Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A healthy and happy new year to all from all of us here at DWT


"Either cheer up or take off the hat."

by Ken

As I hinted in my post earlier today, "Ready for New Year's Eve? We've got the New Yorker cartoon crew to help get you psyched," I squirreled away one more of the New Yorker New Year's cartoons gathered by cartoon editor Bob Mankoff in his blogpost "New Year, Old Laughs" -- the one above -- for later use, and I think you'll agree that it's just dripping with the New Year's Eve spirit.

And in that spirit, let's turn the proceedings over to Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians.



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2013 in Review -- A Prayer to the Janitor of Lunacy,* Part 2: Remember when Reagan cut funds for insane asylums?


Storms, guns, bombs, free stuff, and the secret gay life of Obama: Some top Republican lies of 2013


Plum loco, stone stoopid, or pathologically dishonest? You be the judge.

by Noah

I'm calling this "Some top Republican lies" because everyone else does "Top 10s" or "Top 20s," but I see no reason to come up with some arbitrary round number. Besides, with the Crackpot Party there's always another lie, and chances are very good that the corporate media will be all too willing to repeat them all without examining their veracity. That said, here are a few. I hold these lies to be self-evident.

1. The Boston Marathon bombing was a false flag (government) job

Wingnut Alex Jones (see above), Natural News, New Hampshire Republican State Sen.Stella Trembley, and others had the "scoop" on this one almost immediately after the tragic bombing on April 15th. It's straight out of Marvel Comics or some wacko Twilight Zone. Just like 9/11 truthers, there are a lot of wingnuts out there that are so determined to hate the government for something, anything, especially if that Obama dude is in charge, that their sick minds will concoct and believe anything. For some, the idea of the government taking their guns away or evilly giving you the opportunity to purchase healthcare for your family just isn't enough.

2. A Saudi national or nationals were responsible for the bombing

Shall I speculate as to why it is that, in the twisted minds of Republicans, terrorists must be nonwhite or Muslim? Immediately after the Oklahoma City bombing, the same people were proclaiming that Muslim terrorists from the Middle East were the bombers. That one turned out to be white folks. Oooops! And white folks that were a lot closer to Republicans than Republicans would like to publicly admit, right down to Newt Gingrich, as House speaker, having radical Idaho Rep. Helen Chenoweth as a liaison to the militia groups of the Northwest. In this case, the bombers were Muslim, but it became obvious that, to Republicans, the glass was only half full.

3. The Saudi government warned the U.S. about the Boston Marathon bombing

Nope. Turns out the Russians did communicate some info about the actual bombers, but a few days after the bombing Glenn Beck said he knew the truth about a Saudi national who had been questioned and let go. It wasn't even the same guys that Rupert Murdoch's New York Post had falsely claimed right on his front page were the perps.

Beck claimed the White House knew who did it and was covering up, and he claimed he would lay out all the evidence the following Monday if the government didn't come clean. There was even some sort of Benghazi connection. So what happened? Well, in the meantime the real bombers were identified and one was killed and one was caught. They weren't Saudis. They even (oh, the disappointment!) weren't of a darkish hue. The whole thing had gotten started on Hannity's show. Bill O'Reilly had Beck on to lay it all out. Thanks, Fox. Where would this country be without you?

4. The White House is full of Muslim Brotherhood

It seems that as soon as Egypt's government fell, and Americans became aware of the Muslim Brotherhood's position of influence and power in that nation, it just somehow sounded perfect to those in the Crackpot Party that there must be some nefarious connection to the Kenyan-born, secret-Muslim, socialist black man in the White House. (Muslim Brotherhood infiltration of the Obama administration, even "letting Muslim Brotherhood run anti-terror ops," is just one of the Impeachable Offenses "documented" by crackpot "authors" Aaron Klein and Brenda J. Elliott. If you shopped on the right wingnut website, you could get not just a less-than-half-price copy of the book, autographed, but also a "a FREE Impeach Obama bumper sticker.")

Yes, I can see it all clearly now, the unseen hand of . . . yeah, yeah, yeah, whatever. Guilt by association when there's no association -- I get it. Next!

5. Bush kept us safe

Giuliani on Hannity again! He did? I coulda sworn that Bush, not Clinton, was at least pretending to be prez on 9/11. It's amazing how anyone can still put Rudy Julieandrews in front of a camera and let him prattle on. It's 2013, for Christ's sake! The man was a failure as a mayor who made himself Mr. 9/11. The guy was so lame, it took him umpteen numbers of trials to nail John Gotti. He spent $50 million running for his party's nomination for president and got one delegate and that delegate was from Florida. But there he was again, in Sean Insanity's One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest studio uttering those famous four words, in the wake of the Boston bombing.

One of the sick Republican memes, post-tragedy, was to somehow make the Boston bombing Obama's fault. Hey, Repugs! People were maimed. People died. Families were destroyed! And you, you just see it as an opportunity.

