Friday, December 31, 2010

Sunday Classics preview: It's New Year's Eve, and have we got a "Brandenburg" Concerto for you!


For New Year's Eve, the fizziest of the Brandenburgs: Sir James Galway is joined by Andrea Griminelli and an unidentified violin soloist in the effervescent first movement of Concerto No. 4, with the Union Chamber Orchestra at the Teatro Giacosa in Aosta, April 2009.

by Ken

We began our once-through of Bach's timeless Brandenburg Concertos last week with Nos. 1-3, meaning that this week's business is Nos. 4-6. And as suggested above, I think the ebullient Fourth Brandenburg is an excellent match for New Year's Eve. The paired flutes lend it an especially heady note.

While we're thinking "flutes," I thought it might be fun to hear our old friend flutist-conductor Kurt Redel, whom you'll recall we heard playing as well as conducting Telemann. This performance is from his Erato stereo remake of the Brandenburgs with his Munich Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra, and featuring many of the same instrumentalists who'd been with him for the 1955 mono set.

BACH: Brandenburg Concerto No. 4 in G, BWV 1049

i. Allegro
ii. Andante; iii. Presto

Kurt Redel and Paul Meisen, flutes; Reinhold Barchet, violin; Munich Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra, Kurt Redel, cond. Erato/Musical Heritage Society, recorded My 1-6, 1962

We even have New Year's fireworks! Well, after a fashion -- accompanying the first movement of Brandenburg No. 4 in a synthesized version "using both analog and digital synthesizers" according to the poster.


We have a first listen to the Fifth Brandenburg. Sunday, of course, is our Brandenburg Nos. 4-6 day (with a bit of extra business on tap).

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Sunday Classics, New Year's edition: (2) Champagne


(1) LEHÁR: The Merry Widow: "Vilja Song""
Renata Tebaldi, soprano
(2) FERRARI-PLATTE: "Domino"
Fernando Corena, bass
(3) LERNER and LOEWE: My Fair Lady: "I could have danced all night"
Birgit Nilsson, soprano
(4) TAGLIAFERRI: "Passione"
Mario del Monaco, tenor
(5) LAVILLA: "Lullaby"
Teresa Berganza, mezzo-soprano
(6) ARDITI: "Il Bacio" ("The Kiss")
Joan Sutherland, soprano
(7) LEHÁR: The Land of Smiles: "Dein ist mein ganzes Herz" ("Yours is my heart alone")
Jussi Bjoerling, tenor
(8) GERSHWIN: Porgy and Bess: "Summertime"
Leontyne Price, soprano
(9) BERLIN: Annie, Get Your Gun: "Anything you can do, I can do better"
Giulietta Simionato, mezzo-soprano; Ettore Bastianini, baritone
(10) SIECZYNSKI: "Wien, du Stadt meiner Träume" ("Vienna, you city of my dreams")
Ljuba Welitsch, soprano

speakers including Regina Resnik (Prince Orlofsky); Vienna Philharmonic, Herbert von Karajan. Decca, recorded June 1960

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Happy New Year from all of us at DWT!


What could say "Happy New Year" more deeply and heartfeltly than some cockamamie clip yanked off of YouTube? Last year at least we mustered a clip featuring a scratchy old Guy Lombardo record. Well, didn't we already know that things are going to hell all over?

I think we all know how we're going to feel about 2011 when it comes to looking back at it. Let's just hope we're all in a position to do so, in no worse shape than we are now. -- Ken


In case you were wondering, yes indeed, there is a "Sunday Classics preview" coming up at the usual time, midnight ET/9pm PT. It's a special "New Year's Eve With Bach" edition.


Thanks in good part to the corporatist network of liars-for-hire, Social Security is now in the clutches of congressional Deficit Diddlers


In a truly indelible screen performance, Harry Secombe as Mr. Bumble tries to peddle cherubic young Oliver Twist (Mark Lester) in "One Boy for Sale," from Carol Reed's 1968 film version of the Lionel Bart musical Oliver! Thanks to the machinations of the Deficit Diddlers, the Evil Entitlement That Is Social Security is now formally an Oliver-like ward of Congress.

Obama's liberal base contends that the Social Security trust fund is not in immediate trouble. But this argument depends on an elaborate accounting trick. The trust fund is not filled with assets - gold bullion and Apple stock. It is filled with debt issued by the government to itself. The surpluses of the trust fund are in fact liabilities for the government as a whole. And these illusory surpluses are regularly used to subsidize the rest of the budget. The scheme begins to collapse in 2037, when promised benefits for Social Security recipients will suddenly drop by about 25 percent -- unless the system is reformed.
-- Michael Gerson, in a Washington Post column
this week,
"Face Social Security"

by Ken

Ever since I wrote last about the dreadful "compromise" tax package agreed on by the president and congressional Republicans (meaning primarily the Senate Republicans, without whom of course nothing can pass the Senate, despite the solid Democratic majority in the 111th Congress), I've been meaning to come back to it just to make clear what I think the Social Security "payroll-tax holiday" is really about.

Oh, a lot of people have pointed to this seemingly innocent, vaguely worker-friendly provision as the wedge the corporatist Right plans to use to begin -- finally! after all these decades! -- the dismantling of Social Security as we've known it. Naturally I think so too. Is there really any doubt about this? I just think the intent can be defined more specifically: that the idea is to manufacture a Social Security crisis.

Let's back up and consider this charming paragraph from the always affable-seeming, humble-seeming, and reasonable-seeming Michael Gerson -- our Mikey's shtick-in-trade being to present extravagantly insane ideology in the rhetoric of affability, humility, and reasonableness. As if wishing to keep us on our toes, Mikey sometimes actually is reasonable, up to a point, and unlike most hard-right ideologues he's even willing to browbeat segments of his ideological brotherhood.

The paragraph above is from the same column I set out to make fun of yesterday in connection with the dire problem the economy faces with respect to job creation: "So where are the jobs? (And are they ever coming back?" In that post I quoted this paragraph of our Mikey's:
The main achievements of the lame-duck session of Congress were reminders of what might have been. President Obama gave something to get something. To secure a second stimulus, he accepted Republican economic methods. To pass the New START treaty, Obama offered assurances to Republican senators on nuclear modernization and missile defense. Contrast this with health-care reform, imposed in party-line maneuvers that left an aftertaste of ideological radicalism.
I opined that the only thing remotely factual here is the perhaps inadvertent acknowledgment that the president "accepted Republican economic methods." I say "perhaps inadvertent," because in the year 2010 about the last subject you'd think a prudent right-wing liar-for-hire wants to open up for discussion is "Republican economic methods," now that the corporatist elites who own a controlling interest in the Right have dropped the fig leaf, leaving no doubt that those methods boil down to treating everyone except their own circle and the coterie of government and media whores, the liars-for-hire bought expressly for this purpose, as if the only reason for their existence is to have their labor exploited by their rightful masters.

It should come as no surprise that Mikey's column was headed for the proposition:
Only two proposals under discussion would reshape the American economic debate as well as the president's public image: reform of the tax code or reform of entitlements. Both are necessary, difficult and politically deceptive.
Of course if anyone knows about political deception, it's our Mikey. Let's go back to the paragraph I quoted at the top of this post and play along. It's telling us that:

(1) The government has been looting Social Security Trust Fund on a regular basis since, well, since before anyone remembers, making believe this was OK by giving it a whole pile of IOUs.
(2) Of course the government can't repay those IOUs, because where would the money come from? You couldn't raise it by, say, looting the SS Trust Fund, could you?
(3) So naturally it's about time -- no, well past time -- that Social Security, that lazy, fiscally irresponsible, "entitled," America-destroying wastrel, the Evil Entitlement That Is Social Security, man up and pay down the country's debts.

Debts to which it has contributed not one red cent, but never mind.

Oh, right-wingers love to kid about those gummint IOUs. They're real enough when it comes to looting the trust fund. It's not really looting, because it's all the same money, you know? Keep on walking, folks, nothing to see here! But when the subject is the fiscal health of Social Security, with reference to all those IOUs piled up in the SS lockbox, why, then SS's solvency is an "accounting gimmick." Tthe very idea of redeeming them is too ridiculous to consider. Just imagine how much that would add to the national debt. So now that we're "serious" about dealing with all that debt -- which you'll recall didn't matter when St. Ronnie of Reagan was piling up the debt -- it's time for the Evil Entitlement That Is Social Security to pay its fair share.

