Saturday, January 30, 2010

I Got Wood

Oh, get your fucking minds out of the gutter. You know damned good and well that wood is the traditional 5th anniversary gift. And whose 5th anniversary is it for what?

Well, today's my fifth anniversary of blogging. It was the day before the first of the Iraqi elections. Remember all the purple fingers all the idiot Republicans were holding up during Bush's 2005 State of the Union Address in February and how they thought he was a fucking genius for forcing Democratic elections on people living in a massive war zone, people who were killed by insurgents as they walked out of the polls, people who weren't given their food ration cards until they voted? The election with the 10% Sunni turnout in which the ballots had to be taken to Jordan because Iraq was too unstable for the votes to be counted, the results took months to come in and most of the candidates had to campaign in secret so nobody knew who the fuck they were voting for?

Yeah, those elections. That's what got me into blogging, that and the second stolen election less than three months earlier. It was also about the Iraq War itself, a war that came not to merely define a presidency but one that would redefine the presidency itself.

Well, about three thousand posts, three blogs and two and a half million hits later, where the fuck has it gotten me? Despite writing some of the most insightful and perspicacious political posts on this side of the tracks, I still haven't been blogrolled on a major blog, am studiously ignored by 99.999% of the blogosphere and am even reviled by my so-called colleagues simply for trying to get people to see the truth. On a good day without linkage, I'm getting, after all these years in the trenches, maybe 400 hits daily.

Basically, I've met the same fate my creative fiction writing has. For some reason, except for a precious few whose antennas happen to be tuned to my obscure frequency, whatever it is that I'm doing seems to be inspiring the liveliest apathy in those whose attention I try to solicit.

I know writing talent isn't a factor any more than is my presentation or research.

I've stubbornly stuck to it, tried not to be temperamental about being ignored during the year and a half-long run of this blog, I haven't threatened to quit. But reputations die hard and I have one for being a quitter. I guess it'll always follow me.

Frankly, I never thought in the beginning or for years thereafter that I'd still be doing this. Blogging is the most addictive form of writing for an OCD personality like me. There was never a five year-long period in my life in which I wrote 3000 poems or earned even the fleeting, transient attention of hundreds of thousands in any one year. I'd developed as a political blogger much faster than I ever had as a poet or a novelist so I can't say my time has been entirely wasted.

I've found myself saying that in the beginning I honestly wouldn't've recognized Karl Rove if I shared an elevator with him and the learning curve is quite steep if you start out from a position of near ignorance as I had.

But, as always, I can't say the rewards have been worth the sacrifices, the loss. Perhaps my incessant blogging and obsessive alarm with the direction my country was taking contributed to my losing my family. Sure, I could've done other things and no one ever demanded that I take time away from my family so I could entertain or educate the piddling masses I typically attracted.

But I had and the payback has been miserable. These past five years I could've taken all that time and energy to write 10 or 12 novels and at a time when it was a little easier to get the attention of a stupid literary agent instead of producing only one and getting form rejection letters for all my hard work.

It's obvious that save for a tiny fraction of 1% of the readers out there, I've overstayed my welcome. Sure, I've been linked and frontpaged on James Wolcott, Andrew Sullivan, Daily Kos, Eschaton, Huffington Post, The Nation, Crooks and Liars, Buzzflash and hundreds of other blogs and sites but they quickly forget me. I have to remind them I'm still out there. Blogging's been the only constant in my empty and ever-changing universe. And I don't think I can do this, anymore. The hits aren't there, the comments aren't there and it's obvious that I'm not reaching enough people to fill a Fiat. My last Assclowns of the Week got one comment. Most of my hits come from stalker ex girlfriends, trolls and perverts looking for porn. Pottersville's been turned into the real thing, a ghetto for guttersnipes and sickos and I never intended for it to be that way.

I don't think I can do this anymore.

I was writing to a poet friend of mine earlier this month. When we first began corresponding, he was about the same age I am now. I was a 21 year-old desperate for a critique on my poetry. No one can write in a vacuum indefinitely so I'd pester people. Like I'm doing now.

Just yesterday, yesterday, I tell ya, I was in my 20's. On the 16th I turned 51 with even less fanfare than my rotten, ungrateful, thieving, sociopathic family gave my 50th. I still think I'm getting better and better as a writer at an age when most writers start to dry up and wind down.

So I want to concentrate on my fiction and to try to sell some of it before I dry up. I just thought my 5th anniversary was a good time to just hang it up at least for the time being.

I need to concentrate on my fiction, on getting a job. It's unimaginably hard out there, perhaps even harder than you guys realize, and I can no longer justify the expense of time, energy and spirit that it takes to keep Pottersville one of the best (in my opinion) political blogs out there.

I'd say, See ya around. But I can't guarantee that.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Just a Quick Question

About an hour ago, Andrew Breitbart made an interesting "admission" on Twitter. He said "the conspiracy" against Sen. Landrieu goes much higher than him and that "the money trail's traceless."

So that invites a necessary query in response: Who's been bankrolling that punk O'Keefe's exploits all over the country? I don't imagine Breitfart at Big Government pays him enough to crisscross the countryside.

If anyone has any leads pertaining to this, I promise to thoroughly source them and run like hell with it.

The State of the Union Address That We Deserved

A few days ago, The Rude Pundit provided us with five fantasy scenarios for the SOTU Address last Wednesday that involved decapitation and Joe Lieberman. While mildly intriguing, I don't think the Rude One's fantasy scenarios really reached that magic level of true catharsis so if you don't want to read a post involving mutilation, complete and utter disrespect of the Republican Party and neocons, then you might as well just hit the backspace button and go somewhere else.

It ought to be mentioned that, as with many of the Rude One's posts, this one will prove to be incredibly not work safe.

Now, let's take the case of Sam Alito, a racist, partisan hack who knew that he no longer needed to show any semblance of restraint and respect because he's on the SCOTUS for life. When President Obama properly called him and the other four right wingers on the court (note that Scalia and Thomas were absent) out for their disastrous Citizens United vs The FEC ruling last week, Alito shook his head and mouthed the words, "Not true."

While Obama didn't perfectly articulate the court's ruling, a State of the Union Address is meant to provide broad strokes, not minute examinations and explications into political science, legislation or policy. Essentially, the President, a Constitutional law scholar and professor, had the court dead to rights and it's hard to see how Alito's completely disrespectful head shaking and "Not true" could be supported in light of his and the court's pro-corporate-friendly ruling that isn't even predicated on actual legal precedent (corporations do not have personhood, nor should they).

Here's what Obama should've done- He should have walked down from behind the podium, grabbed Alito by the ears and drove his knee into his fat, smug face, driving his pig snout through his brain . Then he should have kneed Alito again in the groin, ripped off his balls, stuffed them in his mouth and brought former KBR employee Jamie Leigh Jones down from the cheap seats so she could then sit on his face and piss all over it.

"How do you like that, you right wing fuck?" Obama should have then said over his shoulder. "That's what corporations are going to do to the electoral process and the American people." Then, once behind the podium, Obama then would have smoothed down his striped red tie and asked, "OK, now where was I?" then proceeding smoothly with a glance at the teleprompter.

Mrs. Alito cries yet again.

While inveighing against the evils of the past administration, Obama would have named Bush and Cheney by name just for starters and would have eventually brought them, Karl Rove, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice and other neocon war architects down the center aisle with an M14 rifle held at their backs by the Master at Arms.

While paraded past the Republican Party in chains, dressed in shit-smeared rags, Cheney would have then been brought in, laid flat on his back and had his own chains on all four of his pudgy limbs attached to four Morgan horses. A 5th chain would have been impaling his penis and attached to a Rottweiler.

The President then would've shot a .38 Special in the air, driving all five startled animals in five different directions. Morgans are smaller, less powerful horses and it would take a little longer for Cheney to be drawn and quartered. As each limb comes off, Obama would lean over the podium and say, "Doesn't look like torture to me, Dick. I don't see any organs getting damaged."

He would then cock the hammer and point the .38 at Joe Lieberman and makes him retrieve the severed limbs and the ragged, bloody Vice Presidential penis or lose his chairmanships and right to caucus with the Democrats.

Lynne Cheney, now freed of her martial obligations, would court kd lange or Melissa Etheridge and be rejected and publicly humiliated on the Logo Network after which she would hang herself behind a huge portrait of Gertrude Stein.

"I thought that would get some applause," the Chief Executive would say before turning back to the teleprompter.