6. Superstorm Sandy was caused by Obama seeding of clouds

Okay, I know this was from late in the previous year, but it still has life in at least some Republican minds. The rest seem to be more fixated on blaming Gov. Blowhard Christie for turning the 2012 election in Obama's favor when he took a romantic walk on the beach with the president. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gFvmguc56YA

The first minute and a half is just a Fox News report on the progressing storm. But listen for the eerie voice of insanity that comes in at 1:29 and then shows us "why this Frankenstorm may be changing its trajectory." Can you guess whodunnit? (Hint: "Obama is falling behind in the polls. Is this the October surprise we have been expecting.") The poster, PEREXUSREX, followed up with this reply to doubting commenters: "Watch the news - Obama has been able to look presidential and Mitt Romney has had to slow his campaign. This hurricane has definitely helped Obama who was definitely behind - he is not behind anymore since the hurricane."

7. Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi

[Click to enlarge]

Repugs don't even seem to realize that their very own lies about what happened in Libya may have cost Romney the White House when he repeated a portion of their Libya lie in a the second presidential debate and got caught. In Republikook world, President Obama supposedly either let the storming of the embassy happen or encouraged it, maybe with his supersecret Muslim underground decoder ring, or something.

One thing Republicans won't tell you is that it was they who voted in Congress to withdraw security funding for our embassies. Nice goin', a-holes. Since then we've had madman Rep. Darrell Issa, doing his best Joe McCarthy imitation, running hearing after hearing after hearing, wasting mountains of our taxpayer dollars on some insane attempt to build an impeachment-worthy case against the president.  Again, people died, so let's exploit it! Ain't that the Republican way?

8. Romney lost because of "free stuff"

Watch the Lawrence O'Donnell Last Word segment here.

Sooo much chest-beating and recrimination in the wake of Romney losing. So many accusations: Christie, the storm, and, most of all, "free stuff." Obama won by giving out "free stuff" to you know whom.

Just keep telling yourselves that, Repugs. But if Romney had won, people like Sheldon Adelson stood to get a whole lotta free stuff; free stuff in the form of a return of an estimated $700 million in tax breaks in return for his $100 million in campaign contributions. $600 million? Now that's what I call free stuff! Sorry, Mittens, you lost because enough Americans of all backgrounds saw you for what you are.

9. Guns don't kill people

Neither do 30-shot magazines, right? Well, 11 kids escaped death in Newtown, Connecticut, while the shooter in their school had to switch to a new magazine. Suppose he only had 10-shot mags. How much death and human misery would have been avoided?

Yet there are the Republicans, the party that pushes human misery, demanding the right to their 30-shot mags. And if you want to look at the face of insanity --

10. Background checks bad; straw purchases good

Terrorists don't have to try to smuggle their guns into the country. So what's the easiest way for a terrorist to get a gun here in these United States? Well, if you enter a gun emporium and you look like ya just might not be quite white enough and ya might have some sort of one o' them un-'merican accents, they might not sell you a gun. What to do? There's already no background-check thing. That's good for would be evil-doers, but still, there's that accent and skin-tone thing.

Ah, easy! Pay someone to go buy you whatever you need! Street gangs do it all the time. It's called a straw purchase, and Republicans like that just fine. Of course, in the case of the gang gunplay in Chicago, that's all Obama's fault, not the permissiveness of the Republican gun kooks.

11. The Government is buying all the ammo in order to kill us all

No one likes this lie more than the companies that make bullets. It inspires more purchases and hording of ammo. Republicans spend a lot of energy telling each other that Obama is going to take away their guns. They campaigned on it. They shrieked that he'd be coming for our guns as soon as January came along. So it follows that when he couldn't get Congress to pass saner gun laws, he would, naturally, buy up all the bullets!

"We just denied everything that this president and the vice president are trying to do. So what are they going to want to, if they want to violate our Second Amendment rights? Do it with ammo."
-- Sen. Jim Inhofe (Republikook-OK)
Or maybe Iraq, Afghanistan, and the creation of a huge Department of Homeland Security have something to do with the so-called ammo shortage. Look, bozos, if Newtown shooter Adam Lanza can get all those bullets, and all the shooters we hear about every damn day can get all the bullets they need, maybe you ought to rethink this. Please, oh Janitor of Lunacy, make it stop!

12. Obama is still a secret Muslim

Yes. Well, that explains everything. Scientists may still be looking for their Unified Field Theory that explains all the physical workings of the universe, but until then, this works fine for those in the Crackpot Party. Behold, all is explained! I saw it on Fox!

13. Obama is deliberately tanking the stock market in order to destroy capitalism

Hey, let's not let the reality that the market has gone over the 16,000 mark get in the way of this "theory." Wingnut chatterboxes and more reputable authorities like Forbes say a crash is coming. Some say everyone should sell their stocks and cash out. Repug media like Newsmax issue weekly warnings about an imminent crash as if they want it to happen, just so they can blame Obama.