You might think that SS's "fair share" of that debt is zero. After all, it's the creditor of the debt it's involved with, not the debtor.

Alas, if you think that, it just shows that you're not serious about Dealing With the Deficit. The model for "serious" Deficit Diddlers is Catfood Commissioners-in-chief Erskine Bowles and "Crazy Alan" Simpson. My own view is that a significantly realer problem is the sociopathic lying of the Rampaging Right, but that just goes to show that I'm not serious. Why, it's possible that we're nothing more than members of President Obama's Liberal Base -- you know, the liberal base the president kicks delights in kicking in the groin every chance he gets, even while he's giving blowjobs to raving sociopaths on the Right.

If our Mikey tried to slip the above paragraph into a paper for a college political science, economics, or journalism class, he would have to hope for an extremely compassionate grader to aspire to a grade as high as F-minus. Count it a lucky thing that he isn't employed by a media enterprise with any serious pretense to honesty, because writing crap like this on a regular basis would in short order have him out on his right-wing ass.

Our Mikey's assault on Social Security is cunningly couched as "a modest proposal" (to borrow Swift's indelible phrase, in the deeply ironic sense he intended)," an exercise in extreme reasonableness as well as "realism." It's no big deal, he tells us, this modest proposal that the Deficit Diddlers of the president's Catfood Commission -- now those are serious people! -- have made, merely tinkering with tiny bits of Social Security. Never mind that was billing Mikey's column as a simple one-step prescription to solve all of America's problems. After all, he isn't responsible for website promotion. Is it his fault that his newspaper employs flunkies in the online department who write such inflamatory stuff based on . . . based on, well, reading the damned column?

Mikey even claims to have no special designs on Social Security. For this he has to resort to the drastic tactic of introducing some actual facts. In military parlance this would be referred to as "strategic retreat," I think, where you give up a patch of ground with the goal of taking substantially more. It might be nice, he suggests, to overhaul the tax system. However:
Most serious plans, including the options raised by the president's debt commission, would broaden the tax base, consolidate and lower rates, and eliminate most tax deductions and exemptions. But even a revenue-neutral tax overhaul would create a complicated system of winners and losers. Especially if the mortgage interest deduction, the charitable deduction and the child tax credit were modified or eliminated, the losers would know immediately who they are. The winners must be persuaded of abstract, future benefits.

Republicans would have an easy time criticizing a thinly disguised tax increase for millions of Americans. It would seem like another Obama overreach that fundamentally changes the economy in frightening ways - confirming an image that the president desperately needs to change.

And in Mikey's world of "realism," if there's something that's politically inconvenient, you ignore it, especially if it's something you didn't want to do in the first place, like honor those IOUs to Social Security. So, eliminating the option of overhauling the tax code (which I'm frankly glad to see Mikey eliminate, since goodness only knows what mayhem would be perpetrated in the process), that leaves "the other option, entitlement reform." This "seems more politically dangerous," he says, but "it is actually more promising." Especially if deep down you're a Deficit Diddler.
Medicare is the main policy challenge here, because rising health costs are the primary cause of unsustainable entitlement commitments. But Medicare reform -- the topic of intense, ideological debate -- is a political nonstarter. While Social Security is a relatively small contributor to future deficits, reforming it would be a large symbol and a logical place to begin.

Even to reach this shockingly meager conclusion -- "reforming" the Evil Entitlement That Is Social Security would be "a large symbol" and "a logical place to begin"! -- Mikey has to fib. Luckily, fibbing appears to cause him no special anguish. Social Security, he says, isn't "a relatively small contributor to future deficits." However, in point of fact it isn't any kind of contributor to future deficits. (Or at least it never was before now. We'll come back to this.) Being self-funding, it doesn't figure in future deficits at all.

Oh sure, the Deficit Diddlers love pointing to the dreaded year 2037, when Social Security revenue outgo is projected to overtake intake. First off, when was the last time the Deficit
Diddlers reformed the tax code in light of costs for, say, the defense budget projected ahead to 2037? Or, say, the billions squandered annually on our new fake-national-security industry, as described so rivetingly in the Washington Post's own special-investigation report on "Top Secret America" published way back in July? (Which reminds me that we still need to come back to that report.)

By law Social Security is required to make these projections. But as Paul Krugman and others have pointed out -- over and over and over -- the major adjustment for the demographic shift caused by the aging of the baby boomers (another favorite non- argument beloved of the right-wing liars-for-hire) was already made in the last reform of Social Security, and at this point there's no reason to believe that dealing with the specter of 2037 requires anything more than the normal course corrections that have always been anticipated.

For starters, we could get back to raising the income-level cutoff for contributions in line with increased income levels, which is supposed to be part of the system. Of course this isn't talked about by the Deficit Diddlers because it doesn't suit the interest of the economic elites who pay for their upkeep. As regressive as the payroll-tax system is (falling disproportionately on lower-income earners), it's still not regressive enough for our insatiably greedy plutocrats.

So in the end, what are we left with in our Mikey's case of Serious America vs. the Evil Entitlement That Is Social Security? Are you sitting down for this? The EETISS is (gasp) a "large symbol"! (Ohh, brutal!) What's more, mucking with it would be fun for people of the Deficit Diddling persuasion! (Sting like a bee!)

And that, as I see it, is the problem.

Here we have the Deficit Diddling stooges of the corporatist elite in solid agreement that Social Security as we know it must die. But how do you deal a death blow to what is generally conceded to be the most popular program ever undertaken by the U.S. government? Even Chimpy the Ex-Prez acknowledges this as a signal failure of his eight years of ideological insanity and real-world devastation. While the Bush regime was able to find enough suckers in Congress to go along with most everything else in its campaign of ideological rampaging, they couldn't ram Social Security privatization through, not even after they heeded the advice of their consultants -- and we mustn't ever forget how much effort and money (especially money) the Right spends on messaging research -- to stop using that scarifying word "privatize."

So what the Deficit Diddlers really need is a good old-fashioned crisis.

That's right, Social Security needs to be in crisis. As even our Mikey notes in his column, Medicare actually is in crisis, but this is yet another thing the Deficit Diddlers don't want to talk about. Oh yes, the Entitlement That Is Medicare is evil too, but Teabaggers freak out when you talk tough about Medicare, on which they overwhelmingly depend, and more important, the crisis of this particular Evil Entitlement, being (as Mikey himself notes) attributable to the skyrocketing cost of health care, is beyond the boundaries of "serious" discussion because (as Mikey pointedly does not note) to the corporatist elite, skyrocketing health care costs aren't a problem, they're their wet dream come true. I think they made forcefully clear in the so-called health care "debate" that control of health care profits, I mean costs, isn't open to discussion. Isn't this why the health care brawl never rose to the level of an actual debate?

It seems to me we still owe a holiday hat tip to another cherished cartoonist, David Fitzsimmons, for another year's worth of heroic work.

So what the Deficit Diddlers need -- kind of desperately, actually -- is a Social Security ferchrissakes crisis. Which has heretofore been tough to arrange, what with the damned system showing every sign of continuing to be able to pay for itself, even without recouping all that money that's been lost to what our Mikey dismisses as "accounting gimicks." Hmm, think now: Social Security crisis, pays for itself, Social Security crisis, pays for itself Social . . .

Wait! What if Social Security didn't pay for itself? God, this is brilliant! What if, like most every other program the government pays for, it had to come to Congress every year, hat in hand, and beg for enough money to keep it functioning? Had to beg for life support even with the promise of spending cuts the Deficit Diddlers like to impose on certain kinds of programs -- you know, the kinds that actually benefit working American families rather than megacorporate fat cats.

Are you grasping this? Just imagine it: The Evil Entitlement That Is Social Security as part of the whole grubby process of budgetary sausage-making! With Deficit Diddlers occupying the necessary strategic places in Congress - and for the next two years, at least, the House should be in reliably diddling hands -- we should be able to get that damned Evil Entitlement into crisis in, well, hardly any time at all!

And it's so easy to do! Why, we've already done it! That innocent-seeming payroll-tax "holiday" has already made Social Security dependent on congressional largesse. It was of course built into the tax-"compromise" "negotiations," judging by what we learned about them from their results, that the newly created Social Security Revenue Shortfall of 2011 would have to be "made up" somehow. How exactly doesn't matter as much as the critial reality that, thanks to this year's Social Security Revenue Shortfall Creation Act, Social Security is now a captive of the congressional budgetary sausage-making process. It's now effectively in the clutches of the Deficit Diddlers.

