle # 1: Right off the bat, Obama reveals his cruel inner core of judgmental Calvinism. It is standard Republican dogma that only mythical Horatio Algers willing and able to lift themselves up by their own bootstraps are deserving of a chance. This opening paragraph  echoes the infamous "47 Percent" statement of his faux-nemesis, Mitt Romney, who sank his own presidential chances at that ill-fated secretly taped Boca Raton fundraiser: "My job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”)

In fact, most Americans who’ve known economic hardship these past several years, they don’t think about the collapse of Lehman Brothers when they think about the recession.  Instead, they recall the day they got the gut punch of a pink slip.  Or the day a bank took away their home.  The day they got sick but didn’t have health insurance.  Or the day they had to sit their daughter or son down and tell him or her that they couldn’t afford to send their child back to college the next semester. 
And so those are the stories that guided everything we've done.  It’s what in those earliest days of the crisis caused us to act so quickly through the Recovery Act to arrest the downward spiral and put a floor under the fall.  We put people to work repairing roads and bridges, to keep teachers in our classrooms, our first responders on the streets.  We helped responsible homeowners modify their mortgages so that more of them could keep their homes.  We helped jumpstart the flow of credit to help more small businesses keep their doors open.  We saved the American auto industry. 
And as we worked to stabilize the economy and get it growing and creating jobs again, we also started pushing back against the trends that have been battering the middle class for decades.  So we took on a broken health care system.  We invested in new American technologies to end our addiction to foreign oil.  We put in place tough new rules on big banks — rules that we need to finalize before the end of the year, by the way, to make sure that the job is done — and we put in new protections that cracked down on the worst practices of mortgage lenders and credit card companies.  We also changed a tax code that was too skewed in favor of the wealthiest Americans.  We locked in tax cuts for 98 percent of Americans.  We asked those at the top to pay a little bit more.

(Dog Whistle #2-a,b,c,d etc: And this little piggy went We We We all the way home, right past the five-year statute of limitations! Sssh..... don't worry, Financial Overlords of the Universe. Larry and Barry got you covered. We nibbled around the edges so that the American people paying no attention think that we're doing stuff for them. And that bit about modifying mortgages was full of chutzpah, even for me. All that TARP money that was supposed to help people keep their homes? It went to you guys instead. No questions asked! You're still making more than 300 times the salary of the average schmuck! You gotta love me for being willing to stand up here and lie like this.)

So if you add it all up, over the last three and a half years, our businesses have added 7.5 million new jobs.  The unemployment rate has come down.  Our housing market is healing. Our financial system is safer.  We sell more goods made in America to the rest of the world than ever before.  We generate more renewable energy than ever before.  We produce more natural gas than anybody. 

(Dog Whistle #3: The unemployment rate is down because people have given up in despair. The chronically jobless are no longer counted. Notice how suddenly it's "our" businesses? Obama easily pivots in this paragraph from the suffering masses right over to the corporations. He lamely tries to include the rest of us in his "healing economy" meme.... our housing market.... our financial system.... we sell.... we generate.... we produce more natural gas. It has nothing to do with "us", of course. He is talking to multinational corporations in this paragraph, and couching his love and admiration for their greed as patriotism, a sentiment we are being invited to feel. The last sentence, by the way, should have been delivered in the first person singular. He is beginning to sound like President Buzz Windrip, the "con man/Rotarian" slimeball in It Can't Happen Here. It can, and it has.) 

Health care costs are growing at the slowest rate in 50 years — and just two weeks from now, millions of Americans who’ve been locked out of buying health insurance just because they had a preexisting condition, just because they had been sick or they couldn't afford it, they're finally going to have a chance to buy quality, affordable health care on the private marketplace.

(Dog Whistle #4: The profits of the private insurance industry will remain safe, bloated, and protected under Obama's watch. Health care costs are slowing because people can't afford to seek medical attention. But in anticipation of ObamaCare, premiums and co-pays continue to skyrocket in many markets. And if they aren't, then the insurance grifters can always take their business elsewhere. Obama signals that there is no danger -- I repeat, no danger -- of a single payer program ever coming to pass. People will have the "right" to buy insurance from a predator. They will not have the right to actual care. There is a difference.)

And what all this means is we've cleared away the rubble from the financial crisis and we've begun to lay a new foundation for economic growth and prosperity. 
And in our personal lives, I think a lot of us understand that people have tightened their belts, shed debt, refocused on the things that really matter.  All of this happened because ultimately of the resilience and the grit of the American people. And we should be proud of that.  And on this five-year anniversary we should take note of how far we've come from where we were five years ago.

