Friday, November 27, 2015

Don't Bother, They're Here

 (Optional soothing musical accompaniment.)

Isn't it rich? As the corporate press engages in a frenzy of hand-wringing over the potential Trump regime that they're doing their utmost to create, they're losing sight of the Big Picture.

  Because whether it's draped in the American flag or whether it's nesting inside Trump's comb-over like a plague of lice, fascism is already here. We're already living under a corporate police state: government of, by, and for the oligarchs. This status quo is just making it all that much easier for Donald Trump to rise to power and glory, for Donald Trump to rise in the polls every time he rebukes the standards of political correctness and milks the resentment of the masses. Every time he instigates a campaign rally beating of a protester, or makes fun of a disabled journalist, the cameras are there and the talking heads have something exciting to talk about.

If we had a true democracy, or even a modicum of representative government run by public officials kept honest by an adversarial press, the Donald Trump Experience never would have survived its audition. Trump is only filling a vacuum, serving the corrupt status quo in the imperial end-times.

With his own uniquely usual flair, meanwhile, President Barack Obama is leading the most secretive administration in modern history. He accomplishes this feat by appearing to be accessible and calm and earnest and above-board. After all, a day doesn't go by when the man isn't on TV, whether it's pardoning a turkey with the kids, or holding a news conference on Permawar, or schmoozing with comedians on talk shows. He can't even let next week's 50th anniversary of "A Charlie Brown Christmas" go by without interrupting the festivities to do a really cool imitation of the obfuscatory adult-speak in the show. He has no intention of losing his timing this late in his career. (I was so looking forward to the telecast until I saw the teaser of Barack and Michelle co-opting all the fun with their scary, sincere hokiness.)

Just as George W. Bush paved the way for Obama, Obama is only making it easier for a President Trump.

And yet....

In a rare burst of investigative adversarial journalism, the New York Times today exposes the authoritarian, defensive mindset ingrained within the smiley-face Obama administration. We all knew that this White House has been, as Times journalist James Risen points out, "the greatest enemy of press freedom in a generation." But now his colleague Eric Lichtblau informs us that Obama is even clamping down on his own government watchdogs. He not only "stopped opening doors," he slammed them shut, locked them, and then threw away the key:
The Justice Department watchdogs ran into an unexpected roadblock last year when they began examining the role of federal drug agents in the fatal shootings of unarmed civilians during raids in Honduras.

The Drug Enforcement Administration balked at turning over emails from senior officials tied to the raids, according to the department’s inspector general. It took nearly a year of wrangling before the D.E.A. was willing to turn over all its records in a case that the inspector general said raised “serious questions” about agents’ use of deadly force.
The continuing Honduran inquiry is one of at least 20 investigations across the government that have been slowed, stymied or sometimes closed because of a long-simmering dispute between the Obama administration and its own watchdogs over the shrinking access of inspectors general to confidential records, according to records and interviews.
A New York University professor calls Obama's crackdown on government watchdogs "the most aggressive assault on the inspector general program since the beginning," -- a defanging so complete that their jobs might as well be abolished.

Lichtblau goes on to report that an investigation of the Commerce Department's  records on (probably tepid or non-existent) international trade enforcement actions was summarily shut down because such disclosures would have violated the "proprietary rights" of businesses. Altogether, the article reveals, the Obama administration has restricted access of investigators to the records of 70 different government agencies. The lone exception has been at the Justice Department, which held sway over the Drug Enforcement Agency. That case revolves around the deaths of four Honduran civilians, including one child, in a botched raid. Additionally, DEA agents reportedly shot down civilian planes, a clear violation of international law.

Meanwhile, writes Lichtblau, the government watchdogs have been forced to take their complaints to Congress in hopes of getting them to stage a bipartisan intervention.

And meanwhile, pundits like Timothy Egan and Paul Krugman are staging a freak-out over Donald Trump and the other right-wing clowns. Send 'em in, because otherwise the faux-liberals would have nothing to talk or write about. Heaven forbid that they ever take on the corruption within their own party.

