Monday, March 13, 2017

Our Hero W:  The Boy King's Golden Return  (Hardly a Harmless Jackass - A No-Lose Proposition)  U.S. Health Care Catastrophe? Let the Wealthy Decide - They Always Do (But for God's Sake Don't Hit the Streets!)  Max and Tracy Hit the Dirt (Streets) & Lee Camps Out As Usual

Get a drink.


This refugee crisis is an American creation, a parting gift from George W. Bush. We forget what he was, we forget the aftermath of what he did, but how? Whence comes this shallow grave of memory? The corporate "news" media, for their part, are all too happy to help us forget, because in that forgetting they are absolved of any culpability for their harrowing judgment and insatiable desire for ratings. The politicians are thrilled we forget because they want to do it all over again, because that's where the money is. In the end, however, we forget because we choose to, because horror is hard to hold in the heart for so long, because all this is our shame, too, and that is a grueling fact to face.

. . . Let's start with the book. It is a collection of some 66 Bush-painted portraits of the faces of men and women who got blown apart one way or another in Iraq and Afghanistan. The portraits of those maimed in Iraq specifically depict soldiers in muted agony delivered to their current damaged estate by the artist formerly known as George, who threw them into that meat grinder for money on a raft of obvious lies. If one had a soul, the act of painting the faces of your victims would seem like a fate worse than death, a sorrowful tour of self-loathing and regret as your brush rounded out the features of those laid low by your faithless greed. But no, there was Bush on the television, smiling and smiling with the book in his lap, utterly oblivious to the ghastly irony of his endeavor.

It should come as no surprise, really. Here is the man who responded to the attacks of September 11 by demanding tax cuts, whose idea of humor was to make a satire video of himself searching for the missing weapons of mass destruction in the Oval Office. The soldiers Bush painted could very well have been getting blasted legless and eyeless out of their armored vehicles at the exact same time he was stooping to look under his desk, then under a table - nope, not here either.

That is the George W. Bush I remember, the Bush I will never, ever forget, the feckless, lethal liar, the thief, the mass murderer, the fool, the fraud, the bumbler, the man with no shame. How appallingly easy it is, apparently, for people to forget.

Our national knack for forgetting is not solely relegated to this polished reimagining of Bush. We are currently engaged in a great national debate over the fate of tens of thousands of Middle Eastern and African refugees seeking safety here in the United States. If politicians like Donald Trump have their way, those refugees would be told in no uncertain terms that, sorry, there's no room at the inn. We just can't have you here because you might be "terrorists," even though we vigorously screen you. See, there's this thing called the "GOP base," and they hate you because they've been well-trained to do so, and they vote. The country's current leadership needs to keep them happy, and so you are barred at the door.

In this development lies one of the greatest moral calamities the United States has ever committed, another example of highly convenient national memory loss. To a very large degree, we created those refugees. We've been bombing Iraq with dreary regularity for 26 years and counting, bombing people's homes, their markets, their electrical grids, their mosques, their water and sewage treatment plants, their roads and bridges, and when we ran out of things to bomb, we bombed the rubble because it looks good on TV. Sooner or later, after everything you've ever known or called home has been laid waste, you're going to grab what's left of your family and run for your lives.

And run people did, millions of them, away from the American war and over the border into Syria, which was subsumed by the mass migration of these desperate victims. Syria trembled under the burden and then collapsed into the chaos we are currently witnessing after a vicious civil war broke out, and once again, millions of people were on the run. Many ran all the way to Europe, where they await the adjudication of their fate, and many now seek asylum in the United States, where they have family and a chance at a new life. Because we forget, they are now forgotten, and the suffering we have already visited upon them is once more compounded. It takes a special kind of monster to do such a thing to innocent people. We do it every day, and then forget it ever happened.

This hellish footrace has been taking place all across the Middle East for a long while now, predominately in nations where the US has intervened militarily, most recently and vividly in Yemen. Saudi Arabia, a staunch US ally, has been using US-made weapons to terrible effect in that nation, which is approaching Aleppo levels of carnage and devastation at speed. Perhaps the cruelest twist to all this is the insinuation, pushed by Trump whenever possible, that the ranks of these refugees will be riddled with terrorists. When all you know is annihilated, you have two simple choices:  Take up arms against your aggressors, or run. These people chose to run, and even that most elemental act of ultimate surrender is not enough to evoke the slightest hint of mercy from us, the ones who put them to their heels in the first place.