Hey, it might happen. The fall of 2008 wasn't pretty, and not much has been done, and the Wall Street criminals run free, but hmmm, now if everyone were to listen to these Chicken Littles and pull their stocks at once, wouldn't that crash the market and destroy the economy to the likes of which has not been seen since 1929? So just who is trying to deliberately destroy capitalism?

14. Obama is gay and has even been "married" to a man

So says World Net Daily's Jerome Corsi, the Swiftboat guy, so it must be true. Can Issa investigations and Hannity breathlessly speculating about gay orgies in the White House be far behind?

This gay Obama thing refuses to die in Repug circles. It's even used as the reason that there are so many of those wicked LGBTs working in the White House. Maybe the saddest thing is that such a thing would matter to Republicans. Ah, but no wonder Obama is pushing that "gay marriage" thing. Say no more!


Part 1: Take a bow, Repugs! (*including Nico's "Janitor of Lunacy") [Monday]

Part 2: Remember when Reagan cut funds for insane asylums? (Storms, guns, bombs, free stuff, and the secret gay life of Obma: Some top Republican lies of 2013) [Tuesday]

Part 3: No Cruz control (Rafael "Ted" Cruz in his own words) [Wednesday]

Part 4: A great anniversary approaches! (Nixon's resignation) (plus more "Quote of the Year nominees") [Thursday]

Part 5: Everyone's a critic, including me -- Some people really try my patience (Bill-O, Howie Kurtz, E. W. Jackson, et al.) [Friday]

Part 6 (and last): In the words of Dan Quayle, "What a waste it is to lose one's mind" (Exploiting tragedy for a buck; Miss America's not American?; "Quote of the Year" winner) [Saturday]

And don't forget Noah's recent --
"Need a last-minute Christmas gift suggestion?" [12/22]
"50 Years Ago Today: The Beatles" [12/26]
"A Tale of Two Popes -- the one in the Vatican and the one in North Carolina" [12/27]

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Ready for New Year's Eve? We've got the "New Yorker" cartoon crew to help get you psyched


"Just one more holiday to hit us upside our heads," says New Yorker cartoon editor Bob Mankoff in his latest e-newsletter/blogpost, "New Year, Old Laughs" -- more of this post in a moment. (Click on this cartoon and most of our others in this post to enlarge.)

by Ken

It's hard to ramp up to the appropriate level of festivity with this smack-dab midweek New Year's, especially if you're expected to be at your work station until today's closing whistle sounds. (Let's just say that I was at my desk until that whistle.) So I thought we could all use some professional inspiritization. So we're calling on some of the most dependable merry-makers, the corps of New Yorker cartoonists, as refereed by cartoon editor Bob Mankoff.

When we rejoin Bob in a moment, we're going to find him sneaking his way, not entirely surprisingly, toward a slide show, and here I have to enter a disclaimer. This is, I think, the best slide show I have ever seen Bob post. There are nine cartoons in it, and I think they're all gems. I made an executive decision that we're going to pluck out three, with possibly a fourth for another use I have in mind -- but believe me, the choice was excruciating.

Now let's rejoin Bob, having announced that we have "just one more holiday to hit us upside our heads."


And then the whole damn merry-go-round starts to go round again.

"The seasons fly by so fast, don't they?"

This last holiday is a tricky one to navigate, with its injunction for fun fueled by inebriation:

And its aftermath leaves us resolved to do better and be better, with the predictable results.

The takeaway is not to bite off more than you can eschew.

Still, as we slide into 2014, it would be a sin to abstain from all fun, so perhaps it’s not a bad idea to resolve to view this slide show of some of the magazine’s favorite New Year’s cartoons. We won’t judge.

"Now we'll need a sitter for New Year's Eve."

"Nope, no New Year's resolutions for me this year --
I'm still working on a backlog dating from '87.

"Ernest, it's bedtime. The party's over."

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Meet The D.C. Insiders Backing Colleen Hanabusa's Bid To Oust Progressive Senator Brian Schatz


The worst U.S. drone advocates, Buck McKeon and Colleen Hanabusa

When Hawai`i Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa rails against the "D.C. insiders" backing Brian Schatz, she's talking about Barbara Boxer, Sherrod Brown, Jeff Merkley, Elizabeth Warren, public employees, environmentalists and other progressives.

She doesn't mention the D.C. insiders bankrolling her campaign to oust Schatz from the U.S. Senate in the Aug. 9 Democratic primary. That's because the military-industry complex isn't popular with voters.

For the first time since its founding in 1991, the Congressional Progressive Caucus lacks a Hawai`i member in the House of Representatives. Hanabusa has decided to not follow the example of Hawai`i Representatives Patsy Mink, Neil Abercrombie and Mazie Hirono and instead has joined the corrupt, Wall Street-financed New Democrat Coalition, which was founded in 1997 as a conservative counterweight to the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

The New Dems' self-described mission is "ensuring that the voices of our tech and business communities are heard in Washington." Hanabusa chairs the group's National Security Task Force. With her focus on helping defense contractors, she's a natural for the role. She travels the country promoting their interests, as is noted on her Congressional website ("Runyan hosts Armed Services discussion with area defense contractors"). In her numerous campaigns for Congress (2003, 2006, 2010, 2012), defense contractors have been key donors. That's true also for her current Senate bid. Through the last reporting period, defense PACs had given her campaign $31,000, more than any other business sector.