If Trump is elected, he wouldn't be able to contain himself. The man cannot keep his foul mouth shut. He wouldn't be able to resist bragging every time his Brownshirts shoot down a plane and or drone a wedding party to death or bomb a hospital on purpose. He'd bring some much-needed transparency right back into the fascist White House.

My published response to the Lichtblau piece:
When a coalition of open government advocates awarded President Obama its Transparency Award in 2011 to mark Sunshine Law Week, the press was barred from covering the event. When the media tried to get a transcript of his remarks, there was none available.

Some cynics surmised at the time that the award was meant to be "aspirational," just like the Nobel Peace Prize. We now know how ironic both of these honorifics have turned out to be.

Orwellian doesn't even begin to describe the paranoia and secrecy of this administration. It out-Bushes Bush, even out-Nixons Nixon.

Around the time of the Transparency Award secret ceremony, the A.P. obtained emails showing that Homeland Security workers were accusing senior Obama officials of "meddling" with release of files requested under the FOIA. Morale in that agency and other government agencies has been going down each successive year of his administration. This might also have something to do with Obama's "insider threat" directive, which requires government workers to spy on each other.

And yet the White House continues to brag about how transparent it is, when in fact opacity was built in from Day 1. Obama had promised, for example, to broadcast the health law negotiations on C-Span. Once elected, he then proceeded to give away the store to the insurance and drug lobbies behind closed doors, while still promising to fight for a "public option" in his public remarks.

Secretive, Orwellian.... and deeply, deeply corrupt.
Don't you love farce? No, you say?

Well, maybe next year. And I'm not talking about Hillary or Trump.

Replace the Bliss of Obama with the Bern of Bernie, and now we're talking business. Democracy might be salvageable after all.


annenigma said...

Outstanding, Karen.

The Trump side show saves Obama from scrutiny just as the Kenyan! and Socialist! claims did.

Here's my comment, buried far below your well deserved #1:

The NYT is using kid gloves again. So PC. You use terms like tighter lid, slowed, stymied, balked, stalled, etc.

We'd say muzzling, covering up, stonewalling, locking down, locking up, shackling, etc. You know, more prison terms. Indeed.

How about 'Obstruction of Justice'?

Karen Garcia said...

Thanks, Anne. And your comment accusing Obama of obstruction of justice is right on the mark. Watergate looks tame compared to this.

Despite the fact that Lichtblau's article tried to use the kid glove treatment you describe, the facts still had a way of surpassing the language in their disgusting intensity.

I was heartened that the vast majority of the readers writing comments on the article are just as disgusted as we are. I am heartened that the Times didn't immediately bury the article, as they are wont to do with other pieces critical of the Obama administration, such as those on the Kunduz atrocity. I am definitely not going to forget that war crime.

Meredith NYC said...

I haven’t read the Lichtblau piece yet, but here’s my comment to Krugman....not published with my other replies, can’t imagine why, so I sent it again later, edited a bit.

What a constant gift Trump is for columnists. Can’t resist even on Thanksgiving, to amplify him and show outrage at each noise the Trump makes for the media. He keeps pushes buttons of the ‘liberals’, which distracts nicely from our unmet need to discuss what the Dems propose---pro/con and effect on all our lives..

The Paris attacks give Krugman ammunition to criticize EU and relate it to all things he dislikes with his habitual Europe bashing. Ever more obvious how biased and political it is.

He says EU worked for a while, as Europe grew steadily ‘more prosperous, peaceful, and free’---that’s generous of him----but it stopped working. He leaves out that the US has grown steadily less prosperous for its working/middle class. We've created new lower classes.

And we’re surely less peaceful as easily available guns for all spread regular public shootings and domestic terrorist attacks--with no background checks Gun buyers can move from US state to state to find deadly weapons, like terrorist can move through borders of EU countries.

And we’re less free, with biased police racial violence, brutal mass incarceration and excessive sentencing contradicting our Bill of Rights.