George W. Bush, having to watch this, would get preferential treatment. He would have so many dry pretzels shoved up his ass, and packed in with a horny bull elephant's penis, that he would again choke on them. Ahmad Chalabi would then be brought in at gunpoint to eat every pretzel out of his bleeding, distended rectum while every one of the 4300+ families, starting with Cindy Sheehan, that lost a loved one in Iraq would be brought in one at a time to piss on his bleeding writhing form. The camera cuts away and Obama would say, "We're not going to show you on TV, George, just like you refused to show the flag-draped coffins coming off the transports at Dover, right, Joe?" Vice President Biden, only the bottom half of his face visible, would nod and smile like the Cheshire Cat as Dubya writhes in a growing pool of urine before the Well.

Laura Bush would smile, smile and smile and light up the first of 15 consecutive cigarettes and HW would weep uncontrollably from his living room in Kennebunkport as Sonny's soaked, warped, half dead body would then be sent to the Netherlands strapped to the starboard (or right) wing of a Blackwater jet.

The seats occupied by the Republicans would then come to life, with ankles and wrists suddenly bound by steel restraints and 10,000 volts coursing through their bodies. There wouldn't be enough amps to kill them but it would definitely, well, jolt them into awareness of who's really in charge.

The chamber would then fill up with the aroma of more urine and fecal matter and Obama would say, "Keep that in mind, assholes, until I talk to you again in Baltimore in two days. Any stupid Republican health care plan will get you more of the same."

Obama would then sweetly call upon the Republican Party to unite with the Democrats to solve our common problems. Half the attendees would erupt in cheers and applause while the Republicans madly dab at their crotches with their handkerchiefs.

Finally, bipartisanship and using Republican tactics to achieve those aims.

Meanwhile, Gov. Bob McDonnell is put on TV where he then utters, "Eep. Er..." for 12 and a half minutes from the Virginia State House.

And that, ladies and germs, is the State of the Union Address that an alarmingly large percentage of we liberals and progressives would've been happy to see. Yes, after 9+ years of ignoring the rule of law and denying justice to We the People, we've come to this.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The State of the Onion

(By American Zen's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari.)

As far as disappointments, I wasn't terribly disappointed because I didn't expect that much. - Howard Zinn (1922-2010)

Amid the shuffle of the drinking games, live-blogging and partisan yelling on both sides of the Great Ideological Divide was the largely ignored news of the death of legendary historian Howard Zinn. As it turned out, it proved to be the most newsworthy event of January 27, 2010, much more interesting and worthy of comment than the president's first State of the Union Address, James "Bond" O'Keefe and his Ritz Brother cohorts or anything else.

No, it was Howard Zinn, who could've easily suffered the same fate as Aldous Huxley, who had the colossal misfortune to die the same day JFK was assassinated

In a way, Zinn's passing from a heart attack in California the day our new president would give his first SOTU Address was something that only a historian could fully appreciate. One of the very last things Zinn had written was a thumbnail impression of President Obama for The Nation's latest edition, "Obama at One."

Respect for copyright infringement alone prevents me from quoting Mr. Zinn in full because, as was his usual style, his thoughts and feelings on the administration mirror my own and that of all liberals and progressives who choose not to go gently into that good night and keep their eyes closed.

But Zinn flatly said with the world weariness permitted only by the very jaded and the very old that he was not disappointed by Obama because he, like I and so many of us, did not have any great expectations. No matter what President Obama does or doesn't do, we should all be grateful that in 2008 we did not show the enormous disconnect from fact that installed George W. Bush in the White House twice in a row.

Yet from the very beginning, when Mr. Obama first announced his presidential campaign early in February 2007 in Chicago Springfield, it was obvious to many of us that this fresh faced, articulate sophomore senator would not become the next JFK. In fact, as he learned more and more about high level politicking over the next 21 months, we saw a moderate Democrat who was becoming more and more a moderate Republican, just a few shades to the left of Joe Lieberman.

What few populist messages and promises he'd made during his campaign he'd immediately began reneging on from January 20, 2009 on. And last night Barack Obama sounded not as if he was delivering his first SOTU Address but as if he was running for president again. Only it sounded like a rehash of the 2008 campaign, not a preemptive one for 2012. It almost sounded as if, to Obama, 2009 and the official and unofficial Republican guttersniping that accompanied it never happened.

What did we hear? Calls for bipartisanship that one would expect an intelligent man to know would go unheeded beginning with Bob McDonnell's rebuttal, one that consisted of the usual GOP lies and propaganda. Obama feigned empathy with the American middle class's plight gleaned through carefully weeded letters sent to his desk. He hated the second round of bailouts yet signed off on them, anyway.

He's freezing spending for three years except for his inherited wars (one of which he'd ramped up much like Nixon ramped up Vietnam) and, presumably, the outsourcing orgy at the State Department, Pentagon and even NASA. Every economist from Paul Krugman on down had even before the address denounced this tactic as the worst possible thing a President can do during a deep recession.

Let me say that again: Spending for unspecified social programs will be cut or suspended while companies like Halliburton, Blackwater and other war profiteers will continue as business as usual. Meanwhile, Section 6 of the TARP bill drawn up by the Bush White House gives dictatorial powers to the Treasury Secretary (another Wall Street insider only with better hair) that allows him to buy up another $700 billion in toxic assets without any transparency or oversight whatsoever.

So what's changed? Reading Zinn's extended blurb on Obama's first year, one sees that his wearied cynicism and almost complete lack of expectations was justified, especially when we match it up to Mr. Obama's maiden address. As in 2008, Mr. Obama promised transparency and bipartisanship in our government yet the facts speak for themselves. No government can afford as much transparency as the people would like, especially a nation as large and as active in its foreign policy as the United States.

Looking Through a Glass Onion

Let's face facts: The president even admitted last night, after taking some token jabs at the previous administration (without, notably, mentioning the B word) that he wasn't interested in litigating the past. This pretty much puts the kibosh on any hopes on an Obama-era Justice Department trying Bush, Cheney and their gang for subverting the Constitution. If we have any hope for justice for the massive criminal enterprise of the Bush-Cheney junta, much of which we're still unaware, we will have to look to Europe. The Hague, our nation turns its blackened eyes to you.

Far from transparency, we're seeing the same old same old and one has to painstakingly peel back the onion to see what is at the middle of it all. But the onion is made out of glass and is brittle. Anyone who's ever tried to get anything through the gutted FOIA has, more often than not, gotten documents even more heavily redacted than anything pried from the Bush administration.

And the glass onion is far from transparent. Witness what we've been hearing from the citizen media and even the legitimate press about back room deals cut between Rahm Emanuel and Billy Tauzin's buddies in Big Pharma. Look at the compromised position that Obama started out regarding health care, a signature issue on which he has, very unwisely, staked much of his political capital. Again, I give you Professor Zinn:
On domestic policy, traditionally Democratic presidents are more reformist, closer to the labor movement, more willing to pass legislation on behalf of ordinary people--and that's been true of Obama. But Democratic reforms have also been limited, cautious. Obama's no exception. On healthcare, for example, he starts out with a compromise, and when you start out with a compromise, you end with a compromise of a compromise, which is where we are now.

At this stage, this "compromise of a compromise" is taking on the guise of an original photostat being photocopied thousands of times over until it becomes a mere blurred document that is undecipherable, a palimpsest of any actual reform. Now Obama's former colleagues in the Senate have produced a bill, due to his inaction and laissez faire attitude, that has become so reviled in the House and across the country that the lower chamber has all but guaranteed that it will, Scott Brown or no Scott Brown, not pass.

And the real reason for the massive HMO giveaway, this latest bailout, never came close to being divulged by our transparent President: namely that the big HMO's got hit hard by engaging on risky derivatives speculation on Wall Street and need to come up with about 40,000,000 new captive paying customers to make up the shortfall. The Senate version of the health care bill, as we all know too well, is very firm about a mandate, will use two bylaws in the tax code to enforce "noncompliance" yet does nothing in the way of limiting health care costs or provide a public option. These were not mere oversights.

Even more disturbing is the mantra we're hearing about how "progressive" our own health care system is here in Massachusetts. Literally 24 hours after the bill was signed into law by Mitt Romney in December of 2006, premiums skyrocketed by as much as 75-100%, with stiff penalties being imposed for "noncompliance". There's no public option to speak of and Mass Health, which formerly was for welfare recipients, hardly offers rates through major insurers that are competitive with job-provided health plans. In many cases, the Commonwealth's alternative is even more expensive.

And how are people supposed to be able to afford mandated health insurance when they're not working? Even with the ARRA, which reduces COBRA costs to the uninsured by 65%, insurance is out of reach if you're making $200 a week or less on unemployment. No one should have to choose between food and health care yet that is precisely what Mitt Romney, and Barack Obama, are forcing us to do. Using our system of "health care reform" as a template is one of the most disastrous ones to use. If that's the best Congress and the President can do, they might as well just let the health care industry write their own legislation the way we let the credit card companies write the bankruptcy bill in the 90s.

What Can Brown Do to You?