I know, the payroll-tax "holiday" is only supposed to last for a year. (And don't forget to enjoy the irony that this, along with the grudging extension of unemployment benefits for all those souls whose jobs had to be flushed down the crapper so the corporatist elite could cash in on the bonanza of the Second-Greatest Depression, is what our Mikey referred to as President Obama securing "a second stimulus" in the tax-package "compromise." Does the man really have no shame? Oh, I know. It's a rhetorical question.)

Maybe the payroll-tax "holiday" will be allowed to expire; maybe it won't. As many people have pointed out, our recent experience should have taught us a lesson about the political improbability of reinstituting previously suspended taxes, since they present themselves upon scheduled expiration in the form of tax increases. The point is, this too is now part of the budgetary sausage-making process! Will anyone be surprised if, in order to protect the lower payroll-tax rates against a "tax increase," it is found necessary to "compromise" -- by squeezing money out of some other piece of the budget. It's Deficit Diddlers' Delight. Can't you see them already slobbering as they sharpen their budget axes?

So the news is that, thanks to the Great Tax "Compromise" of 2010, the Evil Entitlement That Is Social Security is now formally a ward of Congress. It's a happy day for the corporatist elites and thier stooges the Deficit Diddlers, not to mention their network -- in government and media -- of liars-for-hire.

You can almost see our Mikey creaming in his pants as he concludes:
Social Security restructuring is not the obvious choice for Obama, but it is the smart one. It is achievable. It would invest Republican leaders in a constructive national enterprise. It would reassure global credit markets that America remains capable of governing itself. It would result in a more progressive, sustainable system. And it would make a dramatic, timely political statement: that the president is capable not only of expanding government but of reforming it.

For cripes' sake, Mikey, get a towel or a tissue or something and clean yourself up.

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Year 2010, Republicans in Their Own Words, Part 3: It's a Party!


Jimmy Kimmel offers his own preview of Sarah Palin's Alaska.

by Noah

When idiocy meets lunacy . . . it’s a party! A Republican Party!!!

1. “Don’t retreat. Instead, reload.”
-- Sarah Palin

This has become a slogan for Palin, to say the least. You can hear it on her TV show. It’s ironic, since retreat is exactly what she did when she went back on her pledge to serve her state and quit her job as governor of Alaska. Oh well, Alaska’s gain is our loss.

That loss is perhaps best exemplified by Palin’s animal snuff-film show on TLC. Lots of lame politicians, including Sen. John Kerry, have picked up a gun and pretended to be hunters in an effort to rope in some votes, but we’ve never seen a whole TV show dedicated to that purpose. Palin may even have been a hunter for real before the show, but I have my doubts. How many hunters travel into the woods with a manicurist, a full makeup crew, and hairstylists anyway? None of that is as important as the horrid reality that she is pointlessly killing animals for votes. The previous Palin Family show in which they simply updated The Beverly Hillbillies was quite enough. Think about it. Levi is Jethro, the Max Baer character. Bristol is Ellie May, and Palin herself is Granny, complete with a shotgun.

2. “This was a war of Obama’s choosing. This is not something the United States has actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in.”
--RNC Chairmoron Michael Steele,
speaking at a Connecticut fund-raiser in July

We all know that the Republican mind lives in its own alternate-universe bizarro world, but it never ceases to amaze how far the Republicans keep pushing the envelope when it comes to creating new “facts.” Meanwhile, back in the real world, the Afghanistan war was launched seven years before President Obama took office.

3. “Whether they are defending the Soviet Union or bleating for Saddam Hussein, liberals are always against America. They are either traitors of idiots.”
-- Coultergeist

There they go again: pushing that envelope. Poor Ann doesn’t get out very often. Too many staff cutbacks at the asylum.

4. “Barack Obama chose to use his name Barack for a reason; to identify, not with America. You don’t take the name Barack to identify with America. You take the name Barack to identify with what? Your heritage? The heritage, maybe of your father in Kenya, who is a radical?”
-- Glenn Beck, February 4

I’m sensing a pattern here. Sigh. And just what name could President Obama have chosen back when he was born? What name would please the name police at Beck’s Bunker?

How about Jim Bob? Jim Bob Obama. Jim Bob Hussein Obama?

5. “Guess what? Faisal Shahzad is a registered Democrat. I wonder if his SUV had an Obama sticker on it.”
-- Rush Slimebaugh, talking about the man
who attempted a car bombing in Times Square

Meanwhile, again, back in the real world, Shahzad was not even registered to vote, and there was no Obama sticker. The mountain of typical Republican lies grows and grows and grows minute by minute, hour by hour.

6. “As we saw that thing bubbling out, blossoming out -- all that energy, every minute of every day of every week -- that was tremendous to me. That we could deliver that kind of energy out there -- even on an explosion.”
-- Rep. Ralph Hall, from Texas (say no more!),
rapturously describing BP’s “spill” in the Gulf of Mexico

The glassy–eyed Representative Hall is the incoming chairman of the House Committee on Science and Technology. He also plans to command climate and environmental scientists to testify on climate change under oath. He is determined to get to the bottom of the “global warming conspiracy.” Nutball.

7. “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. You’re facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply. They will reproduce, especially ones that don’t think too much further than that. And so what you’ve got to do is, you’ve got to curtail that type of behavior. They don’t know any better.”
-- South Carolina Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer,
arguing against the issuing of food stamps

Apparently Grandma’s descendants aren’t very highly educated either. They might be pretty elitist, or worse too!

8. “The feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.”
-- Pat Robertson

Hmmm. I guess that about covers everything, Pat. I especially like the part about the witchcraft. Tell us about the witchcraft, Pat. But, come to think about it, you forgot about the Girl Scouts. (See below.) What about the Girl Scouts? Why did you spare them, Pat?

9. “One might wonder why the Girl Scouts have been spared the painful attacks that have been launched upon the Boy Scouts by the left in recent years. The reasons are simple: The Girl Scouts allow homosexuals and atheists to join their ranks, and they have become pro-abortion, feminist training corps. . . . If the Girl Scouts of America can’t get back to teaching real character, perhaps it will be time to look for our cookies elsewhere.”
-- Washington State legislator Hans Zeiger (see my "Who ARE These People?, Part 5"), considered an up-and-coming Republican talent by many national Repugs, including Ken Starr and Ollie North

I’m not sure how many lesbians end up getting abortions, but it is interesting to see that there are Republicans who are both further to the right and crazier than Pat Robertson. Meet the new wave: Republicans push that envelope in so many ways.

10. “I’m a huge supporter of women. What I’m not is a supporter of liberalism. Feminism is what I oppose. Feminism has led women astray. I love the women’s movement, especially when I’m walking behind it.”
-- Rush “Extra-Wide Load” Limbaugh

Classy guy. I wonder why he can’t keep a marriage together.

11. “Make no mistake about it. Elena Kagan wants to ban books. She thinks there is nothing wrong with banning books based on their political content. Period. That makes her the most dangerous person ever nominated to the Supreme Court.”
-- from a July 1 press release from Tea Party Nation

To most folks, it would go without saying that Justice Kagan has never supported the banning of books, no mater how many times Fox would have its gullible viewers believe otherwise. That said, from this response should we assume that Tea Party Nation is against the removal of all the books that righties have been banning, stealing, or damaging at local libraries for decades? As for “most dangerous,” I guess they forgot to include the activist justices who were responsible for installing George W. Bush.

12. “I want to help clean up the state that is so sorry today of journalism. And I have a communications degree.”
-- Sarah Palin, in a November interview with Sean Insanity

Now who could argue with that?


Quotations of a Party on Crack, 2010 Version --
Republicans in Their Own Words:

Part 1, The Unemployed
Part 2, When Cousins Marry

10 Random Musings (1)
2010, Looking Back: To Republicans, It Was So Much More Than Just a Speech to Kids
Random Musings on 2010 (2)
Random Musings on 2010 (3)
Random Musings on 2010 (4)
Random Musings on 2010 (5)

12 Days of Christmas Scorn

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Does The Nature Of Power Make Monarchs Untenable Now? Take Mohammed VI Of Morocco, And What We Learned From WikiLeaks


Last week our next-door neighbor in Marrakech moved back into his place. He has homes all over Morocco and goes from one set of digs to another; there seem to be two or three just in Marrakech. He was here a couple weeks ago for the Marrakech Film Festival. I'm not sure why he's back so soon. I don't expect to see him-- other than on TV-- and I only knew he was back because of the huge number of heavily armed troops on every street and alleyway in Sidi Mimoun, our quiet little neighborhood. I had just been reading about him, thanks to WikiLeaks.

