Thursday, June 28, 2012

Obamacare: Supreme Court Endorses Extracting Maximum Profit From Sick and Injured

It's official. It's constitutional for disease managers to extract the maximum profit from sick and injured people. Apparently, that's "change you can believe in."

It's a safe bet health insurers will now increase their staffing, in order to more effectively analyze patient claims, so they can see where to withhold payments and authorization, and thereby maximize profits. In exchange for issuing policies to the most unhealthy people, they will be allowed to jack up premiums on the elderly. Sweet.

For those keeping track, the favorability ratings of the health insurance industry are below those of the tobacco industry. A 2009 USA Today survey revealed that only 4 percent regarded the insurers as "honest and trustworthy." In fact, entrusting our health care to them is like entrusting our lungs to the tobacco industry.

Nothing in the Obama care bill spells out what benefits must be offered for insurance plans to qualify for the government-run health insurance exchanges that will be set up in 2014. But everyone must buy insurance, which will mean a swarm of cut rate policies designed to provide coverage without care, so private insurers can take money in without paying out. That's the name of the game in capitalist health care.

Absurdly redundant bureaucracies will continue to siphon off huge resources that could be better spent on needy patients. The U.S. currently wastes more than a trillion dollars a year on unnecessary middle-men in its grotesquely inefficient private insurance system. Administrative costs consume thirty-one percent of America's private health care spending. By comparison, administrative costs under Medicare are just 3 percent. But the government returns no equity to stockholders under Medicare, so it's by definition inefficient - at generating profit.

Obama quickly abandoned the popular and sensible single-payer system (basically, Medicare for all), in order to keep the Health Mafia Organizations in business, which they would not be if they had to compete against a more efficient government insurance plan. The public option was tossed out, along with a related "Medicare buy-in" that would have allowed people 55 and older to join the national health care system. Obama also made a secret bargain with pharmaceutical companies that the government would not "negotiate drug prices and demand additional rebates from drug manufacturers," this under pressure from lobbyists, and in opposition to 85 percent of the American public.

Americans can now be required to pay up to 9.5 percent of their income on insurance that will only cover an average of 70 percent of their medical expenses. Also, insurance companies are allowed to deny care with no court review of such decisions. Private insurers must cover people with pre-existing conditions, but they can charge people who don't meet their wellness guidelines double what they charge others. They can charge triple if they are older. Medicaid is to be expanded - with 16 million more people covered. But Medicaid is so underfunded that many doctors, paid such poor reimbursements, refuse to accept Medicaid patients. States are already stretched thin trying to pay for Medicaid, causing more cuts to services and less reimbursement to doctors.

Not surprisingly, Obamacare has devolved into another big giveaway to the private insurance companies and Big Pharma, in violation of the public will, and without the obvious measures to reduce gouging in the manner taken by other industrial countries. The new law will not make health care universal, or more cost-effective, efficient, and affordable for millions of middle-income Americans. Instead, it will guarantee hundreds of billions of dollars in windfall profits for pharmaceutical companies charging extortionate prices for drugs, because the government refuses to use collective bargaining power to negotiate costs with them.

Obama care features an individual mandate, high premiums, fines (actually a tax, says the Supreme Court) for those who don't buy the crappy product, and a lack of cost controls on insurers and providers. Obama's argument is that, in order to avoid "disruption," we need to take the current terribly wasteful privatized system and throw more money at it, rather than extend Medicare to everyone.

Obamacare actually worsens our health care crisis by further privatizing it. A large part of the increase in coverage under the law is based on an expansion of Medicaid, which is already vastly underfunded compared to the medical need it ostensibly addresses. Meanwhile, the number of uninsured Americans continues to grow, and soaring health-care costs (price gouging) destroys U.S. families and businesses. The most cost effective way of dealing with such a crisis would be to expand and improve Medicare, putting all Americans on the already established public insurance, instead of using hundreds of different health care companies that make profits from throwing sick people off their rolls. At least Medicare and Medicaid have been effective at improving the health of the population and lifting people out of poverty, while the same obviously cannot be said of private HMOs.

But Obama supports cuts to Medicare through the Independent Payment Advisory Board. The GOP openly advocates a voucher "Medicare" system; Obama favors slowly strangling the system with cuts, leaving seniors struggling to find doctors willing to take on their medical problems.

This is what "democratic choice" amounts to under government of rich capital, by rich capital, and for rich capital.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

A Solemn Review of Extremely Important Recent Events

In Greece, the New Democracy party narrowly defeated the anti-austerity Syriza party, a great relief to wealthy investors throughout the world, who are now free to continue the policy of letting Europe's top 10% devour the bottom 90%, a lemming-like rush to collapse that continually widens the scale of disaster, but does nothing to combat the disease. Stay tuned for more trouble.

Lawyers for Jerry Sandusky tried to paint the former Penn State assistant football coach as an overly affectionate but tragically misunderstood pillar of the community, whose work with boys was motivated by altruism, not lust. Meanwhile, author Edward Conard ("Unintended Consequences: Why Everything You've Been Told About the Economy Is Wrong") was reviewed in the New York Times, arguing that the superrich make life better for everyone, routinely risking billions to create the rising tides that lift all boats. The conclusion is obvious: The superrich are to the rest of us what Jerry Sandusky was to young boys. Why isn't more gratitude shown to these great public benefactors?