Top PAC donors to Hanabusa include:

Lockheed Martin (which was recently awarded $1 billion in Pentagon contracts)

BAE Systems (which also has been racking up big Department of Defense contracts within the last month)

Northrop Grumman (which is a leading drone manufacturer)

Throughout her three-year tenure in Congress, Hanabusa has formed remarkably close relationships with senior Republicans who are important to ensuring public funds keep flowing to the private makers of war machinery.

For instance, she's part of Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon's drone caucus, and has worked even more closely with Randy Forbes - who is proud to be a lavish defense spender. She doesn't miss an opportunity to praise Forbes, despite his right-wing ideology and pathological homophobia. McKeon, Forbes, Hanabusa and others on the House Armed Services Committee have helped maintain soaring profits for defense contractors.

Though military spending is important to Hawai`i's economy, Democratic primary voters in Hawai`i are strongly progressive, and many are aghast to learn about Hanabusa's hawkish friends and positions. Meanwhile, Hanabusa is openly dismissive of progressives. It's a strange strategy, considering recent primary failures of other ConservaDems in major Hawai`i races. See, for example, Mufi Hannemann for Governor in 2010 and Congress in '12 and Ed Case for Senate in 2006 and '12. Case also used the "D.C. insider" line of attack against Hirono, with dismal results.

Schatz, meanwhile, has been endorsed by Council for a Livable World and has consistently maintained a top ranking by Progressive Punch. He's working to ensure Hawai`i gets its fair share of defense spending (and then some), but without sacrificing principles.

Hanabusa hasn't been able to identify a single issue on which she's more progressive than Schatz. So her campaign is focused on things other than issues:
Calling for endless debates - a refrain often heard from losing campaigns.

Implying Schatz is uppity and sort of an outsider, while she was born in Hawai`i, eats at local food places and practices local customs.

Touting endorsements from the last of the old boys, such as conservative-leaning elderly ex-governors Ben Cayetano and George Ariyoshi (who haven't won elections since the '90s and '70s, respectively).

It's better than talking about her record, which (beyond the contractor-money game) includes these nuggets:

"Steamrolling" anti-labor "reforms" through the state legislature.

Allowing vetoes of civil unions and emergency contraception legislation by a Republican governor while she was State Senate President, despite holding an overwhelming Democratic majority.

Refusing to endorse Hirono in her 2012 Senate primary against Blue Dog Case (though now some of her supporters are saying Senator Hirono is somehow obligated to endorse Hanabusa-- which Hirono has said isn't going to happen).

Telling voters at home that the supports Social Security after speaking at a press conference following the 2012 elections when New Dems announced everything was on the table and they were "ready to deal."

Leading the effort to oust the Attorney General who headed the historic investigation of the previously untouchable leaders of the nation's biggest charitable trust.
Ultimately, it's probably useful that Hanabusa has brought up the question of "D.C. insiders" (though, like calling for debates, it's a common refrain of losers). Relationships and alliances do mean a lot in politics. Who do Hawai`i voters want in the Senate for years to come: Hanabusa and her Northrop Grumman/Forbes/McKeon friends or Schatz and his green-blue alliance including Warren and Merkley?

Blue America, of course, has proudly endorsed Schatz, based on a comparison of his progressive record and her conservative record (and long, sordid history of corruption). You can help him keep this seat progressive here at the Blue America ActBlue page with a contribution before the quarterly deadline tonight... or after.

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Tears Of Blood


I didn't know when I would be able to write about this. It feels too raw in my system right now-- raw and not fully digested. When the standard Foder/Frommer/Lonely Planet guide books tell you what to do if you only have two days in Quito, they all mention Oswaldo Guayasamín's Capilla del Hombre (Chapel of Man). Maybe it was just the circumstances of the day but it was one of the most spiritually moving museums I've ever visited, beyond even Jesus' reputed birthplace in Bethlehem. A tribute to all the people of Latin America, Guayasamín's incredible art-- reminiscent of Picasso-meets-Bacon-- captures the profoundly tragic struggle of the indigenous people and the Africans kidnapped and enslaved there.

Now that I'm thinking about it though, I realize I really do need to wait at least a few days to be able to fully convey my experience at La Capilla del Hombre and at Guayasamín's home. What's compelling me to even mention it now is that I stood in front of this painting, Tears of Blood: Homage to Salvador Allende, Victor Jara, and Pablo Neruda, dedicated to the memory of 3 heroes of the people, the first two of whom were slain at the behest of my own country by a handpicked fascist dictator, Augusto Pinochet, shedding my own tears. Immediately afterwards I got an e-mail from my old friend Russ Baker about how the U.S. media, particularly the lapdogs at the NY Times, treated the revelations about a CIA campaign of assassination directed at Latin American social democratic political leaders. I urge you to read the whole article by Dave Lindorff at WhoWhatWhy.