You probably know me as a critic of conservatives, but if you want to see me really get going, just start talking about monarchy. One of the highlights of the month was the video I saw of British students attacking the limousine of Queen Elizabeth's reactionary son-- purportedly the next so-called "king" of England-- and the ho he's shacking up with. The students were chanting "off with their heads," music to my ears.

But these immensely wealthy and powerful royal families are extremely committed to holding on to their positions at the tip-top of society-- and they're extremely dangerous. My friend Toon arrived in Marrakech a few days ago and happened to tell me about how the journalists involved in the exposure of Prince Bernhard of Lippe-Biesterfeld as a Nazi were ruined and professionally destroyed. Bernhard, like England's weak-minded King Edward VIII, was a Nazi who conspired-- in Edward's case, at the urging of his American Nazi wife, Wallis Simpson-- with Hitler to bring fascism to his country.
[W]ith a belligerent new leader in Berlin threatening to rip up the Treaty of Versailles, those [Nazi] sympathies posed a serious problem-- particularly when King George V died in January 1936. Edward inherited the throne as a hugely popular new king-- and set about meddling in government policy. This was in defiance of all convention but that didn’t stop Edward. He took to calling the ­German ambassador directly-- a clear breach of constitutional protocol and one with serious practical consequences.

When Hitler made it clear he meant to send his forces back into the demilitarised Rhineland the government expressed its opposition. Edward should have stepped back. Instead he threatened to abdicate if Hitler’s advance was stopped, compounding the harm by phoning the German ambassador to tell him he had done so.

“The reassurances from Edward that Britain wasn’t going to fight were crucial,” says Professor Jonathan Petropoulos, author of Royals And The Reich. “Hitler had an ace in the hole, as we would say in American poker, knowing what he did from Edward at the time.”

In that context the abdication at the end of 1936 came as a godsend to the government. But even off the throne the Duke of Windsor posed an ongoing problem.

The FBI files show that at a party in Vienna in June 1937-- the month he married Mrs Simpson-- the loose-tongued Duke told an Italian ­diplomat that the Americans had cracked Italy’s intelligence codes.Four months later the Duke and Duchess paid a high-profile visit to Germany where the Nazi regime fawned on him. They met Hitler, who saw the value of ­cultivating an ally once so intimately involved with British affairs. Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels wrote of the Duke: “It’s a shame he is no longer king. With him we would have entered into an alliance.”

Even the declaration of war was not enough to make the Duke sever his Nazi connections. He was made a major-general and stationed in France but he continued to ­communicate with the enemy. In January 1940 the German minister in The Hague wrote that he had established a direct line of contact to the Duke.

This line of contact proved crucial to the tragic fate of France. From the Duke the Germans learned that their plans for the invasion of France had fallen into Allied hands. This intelligence allowed Hitler to change his plans and catch the Allies by surprise. France fell.

The FBI papers also reveal that the Duchess of Windsor was in ­regular contact with the Nazi foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop, whom the Americans suspected of being her former lover. After the fall of Paris she and the Duke hopped from Biarritz to Madrid to Lisbon, shamelessly consorting with wealthy fascist sympathisers.

In Portugal Edward committed what may have been the worst act of his shabby career. In July 1940 the German ambassador in Lisbon passed a message to Berlin saying: “The Duke believes with certainty that continued heavy bombing would make England ready for peace.”

The former king was urging the bombardment of his own people.

Prime Minister Winston Churchill understood the danger he posed and was desperate to get him back to Britain, at one stage threatening him with court martial if he refused. In the end sending him to govern the Bahamas-- a humiliating posting which both the Duke and Duchess detested-- proved the most viable option.

But as Fulton Oursler was to discover the former king continued to plot from the governor’s mansion in Nassau, driven by a combination of his own Nazi sympathies and his belief that a strong Hitler could help him back to the British throne.

Shortly after he took up the post the Duke told one confidant: “After the war is over and Hitler has crushed the Americans we’ll take over. The British don’t want me as king but I’ll be back as their leader.”

Bernhard's P.R. machine always went to great lengths to portray him as a war hero and anti-Nazi fighter. But it was long whispered in Holland that this husband of one queen and father of another was a filthy Nazi traitor, a member of the SS and a member of the Nazi Party just before he married Crown Princess Juliana.

Back to my neighbor, King Mohammed VI. He wasn't even born until 1963, long after Hitler killed himself. He became king in 1999 when his father, Hassan II, died, and everyone says he's far more popular than his father. He inherited at least $2 billion, and is said to have a piece of almost everything in the country. I have no way of knowing if that's true, but I did notice another WikiLeaks document that tarnishes Mohammed's patina pretty disastrously. Seems one of the things he has "a piece" of is his country's narcotics trafficking.
For the first time a U.S. official document speaks of the involvement of Morocco in matters of drug trafficking, citing officials of the Moroccan police working at Casablanca airport, who have been sanctioned in mid-August 2009 after they had arrested the son of the Senegalese president and the son of a Minister of the same country for drug possession.

• According to the report, King Mohammed VI had not appreciated the arrest of president's son and a Senegalese minister’s son without his knowledge and without prior consultation. The two Senegalese were released later and the police officers punished.

• The report also quotes an official of the Moroccan police in Casablanca, who was mutilated in the occupied city of Laayoune after he had implicitly accused the regime of being behind the drug mafia.

• Another report published by Wikileaks dated 2008 talks about the corruption that plagues the Moroccan army, especially among senior officials of the military institution. It says "the Moroccan army suffers from corruption, bureaucracy, lower educational level of officers and the continued threat of extremism of some elements." It added that "the head of the gendarmerie, General Hasni Ben Slimane "allegedly involved in corruption cases."

• Corruption, the report said, plagues the top military hierarchy in Morocco and General Benani turned into "a Baron of milk." the latter, taking advantage of his position as army chief in the occupied Western Sahara, manipulated markets to supply the army in milk, thereby making a fortune in billions of dollars, in addition to his involvement with other generals in doubtful markets of fishing permits on the coast of Western Sahara. He managed well, the report said, to build a palace for his family with money of corruption.

• Corruption also affects the officers who, to qualify for promotions, pay bribes to their leaders.

The Guardian reported earlier this month that the king's holding company, Omnium Nord Africain (ONA), "extracts bribes and concessions from real estate developers," something that no one familiar with Morocco would be surprised to hear.
Morocco's royal family is using the institutions of the state to "coerce and solicit bribes" in the country's lucrative real estate sector, according to a leaked report from American diplomats.

Information about high-level corruption involving the rulers of Washington's closest ally in north Africa was brought to the attention of the US consulate in Casablanca, Morocco's commercial capital, by a businessman in 2009, leading diplomats to describe "the appalling greed" of those close to King Mohammed VI.

According to the US report, decisions involving Omnium Nord Africain (ONA), a holding company owned by the king, are made only by the king and two of his powerful associates. "To have discussions with anyone else would be a waste of time," the head of the company is quoted as saying.

Royal involvement in business is a hot topic in Morocco but public discussion of it is sensitive. The US embassy in Rabat reported to Washington in a separate cable that "corruption is prevalent at all levels of Moroccan society."

Mohammed, who succeeded his father, Hassan, in 1999, is said to have cleaned up the royal family's act, but it appears he has not done enough.

"While corrupt practices existed during the reign of King Hassan II … they have become much more institutionalised with King Mohammed VI," one cable quotes a businessman as saying. Institutions such as ONA-- Morocco's largest conglomerate, which clears most large development projects-– regularly coerced developers into granting beneficial rights to ONA, the businessman was quoted as saying.

I should add that almost every Moroccan I've spoken to says not only that Mohammed VI is way better than his father but that he's doing a lot for Morocco, even if he's also doing a lot for the family business. One guy I met even told me he can't blame the king for undermining Morocco's educational system-- illiteracy is still gigantic-- because how would anyone expect a monarchy to hold on to power if the populace was well-educated?