President Obama signed an executive order halting the deportation of somewhere between 800,000 and 1.2 million young illegal immigrants, a move he previously declared would be unconstitutional. The White House insists this is not political pandering in an election year, even though Obama has done nothing about immigration for his entire term to date, after promising to propose a comprehensive immigration reform bill his first year in office.

Of course, no one tries to make sense of why these "immigrants" are here in the first place. They have come largely because the neo-liberal austerity policies favored by Obama uproot people from the land and deposit them in hideously unlivable cities, from which they often seek relief by seeking unauthorized employment in the United States. Then Obama portrays himself as a champion of human compassion by giving short-term visas to a fraction of the "illegals" trapped here, when in fact he is proving himself a master of cynical opportunism by exploiting their desperation for short-term political advantage.

Adidas has canceled the release of an athletic shoe featuring orange shackles and chains after a public outcry that Reverend Jesse Jackson added to by calling the company's new product "offensive, appalling, and insensitive." The cowardice of Adidas in surrendering to Jackson's political correctness is difficult to fathom. A reverend should know better than anyone else that profit is sacred, however earned. Can't he be put on trial at the World Trade Commission for restraint of trade?

Cuban officials have denied that Alan Gross, an American in prison in Cuba for aiding dissidents attempting to overthrow the government, is in poor health. Havana wants to trade Gross for the "Cuban Five," a group sent by the Cuban government to infiltrate Miami-based terrorist networks harbored by Washington for decades. The F.B.I. arrested them, not Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada Carriles, who successfully blew up a Cuban airliner in mid-air, killing everyone on board. George W. Bush has unaccountably remained silent on the matter, though the Bush doctrine clearly states that those who harbor terrorists are as guilty as the terrorists themselves, and must be handled accordingly: by bombing and invasion.

Private profit fundamentalists continue to insist that all the economic trouble in the world is caused by "welfare state" socialist measures that are crippling what would otherwise be capitalism's soaring engine. They call for an entirely new approach of conservative free market individualism, which is a little like calling for an entirely new approach to curing headaches by boring holes in the skull to let the evil spirits out.

Adam Davidson writing in the New York Times Magazine cautioned against unfounded economic pessimism based on this month's report of only 69,000 new jobs. Since the margin of error is around 100,000, the real new jobs figure might be as high as 169,000, which should make tens of millions of unemployed and under-employed Americans feel terrific. Of course, it might be the case that we actually lost 31,000 jobs this month, since the margin of error swings both ways. But Davidson's point is well taken: The secret to creating economic growth is getting consumers and businesses to feel "optimistic about the future." Unfortunately, mass pre-frontal lobotomy appears impractical, so what does he propose? It's rather difficult to feel optimistic about the future with millions of pensions looted, millions of mortgages underwater, millions of jobs exported to "free trade" zones abroad, and not one arrest for the extensive accounting and securities fraud that crashed the economy into disaster in 2008.


"The Week: The Best of the U.S. and International Media," June 29, 2012

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Hero-Worship and Impunity: The Jerry Sandusky Case

Just in case you thought sodomized children might be the obvious victims in the Jerry Sandusky case, an editorial published today from the San Jose Mercury News tries to set you straight: The real tragedy of the case is that, by failing to strike the correct moral posture, Joe Paterno missed his chance to be a hero.

Here's how the editors arrive at this conclusion:

"Being told that Sandusky was seen abusing a boy in a shower, Paterno told a superior -- not the authorities as required by law -- what he had heard. . . . And went on as if it hadn't happened.

"When the revelations finally became public years later, Paterno, then 85 . . . had not the instinct to realize what he had done, to swiftly resign and apologize profusely to the victims and the families and everyone he had let down, and then fade into a chastened but still perhaps dignified retirement.

" . . . Paterno's fate is a tragedy. He probably should have retired long before the Sandusky case fell into his lap. He now passes to eternity less as a legendary coach than as that guy from Penn State who let a pedophile keep abusing kids.

"To those who knew and revered him, it will forever feel as though he was the victim. But he had the power to make it different. He could have done the right thing all those years ago and spared future victims. Or he could at least have faced up to what happened and become a champion for victims of abuse. He could have been the hero.

"That's the take away from all this, after Friday's verdicts. And the real tragedy."

In the first place, Sandusky was not seen merely "abusing" a boy in the shower; he was seen sodomizing him, which is several orders of magnitude beyond mere "abuse."

Secondly, Paterno sacrificed whatever claim he had on a "dignified retirement" the moment he knew what was going on and failed to go to the police. And this would not have been a "heroic" act, merely a necessary one. It is frankly outrageous to suggest that doing anything other than this would have been appropriate, much less heroic, especially years after being informed of the crimes.

"To those who knew and revered him [Paterno], it will forever feel as though he was the victim."

Here it's difficult to escape the conclusion that the Mercury News' editors are helping foster the very climate of hero worship that gives people like Sandusky their opportunity to victimize children in the first place. The victims were the children; Paterno doesn't count. But he made himself count in a negative way by his failure to act. This is no one's responsibility but his own.

Obviously, Sandusky should never have been allowed to be a coach, but neither should Paterno. Sandusky is a predator, Paterno a moral imbecile. Young athletes deserve better than either of these two.