The only thing about this White House that's transparent is the spin regarding Obama's newly populist tone in the wake of the Brown-Coakley debacle here in the Bay State. Anyone out there who thinks the SOTU Address would've read exactly the way it was last night had Brown not won deserves the Senate health care bill inflicted on their life.

It was noteworthy, after all the exit poll numbers had been crunched, that the Go Along To Get Along 2010 Obama suddenly once again became the 2008 populist Obama. One exit poll after another proved the Brown victory was not a referendum on health care (because of our bright, shining example of health care "reform") but one on the Democrats' inability to connect with the voters (primarily independents). An unofficial 17% unemployment rate and an economy heavily dependent on Chinese loans that are about to become nonexistent were the reasons why Scott Brown was catapulted from Beacon to Capitol Hill.

Had Coakley and her presumably dependable vote on the health care bill carried the day, you can bet even that this "post-partisan" President would've been able to give the GOP the finger last night after saving the mythical 60 seat, filibuster-proof majority.

But last night, all we heard was the same delusional pap we heard throughout 2008. "Let's all work together and think of the people and not our personal political fortunes." "The people are tired of partisanship."

True enough but simply asking a plainly insane political faction that's even more corrupt than the Democrats is not going to end the gridlock that Scott Brown promised last year. Professor Zinn was right not to entertain high expectations of this administration and we should all follow his example and begin looking up and down the left side of the aisle for an alternative in 2012.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

State of the Union Address Live Blogging.

10:25 OK, final impression: Obama could have a SOTU Address every day before Congress and there's no way the Republicans are going to go to work tomorrow willing to work with him. Bob McDonnell is spewing his corporately-funded rube-uttal and propaganda, Rush will hope again that he fails and nothing will change. Cynical, you say? No, realistic. I've been covering the fucking GOP for years if there's anything I have learned about them, it's this: There's no such thing as a moderate Republican and they, too, never give up.

Good night, America, and good luck. You'll need it.

10:22 A minimum of GOP boos, no Ted Kennedy, no Joe Lieberman getting tongue. Man, this is going to take some getting used to.

10;20: "God Bless The United States of America!" (To the exclusion of all others, restrictions may apply outside the continental US.)

10:15 Uh, Mr. President? Your own Treasury Secretary pooh-poohed the very notion of caps on executive pay. That's why we're so cynical about corporations and gov't.

10:14 But Obama never said he was going to end DADT. Remember that.

10:13 "I have a Civil Rights Division that's once again prosecuting civil rights violations." Another upper cut!

10:11 Good on Obama for reacting so swiftly after the Haiti earthquake. But you're not doing shit for Iran or its protesters, Mr. President.

10:10 Securing and limiting nukes is a good start. But remember, Iran doesn't have a single one while Israel has many.

10:08 Joe Biden's head is cut off at the nose. Obama looks like he's speaking in front of the Cheshire Cat.

10:07 The last of our troops aren't going to be home by the end of August. Who's he kidding? There's a big difference between ending wars and escalating them. More does not necessarily equate with a faster finish.

10:06 "Reward (Afghani) governates" as in bribes to not kill us?

10:04 You're also, unfortunately, not interested in litigating war crimes and the criminals who'd carried them out.

10:02 It's about time he reminded the wet-legged Dems have the largest majority in history and that we're counting on them for solutions. "Just saying no is ... is short term politics." How true.

10:01 You want to know why there's so much obstructionism, Mr. President? Because you keep caving in to Republicans!!! Witness Errol Southers.

10:00 Obama never thought his presidency would usher in a "post-partisan era"???

9:59 Of course, Obama took more money from oil and gas than all but 2 Democratic presidential candidates and the second most from banks. So where's all this moral authority coming from?

9:58 And more body shots at the SCOTUS's right wingers!!!

9:57 You've had more than a year to make government more open and transparent on both sides of Pennsylvania Ave., pal.

9:55 And Obama lands another body shot to the shining Bush legacy!

9:54 "Pay as You Go" is a good idea. I agree.

9:52 Here we go with the 3 year spending freeze. Why are you listening to Evan Bayh? Are we gonna freeze spending by not outsourcing jobs at NASA, by not signing on so many war profiteers?

9:50 $200 billion in surplus at the start of the decade, 1 trillion deficit last year. "Just stating the facts." You go, man!! Republican booing is music to my ears!

9:49 "Come together?" These are the same assclowns who are painting you as a Nazi. When will you stop with the bipartisanship crap???

9:48 Here's a cheaper alternative: Expand Medicare to everyone!!!!!

9:47 "The lobbying and the horse trading" done by the administration, you mean? You may not walk away from us but you walked away from a public option.

9:45 Not the Senate version, Mr. President. That does next to nothing to provide security to middle class Americans.

9:43 Health insurance reform. here we go...

9:41 OK, props to the Prez for revamping the education that Bush never really did. Increasing Pell grants is a damned good start.

9:40 You forgot China.

9:39 We can only export twice as much goods if we actually made shit. Who's going to make these unspecified goods? What are we gonna export?

9:38 Republicans booing about climate change. Actually, all the boos came from James Inhofe.

9:36 "Nuclear power plants???" "Offshore developments for gas and oil development???" "Clean coal???" There's no such thing!!!

9:32 China and Germany aren't waiting for progress because they don't have to deal with obstructionist Republicans, Mr. President.

9:31 "Put things on hold." Like the health care bill after Scott Brown's victory?

9:28 No more tax breaks for overseas US companies sounds good but he's been promising to do that for over a year.

9:27 Oh, the GOP collectively creamed its pants at the sound of no capital gains taxes on small businesses!

9:26 30 billion to community banks? Sounds good.

9:25 I'd sooo love to believe him when he says he'll help get me a job.

9:23 To be fair, ARRA did add 1.6 million jobs in the last year. Don't listen to Bob McDonnell when he lies about that later on.

9:22 "Not a single dime" of money on higher taxes, including the rich you promised to hike taxes on.

9:20 The banks have paid back a fraction of TARP not most. The middle class is too big to fail, not the banks.

9:19 You didn't hate the bailout as much as we did, asshole. We're the ones who bailed out those sharks.

9:17 A guy making $400,000 a year is hopeful for our future. Oh goodie.

9:15 Why is Wall St. rewarded and hard work on Main St. not? Send Tim to explain that one to the kids.

9:13 "The worst of the storm has passed???" The unemployment rate is still @ 10%, unofficially at 17% and our deficit is 1.35 trillion.

9:07 As the Joker said, "Here. We. Go!"

9:06 Nice to know we have a president who still thinks it's cool to be fashionably late in a work night.

9:03 So who's going to heckle Obama this time around? My money's on an encore by Joe Wilson. That would net him a coupla million more and this time the SCOTUS would let him accept money from anyone.

8:59 Here comes the Cabinet, led by Eraserhead Geithner.

8:58 The First Lady in sleeves. Hm.

8:55 Yeah, let's applaud the Corporate Five, why don't we? Listen to those Republican asshats applauding them.

8:54 It's strange seeing a Senate without Teddy kennedy. He was in the Senate for almost 90% of my life.

8:50 Pelosi, there simply aren't that many gentlemen on Capitol Hill.

If you, for some reason, don't have a TV (like me) this is the official link to a live feed of the President's State of the Union Address at 9 EST. I'll be liveblogging it tonight. Just follow the updates.

Truth Just Lost a Champion

“The rule of law does not do away with the unequal distribution of wealth and power, but reinforces that inequality with the authority of law. It allocates wealth and poverty in such calculated and indirect ways as to leave the victim bewildered.” - Howard Zinn (1922-2010)

In light of the Supreme Court's decision on Thursday, this is very prescient. More on Mr. Zinn's death tomorrow.

Open Letter to Paul Shirley

Dear Paul:

First of all, thank you for single-handedly lowering the intelligence and compassion quotient of one of the greatest nations on earth with your last screed for ESPN. Many have tried and all have failed and that includes other mighty conservative luminaries such as Rush Limbaugh, Michelle Malkin, Ann Coulter, Melanie Morgan, Sean Hannity, etc. And still, America had stubbornly retained its literacy and basic liberal bleeding heart goodliness.

Secondly, as you prepare to join tens of millions of other Americans on the unemployment line, in the future please refrain from straying anywhere near anything that can be perverted as a writing implement to express your thoughts. I mean, of course, pens, pencils, computer keyboards, lumps of coal, magnetic poetry, Bic lighters, your own feces smeared against a white wall, et. al. It's really for your own protection.

Thirdly, please refrain in the future from trying to lecture any nation about its own history no matter how poor they are. As it is, you are no more knowledgeable and hardly more human than Neal "Mighty Whitey" Boortz and other right wing psychopaths when he inveighed on the evils of the poor darkies of New Orleans who had the unmitigated gall and the effrontery to embarrass our fictitious president with their deaths and displacements as he licked cake frosting off his thumb and strummed a guitar.