The purportedly “natural”, “accidental”, or “suicide-related” deaths of such important left-leaning figures as Nobel Laureate Pablo Neruda, Brazil’s President Joao Goulart and Chile’s President Salvador Allende all occurred during the rule of various rightist dictators.

The re-examination of evidence in these cases is based therefore on strong skepticism about the “official” narratives of their deaths.  This skepticism, in turn, is based on a well-documented history of thousands of cases of political murder in the region.

Investigators from Brazil’s Truth Commission, looking into the 1976 car crash of former leftist Brazilian president Juscelino Kubitschek and his limo driver, have discovered a bullet fragment lodged in the driver’s skull. This finding, the Commission ruled, along with other evidence, suggests that Kubitschek was murdered-- most likely at the behest of the leaders of the CIA-backed military coup that also ousted his successor Joao Goulart.

...The Agency, while perhaps not directing the killings—and which in any case has a history of carefully avoiding a direct evidentiary trail of involvement in covert operations—did enable the building of a crucial database on leftist activists and ousted leaders, and facilitated radio communications among the various countries’ intelligence services.

...That distinction may not mollify Latin Americans who are looking for the truth about the real roots of democracy’s historic collapse in their countries in the 1970s and 1980s.

Additional untimely deaths in Latin America are likely to be reclassified as political murders in the coming months.

While autopsies are not always definitive, forensic studies are becoming more sophisticated. They’re also becoming more popular in a region where the political pendulum has decisively swung in recent years from right to left, with more left-leaning governments being elected in the region-- including in Brazil, Uruguay, Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela, and most recently Chile, where Socialist Michelle Bachelet won a landslide victory in regaining the presidency there.

Those leaders, for obvious reasons, will wants answers to the grim fate of similar leaders who came before them.  Currently, for example, the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team is working to identify victims of that country’s “dirty war” against leftists.

One case to watch carefully is that of Brazilian President Goulart, whose body was exhumed last month. Goulart, who died in exile in Argentina nine months after a junta overthrew his elected government, was officially reported to have suffered a heart attack. But as his death came at the height of Operation Condor, with dictators aiding each other in eliminating their exiled opponents, there has always been speculation that Goulart had actually been murdered.

A former Uruguayan intelligence officer, himself in trouble on other charges, publicly testified a few years back that Goulart was poisoned by Uruguayan operatives at the request of the Brazilian junta. Tissue samples are being sent to Europe for testing.
There was a bunch of Texans on the tour with me, athough they seemed to be on a completely different tour and certainly could never have fathomed in a million years why that painting left me unable to hold back my tears.

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Monday, December 30, 2013

With a new year bearing down, braving a bold look into the future


By some measures, 2014 is already looking like tough times.

by Ken

Probably you were aware, but we're just this close to starting a whole new year. I know it happened last year just about this same time, but that's no help. (Look how that turned out!) Naturally it would be nice to have some sort of advance information as to what the new year has in store, so when I stumbled across an invitation -- as I was riffling through my e-mail -- to check out my astrological forecast, I thought I'd click through.

What I found was at once more specific and more vague than what I was imagining. In fact, I'm not quite sure what I found.
In 2014, your playfulness could bring trouble, as it'll be hard to find people that get your sense of humor. Sure, there will be instant attractions and more than enough opportunity for fun banter, but anything for the long term will be scarce. However, it'll be you that gets bored fast, as the ball will be in your court more times than not, in whatever games you do find yourself playing. Of course, there is nothing wrong with enjoying the wining and dining involved, as all is fair in love and war. After all, you don't have to answer to anyone but yourself -- and if anyone does try to get you to do otherwise, trust they will never understand you the way you want. 2014 will be all about your personal freedom. If there is another beside you for the journey, they'll be following your lead, not the other way around.
First off, I'm not clear why my playfulness, such as it is, will bring any more trouble in 2014 than in years past, or why it will be any harder to find people that get my sense of humor. What would be surprising -- and definitely worth mentioning -- is if it were going to be somehow easier.

Then, I'm not clear about this business about the ball being be in my court more times than not, in whatever games I do find myself playing. I actually can't think of that many games in which the ball even might be in my court, or why this should lead to my getting bored fast. I suppose it's true that I do sometimes get bored fast, but at other times I have the patience of, well, a really patient person. Look at how hard I'm working to make sense of this! (Say, is the ball in my court now?)

As to not answering to anyone but myself, well, I think we all try to pretend that this is the case, but when there are necessities of life to be accounted for like shelter and food and clothing, there are any number of people standing in line ahead of me expecting to be answered to, with excellent grounds for their expectations.