Parents are now wondering, appropriately enough, how deep the moral rot runs in organized sport, and exactly what risks are entailed in letting their children participate. We should not surrender to hysteria on this count, but we should adopt a critical attitude towards the "winning forgives everything" attitude so dominant in the sports world today. Athletes and coaches are athletes and coaches, not Gods, and we should demand moral behavior of them just as we do everyone else.

The presumed impunity with which Sandusky acted arises from a culture of hero-worship in which the adored figure is presumed to be incapable of wrong. This presumption makes it easy for men like Sandusky to believe that wrong simply doesn't exist, which is undoubtedly how he continues to maintain his innocence, even as he concedes that he took showers with his victims and engaged in affectionate "horseplay," as though that would have been permissible.

The Mercury News' editors engage in apologetics when they explain - as though it were relevant - that Paterno was of a generation that simply ignored sexual predation, hoping it would go away without the need for confrontation. To wit:

"In the olden days, reports of sexual abuse prompted many, whether priests or educators or even parents, to try to wish it away, hope they were wrong about what they thought they saw or heard or were told, and to grasp at the flimsiest of excuses to tell themselves they had done their part, done the best they could, fulfilled their responsibility. That is was not really that bad. That the kids would be fine.

"This was Paterno's downfall... When the revelations finally became public years later, Paterno, then 85, being of that earlier generation, had not the instinct to realize what he had done, to swiftly resign and apologize profusely to the victims and the families and everyone he had let down . . ."

As though letting a sexual predator run riot for years constituted a mere "let down" to the victims, one that could be swiftly erased with a perfectly useless apology.

The problem here is with the attitude of the Mercury News' editors. They still appear to believe that great coaches are Divine, and so they are prepared to downplay grotesque criminal behavior in the interest of continuing the delusion that success in sports is synonymous with Godlike perfection.

But it's not.


Bay Area News Group editorial: "The tragedy of Sandusky's case is that Joe Paterno could have been a hero," Marin Independent Journal, June 23, 2012

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Quick! Stuff Your Savings in a Mattress!!

Downgrades by Ratings Agency Deal Blow to 15 Big Banks

After putting banks on notice months ago, Moody’s Investors Service cut 15 large firms’ ratings, which could do lasting damage to their bottom lines and unsettle the markets.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Political Nuthouse in Review

Growing anti-austerity sentiment in Europe portends a break-up of the European union on the shoals of popular democracy. Even if the Euro is saved, it may only postpone the rise of people power, as social democratic protections are so woven into the fabric of developed nations that their removal practically guarantees a loss of democratic legitimacy on the part of austerity-loving elites. If we have no right to survive, they have no right to rule.

Responding to Republican charges that he is leaking national security secrets to the media on purpose, in order to harvest votes based on a populist "tough guy" image, President Obama said this week that it is "offensive" to suggest that the leaks were deliberate. Note that it is not offensive to continually approve drone attacks that slaughter civilians. It is only offensive to seek political benefit from it. Welcome to the psychotic world of U.S. national security planners.

The corollary to this perversely absurd logic is that, sitting safely in the White House thousands of miles removed from where the pilotless drones do their murderous work, President Obama is engaged in manly behavior by deciding which people they shall target, which is not necessarily the same people that are actually blown up. In point of fact, President Obama is not a "tough guy," but a total coward: He risks nothing while killing defenseless people thousands of miles away. Recall that the Times Square bomber objected not to U.S. oppression, but to the cowardly manner of killing its enemies (by drone attacks). How long will it be before the enraged victims of this policy figure out how to re-route a U.S. drone to the White House?

For those who feel better with Obama in the White House than they did with George W. Bush, consider this: Bush was supposedly "dumb" for making national security decisions "from his gut," whereas "smart" Obama is said to consult Thomas Aquinas's philosophical writings on waging "just war" when he decides which people to annihilate. Isn't that comforting? Mass murder as a policy remains, but it is implemented by an intellectual instead of a cowboy. Hallelujah!

This week witnessed a preview of this fall's sure-to-be dismal presidential debates with President Obama declaring that "the private sector is doing fine," and Mitt Romney ridiculing the notion that there is any economic rationale in hiring "more firemen, more policemen, more teachers." Of course, both candidates are correct from an elite point of view. Wall Street (the private sector) is doing fine, but it will do even better when it lays off more public sector workers, freeing up money for the plundering class to keep squandering. Try not to laugh yourself sick when you are told that choosing between these two mental cases represents "the most important election in our lifetimes."

Another orgy of undeserved praise for Ronald Reagan greeted the 25th anniversary of his Brandenburg Gate speech, in which the actor-imbecile urged Mikhail Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall. Reagan's policy prescriptions were, at the time, responsible for enormous massacres in Central America, the Middle East, and Southern Africa, but Reagan worshippers ignore this in preference for the idea that he was a human rights champion who single-handedly brought down Communism.

Not according to Georgi Arbatov, who at the time he wrote his memoirs (1992) was head of the Moscow-based Institute for the Study of the U.S.A. and Canada. He insisted that the huge U.S. military build-up during the Reagan years actually impeded the movement for change in the USSR.

Not according to George F. Kennan, former U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union. He argued that the extreme militarization of U.S. foreign policy strengthened the position of the hard-liners in the Soviet Union, and delayed rather than hastened the vast changes that overtook the USSR.