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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Thurber Tonight: Let Your Mind Alone!: "Anodynes for Anxieties"


The picture they're looking for, declares Groucho, "is hidden in the house next door." "There isn't any house next door," counters Chico. "Then we'll build one!" says Groucho. Thurber suggests that the mental-success writers (in whose writing "runs a thin, wavy line of this particular kind of Marxist philosophy") "intimate that when Groucho gets the house built next door, the missing picture will be found in it."
The actual "Let Your Mind Alone!" series, ten pieces inspired by the mental self-help books that were the rage in the mid-'30s (though no more than in our time), occupies only about a third of Let Your Mind Alone! and Other More or Less Inspirational Pieces. Of the ten, Thurber included only two in the Thurber Carnival anthology: No. 2, "Destructive Forces in Life," and No. 8, "Sex ex Machina."

I've always been especially fond of tonight's "Thurber Tonight" offering, No. 6, "Anodynes for Anxieties," not least for the splendid use made of the Marx Brothers episode. (As a matter of fact, in the early years of my acquaintance with this piece, the reference was puzzling, because Animal Crackers, the picture in question, had for some time been out of circulation because of some rights dispute or other. it was really exciting when I finally caught up with this lovely scene.) I can't tell you how many times I've tried to paraphrase it. -- Ken

6. Anodynes for Anxieties

I SHOULD LIKE TO BEGIN THIS LESSON with a quotation from Mr. David Seabury's "How to Worry Successfully." When things get really tough for me, I always turn to this selection and read it through twice, the second time backward, and while it doesn't make me feel fine, exactly, it makes me feel better. Here it is:

"If you are indulging in gloomy fears which folow each other round and round until the brain reels, there are two possible procedures:

"First, quit circling. It doesn't matter where you cease whirling, as long as you stop.

"Second, if you cannot find a constant, think of something as different from the fact at which you stopped as you possibly can. Imagine what would happen if you mixed that contrast into your situation. If nothing results to clarify your worry, try another set of opposites and continue the process until you do get a helpful answer. If you persist, you will soon solve any ordinary problem."

I first read this remarkable piece of advice two months ago and I vaguely realized then that in it, somewhere, was a strangely familiar formula, not, to be sure, a formula that would ever help me solve anything, but a formula for something or other. And one day I hit on it. It is the formula by which the Marx brothers construct their dialogue. Let us take their justly famous scene in which Groucho says to Chico, "It is my belief that the missing picture is hidden in the house next door." Here Groucho has ceased whirling, or circling, and has stopped at a fact, that fact being his belief that the picture is hidden in the house next door. Now Chico, in accordance with Mr. Seabury's instructions, thinks of something as different from that fact as he possibly can. He says, "There isn't any house next door." Thereupon Groucho "mixes that contrast into his situation." He says, "Then we'll build one!" Mr. Seabury says, "If you persist you will soon solve any ordinary problem." He underestimates the power of his formula. If you persist, you will soon solve anything at all, no matter how impossible. That way, of course, lies madness, but I would be the last person to say that madness is not a solution.

It will come as no surprise to you, I am sure, that throughout the Mentality Books with which he have been concerned there runs a thin, wavy line of this particular kind of Marxist philosophy. Mr. Seabury's works are heavily threaded with it, but before we continue with him, let us turn for a moment to dear Dorothea Brande, whose "Wake Up and Live!" has changed the lives of God knows how many people by this time. Writes Mrs. Brande, "One of the most famous men in America constantly sends himself postcards, and occasionally notes. He explained the card sending as being his way of relieving his memory of unnecessary details. In his pocket he carries a few postals addressed to his office. i was with him one threatening day when he looked out the restaurant window, drew a card from his pocket, and wrote on it. Then he threw it across the table to me with a grin. It was addressed to himself at his office, and said, 'Put your raincoat with your hat.' At the office he had other cards address to himself at home."

We have here a muzziness of thought so enormous that it is difficult to analyze. First of all, however, the ordinary mind is struck by the obvious fact that the famous American in question has, to relieve his memory of unnecessary details, burdened that memory with the details of having to have postcards at his office, in his pockets, and at his home all the time. If it isn't harder to remember always to take self-addressed postcards with you wherever you go than to remember to put your raincoat with your at when the weather looks threatening, then you and I will eat the postcards or even the raincoat. Threatening weather itself is a natural sharp reminder of one's raincoat, but what is there to remind one that one is running out of postcards? And supposing the famous man does run out of postcards, what does he d -- hunt up a Western Union and send himself a telegram? You can see how monstrous wrapped up in the coils of his own little memory system this notable American must soon find himself. There is something about this system of buying postcards, addressing them to oneself, writing messages on them, and then mailing them that is not unlike one of those elaborate Rube Goldberg contraptions taking up a whole room and involving bicycles, shotguns, parrots, and little colored boys, all set up for the purpose of eliminating the bother of, let us say, setting an alarm clock. Somehow, I can just see Mrs. Brande's famous man at his desk. On it there are two phones, one in the Bryant exchange, the other in the Vanderbilt exchange. When he wants to remind himself of something frightfully urgent, he picks up the Bryant phone and calls the Vanderbilt number, and when that phone rings, he picks it up and says hello and then carries on a conversation with himself. "Remember tomorrow is wifey's birthday!" he shouts over one phone. "O.K.!" he bawls back into the other. This, it seems tome, is a fair enough extension of the activities of our famous gentleman. There is no doubt, either, but that the two-phone system would make the date stick more sharply in his mind than if he just wrote it down on a memo pad. But to intimate that all this shows a rational disciplining of the mind, a development of the power of the human intellect, an approach to the Masterful Adjustment of which our Success Writers are so enamored, is to intimate that when Groucho gets the house built next door, the missing picture will be found in it.

When it comes to anxieties and worries, Mr. Seabury's elaborate systems for their relief or solution make the device of Mrs. Brande's famous American look childishly simple. Mr. Seabury knows, and apparently approves of, a man"who assists himself by fancied interviews with wise advisers. If he is in money difficulties, he has mental conversations with a banker; when business problems press, he seeks the aid of a great industriailst and talks his problems over with this ghostly friend until he comes to a definite conclusion." Here, unless I am greatly mistaken, we have wish fulfillment, fantasy, reverie, and woolgathering at their most perilous. This kind of goings-on with a ghostly banker or industrialist is an escape mechanism calculated to take a man so far from reality he might never get back. I tried it out myself one night just before Christmas when I had got down to $60 in the bank and hadn't bought half my presents yet. I went to bed early that night and had Mr. J. P. Morgan call on me. I didn't have to go to his office; he heard I was in some difficulty and called on me, dropping everything else. He came right into my bedroom and sat on the edge of the bed. "Well, well, well," he said, "what's this I hear about you being down?" "I'm not so good, J. P.," I said, smiling wanly. "We'll have the roses back in those cheeks in no time," he said. "I'm not really sick," I told him. "I just need money." "Well, well, well," he exclaimed, heartily, "is that all we need?" "Yes, sir," I said. He took out a checkbook. "How'd a hundred thousand dollars do?" he asked, jovially. "That would be all right," I said. "Could you give it to me in cash, though -- in tens and twenties?" "Why, certainly, my boy, certainly," said Mr. Morgan; and he gave me the money in tens and twenties. "Thank you very much, J. P.," I said. "Not at all, Jim, not at all!" cried my ghostly friend. "What's going on in there?" shouted my wife, who was in the next room. It seems that I had got to talking out loud, first in my own voice and then louder, and with more authority, in Mr. Morgan's "Nothing, darling," I answered. "Well, cut it out," she said. The depression that settled over me when I realized that I was just where I had been when I started to talk with Mr. Morgan was frightful. I haven't got completely over it yet.