He’s indifferent to the many Americans not recovered from the crash with jobs, pay, benefits and home values. The 1 percent, grabbing all the recovery are richer than ever with more influence on our elections compared to all other democracies.

Sure, as Krugman reminds us, social security and deposit insurance sure helped us avoid a 1930s style Great Depression for millions. Yea. But he leaves out that these haven’t been enough to reverse our downward living standards and economic insecurity. Pollyanna is too weak a word.

Despite Krugman’s rationalizations last week for Obamacare, we still lack the secure, affordable h/c that the EU, and Canada has achieved for generations. Plus unions, worker protections against exploitation, and low cost education are common abroad. Where is a NY Times columnist to make these contrasts?

And never let a column or blog go by without mentioning Trump, the rw superman. Just to send the message to readers—be very afraid! Keeps us nicely under control.

Meredith NYC said...

Here’s the interesting reply thread to you on the Times article, with great backtalk to Ron Cohen’s sniping (his surgical strikes to your comment!) I’ve criticized his replies in the past.

Ron Cohen is a trusted commenter Waltham, MA 20 hours ago
Karen Garcia,
"Morale in [Homeland Security] and other government agencies has been going down each successive year of his administration." True? Perhaps. But without a supporting reference, how do we know? (Garcia never provides references.)

"Once elected, [President Obama] then proceeded to give away the store to the insurance and drug lobbies behind closed doors, while still promising to fight for a "public option" in his public remarks." There's enough truth in that sentence to make it sound plausible, but it is an incendiary accusation that masks a complex and volatile situation at the time.

Karen Garcia is a provocateur, who exaggerates and distorts the facts just enough to retain a vestige of plausibility, but whose undoubted aim is to inflame liberal opinion to the point of white-hot anger.

Deeply, deeply, corrupt.

anr Chicago, IL 1 day ago

Karen Garcia is a trusted commenter New Paltz, NY 18 hours ago
@Ron Cohen,

Sometimes the truth inflames. Scary, huh?

Some references:

The NYT's public editor is one among many respected journalists also troubled by the report on Obama's drone attacks. Does that also make her a provocateur?

I also invite you to visit my blog, in which I scrupulously provide links and references to back up my opinions and double-check my facts:

Meanwhile, if you want to keep personally attacking me via the Times comment boards, please show me and other readers the courtesy of providing any evidence in your possession that refutes anything that I have to say. I welcome CONSTRUCTIVE criticism when I make a factual mistake, and I correct errors when they are pointed out to me. There is no need for me, or anyone, to tone it down just because it makes you feel uncomfortable.

RMB Denver 1 day ago
You made a good argument until " It out-Bushes Bush". The Bush administration's lack of transparency covered up war crimes by officials in the White House and their crony military contractors. I am sure you will blame Obama for similar atrocities but until it is proven he outed a CIA agent during a war or profited from military decisions your augment holds no credence. Nobody but nobody out corrupts George W Bush.

Karen Garcia is a trusted commenter New Paltz, NY 21 hours ago

Nobody but nobody protects the corrupt Bush administration like Barack "We Tortured Some Folks" Obama. Nobody but Obama insists on keeping 28 pages of the 9/11 Commission report a classified secret because it reportedly establishes a Bush-Saudi connection. Nobody but nobody does drone strikes like Obama. One whistle-blowing drone operator with a conscience told "The Intercept" that at least 90% of casualties in attacks are innocent civilians. Does that factoid rise to your definition of a war crime, or do you think that the people killed by the "Good Guys" are just some more of that tragic collateral damage?

Steven of Seattle is right. Most people in this country simply don't seem to care that their government is so unaccountable.

Times reporter James Risen has called Obama "the greatest enemy of press freedom in a generation", and with good reason. Now it turns out the Good Guy president is an enemy of even his own investigative staffers.


Meredith NYC said...

continuation of drone program comment thread

Ron Cohen is a trusted commenter Waltham, MA 7 hours ago
Karen Garcia, You wrote:
"Around the time of the Transparency Award secret ceremony, the A.P. obtained emails showing that Homeland Security workers were accusing senior Obama officials of "meddling" with release of files requested under the FOIA.

