Saturday, November 22, 2014

An Epic Downhill Flow


Looks like Gaffeable Joe Biden not only retroactively got out in front of his skis, he tripped himself up royally by slaloming down the side of an active volcano. Circa 2010:
"...We're going to be totally out of there (Afghanistan), come hell or high water, by 2014."
It seems he got his weather forecast totally wrong, and that hell can indeed flood over -- much like that renegade Hawaiian volcano, surprising everybody by spewing out its lava on homes that were actually built atop an underwater volcano. The vice president is having one hell of a rough week. First, he gets heckled in Ukraine, just when his cocaine-compromised kid had inveigled his way right into the heart of the CIA-sponsored Kiev kleptocracy.

 And now this blow: The New York Times has to make the Nice Vice look even worse by spilling the magma that Boss Obama has sneakily, behind Joe's very back, extended the longest war in American history into at least 2015. Joe shouldn't feel too badly, though. Obama didn't bother telling the American people about it either. Better to divulge the awful truth in one of those weekend news dumps, when the partisans are either reveling in his faux immigration reform or denouncing him as a Napoleonic despot. The lava can be projectile, it can flow briskly, or it can creep stealthily along. But whatever the consistency, it always flows downhill, and it's always a hot toxic mess.

The Times got the "scoop" (another retro word, which now, more often than not, is defined as an orchestrated self-serving leak from the very highest levels of the White House blow-hole) The gratuitous italics are simply my own thought bubbles:
President Obama decided in recent weeks to authorize a more expansive mission for the military in Afghanistan in 2015 than originally (publicly announced) planned, a move that ensures American troops (will continue to be wounded and killed) have a direct role in fighting in the war-ravaged country for at least another year. (until the last precious mineral and dollar is extracted for the benefit of the American plutocracy.)
Mr. Obama’s order allows American forces to carry out missions against the Taliban and (any convenient scapegoat of his choosing) other militant groups threatening American (imperialism) troops or the Afghan (puppet) government, a broader mission than the president described to the public earlier this year, according to several administration, military and congressional officials with knowledge of the decision. The new authorization also allows American jets, bombers and drones to (make untold and unaccounted-for megabank-laundered billions for weapons manufacturers and their subsidiaries in Congress) support Afghan troops on combat missions.
On Friday evening, (prime news dump time) a senior administration official (too cowardly to identify him or herself) insisted (hilariously) that American forces would not carry out regular patrols or conduct offensive missions against the Taliban next year. 
“We will no longer target (Afghan women and children and farmers going about their daily routines) belligerents solely because they are members of the (human race) Taliban,” the official said. “To the extent that (occupied populations) Taliban members directly threaten the United States and coalition forces in Afghanistan or provide direct support to Al Qaeda, however, we will (kill them) take appropriate measures to keep (oil companies, mercenaries and all manner of profiteers) Americans safe.” 
In effect, Mr. Obama’s decision largely extends much of the (global) current American military role (into perpetuity) for another year. Mr. Obama and his aides were forced to make a decision because the 13-year old mission, Operation Enduring Freedom, is set to end on Dec. 31. (and the enduring freedom of unfettered capitalism to pillage and plunder at will shall not be thwarted, especially since the last thing Princess of Peace-in-Waiting Hillary needs is for Afghanistan to get embroiled in an ISIS-like hijacking of all the expensive weaponry still sitting in that Graveyard of Empires, necessitating another invasion)
So, do you think the Republicans will threaten to impeach, or even worse, continue to call Obama an "emperor" for unilaterally continuing the Afghanistan war?  Do you think the Democrats will bleat out even one feeble peep of protest? Not a chance of a snowball, or flood, from hell.

When it comes to the endless war waged for the sole benefit of the tax-exempt and service-exempt plutocrats and all their spawn, bipartisanship rules. Congressional gridlock becomes but a bad dream, because it was always just an invention of the ruling class and their media sycophants in the first place.

The powers that be are still trying to fool us with their trickle-down economics malarkey, when it's become all too painfully obvious that in the words of that other despot of yore, Louis XIV: "Apres-moi, le deluge."