The Filing-Card System

This mental-conversation business is nothing, however, compared to what Mr. Seabury calls "picture-puzzle making in worry." To employ this aid in successful thinking, you have to have fifty or sixty filing cards, or blank cards of some kind or other. To show you how it works, let us follow the case history of one Frank Fordson as Mr. Seabury relates it. It seems that this Fordson, out of work, is walking the streets. "He enters store after store with discouraged, pessimistic proprietors. There are poor show windows and dusty sidewalks. They make Frank morbid. His mind feels heavy. He wishes he could happen on a bright idea." He does, as you shall see. Frank consults a psychologist. This psychologist tells him to take fifty filing cards and write on each of them a fact connected with his being out of work. So he writes on one "out of work" and on another ""dusty sidewalks" and on another "poor show windows," etc. You and I would not be able to write down more than fifteen things like that before getting off onto something else, like "I hate Joe Grubig" or "Now is the time for all good men," but Frank can do fifty in his stride, all about how tough things are. This would so depress the ordinary mind that it would go home to bed, but not Frank. Frank puts all of the fifty cards on the floor of the psychologist's office and begins to couple them up at random, finally bringing into accidental juxtaposition the one saying "out of work" and one saying "dull sign." Well, out of this haphazard arrangement of the cards, Frank, Mr. Seabury says, got an idea. He went to a hardware store the next day and offered to shine the store's dull sign if the proprietor would give him a can of polish and let him keep what was left. Then he went around shining other signs, for money, and made $3 that day. Ten days later he got a job as a window-dresser and, before the year was out, a "position in advertising."

"Take one of your own anxieties," writes Mr. Seabury, "Analyze it so as to recall all the factors. Write three score of these on separate cards. Move the cards about on the floor into as many different relations as possible. Study each combination." Mr. Seabury may not know it, but the possible different relations of sixty cards would run into the millions. If a man actually studied each of these combinations, it would at least keep him off the streets and out of trouble -- and also out of the advertising business, which would be something, after all. Toy soldiers, however, are more fun.

Now, if this kind of playing with filing cards doesn't strike your fancy, there is the "Worry Play." Let me quote Mr. Seabury again. "You should write out a description of your worry," he says, "divide it into three acts and nine scenes, as if it were a play, and imagine it on the stage, or in the movies, with various endings. Look at it as impersonally as you would look at a comedy and you might be surprised at the detachment you would gain." I have tried very hard to do this. I try out all these suggestions. They have taken up most of my time and energy for the past six months and got me into such a state that my doctor says I can do only three more of these articles at the outside before I go to a sanitarium. A few years ago I had an old anxiety and I was reminded of it by this "Worry Play" idea. Although this old anxiety has been dead and gone for a long time, it kept popping up in my mind because, of all the worries I ever had, it seemed to lend itself best to the drama. I tried not to think about it, but there it was, and I finally realized I would have to write it out and imagine it on the stage before I could dismiss it from my consciousness and get back to work. Well, it ran almost as long as "Mourning Becomes Electra" and took me over three weeks to dramatize. Then, when I thought I was rid of it, I dreamed one night I had sold the movie rights, and so I had to adapt it to the movies (a Mr. Sam Maschino, a movie agent, kept bobbing up in my dreams, hectoring me). This took another two weeks. I could not, however, attain this detachment that Mr. Seabury talks about. Since the old anxiety was my own anxiety, I was the main character in it. Sometimes, for as many as fifteen pages of the play script and the movie continuity, I was the only person on the set. I visualized myself in the main rôle, naturally -- having rejected Leslie Howard, John Gielgud, and Lionel Barrymore for one reason or another. I was lousy in the part, too, and that worried me. Hence I advise you not to write out your worries in the form of a play. It is simpler to write them out on sixty pieces of paper and juggle them around. Or talk about them to J. P. Morgan. Or send postcards to yourself about them. There are a number of solutions for anxieties which I believe are better than any of these, however: go out and skate, or take in a basketball game, or call on a girl. Or burn up a lot of books.

SUNDAY NIGHT: "Preface to a Life" from My Life and Hard Times

THURBER TONIGHT: Check out the series to date


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The Judy Miller case: If the corporatist elite doesn't take care of its own, how will it recruit and maintain future stooges?


Did it ever occur to Judy Miller in her career as a Village media whore that she deserved to lose the reputation you'd think would be what matters most to an actual journalist?

by Ken

In my post earlier today, "So where are the jobs? (And are they coming back?," in which I had occasion to ridicule media whore Michael Gerson for his puppylike servitude to his corporate masters, I tried not to overlook how important it is to the corporatist elite to maintain a faithful roster of bought-and-paid-for whores in both government and media service.

Incidentally, I realize how crazy-paranoid it is to be talking, as I find myself increasingly, about a conspiracy of corporate-elite types, but I don't see any way around it, since it seems to me to describe the reality we now live in: "Money talks; no money, fuck you." "Oligarchy" seems to me an excellent description of where we are, but that seems to me to sound even crazier-paranoider.

And crucial to the operation of the corporatist whore-networks is the assurance the whores have to have that they'll be taken care of. I'm sure, for example, that President Obama very much wants to be elected to a second term. At the same time, though, I have a strong feeling that policy-wise his thinking includes a powerful understanding that as long as he provides the service his corporate bankrollers expected of him, as long as he goes down fighting for them, he'll be taken care of. It will cost them only chump change to take care of one of their own, and doing so provides reassurance to all the other people they'll be buying, while failing to do so would send a terrible message to all their other stooges, present and future.

Of course the employer of last resort in the media-whore wing of corporatist stoogedom is Fox Noise. However, there are limits to how many refugees from factuality the NewsCorp empire can absorb, and even those openings really require some kind of bona fides in TV -- not that it takes much more than an ability to talk crazy on camera.

Fans of larger-than-life media whores will be pleased to know that after a rough patch, one of their titans has found a new home. Yes, Judith Miller, who wangled her way into the upper echelon of New York Times reporters in order to create a personal empire in which, as national-security correspondent, she could promote her both her personal foreign-policy agenda and her bloated and diseased ego, only to see it fizzle when she was caught as essentially a coconspirator of Irving "Lewis" Libby and the rest of the elite pondscum in Vice President "Big Dick" Cheney's entourage in the matter of the outing of Valerie Plame and the subsequent cover-up of it.

I'm not privy to what travails our Judy may have endured in the effort to, er, resell her services following her discreet separation from the usually unembarrassable NYT. That she disappeared from the active roster of media whores seemed blessing enough. Well, she's ba-a-ack! As HuffPost media watcher Jason Linkins reported yesterday: "Judith Miller Lands At Newsmax."

Now, as it happens, and as Jason points out, our Judy was already a Fox Noise contributor. And "she has already served as an online contributor" for Newsmax. But now she's a published Newsmax writer. That this development has given rise to what Jason describes as "a stir on the Tweetdecks of American journalists" is a measure of the length of the leap from the NYT to Newsmax. And here one has to wonder at the extremity of Jason's tact in describing Newsmax as "right-leaning." A festering cesspool of extreme-right-wing news-bending is closer to how most of us would describe it.

Jason reports that our Judy's maiden Newsmax voyage, "Terrorism, Money, and Drugs," --
is a perfectly decent read on the law enforcement effort being jointly undertaken by Americans and Iraqis to curb the drug trafficking that's fueling what's left of the insurgency. Assuming it doesn't have the sourcing problems of her pre-war work at the Times (again, I am referring to her history of using the Bush administration's favorite grifter-shills as her "sources"), there's nothing objectionable about the piece itself.

The problem is that she's earned herself such an unseemly reputation as a media whore. The sin isn't being a media whore, which after all is what nearly the entire employment rolls of the infotaiinment noozemedia are. No, the sin is getting caught being a media whore. After all, she was hardly alone in writing what Jason calls "hilariously wrong pieces on Iraq's WMD program," pieces that --
were cited by Bush administration officials as a factor in their decision to invade Iraq (by design, considering international grifter-clown Ahmed Chalabi was telling Miller exactly what the Bush White House wanted her to hear: as Jack Shafer puts it, "Bush's guy was the Times's guy"),
How many of the others paid any sort of price for being "hilariously wrong"? I sure haven't heard about them. Mostly I've heard about people who were right being punished and people who were wrong being rewarded.

Looking back, what's really shocking is how little Judy seems to have tended to her reputation. I'm sure she was far from alone among the Village media whores in thinking she was burnishing her reputation by making herself a "player" in the stories she was (mis)covering. And you can forgive them all for thinking, based on experience and observation, that this is in fact the way the "journalistic" game is played. Probably to this day Judy thinks of herself as the victim in her career of journalistic malfeasance.

You have to wonder if it's ever dawned on our Judy that, short of a superhuman effort of rehabilitation, of a sort she shows no signs of having undertaken, no one with any sense will ever trust another word she reports. True, at Fox Noise and Newsmax it doesn't matter a whit. But I think she used to have, however erroneously, a very different image of herself as a "journalist."