Sure, in our country being indigent is a crime regardless of the economic winds of change but Haiti does have special, extenuating circumstances. For instance, several succeeding presidential administrations of both parties propping up dictators like the Poppa Doc and Baby Doc so we could continue those splendiferous, plunderous trade policies that have kept Haitians in the most crippling poverty in the western hemisphere.

I know, I know, there is absolutely no excuse for being poor even after a 7.0 earthquake, even if it's the worst your nation has weathered in 270 years, completely flattens your home, your neighborhood, your city and the Presidential palace, airport, most of the hospitals and the UN headquarters. Appearances still must be kept up to imperialistic western airheads like you who was paid more money to shoot (and usually miss) one basket than most Haitians make in a decade.

But except for the occasional nurse's aide and Wyclef Jean CD bought by white bred psychopaths such as yourself, Haiti remained until January 12th the Land That the Rest of the World Forgot (like Myanmar or Tibet or North Dakota). And when the world forgets you exist, you just don't give a shit so you haven't a problem building a house out of plywood or cardboard or eating dirt. It's self esteem that's the issue here, Paul, so you can be forgiven for becoming, against all reasonable odds and expectations, an even more vicious prick than Rush Limbaugh and Pat Robertson combined.

Instead of getting shit canned as you were from so many NBA and European ball clubs (those damned liberal Europeans!), Haiti ought to be glad that you singled them out for notice and gave them a good old fashioned avuncular "Fuck You" with a giant, cybernetic foam finger. If nothing else, that will give them the strength to carry on and remove rubble off their loved ones' rotting corpses as the putrefaction fills the streets of Port-au-Prince.

Your humble and obedient servant,

Assclowns of the Week #82: Leave Corporations Alone, They’re People! edition

Well, you can’t say it’d been a banner week for Democrats. In about a week and a half, a Republican had won Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat, the Supreme Court (1) ruled that corporations are just plain folk like you and me, Jim DeMint succeeded in forcing Obama to withdraw a qualified nominee to head the TSA, Joe Biden’s son decided not to run for his dad’s seat and… Well, you get the picture.

Fortunately, Republicans (10) will be Republicans and they can always be counted upon for their neverending assclownery regardless of the fortunes of the opposition party. There was James O’Keefe (2) for re-creating Watergate as done by the Three Stooges; there was Fox “News” (9) for undergoing some real pain in reporting the event and SC Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer (5) for likening the poor to stray animals.

So let’s log on and wail, wail and wail some more for, O, the humanity and much, much more!

10) The Republican Party

Until the Supremes ruled that politicians could grab as many bribes much well-meaning, unconditional campaign love as they could from corporations, the GOP was pretty cash-strapped. More underfunded than the Democrats, they were pretty desperate for loot. How desperate? Well, lemme tell ya…

It came out this week that the GOP latched on to the 2010 census by sending out a flyer disguised as the official census form and asking people for money. RNC spokeswoman Sarah Sendak said, “The document clearly indicates that it is an RNC mailer. The purpose of this document is to gather Republican opinion from across the country and raise a little money.” Uh huh. Well, explain this, Sarah:
The letter was sent in plain white envelopes marked "Do Not Destroy, Official Document." Labeled "2010 Congressional District Census," the letter uses a capital "C," the same as the Census Bureau. It also includes a "Census Tracking Code. The letter makes a plea for money and accompanies a form asking voters to identify their political leanings and issues important to them. There are no disclaimers that participation in the GOP effort is voluntary; participation in the government census is required by law."

This is sort of reminiscent of the GOP fastening itself like a bunch of blood-starved ticks to the astroturfing Tea Party movement and getting tons of money in donations from people thinking they were actually the tea partiers. The implied threat of legal action is also reminiscent of illegal Republican boat people warning legal immigrants not to come to the polls or they’d get arrested for voter fraud.

In fact, the GOP and the way it disguises itself with the ingenuity and prolificity of James O’Keefe to seduce unwary voters is kind of reminiscent of a succubus.

9) Fox “News”

Remember all those times when Fox “News” jumped at stories that really didn’t exist, such as James O’Keefe breathlessly reporting that an ACORN worker had murdered her husband?

Remember all the breathless pronouncements about Barack Obama not being an American citizen, that he was Muslim, unpatriotic, a Communist, giving terrorist fist jabs to his wife? Remember all the times when Rupert’s rat hordes were wrong or twisting facts simply because they didn’t wait long enough to get context?

Well, let it not be said that Fox Fraudcasting doesn’t learn its lessons because when they reluctantly reported on the O’Keefe story last Tuesday, they quickly came to the conclusion that the extralegal exploits of their hero of last September needed “more context.” OK, here’s your context, Tim: Your network’s hero and the other three stooges were arrested for trying to bug a US senator’s office. And, inspirationally, Fox wasn’t the only faction to see the light regarding Pimpgate and find context, as our next winner shows.

8) The Salt Lake County Republicans

On February 4th, the 21st century’s answer to Superfly was to be the keynote speaker at the Salt Lake County Republican Party’s Lincoln Day fundraising dinner. As of the night of O’Keefe’s arrest, they still had the announcement up. But by Wednesday, the website had been scrubbed of any reference to O’Keefe and he was disinvited and now they’re scrambling for a new keynote speaker. Maybe Sarah’s free if she’s not shooting wolves from a helicopter. Hey, how about Chuck Colson?

What a profile in courage. Thankfully, the Utah Republicans woke up and realized that O’Keefe didn’t represent their own Watergatesque legacy or that Abraham Lincoln would’ve been horrified to learn that one of his own was trying to bug a US Senator’s office. Or maybe they were worried that the fallout would cost them campaign contributions by having their fallen hero speak.

But I’m sure it was primarily all about Lincoln and the party’s purity. Yeah, that’s what it was.

7) Laura Ingraham

My suspicion is that every time Laura Ingraham speaks in public, people have to light a match afterwards. Witness Ingraham saying on Fox,
You know when it looked really ridiculous is when President Bush was standing so graciously next to President Obama and President Clinton at the White House. He couldn’t have been more gracious, he couldn’t have been more kind, couldn’t have been more generous. After everything they’ve said about him and after all the times they’ve trashed him in the past several months, that shows you the character of that man. And I think that’s why a lot of people in these polls are now saying, “Well, maybe that Bush guy wasn’t quite as bad as we thought.”

Really? Several recent polls have shown that Bush’s job approval ratings (and how an unemployed guy can have job approval ratings is anyone’s guess) have hardly risen from the low 20’s when he left office.

But, hey, maybe our economy isn’t in such bad shape, after all, because Bush managed to stand next to President Obama for several minutes without picking his nose, choke on a pretzel or say anything stupid.

No word, yet, on whether Fox has decided that President Clinton, also in attendance, is similarly not “quite as bad as we thought.”

6) Harold Ford, Jr.

Last Sunday, Harold Ford, Jr. penned an op-ed piece for the NY Times that has to be read to be believed. I’d already written about it that day but this particular bit of assclownery deserves a revisit.

Now, mind you, Ford’s running against incumbent Kirsten Gillibrand in New York’s upcoming Democratic senate primary. So what’s Merrill Lynch’s vice chairman’s remedy for our economic ills? Cut taxes for bailed out, well-compensated, SCOTUS-protected billionaires! Forget health care legislation (which the Democrats, in the wake of Scott Brown’s victory, already have)! A spending freeze during a recession-depression! Immigration reform! Oh, and in case I forgot, tax cuts for guys like me!!!

How bad does Bob Corker look now, ya’ll?

5) SC Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer

White-collar conservatives flashing down the street
Pointing their plastic finger at me.
They're hoping soon my kind will drop and die.
- Jimi Hendrix, “If 6 Was 9.”

South Carolina Lt. Governor Andre Bauer made the grade this past week for suggesting that maybe we should stop feeding the poor since, like stray animals, they tend to “breed”, which is a lot less hateful an idea than job and career training. How do pus-flecked pieces of shit like Andre Bauer continue to cover South Carolina with glory week after week?

But Bauer neglected a whole host of other uses and remedies for the poor. Such as sterilization. Oh, wait. How about using them as human billboards? Been there, done that (No, that isn’t a spoof site. These clowns are for real). We could get rid of them using homeless repellents such as feces. Oops. The Canadians already beat us to it. We could turn them on to geophagy. Nah, the Haitians are way ahead of us. So what does that leave? Hey, here’s an idea!

Bum Fights to the Death on PPV and Lieutenant Governor Michael Vick. Huh, huh???