Friday, November 21, 2014

Pimping Out Lady Liberty

Shorter President Obama: (his exact words are in italics)
 The responsible (right wing dog whistle-speak for non-deadbeat employment-age wage slaves) tired, poor, and huddled masses can stay for a short while as long as they've lived and worked here for at least five years, have procreated on our shores, can show that they are loyal Homelandians, and have the financial wherewithal to pay a slew of fines and back taxes with no benefits to themselves but tons of new profits for their greedy employers. Obama the Merciful and Ming the Merciless are neatly rolled into one passive-aggressive package:
 Undocumented workers broke our immigration laws, and I believe that they must be held accountable, especially those who may be dangerous. (Translation: they shall all be considered dangerous felons until they can prove otherwise -- immigrant justice will be the exact opposite of native-born justice -- or should I say justice reserved for the wealthy native-born?)
This protection bestowed upon them can cancelled at any time. It's a balanced approach. We need to stop them embarrassing me at my speeches and  chaining themselves to the fence of my estate, and at the same time manipulate them into thinking they've achieved a permanent victory.
Also too this proclamation fulfills the needs of my plutocratic backers, since I will allow the enhanced importation of foreign entrepreneurs and investors with lots of money, as well as stealing cheap foreign techies, trained at another's expense, to reward my good donor buddies at Microsoft, Facebook and wherever else in Silicon Valley there are more profits to be made and wages to be suppressed. It's who we are as Americans. It's the far-right thing to do.... I’ll make it easier and faster for high-skilled immigrants, graduates and entrepreneurs to stay (no time limits or draconian registration process here!) and contribute to our economy, as so many business (the oligarchic Business Round Table and US Chamber of Commerce) leaders proposed."
But those thousands of kids fleeing Central American violence historically caused by CIA coups and American imperialism? There will be an immediate surge of weaponized  militarization at the borders to stop them in their tracks and send them home to their fates. Because they didn't work hard and show responsibility like the CIA torturers and Wall Street banksters that I will continuously and permanently protect, each and every day. And that goes for undocumented mothers who had the poor taste to wait until Nov. 21 to give birth. My order does not grant protection to irresponsible pregnant ladies! No room at the inn for you! All of us take offense to anyone who reaps the rewards of living in America without taking on the responsibilities of living in America. 
Oh, and I almost forgot. Within five minutes of my sickly sweet speech, this is the modest image of me that you'll be seeing in your email in-box:

President Obama is taking action. The other side (pretends that they) want nothing more than to tear this program down! So gimme your tired, your poor, your huddled masses. But most important of all, just Gimme, Gimme, Gimme! "Fight back" by donating $15, $35, $50, $100, $250, $500, $1,000 to President Obama's Magical Legacy-Burnishing Machine. Donations will be automatically charged to your credit card, and can be cancelled at any time, just like Obama's temporary selective amnesty order.
That email from Obamorganizing For Action was just one of many that flowed in from the usual Democratic veal pen outfits -- including the ubiquitous MoveOn -- asking for cash and my signature on a thank-you note to the president. So, it was very refreshing to get this one from Presente.Org's Arturo Carmona, urging me to thank the activists who (along with the donor class) essentially forced the Deporter-in-Chief's hand into granting some measure of relief to at least some of the immigrants. Latinos stayed away from the polls and heckled him everywhere he went and did not buy into the lesser evilism excuse that has enabled a pathetic Democratic Party to continue existing as a weak foil to the GOP. Therefore, they won a major battle in the continuing class war. Just think what could be accomplished if other activists joined forces with them nationwide, as are the Chicago labor and teacher unionists.
Writes Carmona, 
"Last night, I was overwhelmed with a bittersweet feeling. While executive action protects four million from deportations and ends the devastating Secure Communities program, seven million people remain left out. But I draw strength from the determination and corazón of our gente — victories like this are hard-fought and will protect millions, but we can't turn our backs on those who are left out. Now, more than ever, we need to renew our commitment to fight for the remaining seven million.
Remember what led to this moment: undocumented youth risking arrest and deportation each time they occupied offices of members of Congress; parents who participated in direct actions and sit-ins in front of the White House; countless immigrant activists, and organizations like Presente, supported by thousands of members like you, all joined forces to hold President Obama and the Democrats accountable.
We're going to keep on fighting until all immigrants receive the dignity and justice they deserve. At a time when cynicism and cronyism plagues D.C. politics, a vibrant immigrant-led movement has prevailed — often in the face of terrifying circumstances. Immigrants stood up to xenophobic Republicans and challenged President Obama to stop countless deportations.