It doesn't make up for all the other Village media whores who've gotten, and continue to get, away with journalistic murder, and sure, on a human level it's possible to feel sorry for the one that got caught. However, on the level of integrity and trust, those ancient relics of once-talked-about virtue, it counts for something that one of these SOBs got caught. She swims now with the "right-leaning" media fishes.

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So where are the jobs? (And are they ever coming back?)


We've already thanked Mike Keefe and R. J. Matson and of course Tom Tomorrow for another year's worth of inspiring cartooning. Here's the appropriate hat tip to the great Pat Bagley.

by Ken

I've been futzing around with a post about the sleight-of-hand the entrenched opponents of Social Security as we know it pulled with the innocent-seeming "payroll-tax holiday" built into the "compromise" tax package. Earlier in the week I got waylaid by by a column by Michael Gerson, "Face Social Security," which packs in more lies and obfuscations per column inch than even the docile corporatist whore Mr. Gerson customarily manages. The obvious thought was that the Gerson column needed to be raised in connection with the Social Security heist Mr. G's owners are closing in on, and obviously it does. Then it occurred to me, perhaps prodded by an assist from this week's "Financial Page" by The New Yorker's financial columnist, James Surowiecki, that the Gerson column has a more immediate importance, for an accidental bit of truth that slipped in.

As I read the Surowiecki piece, "The Jobs Crisis," playing in the back of my head was this eye-popping paragraph from our Mikey G:
The main achievements of the lame-duck session of Congress were reminders of what might have been. President Obama gave something to get something. To secure a second stimulus, he accepted Republican economic methods. To pass the New START treaty, Obama offered assurances to Republican senators on nuclear modernization and missile defense. Contrast this with health-care reform, imposed in party-line maneuvers that left an aftertaste of ideological radicalism.

Considering how hard our Mikey has worked to ensure that every single word is a lie, I feel bad having to point out the clearly inadvertent truth that slipped in. As anyone knows who isn't (a) an absolute moron or (b) a paid-up whore of the economic elite, describing the "compromise package" as including "a second stimulus" is a mischaracterization so complete as to constitute an out-and-out, knowing falsehood. And the president didn't provide "assurances" to the sociopathic senators fighting New START; what he did was a clumsy two-step of humoring their mental illnesses and buying them off.

And you'd think that not even as blithely shameless a liar as Mikey G was capable of maintaining Obama health care package contains even a micrograin of "ideological radicalism." Before Republicans decided to embrace the imbecility and insanity so prized by their financial masters, the "ideology" of the health care package essentially written by the insurance industry (with the drug industry already having been bought off, leaving effectively nothing left to fight for) is old-style moderately conserative Republicanism. You'd think that after spewing so much ignorance and dishonesty in such a tiny paragraph, our Mikey would be too ashamed to show his corrupt caracass in public. But the corker is that morsel of truth:

"he accepted Republican economic methods."

And this, alas, is the God's honest truth. But again, you'd think that hired whores like Mikey G would have the discretion to keep their trap shut about "Republican economic methods," now that the wholly bought-off Republican Party has made clear what those principles are: that the U.S. economy exists only for the well-being of its masters, with everyone else -- apart from the government and media whores paid to do their dirty work -- being relegated to the status of slaves, except without even the degree of responsibility once accepted by the slave-holding class for maintaining the physical survival of its property.

And it turns out that the Obama administration is cool with it.

Republican economic methods are tried-and-true winners at causing recessions and depressions, which really doesn't worry them because they understand that only the nonprivileged classes consider recessions and depressions. For the people who matter, which is to say the people for whose exclusive benefit the American economy is now structured, recessions and depressions, like disasters generally, are a bonanza, as long as you know how to play them right. As witness the current boom times the financial-services-industry types who produce nothing more substantial, even at their most productive, than "deals."

So they've been made whole -- by taxpayers -- and at this very moment are gorging themselves on their year's unearned, stolen "bonuses" while the rest of the country either ekes out a survival existence or doesn't. The official philosophy of the Republicans' (and of course most of Democratic officialdom's) masters toward the rest of the country is: Go perform an unnatural act on yourself. A certain percentage of the rest of us lucky duckies will be allowed to slave away for whatever pocket change our masters consider fair, and if we don't like it, well, what's massive unemployment for if not to make us all feel eminently replaceable?

The question The New Yorker's James Surowiecki is pursuing in his piece this week is: Given that "the recession has been over for more than a year now,"

"Why have new jobs been so hard to come by?"

There are, broadly, two markedly contrasting views:
One view blames cyclical economic factors: at times when everyone is cautious about spending, companies are slow to expand capacity and take on more workers. But another, more skeptical account has emerged, which argues that a big part of the problem is a mismatch between the jobs that are available and the skills that people have. According to this view, many of the jobs that existed before the recession (in home building, for example) are gone for good, and the people who held those jobs don’t have the skills needed to work in other fields. A big chunk of current unemployment, the argument goes, is therefore structural, not cyclical: resurgent demand won’t make it go away.

And it matters, urgently.
If the problem is a lack of demand, policies that boost demand—fiscal stimulus, aggressive monetary policy—will help. But if unemployment is mainly structural there’s little we can do about it: we just need to wait for the market to sort things out, which is going to take a while.

Now I don't know about you, but the "structural" argument prompts an immediate visceral response from me:

(1) What are all these jobs "in other fields" that no one knows about?

(2) Where are all these jobs "in other fields" that no one knows about?

(3) How is it that no one knows about all these imaginary jobs?

And sure enough, Surowiecki argues that, plausbile though the structural argument may sound,
[T]here’s surprisingly little evidence for it. If the problems with the job market really were structural, you’d expect job losses to be heavily concentrated in a few industries, the ones that are disappearing as a result of the bursting of the bubble. And if there were industries that were having trouble finding enough qualified workers, you’d expect them to have lots of job vacancies, and to be paying their existing workers more and working them longer hours.

As it happens, you don’t see any of those things. Instead, jobs have been lost and hiring is slow almost across the board. Payrolls were slashed by five per cent or more not just in the bubble categories of construction and finance but also in manufacturing, retail, wholesale, transportation, and information technology. And take hiring: one of the industries that have been most cautious is the hotel and leisure business. Needless to say, there’s no shortage of people with the skills to be maids or waiters; there just isn’t enough work. Another sure sign of weak demand is that people with jobs aren’t deluged with overtime; hours worked have barely budged in the past year.

Professional liars like "Sunny John" Boehner and Dicky "The Sheik of Alabama" Shelby and their party of economic ignoramuses and thugs blither that all we need to do is get government out of the way and let "small business" do its thing. Of course the ignoramuses don't know what they're talking about, and the thugs unfortunately do -- they're just slinging the lingo to hornswoggle the economically shut-out masses, now for the first time reaching way up into the middle class. Probably the fantasy of the ignoramuses and thugs alike is the "miracle" of the "Celtic Tiger," the orgy of unabashed criminal collusion between government and the private sector to squeeze every squeezable euro out of the economy and into their pockets. We mustn't forget what slavering admirers of the Irish miracle the American right-wingers were, up to the time it all unraveled and the whole house of cards collapsed.

As it happens, Surowiecki deals with the myth of salvation via small business. Economists at the Cleveland Federal Reserve, he notes, have found that, as in previous recessions,
there are as few job vacancies as you’d expect, given how desperate people are for work. The percentage of small businesses with so-called “hard-to-fill” job vacancies is near a twenty-five-year low, and open jobs are being filled quickly. And one recent study showed that companies’ “recruiting intensity” has dropped sharply, probably because the fall-off in demand means that they don’t have a pressing need for new workers.

What's more, the argument that massive unemployment is the result of structural rather than cyclical factors isn't new. "It’s a perennial: nearly every recession leads pundits to proclaim that the job market is facing structural challenges, and that higher unemployment is here to stay." It was trotted out in the 1981-82 recession.
Yet, by 1984, unemployment was back to where it had been before recession hit. A 1964 survey of economists found that more than half believed structural issues were playing a significant role in limiting the number of jobs; three years later, unemployment was below four per cent.

Surowiecki doesn't discount the reality of structural change in the economy. ("[T]here are certainly plenty of construction workers who are going to have start plying a new trade.")
But what defined the recent recession was the biggest decline in consumption and investment since the Depression. Dealing with that is the place to start if we want to do something about unemployment.