4) Kellogg, Brown and Root

Last September, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Jamie Leigh Jones, a former KBR employee who had been gang-raped by her male coworkers four days after arriving in Iraq. The lower court ruled that Jones’ sexual assault, downplayed by KBR as a common workplace injury, was in no way related to the contract she signed with the company. This allowed Jones to walk past the arbitration process and to proceed directly to a civil suit. Well, guess what? KBR is now appealing to the corporate-friendly SCOTUS to overturn the ruling simply to ruin her credibility.

They’re likening Jones to a self-promoting glory-hound, despite the fact that she was raped in 2005 and took until 2007 for her to deliver testimony to the House Judiciary Committee. It was so sensational not because Jones made it so but because it was done by employees of a Cheney company subsidiary that’s gobbled up billions in contracts in Iraq and because the company’s self-centered, misogynistic heartlessness in the matter made it even more sensational.

Sigh. So many women to rape, abuse and imprison, so much accountability to duck, so little time.

3) The British Government

Or, more specifically, how can the British Government be so dumb as to follow George W. Bush on the path to ruin and scandal even after years of strenuous objections from their top legal advisors?

In an eerie mirror of our own Bush-era government, the Chilcot Inquiry in Whitehall this week revealed that the highest levels of the British government went to war with Iraq in spite of its own senior Foreign Office legal counsel and Attorney General Lord Goldsmith warning them repeatedly that doing so in violation of international law and a UN Security Council Resolution would be tantamount to “the crime of aggression.” At one point, when presented with a recommendation not to proceed with the blatantly illegal invasion, #10 Downing Street asked, “Why has this been put in writing?”

The dissenting documents in question were kept from the British public and remain so to this day for vague if not mysterious reasons. Some of the memos were written by Sir. Michael Wood, then the top legal advisor in the Foreign Office who informed Jack Straw that “to use force without Security Council authority would amount to a crime of aggression.” Straw brusquely replied, “I note your advice but I do not accept it.”

When pressured by then Prime Minister Tony Blair and then Foreign Secretary Jack Straw to come with his own legal opinion on the matter, Lord Goldsmith gave them a wavering, tacit opinion that while an invasion would be kinda, sorta legal, it might not stand up to legal inquiry. By February ’03, Straw wrote to Lord Goldsmith to come up with a legal strategy “which coincides with our firm policy intention.” In other words, fixing the facts around the policy. When hopes for a second UN Resolution authorizing military action faded, Goldsmith was summoned to Downing Street and pressured for a “yes or no” answer. Days later, Goldsmith had “a better view” of an invasion of Iraq.

This sounds a lot like the situation on our side of the pond in which a desperate “VP” Dick Cheney, then Halliburton’s president of federal contract procurement, went to Langley to pressure CIA intelligence analysts into telling him only what he wanted to hear about Iraq’s WMD program and simply wouldn’t listen to contrary intelligence. The only difference is that none of the Bush administration’s top legal advisors had the balls to stand up to Bush and Cheney to tell them an invasion was equally illegal, including John Ashcroft. Instead, our fucking shysters were telling the President how we could legally torture innocent people.

So why had the “Great British” decided to follow George W. Bush and Dick Cheney down the primrose path of war crimes? Well, which two countries would benefit the most from a takeover of Iraq’s oil and natural gas fields?

Sidebar: The United Kingdom had lost 179 troops during their illegal misadventure in Iraq.

2) James O’Keefe & Co.

James has been a pioneer in the use of new media to drive these kinds of important stories. He will discuss the role of new media and show examples of effective investigative reporting. - The Pelican Institute

There’s an old saying that it’s always darkest before the dawn. And coming after a horrid week and a half for progressives and liberals, along comes Pimp Daddy James O’Keefe and friends.

O’Keefe and three other upstanding young conservatives were caught doing the Watergate time warp when they disguised themselves as telephone workmen and began monkeying with Sen. Mary Landrieu’s phones, apparently with the intention of bugging them. Sen. Landrieu, it ought to be mentioned at this time, is a member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, meaning that a plausible federal case could be made for domestic espionage and possible terrorist activities. The four were caught when a Landrieu staffer pointed them to the GAO office on the 10th floor and when the security guard asked them for ID… Well, this is sort of how the exchange went moments before their arrest:

Homer: "Hello, my name is Mister Burns, I believe you have a letter for me." P.O. Worker: "Ok, Mr. Burns, what's your first name?" Homer: "I don't know..."

Robert Flanagan’s father happens to be an acting US Attorney and has different counsel than the other three, meaning that we could be looking at a plea bargain followed by a Perry Mason moment of catharsis.

Stan the Man Dai is the coauthor of the Penis Monologues and whose biography includes “serv(ing) as the Operations Officer of a Department of Defense irregular warfare fellowship program.” Lindsay Beyerstein of Majikthise also turned up this gem:
Stan Dai spoke about torture and terrorism at a CIA event in Langley, VA last June, according (to) this event program I found online. Get this, according to the flier, Adam Brandon, the press secretary of FreedomWorks (Dick Armey's town hall mob outfit) was on the same program.

You got it. A guy who dressed up as a phone repairman to bug the phone lines of a sitting Democratic United States Senator who also happens to be on the Homeland Security Committee and a teabugger who wrote dialogue for a penis lectured the Central Intelligence Agency at their headquarters about torture and terrorism.

Joe Basel, another co-conspirator, is just a small time right wing journalist who nonetheless, as with George W. Bush, loves to have his picture taken with little black kids, if his Facebook page is any indication (Oh, it’s him, alright. James O’Keefe and Stan Dai and Hannah Giles are among his BFF’s but not Robert Flanagan. Maybe that’s why he has separate counsel.).

Rep. John Kline (R-Watergate), who co-sponsored a bill to laud James O’Keefe and Hannah Giles, the Earl Holliman and Angie Dickinson of their generation, for their work on ACORN is understandably embarrassed by the news.

1) The Supreme Court

Money talks, according to the Supreme Court. Apparently, so does bullshit.

Last Thursday, the Supreme Court in Citizens United vs The Federal Election Commission ruled that US corporations are persons and are therefore entitled to spend as much cash as they please on political activities. In overturning 104 years of legal precedent, the high court decreed that said entities have the right to make our electoral system even more corrupt than it already is.

The SCOTUS overturned a DC District court ruling that Citizens United violated McCain-Feingold by trying to release a movie about then Senator Hillary Clinton called Hillary: The Movie, largely a pack of lies made during the New York Senator’s presidential campaign. The Supreme Court’s five right wingers thought that and the money used to fund such a Swift-Boating project was an exercise of free speech since corporations are persons just like us.

Clarence Thomas, typically, not only joined the majority he even said the ruling didn’t go far enough and that this was just “the first step.” While the ruling was technically limited to US corporations, it didn’t bother to distinguish between such and foreign entities that merely have papers of incorporation filed in the United States or exclude US corporations such as Halliburton headquartered abroad, corporations benefitting from federal tax exempt status.

Yet Thom Hartmann and others remind us that the Supreme Court never ruled in 1886 that corporations were ever given personhood under the 14th amendment (which was originally enacted by Congress to empower slaves) but that an offhanded comment by a Justice was inserted into the ruling later by court reporter J.C. Bancroft Davis, a former railroad president. Therefore, by even a less-than-strict interpretation of the actual ruling, corporations are as much natural persons as oil derricks.

The under-funded Republican Party, which stands to benefit from this more than Democrats, immediately began bellying up to the trough when the Supreme Court yelled “Sou-eeee!” House Minority Leader John Boehner said, “Sunshine really does work if you allow it to.”

But not for vampires and corrupt Republicans it does.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Pimpin' Ain't Easy

(Update: Thanks to Adam Weinstein at Mother Jones for the linkie love.)

Remember James "Superfly" O'Keefe, the right wing "activist" who shot a bunch of videos last year purporting to discredit ACORN and made Congress panic enough to shut down their federal grants? Well, now he can add "bumbling criminal" to "faux pimp" and "activist" to his list of credentials because O'Keefe was busted today for trying to tamper with Senator Mary Landrieu's phone lines.

Three other people were arrested in the sting including the son of Bill Flanagan, an acting US Attorney (also a Republican). "It was poor judgment," Robert Flanagan's lawyer, Garrison Jordan, said. "I don't think there was any intent or motive to commit a crime."

Oh, heavens to Betsy no. People break into the offices of United States senators posing as workmen all the time with no intent of doing mischief. Then why, pray tell, were they were arrested because ignorance of the law always equates with innocence, don't you know? (Nonetheless, tampering with phone lines is a felony and, in this case, a federal felony.).

Here's the money shot- these right wing merry pranksters even had their vague and apparently impotent exploits preserved for loving posterity: O'Keefe, ever the conscientious documentarian, recorded the whole thing on his cell phone.

If he's lucky, he can get Bill Flanagan to arrange for him to keep his pimp fedora- It'll go great with his red prison jumpsuit.