After nearly a decade of fighting, last night marks a big step forward, but the fight is far from over. There are seven million people still left out, including parents of DACA recipients. Next week, as families across the country are sitting down to dinner on Thanksgiving, people may find themselves sitting next to their parents or siblings who've been left out of this executive order. Not to mention the fact that more money is being shifted to further militarize the border which will only increase violence there. But this milestone, achieved through the hands of immigrants and our allies, means that our power is growing and we will not stop until our whole community is together.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Nixon's Jeremiad

I'm talking about Missouri Jeremiah ("Jay"), not the late unlamented Tricky Dick -- although both men seem to be cut from the same paranoid Republican cloth coat. Governor Nixon has essentially just issued an Angry Black People Alert in anticipation of riots after an expected no-bill grand jury finding in the shooting of Michael Brown.

Just like his Old Testament namesake, Jeremiah Nixon obviously fancies himself a major prophet, what with his premature Declaration of Emergency. It must be hard out there for political vehicles of divine revelation.

With the Ferguson community still traumatized, the National Guard is mobilized and the police force is newly weaponized. What could possibly go wrong?

Nixon, actually a putative Democrat, is nevertheless in full Clint Eastwood mode as well as Biblical mode. He looks at the peaceful streets of Ferguson the same way Dirty Harry looked at that empty chair at the Republican National Convention, and sneers at the protesters in his brain: "Go ahead. Make my day."

But to soften up his plan of pointing automatic weapons at American citizens exercising their Constitutional rights, Jeremiah simpered that he only wants to “support law enforcement’s efforts to maintain peace and protect those exercising their right to free speech.”

Or, if you prefer your Orwellian Jeremiads translated into official proclamation-speak:

WHEREAS, the United States Department of Justice and St. Louis County authorities could soon announce the findings of their independent criminal investigations; and
WHEREAS, regardless of the outcomes of the federal and state criminal investigations, there is the possibility of expanded unrest; and
WHEREAS, the State of Missouri will be prepared to appropriately respond to any reaction to these announcements; and
WHEREAS, our citizens have the right to peacefully assemble and protest and the State of Missouri is committed to protecting those rights; and
WHEREAS, our citizens and businesses must be protected from violence and damage; and
WHEREAS, an invocation of the provisions of Sections 44.010 through 44.130, RSMo, is appropriate to ensure the safety and welfare of our citizens.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, JEREMIAH W. (JAY) NIXON, GOVERNOR OF THE STATE OF MISSOURI, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and Laws of the State of Missouri, including Sections 44.010 through 44.130, RSMo, do hereby declare a State of Emergency exists in the State of Missouri.

Because how can we possibly have peaceful free speech without those angelic choirs of sound blasters to enhance it? And all those eyes smarting and burning from the tear gas have to be soothed somehow, so it might as well be with violent therapeutic blasts from military water cannons. Or, as the original Jeremiah prophesied,"A scorching wind from the barren heights in the desert blows toward my people, but not to winnow or cleanse."

Jeremiah Nixon doesn't specify from whom, besides the military and the militarized, the peaceful protesters need protection. I assume it must be the Black Panthers crossing over from some invisible Maginot line from the past, circa-mid 1960s . Or maybe it's the socialist ghosts of Haymarket from nearby Chicago. Or the Weathermen, the Manson Family and the Palmer Raid anarchists all rolled up into one make-believe motley mob. His proclamation doesn't actually say, but the subtext of these things always involves those mysterious outside agitators, who are absolutely essential in order for any modern police state worth its salt to maintain control of its flock.

Update: Stung by widespread criticism of his doomsday prophesying, Jeremiah today blamed growing up privileged on the right side of the tracks for his white person paranoia. And since it is far too late (and he's far too important and busy) to deal with the problems of black and poor folks himself, he is appointing a special commission to explore those pesky racial issues. And he is giving them an overly generous year and a half to report back to him. That strikes me as pretty strange. If he is prophetic enough to foresee riots in the streets, and canny enough to call up the National Guard in advance, he certainly should be able to tell what's going to be in the report before they even write their first word. The New York Times is, as ever, on it.

But ever the Orwellian card, Big Jer joked, "I'm not preparing for war. I'm preparing for peace. I'm preparing for order and peace."

It kind of brings back fond memories of That Other Nixon declaring peace with honor in Vietnam even as he bombed the hell out of Cambodia and Laos.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Fascism On the Homepage

It arrived draped in the Red, White and Blue Cross flag. And the New York Times, which only last week noticed that democracy had collapsed, has today taken a giant logical leap forward and observed that fascism has come to America and taken its place.