. . . About 2,600 US paratroopers from Ft. Bragg are preparing to deploy to Kuwait, Iraq and Syria, where they will join the fight against ISIS. They will meet some 400 Marines already in Syria, who are tasked with keeping our so-called allies in the region from attacking each other. They have, as yet, no orders to join the fray directly, save for the Marines who are firing artillery salvos at today's enemies. Many of these troops have been deployed more than five times already. Those who serve over there have come to call it the "Forever War."

I wonder how long it will be before we forget them, too.

We, the people, the United States of Forgetting people? Or at least forgetful people.

We are the innocents of the world, you know.

That's why we know no other innocents.

And exactly how many filet mignons can the wealthy consume every day?

Or even every week?

Progressives Should Support Policies That Help All Working-Class People

The Deep State 2.0

The Deep State is an outgrowth of the illiberal tendencies in liberal democracy, tendencies which have given disproportionate influence to a militarized foreign policy, secrecy and surveillance at home and entrenched disparities of wealth. But, while it has been a grave defect of our governmental system, it was not the worst thinkable permutation of that system. What is now evolving in the West Wing under the troika of Donald Trump, Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner is something much more sinister.

. . . There is little evidence that America will be saved by concealed and powerful forces in the manner of the shadowy Caped Crusader rescuing Gotham City from the deranged Joker, or, alternatively, that the rough-hewn populist good guy Trump is in mortal combat with the Deep State. It is true that he ran as a populist against elite institutions:  the power centers of the 1 percent - Wall Street, Silicon Valley and the military-industrial complex - mostly supported his opponent. But his actions so far have strongly reinforced rather than weakened their position.

A glance at the membership of the president's Strategic and Policy Forum shows they are flocking to his side, with masters of financial buccaneering like Stephen Schwarzman of the Blackstone Group and Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase, along with Doug McMillon of retail giant Walmart. There is even an ex-governor of the Federal Reserve Board, Bush appointee Kevin Warsh. This is hardly a populist revolution of the kind preached by John Steinbeck's Tom Joad.

Trump's senior government appointments reinforce this impression:  his Cabinet, filled with moguls from Big Oil, mega-banking, investment and retail, makes George W. Bush's Cabinet look like a Bolshevik workers' council. Even Steve Bannon, Trump's "alt-right" Svengali, is an alumnus of Goldman Sachs, whose stock has surged 38 percent since the election. The fact that America's premier corporate raider, Carl Icahn, will be special adviser on regulatory reform, and that Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin was a Goldman executive for 16 years, does not inspire confidence that economic management will be different from that which piloted us into the 2008 crash.

Trump's $6.2 trillion in planned tax cuts are the Bush policy on steroids, and are potentially three times the magnitude of the 10-year cost of Bush's cuts. Because they are heavily targeted at the rich - 47 percent of the cuts will go to the top 1 percent - they will exacerbate income inequality, which is already at its highest level since the 1920s. The tax-relief crumbs for low-income earners will be nullified or made worse by an assault on the minimum wage. Assistance to the poor and near-poor could be further eroded by a reduction in Medicaid benefits (already in the works, courtesy of Speaker Paul Ryan and the Republican Congress). These actions will exacerbate the ongoing trend toward jobs without benefits.

Despite their windfall from Trump's tax policies, the rich will only be able to consume so many filet mignons, Sub-Zero refrigerators and Patek-Philippe watches before reaching satiation. The rest of their tax cut dividend will go into lifting the equities market to stratospheric levels or building palatial monuments in Glen Cove, Palm Beach or Palo Alto. Since the tax cuts will be much greater than Bush's own prodigious fiscal mismanagement, the potential equities and real estate bubble could be a thing to behold. This is anything but a populist economic policy.

Candidate Trump's criticism of the invasion of Iraq and promise of better relations with Russia also appealed to the growing populist backlash against the foreign policy elite's practice of military intervention. He was regarded as less hawkish than his opponent, Hillary Clinton, which led some to regard him as the default peace candidate of the two major-party nominees. One peace activist and former Democrat even said in correspondence to me that "[f]or my grandchildren, Trump's my only realistic hope." This premise was spectacularly mistaken and ignored what lay in plain sight.

Trump had always claimed, in line with conventional Republican dogma, that America's military was "depleted," and that he would increase its budget to "rebuild" it. No matter that this was a myth, as DOD in 2016 spent, in constant dollars, comfortably more than the Cold War average. And, sure enough, after the election defense stocks rose in the expectation that he would open the money spigot even wider. This expectation is bolstered by the fact that Congress is controlled by Republicans, whose reflex is to throw money at defense. The military-industrial complex, a core component of the Deep State, will grow even fatter, as his request for a 10-percent Pentagon budget increase plainly telegraphs.