Not according to Aleksandr Yaklovev, Gorbachev's close adviser, who said Reagan "played no role" in instituting "changes in our policy."

Not according to common sense. Many of Reagan's predecessors were far tougher on Communism than he was, and succeeded only in solidifying and strengthening Communist rule. Woodrow Wilson outright invaded the U.S.S.R. Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover continued his policy of refusing to recognize Moscow. From Truman to Kennedy, presidents set up espionage rings in the Communist states, helping them with armed struggle, political assassination, and sabotage, such as derailing trains, wrecking bridges, damaging arms factories and power plants, and so on. Compared to these policies Reagan was a lightweight. Nevertheless, the consequences of these "tough on Communism" policies were regular serious confrontations between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R.; repeat brushes with nuclear war; Soviet interventions in Hungary and Czechoslovakia; creation of the Warsaw Pact; and total hostility and cynicism between Washington and Moscow for decades. In short, Reagan was no tough guy, and the tough guy policies that pre-dated his presidency utterly failed to bring down Communism.

In a similar way, Obama's wholesale terrorism and "tough guy" rhetoric has completely failed to end retail terrorism as a tool against U.S. empire, yielding, if anything, only an enhanced desire for revenge among the victims of USrael policies. Like Reagan before him, Obama breeds the murderous animosity he claims to abhor, and assigns the bill - in blood and money both - to the American people.


"The Week, - The Best of the U.S. and International Media," June 22, 2012

William Blum, "Killing Hope - U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II," (Common Courage Press, 1995)

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Immigration: Rhetoric and Reality

Little of the terminology currently employed in debates about mass violation of immigration laws describes reality. For example, an immigrant is someone who submits to the established legal procedures for becoming a tourist or long-term resident. An illegal immigrant is therefore a contradiction in terms. The term "illegal alien" is preferred by those who favor mass expulsion of unauthorized laborers, but an alien has to be non-native to the territory in question for the description to fit. In the United States this creates insoluble difficulties, as Mexicans are clearly more native to North America than anyone of European ancestry.

Many who call for respect for the law erroneously claim that violations of immigration law are crimes. This is not true. Immigration infractions are a matter of civil, not criminal law, and due process rights do not obtain. Therefore, they are not crimes. We recognize this implicitly in everyday speech. When someone asks, "What's crime like in your neighborhood?," we never answer that crime is rampant because there are many people without legal visas residing among us. We know that the question refers to assault, robbery, rape, and murder, not jaywalking, littering, illegal parking, and trespassing.

Not that it matters. Even if speeding were a capital offense, no sane jury would convict a driver of violating the speeding laws if it could be shown that he was rushing a critically injured passenger to the hospital in order to save his life. This is basically what "illegal immigrants" are doing when they enter the country illegally. Overwhelmingly from high repression, low-wage regions of the planet, they come in search of an economically viable mode of existence that can help them and their families survive.

That is not a crime.

Yesterday, a reporter interrupted President Obama during a Rose Garden ceremony, asking him why his immigration policy favored foreigners over American workers. The question could just as well have been directed to Obama's "free trade" (pro-outsourcing - ed.) policy, which severely undercuts American workers, but this obvious parallel didn't occur to the questioner, so we'll leave it aside for the moment. Why, indeed, does Obama permit the mass violation of U.S. immigration laws?

The answer should be obvious, especially to a Wall Street Journal reporter. Because U.S. workers are infected with an "entitlement mentality," which leads them to believe that public policy should guarantee them a living wage plus benefits, including medical care, pregnancy leave, sick days, paid vacations, and a secure retirement. Big business has never wanted to pay these costs, and did so partially and temporarily only under duress, when the U.S. workforce was much more unionized than it is today, and when one sixth of the world's territory was officially communist. Now that these pressures are gone, the 1% wants to repeal the human rights advances of the 20th century and revert to the economic slavery that prevailed in the 19th century. Hence the resort to desperate and illegal labor that has never enjoyed such social democratic protections.

There's nothing like mass exploitation to keep labor cheap, cheap, cheap, which is what made America great.

Instead of scapegoating immigrants as criminals, U.S. workers need to join hands with them to confront the real criminals: the unrepentant Wall Street pirates that live by looting, not working. Four years after they crashed the economy, poverty and unemployment are worse than ever, and President Obama can't even say the word "poor" out loud.

If the truth be told, displaced workers from other lands would like nothing more than to be able to go home to viable jobs, rather than continue to be persecuted in the U.S. But the long-term austerity economics favored by Washington has crushed democratic movements time after time, and left vast areas of the world permanently mired in destitution and misery.

Workers are understandably reluctant to return to that.

Source: "Reporter spars with Obama after interrupting Rose Garden remarks," Wall Street Journal, June 15, 2012

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Rosa vs. The Rodents

The social disease that is capital’s political economics has become more dangerous as global demands for real democracy and an end to majority servitude puts ruling regimes in a near frenzy. Power of the few over the many has never been more threatened than at the present moment and rulers are moved to even more crazed behavior than usual. It’s as if rats on a sinking ship were all suffering terminal illness but were armed with nuclear weapons and convinced that rodents were superior to all other life forms and must survive for the ship to remain afloat.  Humanity needs to be more critical and militant than ever before because the dangers we face are more serious than ever before.