The Gray Lady only got one thing wrong in the headline "Health Law Turns Obama and Insurers Into Allies," and that is in the application of the present tense. Obama and the insurers were allies from the get-go, as they connived behind closed doors to remove the public option from the equation and the president continued to lie with impunity about this fact to the American public. Obama's faux populist modus operandi, as we all should have realized by now, is to decry "fat cats"with his smirking mouth and then grandly reward them with his corrupt actions.

Writes health beat reporter Robert Pear,
With the health insurance marketplace now open for a second year, President Obama will be depending more than ever on the insurance companies that five years ago he accused of padding profits and canceling coverage for the sick.
Those same insurers have long viewed government as an unreliable business partner that imposed taxes, fees and countless regulations and had the power to cut payment rates and cap profit margins.
But since the Affordable Care Act was enacted in 2010, the relationship between the Obama administration and insurers has evolved into a powerful, mutually beneficial partnership that has been a boon to the nation’s largest private health plans and led to a profitable surge in their Medicaid enrollment.
(Stop the presses and start lobbying the Pulitzer judges!)
 The insurers in turn have provided crucial support to Mr. Obama in court battles over the health care law, including a case now before the Supreme Court challenging the federal subsidies paid to insurance companies on behalf of low- and moderate-income consumers. Last fall, a unit of one of the nation’s largest insurers, UnitedHealth Group, helped the administration repair the website after it crashed in the opening days of enrollment.
(The hand that stirs the ladle in the tainted kludge soup.)
So much money is at stake that insurers may soon be on a collision course with the Republican majority in the new Congress. Insurers, often aligned with Republicans in the past, have built their business plans around the 2010 law and will strenuously resist Republican efforts to dismantle it. Since Mr. Obama signed the law in March 2010, share prices for four of the major insurance companies — Aetna, Cigna, Humana and UnitedHealth — have more than doubled, while the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index has increased about 70 percent.
(You almost feel sorry for the GOP hypocrites, agonizing between the rock of destroying ObamaCare and the hard place of relinquishing all that cash.)
In addition, the Affordable Care Act has engendered growth in the role of private insurers in Medicaid. The law expanded eligibility for Medicaid, and most of the new beneficiaries receive care from private health plans under contracts awarded by state Medicaid agencies. As a result, Medicaid enrollment is up more than eight million, or 15 percent, in the last year.
In a survey of 10 insurance companies, Joshua R. Raskin, an analyst at Barclays, reported that their revenues from the Medicare Advantage program were up about 10 percent this year. UnitedHealth Group’s Medicaid enrollment surged by nearly one million people, or 24 percent, in the last year, said Stephen J. Hemsley, the chief executive. At another large insurer, WellPoint, the expansion of Medicaid “is proving highly profitable,” Christine Arnold, a managing director of Cowen and Company, wrote in a recent report.
You may remember that WellPoint was actually the architect of the 2,000-page law. Its lobbyist, one Liz Fowler, spun through the revolving doors from the insurance cartel to dictate the terms and conditions to her apprentice, Senate Finance Chair Max Baucus. And once the bill was finally rammed through, Fowler strolled on over to the White House to help Obama craft its actual (and it turned out, abysmal) implementation. And then it was through the revolving doors again for the talented Ms.Fowler, for a stint with Johnson & Johnson. (Price-fixed drugs and medical supplies.) Jonathan Gruber of #StupidGate and comic book fame has nothing on this versatile princess of fascism. As Glenn Greenwald wrote of her, "It's difficult to find someone who embodies the sleazy, anti-democratic, corporatist revolving door that greases Washington as shamelessly and purely as Liz Fowler." 

Unless, of course, it's Barack Obama. It's still early days in his fascistic career, he's still young, and his solid gold revolving doors await him.