It could be that I'm not getting this part quite right since my head is still shaky from the part about it being A-OK to enjoy the wining and dining involved seeing as how all is fair in love and war. Um, which wining and dining is this? I did have some lovely roast-pork sandwiches yesterday and another today from a pork shoulder I roasted the day before (I dipped the inner sides of the rolls in the juices, and oh my goodness!), but I'm not sure that really qualifies as wining and dining, especially without the wining. I thought about maybe having some beer yesterday with the sandwiches, but I knew that in my head I would have seen my sleep doctor getting really frowny about it -- or, for that matter, about the hypothetical wine. Oh, I do indulge occasionally, but then, as you know, all is fair in love and war. (I think you have to slip that one in really quickly to get away with it, and just as quickly hurry on to some other subject.)

If I had to guess, I would say that the chances of 2014 being all about my personal freedom, or even substantially about my personal freedom, are pretty unlikely -- at least without the kind of windfall that these forecasts sometimes project, of which I notice no mention here. And as to the chances of anybody at all following my lead, well, that would frankly shock me.

But don't let me stop you from checking out your horoscope at the above link. I just hope it's easier to make sense of than mine.


2013 in Review -- A Prayer to the Janitor of Lunacy, Part 1: Take a bow, Repugs!


No sooner do we finish rerunning Noah's 2012 "Year in Review" series than he's ready, having apparently chained himself to his computer, to tackle 2013! Herewith the initial installment. -- Ed.

Carnival's "Cruise to the 13th century": As the cruise ship Carnival Triumph drifts helplessly, its engines kaput, in the vicinity of Mexico's Yucatán peninsula on February 11, this boat dispatched by the Coast Guard cutter Vigorous keeps an eye out.

by Noah

Janitor of lunacy
Paralyze my infancy
Petrify the empty cradle
Bring hope to them and me

Janitor of tyranny
Testify my vanity
Mortalize my memory
Deceive the devil's deed

Tolerate my jealousy
Recognize the desperate need

Janitor of lunacy
Identify my destiny
Revive the living dream
Forgive their begging scream

Seal the giving of their seed
Disease the breathing grief

-- Christa Päffgen (aka Nico, 1938-1988)

By the time I was 18, I had come to the realization that God, if he, she, or it existed, was really just the Royal Galactic Emperor of Practical Jokes, a being who had set things in motion from which there is only a slim chance of recovery. The obstacles to that recovery? Our fellow humankind. I had also decided that if God created man in his image, then we were truly screwed, big-time. Perhaps God saw his creation in action for a while, shrugged, gave up, and left the building.

Last year I wrote up the year as a series of what I called "Idiocracy Moments," making liberal use of Mike Judge's fine Idiocracy movie as context for what I see in everyday life. [See this year's "redux" of all five parts, beginning here. -- Ed.] Well, surprise, surprise, what I saw in 2013 wasn't any better. Mankind bathes itself in stupidity, illogic, and suicidal tendencies. Is this the end of the road? Are we doomed to just run headfirst, splat!, into a spiked wall? 

Ladies and gents, I present the evidence! Since this forum is DownWithTyranny, I feel compelled to start with some observations about Republicans. Hey, it's part of what we do!

First off: some Republican contradictions that deal with survival while revealing the chaos of the Republican mind

Republicans don't like budgeting money for emergency relief, but they sure do squeal when there is, say, a tornado in their own personal back yard.

1. Republicans want a bigger army, but at the same time they want the right to own more and more guns and even bigger state militias ("Idaho Lawmaker Wants To Draft All Adults Into Militias") to defend themselves from that army. This doesn't just include handguns or fully automatic rifles, it includes things that can stop a tank and bring down aircraft -- oh, and deer too.

2. Republicans want to put all terrorist suspects on a "no fly" watch list ,but to be able to sell them all the guns they want without anything that smacks of a background check, thus giving us the right to die with our feet on the ground. Now, that's freedom, with a capital F. And, of course, there's the issue of just who is a terrorist suspect? I mean, where does one draw the line? Skin tone? Facial hair? Nationality? Religion? Name that ends in a vowel? Books read? Groceries purchased? Contraception? Drive a foreign car? No Christmas tree? Life gets complicated when you're a Republican.

3. Republicans don't want taxes, hate FEMA, and want immediate help when the tornado hits but won't approve the needed emergency budgets -- unless, of course, the storm hits their state. This cuts right to the inherent selfishness of being a Republican in the first place. What should we expect from a party that boasts "libertarian" principles? Others must "pull themselves up with their own bootstraps," not us. No, not us. We're special, exceptional!

Now, one of my favorite stories of 2013: Carnival's cruise to the 13th century!

This lucky lady, Lisa Williams of Houston, brought suit against Carnival Cruise Lines for "damages in excess of $75,000" for the, er, not-quite-a-carnival she had aboard the Carnival Triumph in February. “She had gone to have a relaxing couple of days," said her attorney, Spencer Aronfeld, "and it turned into torture."

Do you miss those days when humankind just tossed its human waste out the window and into the street? Do you miss those days when there was always a good chance at coming down with cholera or bubonic plague right in your own neighborhood? If so, then for a mere $600 or so, Carnival will punch your ticket to their own floating theme park of Hell on Waves.