(Dog-Whistle #5: Who writes this crap? Notice the clumsy grammar - "because ultimately of" in the bolded sentence above. In any event, this is where Obama begins the pivot into Deficit Cult Derangment Syndrome territory. The Simpson-Bowles Catfood Commission is alive and well in Obamaville. He uses the gratuitous austerity already inflicted on the suffering masses to praise them for their totally involuntary Grit and Resilience, which along with No Boots on the Ground, ranks as one of the most annoying and overused phrases in the presidential lexicon. And in a nod to Wall Street, he gushes about how far we have come in the last five years. Do 90 percent of all the gains since the Crash to the top One Percent ring a bell?)

But that's not the end of the story.  As any middle-class family will tell you, or anybody who’s striving to get into the middle class, we are not yet where we need to be.  And that’s what we’ve got to focus on — all the remaining work that needs to be done to strengthen this economy. 
We need to grow faster.  We need more good-paying jobs.  We need more broad-based prosperity.  We need more ladders of opportunity for people who are currently poor but want to get into the middle class.  Because even though our businesses are creating new jobs and have broken record profits, the top 1 percent of Americans took home 20 percent of the nation’s income last year, while the average worker isn’t seeing a raise at all. In fact, that understates the problem.  Most of the gains have gone to the top one-tenth of 1 percent. 

(Dog Whistle #6: Knowing just what we were thinking when we were thinking it, he pivots right back to the suffering masses again. Always keep them confused as to whose side you're on. Maybe you're on their side! Remember the simmering sentiments of Occupy. So acknowledge their pain, even if you not quite as adept at pretending to feel it like Bill Clinton was.) 

So, in many ways, the trends that have taken hold over the past few decades — of a winner-take-all economy where a few do better and better and better while everybody else just treads water or loses ground — those trends have been made worse by the recession. 
That’s what we should be focused on.  That’s what I’m focused on.  That’s what I know the Americans standing beside me as well as all of you out there are focused on.  And as Congress begins another budget debate, that’s what Congress should be focused on.  How do we grow the economy faster; how do we create better jobs; how do we increase wages and incomes; how do we increase opportunity for those who have been locked out of opportunity; how do we create better retirement security — that’s what we should be focused on, because the stakes for our middle class and everybody who’s fighting to get into the middle class could not be higher. 
In today’s hypercompetitive world, we have to make the investments necessary to attract good jobs that pay good wages and offer high standards of living.  And although ultimately our success will depend on all the innovation and hard work of our private sector, all that grit and resilience of the American people, government is going to have a critical role in making sure we have an education system that prepares our children and our workers for a global economy.... 

The problem is at the moment, Republicans in Congress don’t seem to be focused on how to grow the economy and build the middle class.  I say “at the moment” because I’m still hoping that a light bulb goes off here.  (Laughter.)
So far, their budget ideas revolve primarily around even deeper cuts to education, even deeper cuts that would gut America's scientific research and development, even deeper cuts to America’s infrastructure investment — our roads, our bridges, our schools, our energy grid.  These aren’t the policies that would grow the economy faster.  They're not the policies that would help grow the middle class.  In fact, they’d do the opposite.

(Dog Whistle # 7: Yeah, blame it all on those pesky "trends" rather than deliberate policies. Those "trends" are simply the spawn of the living breathing Free Market Bitch Goddess who rules all of us, dontcha know. In this paragraph, Obama whimsically asks a whole shitload of open-ended questions with all the righteous moral urgency a tepid machine politician can muster. And then don't offer any solutions. Blame it all on Congressional gridlock, as if your own policies or lack thereof have not contributed to this epidemic political and financial criminal malpractice. Go for the cheap laugh, and fire up the dwindling base by blaming Republican recalcitrance and attention deficit disorder instead of the complicity of the two corrupt sides of one Money Party.)

Up until now, Republicans have argued that these cuts are necessary in the name of fiscal responsibility.  But our deficits are now falling at the fastest rate since the end of World War II.  I want to repeat that.  Our deficits are going down faster than any time since before I was born.  (Applause.)  By the end of this year, we will have cut our deficits by more than half since I took office.
That doesn't mean that we don't still have some long-term fiscal challenges — primarily because the population is getting older and they're using more health care services.  And so we've still got some changes that we've got to make and there's not a government agency or program out there that still can't be streamlined, become more customer-friendly, more efficient.  So I do believe we should cut out programs that we don’t need.  We need to fix ones that aren't working the way they're supposed to or have outlived their initial mission.  We've got to make government faster and more efficient. 