As I responded to Paul "Conscience of a Neoliberal" Krugman's latest shameless shilling for Democratic Party crumbs equaling "good government"  and dismissal of #StupidGate as a fake scandal -- including what he misleadingly calls "health reform,"
It's not "health reform" -- it's a piecemeal reining-in of the predatory insurance cartel. And although the premiums may be holding steady, the Affordable Care Act is anything but for many people. Deductibles and co-pays are through the roof.
Health care in America is just like the lottery. It's the luck of living in the right state and picking the right plan at the right time. You're not a patient who gets treated. You're a consumer who goes shopping. Some people will be "covered" and others will still go bankrupt when they get sick and can't afford a $5,000 annual deductible on a $20,000 income.
That "fake scandal" that Paul Krugman refers is, of course, being used for nefarious political purposes by the GOP. But the fact remains that MIT economist and ACA consultant (to the tune of $400,000)  Jonathan Gruber not only called people stupid -- he admitted that the law was made deliberately opaque. Politicians were more interested in making this delayed "reform" seem deficit-neutral than in ensuring that everybody got covered. Politics trumped the public good. And that IS a scandal, no matter which side of the neoliberal duopoly you're on.
The fact remains that least 40 million Americans remain uninsured, and will continue to needlessly sicken and die in the richest country on earth. We have the most expensive medical care in the world and still rank a shameful 51st in life expectancy.
That is the scandal.
Government will succeed when we get Single Payer.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Amnesty Sweepstakes

As many as five million lucky undocumented immigrants may be granted amnesty from deportation as early as this week by executive order of President Obama. So let the Latino community rejoice, right? The odds of winning are just slightly lower than fifty-fifty!

Well, not so fast. All those deportees-in-waiting could have their newly-issued working papers, drivers' licenses and other paraphernalia of "legality" yanked out from under them at the drop of a hat. Or, as Obama himself sensitively put it on Saturday,
There is a very simple solution to this perception that somehow I’m exercising too much executive authority: Pass a bill I can sign on this issue. Give me a bill that addresses those issues, I’ll be the first one to sign it. And metaphorically I’ll crumple up whatever executive actions we will take and toss them in the waste basket because we will now have a law that addresses these issues.
It's good to know that the president will only "metaphorically" crumple up the hopes and dreams and civil rights of the newly reprieved and throw them away the minute the Republicans signal they want to make a deal on immigration reform. His statement is bound to cheer up the 11 million people in this country "illegally" as well as the American-born children whose parents had the poor taste to be born across some border that exists only for human beings without much money in their pockets.... but not for the southbound border-crossing guns, and NAFTA-enabled, outsourced jobs and mobile factories which cross it each and every day. And not for the drugs and profits and cheap labor that flow north into the pockets of American oligarchs each and every day.

Obama's temporary granting of amnesty actually falls to the ideological right of the relief granted by Ronald Reagan to several million alien residents in 1986. As Julia Preston writes in the New York Times,
 Unlike that law, which gave permanent-resident green cards to 2.7 million immigrants, Mr. Obama’s executive actions will not provide any formal, lasting immigration status, much less a pathway to citizenship.
 The actions will, however, have a large and, White House officials hope, swift impact on the daily lives of many immigrant families, removing fears that relatives could be separated from one another by deportations. Many immigrants will also receive work permits, which will give them Social Security numbers and allow them to work legally under their own names and travel within the United States, although not abroad. In some states, they will be able to get driver’s licenses and professional certificates.
All of which the president will gladly crumple up and toss in the circular file the minute the Republicans pass a bill which would not necessarily be so generous. As a matter of fact, the previous Senate bill that died in the House was light on the humanitarianism and heavy on the militarized border and rewards to Silicon Valley in the form of cheap imported tech labor. The "pathway to citizenship" contained in that bill included a draconian ten-year waiting period for actual civil rights while still requiring foreign workers to pay income taxes. No taxation without representation would not apply.

So while my first impulse was to applaud the president for his gesture of humanity, I am now having my usual cynical second thoughts. Obama, the deporter-in-chief of more people than under any previous administration, could simply be using these millions of people as political pawns and eventual human waste product. Combined with his other recent liberal gestures --  calling for net neutrality, and the joint promise with China to curb pollution -- this immigration action could simply represent just another check on his legacy to-do list.  The object is for Barack Obama to be perceived by the Latino voters as trying to do the right thing, and for Republicans to be perceived as the only bad guys in the neoliberal duopoly.

If, however, Obama orders universal and unconditional amnesty, with no strings attached, I will be the first to stand up and applaud his political courage under fire.

But here's what I'm afraid of: His executive action will simply serve as the magnet to bring five million undocumented people out into the open and more exposed than ever. The better to catch them and jail them and deport them, my dears. 