Diesel engines almost never blow, but this one did. After being trapped, drifting for days and days that must have seemed like months and months in a nightmare of medieval on-deck rivers of shit, and no water to drink or water to shower with, etc., all the while surrounded by a polluted ocean, the Carnival Cruise Lines ship ironically named Carnival Triumph found a way to get its cruise suckers back to land in, of all places, Mobile, Alabama! Now that's lunacy! That's one hell of a vacation!

Showing maximum caring and sensitivity, Carnival then decided to make up for the duress by offering its victims the staggering sum of $500, and -- wait for it -- tickets for a future cruise! Yeah, I'd sure want to get right back on the boat to Hell. (Even before this marvelous party on the high seas, I never understood why someone would actually pay money to board one of these floating vomitoriums. Okay, sometimes it's just dysentery.) The "gift" came only if you agreed never to sue Carnival. Carnival then put its victims on a bus that broke down. Then they got their victims, er, customers, a plane that had electrical problems and delayed the victims' flight to Houston.

Houston? Mobile? I guess the victims should feel fortunate that Carnival didn't put them on a plane to a fabulous vacation in Chernobyl! I imagine that if Carnival were owned by some Japanese company, the directors would have done the honorable thing and disemboweled themselves with hari kari blades. The punishment would have carried some measure of poetic justice with it.

At least one of Carnival's victims wasn't buying into the quick $500 payoff. Lisa Williams, 42, of Houston, had to be hospitalized twice for dehydration complications due to being in the tropical heat with no water to drink for days. She wants 150 times that $500. Personally, I'd be going for $750,000,000 not $75,000.

I can't wait for that guy who did the Titanic movie, James Cameron, to take on this one. I'll especially enjoy the scene where Leonardo DiCaprio takes all of the passengers to the bow of the ship so they can breathe some air that isn't reeking. Just remember, if you do go on a Carnival cruise, pack some hip waders. They'll come in handy, but be careful, you might drown if your ship tips over in the Mediterranean and water or sewage fills your boots. Yeah, that was a different ship and a company (the Costa Concordia, back in January 2012), but does it really matter?

Meanwhile, back in Repugland --

Kudos to the great state (not) of Mississippi. Yeah, I know, easy target, but what did they do this time? Well, it seems they did something very commendable this year. In February, they finally banned slavery! That's right, slavery has been legal in Mississippi all this time! I guess they were just keeping it on the books in hopes of it making a big comeback. This is the state that wanted to put Nathan Bedford Forrest, a founder of the KKK, on its license plates just a few years ago.

I'm forced to assume that Mississippi has never considered itself part of these United States. No surprise there. Why would I say that? How about because the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution banned slavery 148 years ago. To be fair, though, and I'm always fair; Mississippi actually got around to banning slavery long, long ago, back in 1995. No, not 1895. 1995! See? They were only 130 years behind. It just took them a bit of time to make it all nice and official-like. Meanwhile, the 20th century came and went.

The first Janitor of Lunacy "Quote of the Year" nominee

I wish to close Part 1 of "A Prayer to the Janitor of Lunacy" by nominating none other than Paul "Crazy Eyes" Ryan. Did he have those eyes on the day he was born? Was his mother named Rosemary? No baby should be tossed into a trash can, but of all the babies not to be tossed into a trash can --
"We are not going to give up on destroying the health care system for the American people."
Did Crazy Eyes misspeak? Is this really what he meant to say? Or is it not what he meant to say but just a little Freudian slip? A glimpse into the inner mind of a Repug?

People vote for this man. People who walk among us disguised as normal people. Many in the media just adore this classless pathological lying assclown ( "Veteran's Facebook post to Paul Ryan goes viral"). This man was nominated to be vice president of the United States of America! A heartbeat away!

Lunacy? You betcha!

Still not convinced?

Here's a quote from recording artist and newly minted Christonut Michelle Shocked, spewing out her religion's message of hate. Who needs Muslim extremists when we have our own religious nutters right here, often saying much the same things?
"When they stop Prop 8 and force priests to marry gays, it will be the downfall of civilization, and Jesus will come back."
Well, all righty then! I thank you for the heads-up, Michelle! May I introduce you to the Duck Dynasty clan, or perhaps just Mitt Romney? Certainly the Janitor of Lunacy has quite a sense of humor.


Part 1: Take a bow, Repugs! (*including Nico's "Janitor of Lunacy") [Monday]

Part 2: Remember when Reagan cut funds for insane asylums? (Storms, guns, bombs, free stuff, and the secret gay life of Obma: Some top Republican lies of 2013) [Tuesday]

Part 3: No Cruz control (Rafael "Ted" Cruz in his own words) [Wednesday]

Part 4: A great anniversary approaches! (plus more "Quote of the Year nominees") [Thursday]

Part 5: Everyone's a critic, including me -- Some people really try my patience (Bill-O, Howie Kurtz, E. W. Jackson, et al.) [Friday]

Part 6 (and last): In the words of Dan Quayle, "What a waste it is to lose one's mind" (Exploiting tragedy for a buck; Miss America's not American?; "Quote of the Year" winner) [Saturday]

And don't forget Noah's recent --
"Need a last-minute Christmas gift suggestion?" [12/22]
"50 Years Ago Today: The Beatles" [12/26]
"A Tale of Two Popes -- the one in the Vatican and the one in North Carolina" [12/27]

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If predators are scamming billions and billions via for-profit hospice "care," isn't this why we have the death penalty?