Morale in that agency and other government agencies has been going down each successive year of his administration. This might also have something to do with Obama's "insider threat" directive, which requires government workers to spy on each other."

Anyone reading the first two sentences in succession would infer that morale in the agency was going down because of the"meddling" with file release. You go on to reinforce that interpretation by speculating, without evidence, that, it may also be related to "Obama's 'insider threat' directive, which requires government workers to spy on each other."

But as the WaPo article makes clear, the drop in morale in several large federal agencies is due to pay and benefit issues. It supports that explanation with the following quote:

Cummings (D-Md.), the top Democrat on the House Committee, said, “This report confirms a correlation between Republican attacks on the pay and benefits of federal employees and a decline in employee morale…. Congress must stop these attacks and reverse the damaging cuts to employee benefits and pay so public servants can ... carry out their jobs for the American people.”


My comment---- Ron’s right re the Post article. The lowered ‘employee engagement index’ score relates only to pay/benefits in the article.
Employees may also deplore Obama’s policies, but that’s separate. There’s enough other stuff out there to use for your points.

The public editor wrote a serious criticism and many comments agreed. She cited Dean Baquet.... “a worthy project...but they didn’t see it as something that warranted its own story, at least not at the moment,”

She says she’s “troubled about how the govt, yes, kills — in secret and often without adequate oversight. I’ve written about aspects of it a number of times.”

Says the Times has done “plenty of worthy coverage of the drone security reporter, Scott Shane, writing a significant big-picture story last April, covering some of the same ground that the Intercept is exploring now. He and Jo Becker also wrote a stunning story in 2012 detailing the existence of the president’s “kill list.” Mr. Shane is the author of a well-regarded recent book on the subject, “Objective Troy: A Terrorist, a President, and the Rise of the Drone.”

“Since The Times has done so much on may may be understandable that only a brief mention of The Intercept’s scoop has been made....Still, given the new information in the released documents....Times journalists might have served readers well to do more on “The Drone Papers.”

Karen Garcia said...


I used the Post article to prove that morale was down. When I wrote that low morale COULD (get it, "could" -- it was an open question, get it?) also be related to the Insider Threat program, I was thinking of this article from McClatchy:

The Times comments box does not allow more than three links. I tried. But anyway, the lovely Mr. Cohen then wrote a later, separate, stand-alone comment repeating his message that I was a corrupt Orwellian provocateur, to which I replied and supplied him with a link from a Guardian article showing that the Intercept's piece on the 90 percent civilian kill rate was based not on the say-so of one worker, but upon a government report. Since then four more Air Force staffers have come forth to corroborate the Intercept and to condemn Obama's drone program as not only criminal but creating more terrorists. The Guardian has that article, I believe by Trevor Timm but I am not sure. I included it in my other reply to Cohen, though, so you can search it out if you feel like it. I don't feel like it.

If you read through my blog you will see that one of the things that I try to do is CONNECT THE DOTS among various articles and reports to arrive at a conclusion or an opinion. In other words, the WaPo article stressed low employee morale and the McClatchy article quoted an expert saying that a toxic work environment is resulting from the employee spy program. Toxic work environment=low morale, right?

Or, is relating one to the other too provocative on my part? If so, good! That was the idea.

Cohen is a nitpicking troll. Normally I don't reply to his crap, but in this case I did because he impugned my character. And I again discovered that it definitely never pays to feed a troll and attempt to explain oneself or to add to the discussion. It just gives them more goodies to chew up and spit back out at you. And then the Times cuts off the comments.

Since the comments were shut down, I couldn't link to the McClatchy piece, even though I'd previously suggested he visit the blog, where it IS linked. Too much trouble for some people, I guess.

Jay–Ottawa said...

@George Orwell

Sir, would you please help us with the word 'Orwellian'?