And Congress panicked and cut off 10% of ACORN's funding when this right wing bozo's videos surfaced? Just because he and Hannah Giles found a couple of bad apples in ACORN's offices didn't mean there was a vast left wing conspiracy to commit voter fraud and other crimes.

Tampering with phone lines and the voting process, on the other hand, is something that conservative scumbags across the board do all the time. But young Mr. O'Keefe can take heart: After he gets out of jail, maybe he can write a book about the incident, get a stupid literary agent to sign him up, get the thing published and be able to pimp it on Fox and ABC News.

Jackass Bauer

...and South Carolina just continues wallowing in glory.

If you need any further proof that the GOP is the Party of Scrooge, let's consider the case of South Carolina Lt. Governor Andre Bauer, a guy who recently said, "My grandmother was not a highly educated woman, but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals. You know why? Because they breed." He was leading up to a diatribe of welfare recipients and how we ought to stop feeding them because it fosters "a culture of dependency."

This is very much in keeping with Louisiana state Rep. John LaBruzzo who back in 2008 proposed paying poor women $1000 so they stop making less of themselves.

Likening the poor and disadvantaged to stray animals who only hang around if given a handout and the necessity of sterilizing them is something that only a Republican assclown would propose and is dangerously close to what Jonathan Swift suggested with tongue firmly in cheek in his "A Modest Proposal."

It's perhaps interesting to note that South Carolina is not only one of the poorest states in the union, it also boasts that out of its 47 counties in 2008, there isn't a single county in which 10% or less of the inhabitants live below the poverty level while over half, or 27 contain a 17% or greater constituency living below the poverty line.

In Allendale County (41.8%), the hardest hit county, almost half of the children live in poverty. I'm sure that'll go over real big when Jackass Bauer's election kicks into high gear. Of course, in keeping with the Republican tradition of Emersonian "self-reliance", neither Bauer nor LaBruzzo or anyone else of their odious, oleaginous ilk bother suggesting any alternatives to welfare, such as job creation, employment and academic education, grants that would pave the way to that end, you know, ways for people on welfare to get off welfare and make something of themselves.

But that would make too much sense and common sense, as with its cousin The Truth, has a liberal bias. It ought to be noted, also, that in that same year nearly 29% of South Carolina's population was African American (over twice the national average of 12.8)%, which begins to explain why well over half its counties live below the poverty level.

Lest the people of South Carolina forget that slur against their own poverty, they can also pay attention to his criminal history that includes speeding, getting belligerent with police officers and getting off scot free. This is a guy who's so unstable that Gov. Mark Sanford, just before shipping out for his stint in the AF Reserves, refused to temporarily transfer power to him.

And Republican-leaning voters have a wealth of choices: Of the four GOP gubernatorial contenders, three of them are national laughingstocks, including the aforementioned Lt. Governor, SC Attorney General Henry McMaster for his attack on Craigslist and Congressman Gresham Barrett who was roundly booed by Tea Partiers last April.

I never thought I'd say this, but I miss Mark Sanford already.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Strange Case of Dr. David Kelly

In proper British fashion, the death of Dr. David Kelly, renowned British weapons inspector for the Ministry of Defense, is right out of a game of Clue. Except his abrupt and improbable death on July 17th, 2003 wasn't anything as prosaic and hackneyed as a pipe used by Professor Plum in the parlor.

No, the very day after Dr. Kelly testified before a parliamentary intelligence committee on a now-notorious dossier regarding Iraq's phantom WMD program, the scientist was found dead in the woods near his home, his left ulnar artery slashed, and a belly full of arthritis pills.

Now, Lord Hutton has just announced that the autopsy results will be sealed for the next 70 years.

Now, this is just the latest in a series of events as highly suspicious and beyond the pale as Dr. Kelly's alleged suicide. But when we begin to examine the timeline both here and in the UK regarding two different whistleblowers, we begin to see some common denominators, common trends, common outcomes and they especially intersect in a week and a half period of time from July 6th to July 17th 2003.

Now what, besides Judith Miller, do the Wilsons and Dr. Kelly have in common?

Well, they were both whistleblowers who tried to warn their respective governments that their case for war was based on lies and inaccuracies and later went to the press to make their case heard. Dr. Kelly spoke to Andrew Gilligan, the British reporter who's written many articles about Iraq since before the American-led invasion.

Ambassador Wilson, as we know, was sent to Niger to investigate the Bush administration's claims that Saddam Hussein attempted to buy yellowcake uranium from Niger, a claim based on an incredibly forged document. Dr. Kelly had a problem with a dossier that also fraudulently claimed the Iraqi government had the ability to launch biological and chemical weapons 45 minutes after the order.

Both went overseas and found conclusive evidence proving that both claims were a lie. Wilson exposed the document as a forgery. Dr. Kelly saw at first glance the "mobile weapons labs" touted by Colin Powell and others were for, just as the Iraqis claimed, the production of hydrogen.

Both were outed or had a loved one outed by their own government. Robert Novak's article came out on July 14th outing Ms. Plame while denying he knew she was a covert agent (while nonetheless knowing she was working under a front company that he also exposed). It was eight days after Joe Wilson's legendary op-ed in the NY Times, "What I Didn't Find in Africa", that came out on Bush's 57th birthday.

Three days after Novak's column went to press, Dr. Kelly was found dead. Kelly was revealed to be the anonymous source used by Gilligan when they dropped more than broad hints as to his identity and when reporters began asking if it was Kelly, the Defense Ministry said, "Well, yeah. Might as well fess up to it." Which is a very unusual tack for the Defense Ministry to take when dealing with such sensitive issues.

Then in the final days of his life, Parliament tucked into poor Dr. Kelly as if he was some sort of, well, traitor.

Valerie Plame, Joe Wilson's wife, was outed by her own government, which is even more of an unusual tack for the US government to take since no secret agent had ever been outed by his or her own people before.

Quite a busy and hectic week on both sides of the pond, eh?

Did I mention Judith Miller, the NY Times biggest war drum beater, being the common denominator? In the middle of this hurricane of activity, Miller was speaking with Scooter Libby (a conversation for which she would later go to the jail for three months because Libby was too cowardly to come out and release her from her obligatory silence).

Judith Miller was also one of the very last people to hear from Dr. Kelly. Miller was one of the people who'd written to Kelly on the day of his death.

As far back as early 2006, it was estimated that the British government had spent at least £1.1bn on contractors in Iraq. That's 1.1 billion British pounds, sterling. But the article goes on to state that the actual cost back then to the UK could've been as high as 5.5 billion since a lot of contractors don't like to publicize how much they profit from war.

We ourselves have spent at least 800 billion, at one point a third of Iraq's reconstruction budget going to mercenary outfits such as Blackwater. We may never know how many tens of billions were stuffed into the deep pockets of war profiteers.

With that much money and the credibility of world leaders at stake, is it any wonder that Dr. Kelly's prophecy of being found dead in the woods came true and that Valerie Plame was outed by her own employers?

And just how much are we supposed to believe in coincidence that both parties could conclusively prove that their governments lying about the same country at the same time and that Judith Miller would be in the epicenter of both scandals?

And if Dr. Kelly's death was truly a suicide, then why had Lord Hutton ordered the autopsy results sealed until it would be all but guaranteed that all relevant parties (including Bush and Blair) would be dead?

And how unusual is it that there weren't enough pills present to result in death (about a third of a fatal dosage was actually found) and that there wasn't enough blood on the ground to account for the amount of exsanguination necessary for death or that Dr. Kelly wasn't carrying a water bottle that would've been necessary to ingest the pills he allegedly had?

Or that Dr. Kelly's right elbow injury rendered his right hand so useless that he could barely cut a steak let alone his own left wrist or that he was the only person in all of Britain that year to die in such a fashion?

I'm not a big believer in conspiracy theories.

Neither am I big a believer in coincidence and extraordinary circumstances.

Bad Day at BlackRock

After last week, there's not a whole helluva lot to cheer about but reading stories like this cheer me up a little. It's nice to know it's not just little people like us made to bite a stick and grab their ankles:
NEW YORK (AP) -- The financially troubled owners of two massive apartment complexes that sold for a record $5.4 billion a few years ago said Monday they're turning them over to their creditors.

The joint venture ownership team led by Tishman Speyer Properties and BlackRock Realty, hurt by the real estate market collapse, couldn't make a multimillion-dollar loan payment earlier this month for the Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village apartments in Manhattan.

Over the last few days it became clear the only viable alternative to bankruptcy would be to transfer to lenders control and operation of the 110 buildings and 11,000 apartments overlooking the East River, partnership spokesman Bud Perrone said.

"We make this decision as we feel a battle over the property or a contested bankruptcy proceeding is not in the long-term interest of the property, its residents, our partnership or the city," Perrone said in an e-mailed statement.

The group bought the complexes, which have about 25,000 tenants, in 2006 at the height of the real estate bubble in the nation's largest residential real estate deal.