A nearly hysterical media mind assault is working to create  support for further military madness in Syria via western intervention beyond the sneaky manner it has already taken. This would likely bring not only much greater tragedy to the middle east but almost without doubt extend victimizations and horror to the middle west. The imperial regimes in the USA, Israel and their lap dogs in NATO and the Arab feudal dictatorships want Syria, Iran, Hezbollah, Russia, China and any other entities which stand in the way of their total domination to bend to the will of the west or die. The trillions of dollars and millions of lives wasted in previous wars have taught rulers only that they need more bloody murder in order to maintain their status as rulers.

The rest of us need to insist that what we have paid and are still paying in lives and dollars for these wars is a moral and financial price we cannot afford and will refuse to pay any longer. The fact that growing numbers are saying just that is provoking further craziness by the rodents who still  barely control the ship as it flounders more desperately in raging waters.

Authority vindictiveness directed at those who alert the  public to what goes on behind the plastic curtain of consumer capitalism’s steady destruction of earth  - and even outer space where commercial efforts are underway to spread garbage and profit - is evident in growing police state suppression. The trial of Bradley Manning and the renewed threats to Julianne Assange are the tip of an iceberg that has formerly covert democracies moving closer to overt fascistic suppression of freedoms once thought the birth rights of their citizens. These two heroic figures are treated as  treacherous criminals by the increasingly oppressive rulers of the west. Individuals are too often glorified or demonized by our culture in order to deny social responsibility and privatize the marketing of profits and losses, but Manning and Assange are true representatives of mass society and their individual personalities are far less important than the social work they do and have done for humanity. They need to be defended by any who truly want another world far better than the present one.

The continued assault on inefficient and failed attempts at humanizing capitalism via social democracy by regimes advocating austerity programs are countered only by weak opposition holding out for the kind of government bailout that worked for the New Deal of the 20th century. But another tax payer financed salvation of private capital is a desperate grab at the past. It saved the system for a generation, but it’s time has run out and awareness of that fact is necessary or humanity’s time will run out as well.

Trying to save the failing system of minority profit at majority loss with further burdens for that majority will only serve the make the rodents a little fatter while they spread their disease and threaten all with nuclear destruction as the ship keeps slowly sinking. The burdens absorbed by tax paying majorities to “save” minority billionaires through their banks and their governments is no longer tolerable. The sooner we create public banks, higher minimum wages, caps on what individuals can amass in private fortunes and an end to malevolent military policies that rob us of trillions while profiting a relative handful of vampires who thrive on human blood, the sooner democracy will prevail and bring about an environment that benefits all and not just a small portion of humanity.

Time has run out for the “master race-chosen people-we’re special-you’re not” western domination of the planet. We all need to note that ending in order to make the changes necessary for a future that offers all of us a better life. If humanity can survive this global crisis there may well be a new era of success for the race, and not just a small minority that deems itself above all others. But the actions of democratic movements all over the world need to connect with greater numbers in populations under assault but manipulated into screeching at scapegoats instead of taking action against real criminals. The faster the global movement gets out of the grasp of established manipulation , breaks down barriers that divide humanity into controllable minorities, and connects ideals and dreams into collective actions, the sooner humanity will see a better day.

Many years ago Rosa Luxemburg said we faced a future of “socialism or barbarism” and sadly, barbarism has ruled since then. But its days must be numbered or not only socialism but life itself may become  victim of the rodents as global ships of state simultaneously sink in the total collapse of a financial, moral and environmental ecosystem.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Vote For Nothing.. and Get It

"Our parents are grateful because they're voting. We're the first generation to say that voting is worthless."
Marta Solanis

"Elections have become a charade, run by the public relations industry.”
Noam Chomsky

Millions of global citizens agree with the young Spanish woman and the older American intellectual quoted above, most obviously many in Egypt and Wisconsin. Though the popular uprisings in that nation and that state are hopeful signs of democracy in the making, resort to the electoral process only proves the truth of their words. That process is owned and controlled by the entrenched state power of financial interests and until money is taken out of the supposedly democratic electoral process, it is indeed ultimately worthless.

Analysts and apologists for the electoral defeat of an exciting democratic movement in Wisconsin are especially galling when they search for excuses and place blame everywhere but on themselves. Somehow surprised at the introduction of millions of dollars into the election, they seem to have missed much of american history. While it is true that a fairly recent supreme court ruling made it possible to shove even more money into the election business, that political mall has been the property of the wealthiest financial interests since the nation began. That things are getting even worse in electoral politics is just another sign that they’re getting worse for everything and everyone but the owner-controllers of society.

That top 1% and its professional servant class in the upper levels of the 99% are getting richer and will continue to do so if we let them take the movement further from real change and guide it to worthless campaigns guaranteed to bring out billions of dollars in support of the status quo, as it is doing for the November elections in America. That presidential vote will be called the most important one in history , as they are almost all dubbed by the public relations/advertising departments of the parties of capital. Millions of sincere voters will flock to the polls with that belief firmly established by state propaganda for the two corporate parties, each claiming to offer change with neither meaning of substance but only of style with the same basic content:

the profit system will rule under the control of private economic forces, and it will continue to make life miserable for more people while adding to the morally if not always legally criminal wealth of a relatively tiny group. That group at the top may contain a few more who are labeled people of color, multi ethnic, gay or other subdivisions, but the majority will have far more members of these so-called minorities who need to see their and our common state and stop allowing themselves to be permanently divided into sub-human or special-race categories.