Does it mean a writer is following in your footsteps as a writer? Then, I suppose it should be taken as a high compliment, at least by people who still control their own braincase.

On the other hand, those converted to Big Brother's way of thinking might use the same term in an attempt to cast aspersions upon someone who isn't with the program, that is, on Big Brother's side. It all depends on the archer, not the target.

Or is the term used to claim our present condition is like your 1984 dystopia describing a society befuddled by euphemisms instead of plain talk, subject to pervasive surveillance, controlled through fear, devoid of caring, and surrounded by endless wars on the periphery? That would be a misuse of the term, of course, because we're nowhere near that sorry state of affairs. Therefore, it would be an exaggeration, subversive, and unpatriotic to connect the dots between the inglorious 1984 and our exceptionally fine 2015.

annenigma said...

Ron Cohen (whoever he is - sorry but I've never noticed his comments, ever) is not a NYT 'trusted' commenter, he's a 'verified' commenter. He deserves no more trust, respect, or credibility than Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize and the Transparency award. The only thing it means is that, like most things in America, money is probably involved. He's probably a paid subscriber rather than a freeloader like many of us. (When I reach my 10 free article limit in any one day, I just close/clear my browser and start over). If he pays with a credit card, there's the verification for the NYT. So let's get over that verified/trusted baloney.

I and many others have considered Karen to be the #1 best commenter at the Times for years, even better than their paid columnists. Even after they cut down the comment lengths and she had to squeeze her comments into fewer words, she still excels. The NYT is missing a great opportunity to showcase someone who really does know where the bodies are buried and is not afraid to say so.

Karen Garcia said...

Thank you, Jay and Anne. Forgot to mention that Cohen also called my views on the Obama administration's secrecy and paranoia "scurrilous." As in Rocky and Bullwinkle, I reckon, with Cohen playing Mr. Know-It-All.

I never noticed his comments until quite recently, either. He has really been lighting into people who support Bernie Sanders.

Somebody else responded to a comment I made on a recent Brooks op-ed by saying that since I don't support Hillary, I am "an enemy of freedom." Gotta love it when liberals co-opt those Manichean talking points!

"You're either with us or against us." -- George W. Bush

Meredith NYC said...

Karen, I'd pasted in a post just before the one above saying "continuation of drone comment thread", because I liked your devastating reply to Ron Cohen so much, which he has coming to him. He posts on Krugman's blog with similar. So I pasted in the thread with the exchange. Don't know what happened to it. But I won't bother re doing it now except for 1st paragraph.

Here’s the interesting reply thread to you on the Times article, with great backtalk to Ron Cohen’s sniping (his surgical strikes to your comment!) I’ve criticized his replies in the past.

Karen Garcia said...


I think that you are referring to the comment thread under my response to a Krugman blog-post:

(If it's all the same to you, I would prefer not to quote Cohen here. Link to his crap if you like, but don't give him the added attention that he so obviously craves.)

The way to sell Berniecare and other social programs to resentful people living in red states is not to try to change their sense of resentment, but rather to appeal to their own survival instincts. For example, in response to a Resentful commenting on my Dowd comment today, I appealed to his self-interest, pointing out how single payer would put money back in his pocket and how the current system is what's forcing him to pay for all those "layabouts" he believes are stealing from him. I told him he is being forced to enrich multimillionaire CEOs of insurance and drug companies, who are really the ones stealing from him, the real deserving targets of his resentment.

This is what I can't stand about establishment Democratic politicians and pundits. They either insult red state voters (and non-voters) making them even madder at "elitism," or they try to appeal to peoples' sense of fair play and altruism by selling them terrible market-based insurance product.

The peeps ain't stupid. But they are very very angry, and rightly so. Enter The Donald.

Meredith NYC said...

Karen....the thread was from Tighter Lid on Records by Lichtblau. But sure, don’t give Cohen more oxygen, tho it’s nice to see him refuted.