The record purchase price seemed outrageous to many real estate analysts, but the partnership believed it had a winning strategy: It would aggressively convert thousands of rent-regulated apartments occupied by middle-class families into luxury units that would fetch top dollar.

It went on to say that these scumbags at BlackRock Realty and Tishman Speyer Properties tried to squeeze out these middle class working class people by jacking up their rent to the tune of $200,000,000, which a state court ruled was too excessive.

The 11,000+ units were built by MetLife for returning veterans from the second World War and 75% of them were rent-controlled.

It's nice to see a bunch of greedy scumbags get their just desserts once in a while.

Harold Ford: OK, OK, I'm a Republican.

In this morning's New York Times is an op-ed by Harold "Chuckles" Ford, Jr. in which he outlines a simple four step strategy designed to help the Democrats stand back up on their wet, wobbly legs.

By the time you get to the fourth paragraph, where he outlines step #1, you get more than a vague sense that Ford is subliminally saying, "OK, OK, reality check here. Yes, I really am a Republican but you can't say my ideas don't have any merit and you'd be a fool to not think more like us."

Ford's first suggestion? A dead giveaway: Cut taxes for businesses and not just the small ones, either (including, for instance, Merrill Lynch, which in a sweetheart deal three years ago, saw fit to make him their vice chairman on Valentine's Day, a fact the NY Times doesn't bother to note in their biographical blurb). Not only does Ford not suggest cutting taxes for rank and file Americans (for which President Obama will advocate in this Wednesday's State of the Union Address), he somehow conflates in true elephantine fashion tax cuts for large businesses with job growth.

Ford suggests, "reducing the top corporate tax rate to 25 percent from 35 percent. America’s primary job-creating machine — the private sector — needs to be rejuvenated. Democrats must lead now on job creation or risk forfeiting Congressional majorities in November."

Gee, didn't GOP psychopaths Rudy Giuliani and John McCain propose during their presidential campaigns cutting corporate taxes from 35 to 25%? And don't Republicans always make the same mistake with confusing tax cuts with job creation, a tactic that historically is an impossibility? Barney Frank reminded us last year that no tax cut has ever created a job, rebuilt a school, put more cops and firefighters on the streets or built a road or a bridge. It's just as true now as it was when Frank said it.

Then, after saying in the 2nd paragraph, "President Obama and the Democratic Party need to shift attention away from health care", Harry then says of step two,
Second, we should pass a more focused health reform bill that restructures current health care costs before spending more, prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions, enacts responsible reform on malpractice suits and extends health coverage to all children. And we must allow states to have input into the expansion of health coverage, as they will have to pay for much of the reform themselves.

This program isn’t all that Democrats wanted from health care reform right now, but it’s what the country wants. And it’s what the country can afford.

Note embedded in that faux populist message a need for tort reform, meaning we shouldn't be so hasty when doctors fuck up and leave scalpels and sponges embedded in our bodies, amputate the wrong limb or kill us when they prescribe the wrong meds. And, if you want to extend that message to not suing the HMOs for denying us the care for which they were contracted to give us and for which we already pay handsomely, be my guest.

Embedded in that paragraph is a sly way of saying that even if there's a public option in the final bill (notably absent in the Senate version), states ought to have the right to opt out (another concession made by wet-legged Senate Democrats to the Republican minority.)

But states' rights has never been a populist message latched on to by Republicans, right? Because if Harold Ford was actually black, that would involve a conflict of interest, wouldn't it?

Bullet point #3 is an even bigger giveaway:
Third, we should reform our immigration policy to ensure that those who contribute to our economy, especially foreign math and science graduates of American universities, have a clear path to citizenship.

Poll after poll, especially ones taken after the Massachusetts Massacre last Tuesday, show the #1 concern of American voters across all political spectrums is the economy. Same as last year. Same as the year before that. Not even health care, which is certainly tied to our economic recovery, not Iraq or Afghanistan, which are also draining our coffers, but the economy in the abstract.

Immigration isn't even on the list of priorities any more than gay marriage, school prayer or getting Michael Moore back on his produce diet.

What Ford's saying is pretty insidious not to mention blatantly ignorant: If you're a foreign student doing something worthwhile like math and science, you should be bumped up to the head of the line. Problem with that is it doesn't address the hard-working menial laborers such as produce, factory and slaughterhouse workers or anyone else who never had the chance to go to college and would also like a green card and citizenship.

Another problem is that a lot of these swarthy wouldbe professionals wind up taking their expensive sheepskins back to their countries of origin to fill jobs that corporations so deserving of Ford's proposed tax breaks outsource overseas (Such companies already enjoy not only tax breaks but exemptions because they shifted their corporate headquarters beyond the reach of Uncle Sam's hand).

But hold on, now, lest you think I'm being too harsh on Vice Chairman Ford, we haven't gone into his fourth point for our economic recovery:
Finally, we need to address budget deficits now rather than waiting for some ideal future economic situation. It’s a good sign that the Obama administration is following the advice of Senators Kent Conrad of North Dakota, Evan Bayh of Indiana and other Democratic fiscal pragmatists who embrace the idea of a bipartisan commission to recommend spending cuts to rein in deficit growth. But we must be sure that the administration and Congress heed the commission’s advice.

By focusing on job creation and deficit reduction, we can expand our economy and balance the budget. We’ve done it before: When President Bill Clinton took office in 1993, he inherited a record fiscal deficit after years of Republicans in the White House. After eight years in office (and 22 million jobs created), President Clinton had balanced the budget and left his successor with a surplus. This can be done again.

To be sure, President Obama has achieved some important successes. His policies prevented the financial system from collapsing, saved America’s auto industry from extinction and avoided a depression. But that extreme crisis is over — what our country needs now is better, not more, government.

A Democratic Party refocused on revitalizing our economy, protecting the United States from terrorism and re-establishing itself as the party for the middle class is what Americans are demanding. If we do this, victory at the polling booths will take care of itself.

Somehow, I don't get the impression that this Joe Lieberman-in-waiting will shed too many tears if the Democrats wind up losing seats in the midterms (as they almost surely will).

Now, to be fair, Ford at least shows some sense of history and not the revisionist kind bellowed by Republicans who still insist that Bush inherited a recession from Clinton. The 42nd President did indeed do a bang up job undoing 12 years of Republican economic sodomy and balanced the budget in three years, two ahead of his campaign projection.

But the deregulation orgy that kicked into overdrive during Bush II actually began ramping up under Clinton's watch and can be directly tied to some of the problems we now face on the economic homefront (such as the 1999 repeal of Glass-Steagall, for instance, for which Democrats are now yearning as much as Republicans yearn for Joe McCarthy and HUAC).

Bottom line, Ford's message to Democrats, entitled "Get Down to Business" may sound like a well-meaning, populist, bipartisan approach to party dominance but what it really comes down to is "Get Down With Business". Cut our taxes, he's saying, and let the free market take over. You can trust us, the GOP and the Blue Dogs, you know, the ones who got you into this mess in the first place, to be responsible co-stewards of the economy.

To any of my fellow New Yorkers reading this: You want a moderate Democrat representing you in the Senate? You already have one. Her name is Kirsten Gillibrand. I trust you'll know what to do this November.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

"We, the Corporations...

Update: Sorry about the automatic loading of the Murphy Brown video. Until I can learn the html code that'll disable this, you can turn the volume all the way down on the video itself.

(By American Zen's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari)

Of the United Arab Emirates, in Order to form a more perfect Merger, to stab Justice, insure Domestic Campaign Contributions, to Benefit from an uncommon Legal Defense, promote corporate Welfare, and secure the Blessings of the Liberty to ourselves and our Politicians of Choice, do ordain and establish and approve this Message for the United Corporations of America ®."

Somehow, I don't think that's the preamble the Founding Fathers had in mind when they wrote the Constitution. But 5 certain activist right wing justices apparently don't have any respect for the intent of the Constitution in Citizens United vs the FEC. Back in 2005, perhaps the Senate Judiciary Committee should've pressed John Roberts a little more diligently when he tried ducking questions about stare decisis.

Here's what the SCOTUS did in a nutshell: Corporations, plain and simple, no longer have to launder their campaign contributions (hereafter referred to as bribes) through political action committees. Corporations are no longer restrained by the $2300 campaign contribution limit to which actual persons remain bound. While the Corporate 5 pretended that this relaxation of 104 years of legal precedent would benefit only American corporations, the high court knew damned good and well that any offshore corporation, say from Israel or Saudi Arabia, need only file papers of incorporation in Delaware to qualify for American corporate citizenship.

This means that if the well-funded al Qaeda network wanted to fund the campaign of another useful Republican idiot like George W. Bush, the Supreme Court paved the way for them to do so. Imagine Osama bin Laden and his $300,000,000 personal fortune bankrolling Jeb Bush's campaign for President while John "Coppertone" Boehner crows about the rule of law being upheld.