Donald Trump will not dismantle the extra-constitutional power structures that have grown more influential in the last decades of near-perpetual war, increasingly intrusive surveillance, financial deregulation and widening inequality. He will further entrench them. This has confounded those in the media, who once regarded him as a vulgar but basically harmless jackass who probably wouldn't win but who in any case increased ratings and circulation, as well as those Americans desperate for silver linings who saw him a change agent that would shake up a polarized political system and slaughter a few sacred cows.

The powers-that-be probably never liked Trump's vulgarity, but they had in any case a hedged bet during the campaign:  Hillary Clinton, a firm friend of Wall Street, was denounced as such by an opponent who was an even bigger friend of the Street. It was a no-lose proposition.

In the post-2008 age of populism the elites have flexibly adapted to the angry rhetoric of anti-establishment politics while expanding the very same policies that led to that populism in the first place. Trump's tastelessness and complete lack of qualifications, which at first seemed like serious defects, may in retrospect have been his tactic to save their political agenda by masking it in a façade of fake populism and reality-TV stage management.

Now you see much more clearly how George W. gets to return to the national stage a hero.

Or at least one of the minor heros of the upper class.

The American Health Care Act Is a Wealth Grab, Not a Health Plan

The GOP's Health Care Plan:  "Universal" Access for the Wealthy

New Anti-Protesting Legislation:  A Deeper Look

Economic Update:  Questions About Capitalism - Richard D. Woolf Explains

Max Keiser and Stacy Herbert, still down on my farm, would never think of making the logical argument for Medicare for All.

Except for now because no one else with a TV economics show will.

Max & Stacy are also not afraid to explain why Neoliberalism is obviously junk economics:

And as to space junk or Swede danger . . .

My personal hero, Lee Camp, in the following episodes of "Redacted Tonight,"

exposes who (what) is really behind the heinous Trump presidency. He reveals the shady power players who are really calling the shots. It’s a disgusting web of bad operators, and it’s definitely worth knowing about. Lee also covers the new Wikileaks CIA leaks. These leaks show that the CIA has been spying on us through, not only our phones, but also our TVs and cars. This gross violation is truly disturbing. Lee breaks it all down.

In the second half of the show, "Redacted" correspondent Natalie McGill joins Lee at the desk to discuss Robo-Bees. Yes, ROBOTIC BEES! Because of colony collapse and climate change, lots of organic bees are dying. Robo-Bees are being used to pick up the pollinating slack. Is this a great innovation or completely horrible? Finally, correspondent Naomi Karavani files a report about hate crime legislation around the country. It turns out the handful of states that don’t have strong hate crime laws HAVE MORE HATE CRIMES. Karavani explains this and more on "Redacted Tonight."


falken751 said...

" To a very large degree, we created those refugees. We've been bombing Iraq with dreary regularity for 26 years and counting, bombing people's homes, their markets, their electrical grids, their mosques, their water and sewage treatment plants, their roads and bridges, and when we ran out of things to bomb, we bombed the rubble because it looks good on TV. Sooner or later, after everything you've ever known or called home has been laid waste, you're going to grab what's left of your family and run for your lives."

You conveniently forgot to call it the "Obama disaster" "Obama the bomber" "the black disaster."

Cirze said...

I've covered the Obama doublecross for eight years.

I will continue with the Trump one.

It's what I do here now as there're so many new ones happening all the time.

The economics policies change in their wake.

Anyone who isn't following these is living in a fantasy world.

TONY @oakroyd said...

Same policies, different masks - Roosevelt, Reagan, Clinton, Bush, Obama. It didn't take Trump, who clearly knows nothing about anything, very long to swallow the Pentagon Koolaid.

Cirze said...

I shouldn't be so oblique but somehow that fits.

I consider that the economic policies haven't really changed since Reagan: as Obama made clear (and he was a fan; he even bragged about it - remember?).

The masks are always Venetian.

And they are always removed at the end of the party.

Trump was allowed to triumph Republicanly by the Reaganites.

Even Hillary seemed to be on board.

Why else did she not make wiser moves as a candidate?

Some say she's always been looking forward to being mayor of New York City.

It's a lot more fun a city.

And the money's better.

Love you!

Take care.