Your point in your Dowd post is a good one....appeal to the survival instincts of the ‘Resentful’ red staters, not ‘altruism’ or justice. That’s just what Ayn Rand fans attack---don’t sacrifice the superior for the inferior---that’s fascism. Where’s somebody to write an essay linking Rand USA to the distortion of US founding ideals?

Anyway, your Dowd comment and the replies are fact based reality and should be read by all--precisely the arguments the Nobel economist Krugman should be amplifying in his repeated columns on ACA. What a contradiction---he’s concerned with inequality but is rah rah ACA while it removes huge resources from our economy.

Convincing working class older whites to vote Gop is one of the great public relations hoaxes in the history of democracies.
As Churchill might say---never have so few taken so much from so many. (or similar.)

Their party tells them it aims to destroy what sustains them in their age of vulnerability to health problems and retirement----their SS, Medicare, plus removing their pensions with their jobs sent off shore. We saw the last generation to hold secure jobs in big co’s, with regular raises, loyalty to workers, pensions, h/c and a smaller CEO/worker pay ratio.

College used to be for the rich, then made accessible by the GI Bill, then state subsidies for tuition. This is the 1st college grad generation in history to see mass tuition debt of over a trillion. Warren says it affects our economic growth now.

Sanders thinks the Dems can reach the working class? Well, Sanders might have given his speech linking Democratic Socialism to FDR and MLK a long time ago, before the press had a chance to diss him. I was impressed with the cheering of the college crowd at that speech.

How many generations will it take to break this voting block who’ve been influenced to collaborate with those who destroy them?

Meredith NYC said...

Re Dowd’s silly column--the comments mostly scathing. Btw-- her column was up the other day without comments, then disappeared and came back last night.
She appeared last week on the TV show NYTimes Close Up. Her exquisite facial contours, makeup and hair were perfection itself. Her ideas are not. Don’t know her age but....I didn’t stay for the interview.

My comment to Dowd...maybe a waste of space....

Thanks to Dowd for fanning the flames, muddying the waters, hyping the irrational. As if we need even more. Dowd should seize the chance of this bizarre campaign to move on to her next career as press secretary to one of the sensational candidates she admires for not being politically correct. A perfect match.
A day not citing The Trump is a journalist's day wasted.

This atrocious campaign is Dowd's chance to truly fulfill her talents, as it goes further out into the Twilight Zone. The media is taking advantage and reinforcing the distortion in our politics as it competes for attention. Rod Serling, where are you? Your material is all there.

Jay–Ottawa said...

Ho-Ho! Hey-Hey!
Twenty-five thou
On the Hill Today!

My 15 seconds of fame: That's me holding up a white card on the bottom left edge of the first zero.

Meredith NYC said...

If have time you might look at some of the interesting comments (1390) to NYT op ed :
Who Turned My Blue State Red?
Why poor areas vote for politicians who want to slash the safety net. Nov 20.

One interesting comment had some details about why Fox messages dominate the media in many areas---

"Poor, rural areas may have turned from blue to red due to only hearing one message.

Most rural areas only have one broadcast (free) station whereas urban areas have had multiple broadcast channels since the 1950s. Before cable TV, every urban area I lived in had ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, & a local channel while all the rural areas I lived in had one local channel and if we were lucky, a fuzzy, intermittent signal from one of the national networks.

A fourth national network, FOX, arrived on the scene in the mid-1980s and in most US markets became the network affiliate of the local station

Even in the 21st century, cable or satellite TV still is not always available in many of those same rural areas today and where they are, the cost is pretty much cost-prohibitive for most people of limited income.

That means the only place to get TV news is from what once was the local station but is now the Fox affiliate. Anyone is susceptible to changing viewpoints after hearing one message enough. "

voice-in-wilderness said...

It took me a couple of years to realize that what Obama does as President is almost exactly the opposite of what he campaigned on and what he says in office.

I wish there were a simplistic, sinister explanation, such as Stepford-like swap of a robot for the man between election and inauguration. Unfortunately I think Karen G. speaks to the truth, that the system controls who we get and how they behave. Inverted totalitarianism as the recently deceased Sheldon Wolin wrote.