Indeed, when Boehner and other Republicans began hailing the court's decision, you could practically see golden arches for eyebrows and golden dutch shells for pupils as Republicans, out-moneyed and outmanned by Democrats, eagerly began licking their chops and rubbing their hands at the prospect of now being able to accept billions in campaign contributions from anyone and everyone.

In the majority ruling, Clarence Thomas actually wrote a dissenting opinion but that isn't as promising as it sounds. In his dissent, Justice Thomas, typically a believer in stare decisis and Constitutional originalism, departed from his legalistic philosophy and any lingering common sense regarding corporate influence on our democracy by saying that the high court didn't go far enough in protecting corporate right to free speech and warned ominously that it was "just the first step."

It's worth mentioning that the bulk of the 183 page ruling, which might as well be called The Fountainhead II, was written by Anthony Kennedy, a reliable swing vote for the court's radical right wing faction.

It wouldn't be too much of a stretch to say this was the court's open declaration of war on actual flesh and blood individuals, that they were saying in essence, Corporations have all the rights you do and a good deal more.

Corporate Accountability

Corporation, n. An ingenious device for obtaining individual profit without individual responsibility. - Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary

OK, just because they can now flood our elections with unlimited amounts of blood money and petrodollars, surely they're bound by the same laws as "natural" individuals, right?

Well, the Rude Pundit recently wondered aloud about the same thing on Twitter when he asked, "If corporations are people, can they be arrested for murder?"

Anyone who's been following Blackwater's exploits or that of other security contractors or of the rise of InfraGard knows that's merely a rhetorical question. Blackwater literally got away with murder in the wake of their bloodiest day in Iraq when they slaughtered 17 innocent civilians in Nisour Sq. without any provocation whatsoever. Judge Ricardo Urbina ruled that federal prosecutors bungled the case so badly the evidence against them was either inadmissable or fraudulently obtained. Blackwater's attorneys have gone out of their way to argue that Erik Prince's merry band of psychopaths cannot be tried for war crimes in civilian courts because they're federal contractors and can't be tried through the UCMJ because they're contractors and not military. They'd shown contempt for Iraqi law by remaining in Baghdad raking in tons of money and elsewhere even after the Iraqi government officially banned them.

Essentially, Blackwater's saying that they're not accountable to any law in the world.

InfraGard is even more ominous. InfraGard is largely made up of at least 350 of the Fortune 500. Beginning modestly in 1996 to fight cyber-terrorism, InfraGard is now a shadow army collecting thousands of new recruits each year. Their own web page states,
While under the direction of NIPC, the focus of InfraGard was cyber infrastructure protection. After September 11, 2001 NIPC expanded its efforts to include physical as well as cyber threats to critical infrastructures. InfraGard’s mission expanded accordingly.

In March 2003, NIPC was transferred to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which now has responsibility for Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP) matters. The FBI retained InfraGard as an FBI sponsored program, and will work with DHS in support of its CIP mission, facilitate InfraGard’s continuing role in CIP activities, and further develop InfraGard’s ability to support the FBI’s investigative mission, especially as it pertains to counterterrorism and cyber crimes.

What they don't tell you is that these corporations have already been deputized by the FBI and Homeland Security to shoot to kill with Blackwateresque impunity anyone and everyone they deem a threat to their infrastructure. To InfraGard insiders, martial law is not a question of if but a question of when. In fact, FBI director Robert Mueller deputized InfraGard four and a half years ago to handle martial law. InfraGard has access to possible terrorist threats that even our own elected officials don't have.

It's the ultimate government outsourcing to corporations and they are actually a part of DHS.

Who Will Benefit and Who Will Get Elected?

Both Republicans and Democrats will benefit from this new ruling. Nakedly corrupt Democratic lawmakers such as John Murtha, Chuck Schumer, Dianne Feinstein, Nancy Pelosi and especially Max Baucus are secretly creaming their panties and tightie whities at the prospect of no longer having to go the long way around the bend to grab those money bags.

But history tells us that Republicans, in keeping with their fascist forebears, have always been more simpatico and aligned with corporate interests than Democrats. Any corporation insistent on getting tax cuts, subsidies and deferments and complete deregulation (which is to say all of them) will more than likely get it from a Republican and all they have to do is send a lobbyist to their offices to remind them which side their bread is buttered on.

Out of the 535 members of Congress, perhaps 520 do not belong there. Most of them were financed, to some extent, by corporations with the so-called limitations already in place. Without even these swiss cheesed restrictions in place, even American-based multinational corporations that do not even pay US taxes will now get to decide who our next president is regardless of how miserably unqualified he or she is to hold that office.

Never underestimate the effect cabals such as the Bilderberg group has over public opinion. Bill Clinton, like Jimmy Carter 15 years before him, was an unknown southern governor with no national political or foreign policy experience who abruptly became the Democratic frontrunner who would go on to unseat an incumbent.

We could have done a lot worse than Bill Clinton, true, but with the SCOTUS's revolutionary ruling last Thursday, we're pretty much guaranteed that we will do worse in future elections, starting this November.

Just try to remember: Enhanced visibility should in no way be confused with enhanced qualifications.

The Crux of the Biscuit Frank Zappa would say, is not that corporations have the same exact rights we have but rather that they have exponentially greater rights than that of "natural" persons. Corporations and financial institutions like Goldman Sachs, CitiGroup, MBNA, Blackwater, Halliburton, Blue Cross and AIG regularly enter our homes every day and loot the coffers of tens of millions of American households. But just try even knocking on the front door of any of their corporate HQ with the intention of just talking to one of their executives and see how fast they release the hounds.

The 2005 Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act made it virtually impossible for families to claim bankruptcy due to credit card and loan defaults as a result of medical bills while allowing corporations such as Enron, Tyco and Worldcom to use the bankruptcy laws as their plan B.

The self-dealing bankruptcy bill, written by our nation's biggest lenders and rubber-stamped by a GOP-dominated 109th Congress, also allowed them to indulge in usury (including the legal right to jack APR's up to 36%) and wealthy individuals were still able to use the asset protection trust loophole that permits them to hide their money from creditors by buying mansions out of state.

And if you need another indication of where your government's true loyalties lie, survey the economic landscape, take a look at the Dow Jones Average, scan the headlines of record 4Q profits for the bailed-out banks and corporations and decide for yourself who's better off- Main St. or Wall St.?

The Supreme Court's ruling, which sounds suspiciously like an a priori response to an 1886 a priori ruling that granted corporate personhood, was notably made along the hardest of hard line ideological divides. Obviously wanting to see a Republican administration and more Republicans in the legislative branch, the SCOTUS nakedly paved the way for corporations, American and otherwise, to essentially buy any office for any boob who will champion their bottom line.

Witness this episode of Murphy Brown - The Best and Not-So-Brightest. Pay particular attention to the last eight minutes. Thanks to the Supreme Court, we're going to see a lot more idiots like Stuart Best shoehorned into Washington, DC in the future.

What Now?

The high court's ruling may seem like another nail in the coffin of the rights of individuals and that the system is now officially rigged to favor corporate personhood over our own.

As always, the old political adage of following the money will serve us in good stead. And this illusion that we call democracy and the electoral process, this parlor game, this dumb show that we've been told places the power in our hands, that we're a country of the people, for the people and by the people can once again become a reality.

It all begins with vigilance and even hypervigilance. It will involve ensuring that corporations like ChoicePoint never again assemble lists of many tens of thousands of innocent individuals so the Republican Party can deny us our constitutional right to vote and that those votes won't be counted (or discounted) by GOP-connected corporations such as Diebold or ES&S.

It will mean paying particular attention to which corporation is funding what campaign and drawing parallels between their corporate bottom line and the policy positions taken up by the candidates.

It may perhaps even involve boycotting the goods and services of certain corporations who are obviously buying the candidacies of stupendously unqualified people. This, admittedly, will be the hardest thing to do. Corporate retailers like Wal-Mart give us cheap goods. Corporations give us all of our news and all of our cell phones, cable and satellite TV and internet access.

Even holding up a handmade placard would mean using paper made by a paper mill owned by a corporation, written with a Sharpie and standing on a soap box made by another corporation.

But it's not impossible. We cannot admit defeat and allow corporations to buy our elections more than they already have. Radical special interest groups, corporations, cartels and cabals such as the Bilderberg Group have already given us stupendously incompetent people such as the Bushes, Sonny Bono, Michele Bachmann and the like.

Imagine how much worse it will get unless we stand up and claim what is rightfully ours: Our democracy, our electoral process, our personhood. Because one person should be able to make a difference, not one corporation or cartel.

KindleindaWind, my writing blog.

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