(OK, I probably shouldn't even call this paragraph Dog Whistle #8, because it's more like a direct bull-horn blast to Wall Street and the predators of Pete Peterson's Third Way Fix the Debt cabal. Despite the shrinking deficit and slow growth, he still wants to cut Medicare and Social Security. He still pretends to believe that less money in people's pockets will be good. As is usual for him, he euphemizes such cruelty as "fiscal challenges." Half of the population may be teetering on the brink of poverty, but hey, let's make them suffer even more. Especially those old geezers who are sucking up all the health care and selfishly want to retire with dignity. Screw 'em. Obama cares about his customers, understand. Wink, nod, chuckle.)

But that's not what is being proposed by the Republican budgets.  Instead of making necessary changes with a scalpel, so far at least, Republicans have chosen to leave in place the so-called sequester cuts that have cost jobs, harmed growth, are hurting our military readiness.  And top independent economists say this has been a big drag on our recovery this year.  Our economy is not growing as fast as it should and we're not creating as many jobs as we should, because the sequester is in place.  That's not my opinion.  That's the opinion of independent economists. 

(Dog Whistle # 9: Repeal the Military Sequester. War, war, war, bombs, drones, not pinpricks. war. Forget Head Start closings, or Meals on Wheels deliveries cut off to old geezers sucking up all that medical care.)

The sequester makes it harder to do what’s required to boost wages for American workers, because the economy is still slack.  So if Republicans want the economy to grow faster, create more jobs faster, they should want to get rid of it.  It’s irresponsible to keep it in place.
And if Congress is serious about wanting to grow the economy faster and creating jobs faster, the first order of business must be to pass a sensible budget that replaces the sequester with a balanced plan that is both fiscally sound and funds the investments like education and basic research and infrastructure that we need to grow.  This is not asking too much.

(Dog Whistle #10: He still wants the Grand Bargain. His idea of a balanced plan is to inflict even more austerity on suffering people in exchange for asking the obscenely rich to chip in a few more pennies to call it even. Bring back Head Start in exchange for agreeing to permanent immiseration through Chained CPI. Heads, Wall Street wins, and Tails, we lose. Blame the other party, not the hoarding corporate welfare hordes, for stagnant wages.)

Congress’s most fundamental job is passing a budget.  And Congress needs to get it done without triggering another crisis, without shutting down our government, or worse — threatening not to pay this country’s bills.  After all the progress that we’ve made over these last four and a half years, the idea of reversing that progress because of an unwillingness to compromise or because of some ideological agenda is the height of irresponsibility.  It’s not what the American people need right now. 
These folks standing behind me, these are people who are small business owners, people who almost lost their home, young people trying to get a college education, and all of them went through some real tough times during the recession.  And in part because of the steps we took, and primarily because of their courage and determination and hard work, they’re in a better place now. 

( Dog Whistle # 11: The president will never surround himself with members of the permanent underclass, angry people, obviously sick people, people dressed in rags. Here, he reassures Wall Street that he will keep the peasants, or "folks", in line. Grit and resilience, determination and hard work will be tolerated by the ruling class. Marching in the streets, walking off McJobs, sit-down strikes? Not so much.) 