Meanwhile, the Latino advocacy group Presente.Org is not happy with the president's piecemeal approach, because it gratuitously leaves out half the undocumented immigrants -- based solely on the fact that they don't belong to a "traditional" (read, Republican) family unit:
As President Obama considers options for an upcoming executive order on immigration policy,, the nation’s largest online Latino organizing group, strongly rejects rumored administration proposals for an executive order covering less than half of the more than 11 million undocumented Americans in the US-- and is instead pushing for relief for all undocumented immigrants.

“We want relief from an all out assault on Latino family unity-- we need more than lip service to combat the rampant racial profiling and deportations currently plaguing our communities. Anything short of relief for all 11 million undocumented immigrants in America will ensure ongoing mass-deportations and separation of Latino families,” said Arturo Carmona, Executive Director of, the nation's largest online Latino organizing group. “With the amount of hate against Latinos on display shown by Republican leaders in the House, we need President Obama to seize the opportunity and fight back against his ‘deporter in chief’ status.”
Immigration amnesty under Obama sounds a lot like the for-profit health insurance marketplace sweepstakes. A few million people will be granted relief, while millions more continue to live in fear, suffer, and even die. You'll never find out if you win it because you'll never be told what's actually in it. Everything good is either temporary or stop-gap, to be renewed annually in order to keep the fear and confusion at the absolute maximum.

Somewhere along the way, human rights turned into a lottery, and the social contract got crumpled up and tossed in the circular file.


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Democracy Collapsed, and The Gray Lady Noticed

It was the worst voter turnout in three quarters of a century! Only slightly more than a third of eligible voters showed up for the meh-terms! And the Democrats lost big, almost as big as Democracy itself!

 Why, even in good old reliable New York -- where the Democratic choices (and rare victors) included a Wall Street puppet-governor with a hankering to break up "monopolistic" public education, and a crusading Democratic  attorney general who forgot all about prosecuting banksters once Obama gave him a seat in the First Lady's box at a State of the Union address -- the turnout was a "shameful" 28.8%. 

Shame, shame, shame on the voters, was the subliminal message in a New York Times editorial published on Tuesday. Shame on the stay-at-home slackers who let a combination of acrimony and apathy get in the way of handing a mandate to the most loathsome and undeserving bunch of  hacks to come along in.... well, three-quarters of a century.

The Times editorial was about as clueless as the candidates themselves, as if that were even possible.

To be fair, the writers also partially blamed negative advertising and lack of a clear message (there they go with that "narrative deficit" meme again!) on the Democrats' resounding defeat, and the anti-Obama craze and outright mendacity  for the Republicans' relative success. But the Times missed the forest for the trees: it's the plutocracy and the corruption and the influence-peddling, stupid! The Supreme Court's decision equating money with speech went totally unmentioned in the data-driven angst and Gray Lady pearl-clutching.

My published response: 
 It wasn't just the disgust, the apathy, the voter suppression, the nasty TV ads. It was the mass epiphany that voting, all by itself, just doesn't mean what it used to, as in the good old days before Citizens United.
As Benjamin Page and Martin Gilens showed in their study of voting patterns, it wouldn't matter if there was an 80% turnout. Politicians pass laws based on what the wealthy want, period. What the authors call "economic elite domination" trumps democratic pluralism. Pro-change majorities get what they want only about 30% of the time, the study shows, and usually only if their desires mesh with those of the wealthy.
 For example, since the rich generally favor marriage equality as much as the average voter, we're seeing huge legislative successes in gay rights initiatives. On the other hand, since economic elites aren't too keen on a federal minimum wage or expanded Social Security, those ideas are going nowhere fast -- as are most policies that would benefit ordinary people.
So, blaming voters, telling us that "we get the government we deserve" based on apathy, or "voting against our interests" is getting mighty stale, mighty fast.
We are smarter than we're given credit for, while the intelligence of the elites who actually run this de facto oligarchy is tragically over-estimated.
 Memo to the victors with their spoils -- if you think that this rigged system has given you a popular mandate, you need to think again.
And in a follow-up response to a reader who disagreed with me:
 I didn't mean to suggest that we not vote at all. I can very well understand why so many people abstained, however. I voted in the meh-terms myself (albeit with some cynicism) because it was a local election, and states and counties are the only places where there is even a prayer for change., esp. with the progressive props on many ballots this year. I have also written comments and blog posts urging others to vote, with the full awareness that there are more weighted and "valuable" votes than ours being cast. So, we can't simply traipse to the polls every two and four years and then just sit back and rest and feel that we've done our entire "permitted" civic duty. There are plenty of other valuable ways to be a good citizen. I engage my more conservative friends in political discussions all the time.... sometimes my lefty reasoning strikes a chord, most times not, but at least I've engaged. I find there is a lot of common ground with "the other side" re Wall Street corruption and government surveillance, for example. So... voting, boycotting, writing, protesting, picketing, striking, organizing, not giving in to the divide and conquer techniques the duopoly uses to maintain its power. Activism of all kinds is necessary if we have a hope of reanimating our democracy.
Meanwhile, the corporate partisan wars are still trumping the class war as the acceptable media narrative. The latest battle is dubbed #GruberGate.  Just who is Jonathan Gruber, that rare purveyor of honesty, calling "stupid" anyway?  The Democrats are frantically trying to push this verbal loose cannon under the bus, all the while insisting that he is only calling the "yahoos" stupid.... not them. The Republicans are reveling in the joy of proving that just because they're professional paranoiacs doesn't mean liberal elites really aren't out to get 'em -- and now they can finally prove it, by golly. (You can read all about the latest smoking gun video here.)