It's important to stress that Surowiecki isn't any sort of wild-eyed liberal. In fact, I've never heard anyone of a progressive persuasion say a kind word about his writing. I like it because it usually makes economic (and real-world) sense to me, and though he doesn't exactly come out and say so, the impulse behind those advancing the "structural" argument isn't economic -- because from an economic standpoint the argument is indefensible -- but political. Sunny John Boehner and Sheik Dick Shelby don't give a damn about the American people, or even the portion of the American people they represent. Their allegiance is to the moneyed classes whose payrolls they're on. And this is what we have to understand by Mikey G's truly explosive phrase "Republican economic methods." Pillage and plunder would be another way of describing those methods.

Here's how Surowiecki concludes his consideration of where the jobs have gone:
The structural argument makes government action seem irrelevant. But if we don’t do more to get the economy back up to speed, it won’t be because stimulating demand won’t work. It will be because we’ve chosen not to do it. If we can’t find the way, it’s because we don’t have the will.


Excellent piece by Les Leopold on AlterNet: "Wall St's 10 Biggest LIes of 2010."
What a great year for Wall Street: profits up, bonuses up and, best of all, criticism down, especially from Washington. Somehow Wall Street has much of America believing its lies and rationalizations. We're even beginning to forget that Wall Street is largely responsible for the economic mess we're in.

So before we're completely overtaken by financial Alzheimer's, let's revisit Wall Street's greatest fabrications for 2010.

Leopold starts with the obvious No. 1 lie, "Honest, we didn't do it!" And while denying "all culpability," they "pointed the finger everywhere else."
Sadly, their blame-shifting strategy worked, bamboozling the media and people across the political spectrum. The GOP members of the Financial Crisis Commission are so drunk with this Kool-Aid that in their minority report, they refuse even to use the words "Wall Street" or "speculation" in assessing the causes of the crash. Hypocrites? Crooks? Morons? Take your pick.

He proceeds to some of the more familiar lies, and some of the more eccentric ones, and of course the shiftier ones that may be true but not in the way the elites mean. There is, for example, the president's "hard truth": "that getting this deficit under control is going to require some broad sacrifice, and that sacrifice must be shared by employees of the federal government." "But not by Wall Street," Leopold adds.
Mr. President, the "hard truth" is that you're slapping around public sector workers because you don't have the nerve to take on Wall Street. If you had the guts, you could raise real money by going to war with Steven Schwartzman and eliminating the hedge fund tax loophole. By the way, closing that loophole for just the top 25 hedge fund managers would raise twice the revenue than you'll get by freezing the wages of all two million federal workers!

There's a lot more, targeting not just "Tiny Tim" Geithner but the latest stud in the corporatist-whore stable Peter Orszag, and the popular right-wing canard that the unemployed choose to be jobless. Yeah, right. This way they can live the high life off of unemployment benefits, while moving their families into tents after losing their homes.

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DWT Exclusive: An Advance Look at Glenn Beck's Conspiracy Revelations for 2011


by Noah

Glenn Beck just gets further and further out with his conspiracy theories. Millions of suckers believe him to be an "educator" just because he calls himself one. In reality, Beck is more of a Charlie Manson with a TV show. His followers buy into his fountain of "secret information" that the “lamestream” media refuses to provide, and focus their anger and frustration on the wrong targets. Only he, the great Beck, can provide this "information" to his exclusive club of millions of gullible fans, who will be the last to realize that they are being used and sent down the path of their own destruction while Beck and his masters rake in the dough and laugh behind their backs.

As the conspiracy stories get wilder and wilder, I have to wonder just how far beyond the realms of reality Beck will push in 2011. Of course, I also wonder at what point his naïve and gullible disciples will stop believing him and begin to feel like they’ve been had, big-time. By sheer luck, we here at Down With Tyranny have managed to find an Official Glenn Beck Double Secret Decoder Ring that was left on a sink in the Larry Craig Memorial Men's Room at the Minneapolis airport. The Decoder Ring has enabled us to give you a glimpse into Beck’s future conspiracy claims for the coming year. Do not despair. From what we have seen so far, Beck’s George Soros fetish and his obsessions with a Red Menace, the SEIU, and President Obama show no signs of abating, but 2011 just might go down as the year he loses his grip completely. By October he may be speaking in tongues and rolling on the floor, kicking his legs in the air like a poisoned cockroach.

OK, kiddies, let’s go to the blackboard!

1. The red maple trees, so prevalent in the Northeast, and so obviously symbols of communism, were bio-engineered by Harvard Intellectual Communists and M.I.T.-based “scientists” during Franklin Roosevelt’s first term, to send a subliminal pro-communist message. This explains the far-left leanings of voters in the Northeast. It’s no mere coincidence that the red maple’s leaves change to red just before November election days. Ted Kennedy had a red maple tree planted in his back yard by a team of SEIU members who were under the control of Freemasons. ‘Nuff said.

2. George Soros, a prize target of previous Beck fantasies, frequently travels back in time to spread pandemics that have caused much death and social upheaval throughout history. He was responsible for the Russian Revolution and was a member of Hitler’s previously unknown Junior Jews for Hitler Advisory Council both as a child and as an adult, all at the same time. A recently unearthed 2000 year old stone tablet contains a photograph of Soros smiling at the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

3. George Soros also secretly sank JFK’s PT 109 and then rescued him and motored him to that remote island in the Pacific aboard his 100-foot atomic-powered invisibility-cloaked elitist super-yacht. He did this so that JFK could run for president as a war hero 15 years after the war. Fortunately, Republican agents were able to cut short his presidency.

4. If Sarah Palin is elected president in 2012, God will fill the sky with a giant rainbow that will lead to a really big, super-ginormous pot of gold that will only be available to those who truly believe in Sarah’s superpowers and subscribe to ghe Glenn Beck Premium Podcast. And only if they act now!

5. The TSA’s airport-scanner technology was stolen from the makers of the X-ray specs that have been advertised in the back of comic books for decades. George Soros was part of this and was able to pull it off through the mind-control chips he placed in the necks of government officials when he abducted them in his fusion-powered flying saucer. The aliens work for him, and the famous anal probes are just a bit of dastardly misdirection on his part. Don’t worry about them.

6. The SEIU, working with ACORN under the direction of the Neptune chapter of the Illuminati, is behind the explosion of bedbugs in New York and other major cities. The connecting clue is the word 'bed." Remember, there were communists under every bed in the 1950s. Joe McCarthy proved this, and was destroyed by the Marxist-fascist media. "Bed" + "bugs" -- it’s right there in plain sight! Each bedbug is actually a complex biomechanical spy device designed by Bill Ayers and made in Chinatown by illegal-immigrant Maoists. ACORN, which has only pretended to disband, continues to do the actual distribution of the bedbugs by going door to door under the guise of voter registration. Do not let these people near your home!

7. It is little known that stem-cell research has been tried before and failed miserably. Early experiments were conducted at Obama’s top-secret Mason-run moon-base madrassa. Nancy Pelosi herself was the result of a stem-cell cloning gone horribly wrong, when some of her cells were inadvertently mixed with those of Mussolini. We are investigating the origins of Rachel Maddow right now, and will issue a report to all Deluxe Premium Podcast subscribers as soon as the Internet allows us to.

8. Che Guevara, Van Jones, and Fidel Castro are all the same person, the same Marxist-fascist crusader for things like “social justice” and “health care,” which we all know are some kind of “reparations.” Again: Che, Van Jones, Fidel -- same person. Think about it: Guevara’s body was never found. And this is the clincher: Have you ever seen a photograph of Che, Van Jones, and Fidel together in one picture? What more proof do you need???

9. An army of Al Gore-trained gay militants with stem-cell-made extra genitalia want to take over the military by removing DADT so they can control the military’s super-duper-top-secret weather-control machines, the same machines that the libruls used to make Katrina happen a year before the 2006 elections.

10. In the old days of the West there were people who had one white parent and one Injun one. They were called “half-breeds.” Often these half-breeds chose to live in a tribal group with their Indian relatives. These societies were based on communal living. That’s right, communism! Right here in America! President Obama has one white parent and one black parent. He is a half-breed. So you can see, his world view is communistic!

Mark my words, Obama has a deep-seated desire to return former Indian lands to Indians, and if re-elected in 2012, he will do it before he leaves office. Michele Bachmann has told me that Obama has a super-secret plan to relocate as many white people as he can to the FEMA camps I have mentioned previously. Be afraid, white folks, be very afraid!