But the last thing they’re looking for is for us to go back to the same kind of crisis situations that we’ve had in the past. And the single most important thing we can do to prevent that is for Congress to pass a budget, without drama, that puts us on a sound path for growth, jobs, better wages, better incomes.
Now, look, it’s never been easy to get 535 people here in Washington to agree on anything.  And budget battles and debates, those are as old as the Republic.  It’s even harder when you have divided government.  And right now you’ve got Republicans controlling the House of Representatives, Democrats controlling the Senate, Democrat in the White House.  So this is always going to be tough.
Having said that, I cannot remember a time when one faction of one party promises economic chaos if it can’t get 100 percent of what it wants.  That’s never happened before.  But that’s what’s happening right now. 
You have some Republicans in the House of Representatives who are promising to shut down the government at the end of this month if they can’t shut down the Affordable Care Act.  And if that scheme doesn’t work, some have suggested they won’t pay the very bills that Congress has already run up, which would cause America to default on its debt for the first time in our history and would create massive economic turmoil.  Interest rates on ordinary people would shoot up.  Those kinds of actions are the kinds of actions that we don’t need. 
The last time the same crew threatened this course of action back in 2011 even the mere suggestion of default slowed our economic growth.  Everybody here remembers that.  It wasn’t that long ago. 
Now, keep in mind, initially, the whole argument was we’re going to do this because we want to reduce our debt.  That doesn’t seem to be the focus now.  Now the focus is on Obamacare. So let’s put this in perspective.  The Affordable Care Act has been the law for three and a half years now.  It passed both houses of Congress.  The Supreme Court ruled it constitutional.  It was an issue in last year’s election and the candidate who called for repeal lost.  (Applause.)  Republicans in the House have tried to repeal or sabotage it about 40 times.  They’ve failed every time.
Meanwhile, the law has already helped millions of Americans — young people who were able to stay on their parents’ plan up until the age of 26; seniors who are getting additional discounts on their prescription drugs; ordinary families and small businesses that are getting rebates from insurance companies because now insurance companies have to actually spend money on people's care instead of on administrative costs and CEO bonuses.

(Dog Whistle #12: He conveniently fails to mention that as president and defender of the Constitution, he retains the power and the duty to pay the nation's debts. He can mint a trillion-dollar coin with the stroke of his pen. But gridlock sells. Lobbyists must prosper. And most important, Wall Street does not like the trillion dollar coin idea. They cannot be impeded from extracting their rents, cheap labor, and blood.)
They said that they wanted entitlement reform — but their leaders haven’t put forward serious ideas that wouldn’t devastate Medicare or Social Security.  And I've put forward ideas for sensible reforms to Medicare and Social Security and haven’t gotten a lot of feedback yet. 
They said that they wanted tax reform.  Remember?  This was just a few months ago — they said, well, this is going to be one of our top priorities, tax reform.  Six weeks ago, I put forward a plan that serious people in both parties should be able to support — a deal that lowers the corporate tax rate for businesses and manufacturers, simplifies it for small business owners, as long as we use some of the money that we save to invest in the infrastructure our businesses need, and to create more good jobs and with good wages for the middle-class folks who work at those businesses.  My position is, if folks in this town want a “grand bargain,” how about a grand bargain for middle-class jobs?  So I put forward ideas for tax reform — haven’t heard back from them yet.
Congress has a couple of weeks to get this done.  If they’re focused on what the American people care about — faster growth, more jobs, better future for our kids — then I’m confident it will happen.  And once we’re done with the budget, let’s focus on the other things that we know can make a difference for middle-class families — lowering the cost of college; finishing the job of immigration reform; taking up the work of tax reform to make the system fairer and promoting more investment in the United States.

(Dog Whistle # 13: He will whine in public, but won't take the time to arm-twist for the "middle class" like he arm-twisted and whisper-campaigned for Larry Summers and bombing Syria. This speech is just part of the resume-padding strategy for what promises to be a very lucrative post-presidential career. Membership on the boards of Citigroup and Third Way beckon, as do speaking gigs and vacation homes. Besides the "challenges" euphemism to justify cut and slash, another favorite of the centrist cult to which Obama belongs is "sensible." If you don't agree that reducing benefits for orphans, widows, wounded vets and retirees is "sensible", then you must be bonkers, just as bad as those nasty Goopers.)
If we follow the strategy I’m laying out for our entire economy — and if Washington will just act with the same urgency and common purpose that we felt five years ago — our economy will be stronger a year from now, five years from now, a decade from now. 
That's my priority.  All these folks standing behind me, and everybody out there who’s listening — that's my priority.  I've run my last election.  My only interest at this point is making sure that the economy is moving the way it needs to so that we've got the kind of broad-based growth that has always been the hallmark of this country. 
And as long as I’ve got the privilege of serving as your President, I will spend every moment of every day I have left fighting to restore security and opportunity for the middle class, and to give everyone who works hard a chance to get ahead.  
Thank you, everybody.  God bless you.  God bless America.  (Applause.)

(Dog Whistle #14: "The economy" is defined as the continued unfettered grift and repugnance of the transglobal financial cartel. Mammon blesses it through High Priest Barack.)

I left out the redundant paragraphs in the speech, mainly about Obamacare, so if you feel cheated in any way, you can watch The One in his entirety in the link above.

An equal-time response from a representative of the grit and resilience of the American people can be viewed here.