 Very few pundits are actually talking about the duopolistic complicity of the whole corrupt system. They don't dare admit that our elected officials hold all of us in utter, sneering contempt, and that the low turnout last week is tantamount to a corporate coup. They don't dare admit that through this default "victory" our rulers hold power illegitimately. Not many of them are talking about the inconvenient truth that even with its abysmal 13% approval rating, Congress has seen the return of 95% of its members.

Admitting all of this might hasten the inevitable collapse of the fraudulent facade on top of the very real ruins of our democracy. And thus we pretend, we deflect, we scapegoat, we ignore the forest for the trees.

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose we can believe in, toujours and ad infinitum.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

It's the Stupidity, Stupid

It's that time of the season again for Democrats to defend the kludgey Affordable Care Act against the predations of the corrupt Supreme Court and the nefarious Republicans, who'd rather see one rich plutocrat thrive than have millions of regular folks enter for a chance to barely survive in the for-profit health insurance sweepstakes.

The latest round in Good Cop-Bad Cop kabuki involves the Supremes gratuitously deciding to take up a case involving the confusing state exchanges. One lower federal court recently decided that resident-consumers of states embracing the federal exchange should get the tax subsidies, while another lower court has decided the opposite. The highest court in The Homeland will now decide what the crafters of the law actually "intended."

So, just when I thought I'd seen the last of them, emails are again arriving, urging me to "click here" and "have the president's back" on his signature legislative achievement(s). These petitions obviously come attached to an appeal for money in order for the Democrats to "fight back" against the GOP Death Panel for the rights of a couple million people to both like their Obamacare and keep their Obamacare. This whole Supreme Court brouhaha is all over a stupid "typo,"* they shrill.

Of course, the ginned up hysteria is just more much ado about nothing. The Supreme Court "spared" the law once before, punishing only the poor re state Medicaid expansion, so they will likely do so again. After all, the law gifts the predatory insurance and pharmaceutical industries with profits beyond their wildest imaginings. No way will this money spigot be turned off to satisfy a cadre of phony libertarian Obama-haters.  

It's the latest manufactured crisis, designed to keep us on one side or the other instead of noticing that the two teams are both part of the same corrupt league, and that the game is fixed. It's also a very lucrative manufactured crisis, acting as a magnet for partisan fundraising and armies of K Street lobbyists bearing gifts of cash they don't even bother to hide any more. Bribery is legal now.

Luckily, a few intrepid truth-seekers have dug up a year-old video in which one of the original architects of the law is caught admitting that it was deliberately designed to be a complete confusing mess. Its opacity was built right in. Otherwise, it never could have passed.

Jonathan Gruber, an MIT economist, was paid $400,000 to help the Obama administration rely on "the stupidity of the American voter" by writing the bill in such a "tortured way" as to deliberately disguise the fact that there was a tax involved in the individual mandate. (Psst... the dummies in the Heartland can't be told that the healthy will pay for the sick, because socialism.) The White House, according to this expert, was more interested in Congressional Budget Office scoring being politically beneficial to them, rather than the law itself being beneficial to the health of the lucky few recipients of insurance.