The  people who worked so hard to oppose the Wisconsin Governor’s attack on workers and social spending took inspiring action. But the moment it was routed into electoral policy, especially the ridiculous notion  that the governor would be thrown out for the very political beliefs which got him elected only one year before, the whole movement was sidetracked if not derailed.

Unions aroused to political action as almost never before , this time aligned with great sectors of the general public which is overwhelmingly non-union , soon became their all too usual lock-step supporters of the democratic party. A movement partly initiated because of an attack on collective bargaining – really never more than a sop to capital that has helped keep unions docile and divided – became one run by a party that relied on a campaign in support of the same candidate who had been defeated a year before. It’s opposition amounted to charging alleged scandal in the governor’s past rather than any rallying of the public to a populist program behind a newly expanded populist base.

Collective bargaining has long been the affirmative action of the working class, keeping it divided while doling out special benefits to chosen sectors of that class. Meanwhile most workers remained unorganized, which is exactly what the owner-controllers of society wanted and continue to get. The attack on it could have offered an opportunity – and still may – for unions to speak and act for all workers, not just “their” members, as was the original purpose of organizing unions. And the people who rallied to the union’s support at seeing attacks on their own security if allowing these assaults to continue on others, were acting as members of a majority and not some authority selected minority fighting for its rights while being separated from everyone else’s.

The opportunity was lost in a wasted effort that lead to hurt feelings , recrimination and the all too usual scapegoating and blaming directed at all but the most responsible for the defeat: those who demanded a foolish recall and were drubbed by an even greater margin than the Wisconsin governor had achieved the first time. They even lost the votes of many union members , showing again how out of touch the leadership of both the worthless party and its captive unions are with the common people who make up the seemingly mythical 99%. That magic percentile now falls  from the lips of electoral hustlers; the very political class that keeps it divided among minorities, identity groups, and thus helpless to act as a  majority speaking with one voice. We can only hope the activists who had and have a real critique of the politics and economics at the root of our problem will remain steadfast and not lose any of the faith that motivated them into action.

The Spanish woman and Chomsky were hardly speaking against democracy but only pointing out what citizens in Egypt and Wisconsin have learned:

a process under the control of ruling minorities cannot pass the test of democracy and must be dealt with before we can have elections that bring people and parties to power which represent the changes we desperately need, in Wisconsin, America, Egypt and all over the world.

The elections in Greece will  at least offer that electorate a party and candidate representing a totally different way of organizing society and using its wealth. Until we can all have such electoral choices, there is no sense taking up time and energy to simply insure that state power remains in the hands of 1% capital and its house servants while the majority continues to see their collective future disintegrating.

 We need to vote with actions that make the political process truly democratic, and those actions will demand strikes, refusals to cooperate with authority, withholding of services by other means and more, along with electoral work only when it can make a difference and not simply reaffirm power in a new suit, dress, or some other label to reduce a potentially powerful majority to the relatively helpless group of minorities it has been manipulated into becoming.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

More News From a Political Nuthouse

The Wall Street Journal, celebrating the defeat of the recall of Wisconsin Tea Party Governor Scott Walker, declared that Big Labor's "monopoly claim on taxpayer wallets" was at an end, and that politicians around the country should heed the message that, "An aroused electorate can defeat a furious and well-fed special interest."

The only thing missing from this is a laugh track. The idea that there is anything like "Big Labor" in the United States is laughable. The political clout of public sector unions is quite modest, and obviously nowhere near that enjoyed by big business and the Israel lobby, both of which bear direct responsibility for fiscal disaster on the state and local fronts with their endless promotion of imperial wars. (As Indian author Arundhati Roy pointed out on a visit to the U.S. in 2003, the initial $30 billion disbursement for the Iraq war was paid for with service cuts at the state and local level in the year prior to the Iraq invasion.) These two lobbies are the only ones that can accurately be described as having a "monopoly claim on taxpayer wallets," witness the limitless and separate tab established for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and the trillions of dollars in bailout money extended to shore up worthless assets in banks deemed "too big to fail." The Journal's final point, however, is on target. An aroused electorate can indeed defeat a well-fed special interest, but the Journal is oblivious of the fact that the special interests the American public needs to defeat are big business and the Israel fanatics, not public sector workers.

New figures on the employment front demonstrate that media references to "recession" and "recovery" are highly misleading, if not arbitrary and meaningless. The unemployment rate in "recovery" continues to exceed what it was in the beginning of "recession," with the latest jobs report registering an increase in joblessness. And keep in mind that when discouraged workers quit looking for work on the quite rational grounds that there aren't any jobs out there for them to find, this registers as a drop in unemployment, since there are fewer workers actively seeking work. Orwell would have been impressed.

The New York Times has disclosed that President Obama, from the early days of his administration, took charge of deciding which "terrorists" to kill with drone strikes. In regular "Terror Tuesday" sessions at the White House, Jo Becker and Scott Shane report, Obama and his advisers pore over "baseball cards" depicting official enemies and decide which ones to execute. Not one to shirk his "manly" obligations, Obama feels he has a "moral responsibility" to not delegate these duties to someone else.