As constitutional lawyer Jonathan Turley writes,
What is fascinating is that Gruber is open about what has long been hidden in this Administration: the lack of transparency as a tactical political vehicle. The ACA was pushed through by a muscle vote on a handful of votes while the Administration made claims that he later had to admit were misleading at best, such as the President’s repeated assurance that citizens could keep your current insurance policy if you liked it. Gruber also admits that the Administration crafted the law to avoid it being supported by a tax despite Chief Justice John Roberts’ later decision that it was a tax. Gruber says that, while he would have preferred to be honest and open, such considerations had to be set aside in the interests of passing the law — even by less than honest means.
Meanwhile, the Obama administration is now (whoever could have predicted?) predicting fewer new enrollees than previously estimated. Their best case scenario is that by the end of 2015, a grand total of 9-10 million people will have been signed up. From the Washington Post:
HHS officials also said Monday that of the 8 million people who bought health plans by this past spring for the first year of coverage under the law, 7.1 million remained in them as of mid-October. Of those who left, some had stopped paying their monthly insurance premiums, and 112,000 were immigrants dropped by the government because they had not proved that they were eligible.The administration’s enrollment expectations appeared five days before the start of the second sign-up period through the federal insurance exchange being used in about three dozen states and through separate state-run exchanges. The figures also emerged as the health-care law — enacted in 2010 as a crowning domestic achievement of Obama’s presidency — is facing new political and legal peril.
As much as I despise the Republicans and the five reactionary justices of the Supreme Court, the Obama administration has to be considered equally culpable in this manufactured mess. As much as I would hate for the millions of people now benefiting under expanded Medicaid to be kicked off, or even for those partially subsidized enrollees to be deprived of their Bronze Plans (stories abound of $10,000 deductibles charged to workers who barely make ends meet as it is)  it's hard to defend the indefensible.

 Will these continued failures and challenges to the torture that is Obamacare nudge us closer to Single Payer health coverage? After all, despite the GOP's hollow "victory," most voters do favor progressive initiatives, including health care. Any improvements will likely come at the local level, because Big Money has full control in Washington.

Here is one ray of hope: student members of the notoriously arch-conservative  American Medical Association have just passed a resolution in support of state legislation supporting true universal health care:
Although the resolution applies only to the student section of the AMA, supporters say it sends a signal to the larger organization that many physicians-in-training think the most recent round of national health reform didn’t go far enough.
“Last Friday’s vote is yet further evidence that physicians – and in this case physicians-in-training – are increasingly angry about private insurance companies that meddle in doctor-patient relationship, deny access to care, balk at payment, and afflict providers and patients alike with costly and unnecessary red tape,” said Bradley Zehr, a second-year medical student at Boston University School of Medicine who helped write the resolution.“Med students want to practice medicine and to help people get better, not to be part of a corporate enterprise that puts financial gain over our patients’ well-being,” Zehr said. “They see the millions of people who will remain uninsured or underinsured under the Affordable Care Act. That’s why physician opinion is shifting toward a nonprofit, publicly financed, Medicare-for-All-type system that would cover everyone while also controlling costs.”
The Obama administration may have relied on the alleged stupidity of the American voter when it rammed through its corporation-friendly kludge. What they very stupidly haven't relied upon is the basic humanity and unacknowledged intelligence of the American voter, and the political power of the health care community  Americans are discovering that "voting" for representatives instead of policies is neither sufficient nor particularly effective in the runaway oligarchy that masquerades as a democracy.


* Contributor Pearl Volkov's comment on the Paul Krugman column (linked above) really zings it:

The complications of Obamacare go beyond a so called typo which could have
been deliberate in case someone is cleaning up as a result. The huge
thousands of pages of the original health care bill was never completely
read by voting Congresspeople by their own admission and left lots of
loopholes for misunderstanding, misstatements, misrepresentation,
misinformation and misconduct. Reports of the financial activities of the
numerous insurance companies handling medical claims are not only impossible to make sense out of but I firmly believe deliberately made complicated andconfusing to cover up the allocations of great sums of money to them from patients who have no choices and have no information how their coverage is allocated.

By covering some comparatively minor loopholes for people, you are so happyand busy rejoicing for these coverages that the miserly help which gives spotty coverage or none to many citizens is never mentioned.
If you are going to write columns of anger about the attempt to destroy
Obamacare whether for the right or wrong reasons, at least do your homework.

There are several progressive/liberal websites which keep accurate reports
on this issue and prove how the financial set up of Obamacare provides belowstandard quality of actual medical care for subscribers in comparison to the fees collected.