Who counts as someone deserving of death? Anyone and everyone. The CIA counts all "military age males" killed in a drone strike as enemy combatants, even if they're unidentified, on the assumption that if an "Al Qaeda" evildoer is present, everyone around him is a terrorist, too. This allows Washington to concede that it is firing drones at non-uniformed people in civilian neighborhoods, but killing few or no civilians. As for the children killed, well, they are mere "collateral damage." Perhaps the White House should take a page out of Wall Street's book and declare itself "too arrogant to fail."

Meanwhile, "opposition" Republican Senators Saxby Chambliss of Georgia and John McCain of Arizona claimed not that their president was a psychotic mass murderer, but that he was unfairly cultivating a "tough guy" image designed to win re-election in November. Thank God George Bush never did that.


"The Week - The Best of the U.S. and International Media," June 15, 2012

Thursday, June 7, 2012


Which one is the real quote and not a Legalienate Political Paraphrasing?

In The Politics of Genocide, Herman and Peterson write that,

“The case for eight thousand “men and boys” being executed at Srebrenica is extremely thin, resting in good part on the difficulty in separating executions from battle killings (of which there were many in the July 1995 Srebrenica actions), partly on highly contestable witness evidence (much under coercive plea bargaining), and an interest and passionate will-to-believe the worst of the thoroughly demonized Serbs.”

In The Politics of Genocide, Herman and Peterson write that,

“The case for six million jews being exterminated at Auschwitz and other places  is extremely thin, resting in good part on the difficulty in separating death from  disease  and executions from battle killings (of which there were many in the second world war actions), partly on highly contestable witness evidence (much under coercive plea bargaining if not physical torture), and an interest and passionate will-to-believe the worst of the thoroughly demonized germans.”

First correct answer wins a one year subscription to Fox TV

Second correct answer wins two years…

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Arsonists In Charge of the Fire Department: Obama's "Team of Rivals"

Befuddled liberals trying to come to grips with "what went wrong" with President Hopey Changey need look no farther than his political appointments to realize that nothing went wrong. Barack Obama simply never intended to make fundamental changes in U.S. politics.

His economic appointments alone gave the game away, as he handed out jobs instead of indictments to key architects of the 2008 economic crash that cost millions of Americans their jobs, homes, savings, and pensions. Appointing Henry Paulson straight from Goldman Sachs to manage the crisis represented extreme cynicism, given the gross conflict of interest involved. Obama's picks were openly praised by Karl Rove, Joe Lieberman, Max Boot, John McCain, and David Brooks. Obviously, the financial industry knew what it was doing in preferring Obama to McCain in 2008, directing their political contributions accordingly.

Obama appointed Timothy Geithner Treasury Secretary. Geithner gave away trillions of dollars to plundering banks deemed "too big to fail." As head of the New York Federal Reserve Bank he appears to have covered up massive fraud at Lehman Brothers. Four years later, no one has been indicted.

The leading members of Obama's initial economic team were Bob Rubin and Lawrence Summers, both energetic cheerleaders for the deregulation that led directly to the 2008 crash. When Rubin was Treasury Secretary in the Clinton administration, he prodded Clinton to cut a deal with Newt Gingrich to partially privatize Social Security, but the plan fell through amidst the commotion generated by Clinton's Blow Job scandal. Rubin also worked hand-in-hand with the IMF enforcing financial shock therapies that worsened the 1997-98 financial crises in Southeast Asia and Latin America, never once doubting the fairy tale economics of trade liberalization that enriched the few while impoverishing the many. In a blatant campaign of elite plundering at public expense, Rubin worked hard to abolish the Glass-Steagall Act, so that Travelers Insurance could buy Citicorp. (Glass-Steagall had required that commercial banks be kept separate from investment banks that incurred high risks.) Rubin had a personal interest in torpedoing Glass-Steagall. After leaving his position as treasury secretary, he became chair of Citigroup, which was facing the prospect of having to sell off its insurance underwriting subsidiary. Without the elimination of Glass-Steagall Citigroup could not exist. Citicorp merged with Travelers Group to become the banking giant Citigroup, which the U.S. government bailed out in 2008, guaranteeing over $300 billion in assets. The Clinton administration never brought charges against Rubin for violating the Ethics in Government Act while collecting tens of millions of dollars in compensation at Citigroup.

Another infamous achievement during Rubin's tenure at Citigroup was putting in a call to a top credit rating agency and the Bush Treasury Department in an effort to delay the down-grading of Enron's credit rating, which allowed Ken Lay and Jeffrey Skilling to defraud the public for a few more frantic weeks.

Rubin was replaced by Larry Summers, who presided over legislation barring federal regulation of derivatives, the "weapons of mass destruction" (Warren Buffet) that helped crash the financial markets into disaster four years ago. Economist Dean Baker, one of the few who predicted the impending crisis, says that placing financial policy in the hands of Summers and Rubin is "a bit like turning to Osama bin Laden for aid in the war on terrorism." [True, but let's not forget that Washington did precisely that in 1980s, when the Reagan administration announced the original war on terror, lavishly funding Islamic guerrillas (including Bin Laden) in Afghanistan, in order to inflict a "Vietnam war" on the former USSR. Upwards of a million Afghans were killed in the fighting.]

Obama picked Eric H. Holder as attorney general, who explained on CNN that the U.S. can't adhere to the Geneva Conventions banning torture because we are dealing with "terrorists," the usual infinitely elastic demon category used to justify everything. Holder now goes around the country explaining how the president has the right to assassinate American citizens with no due process of law. On the grounds of "state secrets" Holder has justified and continued Bush's illegal program of spying on the private conversations of American citizens using warrantless wiretaps. He has also affirmed that Bush, Cheney, and their torture-rationalizing lawyers should enjoy impunity for treating the U.S. Constitution like toilet paper. We can also thank Holder for extending the Patriot Act, allowing the president to treat human rights advocates as terrorists, threatening them with 15 years in prison for advocating nonviolent means to resolving disputes. In the Obama era Dr. King and Mahatma Gandhi might well be cell mates.

The business press reviewed the records of Obama's Transition Economic Advisory Board, which met on November 7, 2008, to determine how to handle the financial crisis. Jonathan Weil of Bloomberg News concluded that "many of them should be getting subpoenas as material witnesses right about now, not places in Obama's inner circle." About half "have held fiduciary positions at companies that, to one degree or another, either fried their financial statements, helped send the world into an economic tailspin, or both." Is it really believable that "they won't mistake the nation's needs for their own corporate interests?" Weil also pointed out that Obama's Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel "was a director at Freddie Mac in 2000 and 2001 while it was committing accounting fraud." When he was a member of the House of Representatives, Emmanuel one of the biggest recipients of Wall Street money in Congress, raking in $1.5 million from the investment industry for his 2006 re-election campaign.

Karl Rove declared he found Obama's cabinet picks, "reassuring." Meanwhile, former Bush advisor David Frum was thrilled with Obama's financial All Star team: "I cannot recall the last time Republicans felt so positive towards a Democratic presidential figure."

Obama's picks to head up his foreign policy team also won GOP praise. Obama assembled Hillary Clinton [a leading Iraq war hawk who approved a Bush plan to attack Iraq in late 2007], Robert Gates (also GW Bush's choice for Defense Secretary), Rahm Emmanuel, and Joe Biden, all with a long record of support for the Iraq slaughter, military intervention in general, and neoliberal economic policies. Richard Perle announced that he felt "relieved," because "contrary to expectations, I don't think we would see a lot of change" from the Bush neo-con policies. Retiring senior Republican senator John Warner, former chair of the Armed Services Committee, appeared equally pleased, saying that "the triumvirate of Gates, Clinton and (James) Jones to head Obama's national security team instills great confidence at home and abroad and further strengthens the growing respect for the president-elect's courage and ability to exercise sound judgment in selecting the best and the brightest to implement our nation's security policies." Excluded from appointments were the 130 House members and 23 Senators who had voted against the Iraq war. At this point, an annoying question intrudes: If Obama got Iraq right, as we have been repeatedly told he did, how come he didn't appoint a single Congressperson who voted against that war?

As his special assistant on the Middle East, Obama chose Dan Kurtzer, Clinton-Bush ambassador to Egypt and Israel, respectively. Kurtzer is close to Obama adviser Dennis Ross, whose position as a negotiator for the failed Camp David negotiations was that Israel has "needs" whereas Palestinians only have "wants," the latter inherently less significant, which makes Obama's Palestine policy frankly racist. According to Israel's leading diplomatic correspondent, Akiva Eldar, Kurtzer played a role in writing Obama's speech to AIPAC in 2008, the content of which was even more disgustingly obsequious than Bush had ever been. "I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon," said Obama, repeatedly stressing "everything" to make it clear Washington was willing to initiate nuclear war on Israel's behalf. He also declared Jerusalem would be the permanent capital of Israel, Palestinians be damned.

Obama's most important staff pick was his vice-president Joe Biden, one of the strongest supporters of the 2003 Iraq invasion among Senate Democrats. Biden brought smiles to Wall Street faces, too, as when he supported a measure to make it harder for hard-pressed individuals to erase debt by claiming bankruptcy.

Rahm Emmanuel was appointed White House chief of staff. Emmanuel is an "ex" Israeli soldier, a long-time Washington insider, and one of the strongest supporters of the Iraq invasion among House members. The leading Democratic party strategist in 2006, he purged anti-war Democrats in favor of pro-war candidates, much to the detriment of Democratic party election results that year.

Interestingly, Larry Summers, Rahm Emmanuel, Stuart Levey, Peter Orzag, Bob Gates, Tim Geithner and other Obama appointees responsible for the disastrous wars, economic catastrophes, grotesque maldistribution of wealth and attendant savaging of U.S. living standards, have walked out or abruptly announced their "retirement," apparently taking leave so they won't be around to take the blame when even more far-reaching catastrophe occurs.

NYT political analyst David Sanger noted in December 2008 that OBama had included "two veteran Cold Warriors [National Security Adviser and former NATO commander James L. Jones and current and future Defense Secretary Robert Gates] and a political rival [Hillary Clinton - Secretary of State] whose records were all more right-wing than Obama's. Also appointed were vice-president Joe Biden, a major Senate facilitator of state propaganda to invade Iraq, UN Ambassador Susan Rice (an eager promoter of the myth that Saddam Hussein had WMD) and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel (a fierce opponent of anti-war sentiment in the Democratic Party, and a leading sponsor of Israeli militarism and apartheid.