Profits up in California: The average profit per patient has grown steadily. The combination of more patients and far greater profit per patient has pushed overall inflation-adjusted profit up more than tenfold. (click to enlarge; from washingtonpost.com)

by Ken

In a moment I'm going to back up a bit to try to enable you to understand why I was so shocked, and found my gut so clenched, upon reading an online teaser Thursday night for an investigative report in the Washington Post's "Cost of Healing" series which appeared on Friday's front page, "Medicare rules create a booming business in hospice care for people who aren't dying."

The gist of the article was that a mutibillion-dolar industry has sprung up in "for profit" hospice care, taking advantage of the daily amount Medicare pays for hospice care -- $150, according to the article, whether or not any care has been provided on any particular day -- by bulking up the rolls with large numbers of clients who, to put it bluntly, aren't really sick enough to be in hospice care, and therefore: (1) cost much less to care for than the dying people hospice care is designed for, and (2) for the same reason live much longer, thereby continuing to bulk up the predator-hospice companies' already outsize profits.

We'll come back to the article, but first, as I said, I have to back up.

In the years when -- from long distance -- I watched over my mother's final decline and passing, one lesson I kept relearning was that every situation and stage I encountered was a first time for me, all the people I was dealing with dealt with this all the time. Nearly all those people knew I had no idea what I was doing, and many of them not only counted on it but took advantage of it. Some were a little more helpful.

Miraculously, a very few people along the way showed genuine humanity, making it their business to try to help me understand what was happening and what could or needed to be done. In my state of perpetual apprehension and befuddlement, I doubt that I thanked those blessed souls enough.

The highest concentration of them worked for the hospice that was recommended to me when my mother's doctor, who had known her for many years, told me there was nothing more that could be done for her medically and he was recommending hospice care. He was aided considerably by the copy of my mother's "living will" I showed him, in which she made it absolutely clear that she wanted no heroic measures to prolong her life when there was no quality of life left to be preserved. When my mother was still relatively healthy, she had made a point of showing this to me and making sure I understood her wishes.

My first assumption was that "hospice" meant she would be "going to" a hospice when she was released from the hospital. I suspect I wasn't the first person to make the mistaken assumption that it was a place rather than a form of care for the terminally ill. I still had to figure out how to arrange her living situation.

But since my mother now needed around-the-clock care, and I thought a nursing home was our only option, there was someone at the hospice who guided me through every step of the Medicaid application, something I can't imagine how I would have managed on my own. It certainly wouldn't have occurred to me that I needed to talk to the funeral home (with which my mother had taken the precaution and taken on the expense of prepaying her funeral arrangements so that I wouldn't have to do that) and have them make her plan nonrefundable so that it wouldn't be counted as an "asset"! (And I should add that throughout the remainder of the process the funeral-home people, both in Florida, where my mother lived, and in New York, where she was to be buried, were also angels, handling everything with kindness and efficiency.)

There was another person at the hospice who made no secret of the fact that she hated the nursing-home option, and made me aware that there were now small assisted-living facilities where residents received invididual attention, and which might well be covered by the long-term care policy my mother had providentially scrimped to pay for, which up to that point had made it possible for her to have a home-care aide for a healthy chunk of the day. She wouldn't have been able to recommend a facility, but one of the people she suggested I talk to to better understand the small-ALF option did have a suggestion, of a facility not that far from where my mother lived run by a young woman who gave her residents the best possible care. Ana indeed turned out to be a saint, and took care of my mother till the end as if she were her own mother.

When I told the woman at the hospice of the arrangement I had made, I could hear her relief and happiness at the change from my nursing-home plan. She knew the facility, and considered it an excellent choice. As it turned out, she also made regular home visits to my mother, and in her new residence was able to provide me with information to supplement what I got from Ana. I know there were also regular visits by hospice nurses, and medical care when needed from those nurses and a doctor. The hospice also regularly supplied a range of supplies. When my mother died, there were kind expressions of sympathy from her hospice "unit."

This, then, is the background to the feelings I experienced when I saw the Washington Post report, whose online version began:
Hospice firms draining billions from Medicare

By Peter Whoriskey and Dan Keating

Hospice patients are expected to die: The treatment focuses on providing comfort to the terminally ill, not finding a cure. To enroll a patient, two doctors certify a life expectancy of six months or less.

But over the past decade, the number of "hospice survivors" in the United States has risen dramatically, in part because hospice companies earn more by recruiting patients who aren't actually dying, a Washington Post investigation has found. Healthier patients are more profitable because they require fewer visits and stay enrolled longer.

The proportion of patients who were discharged alive from hospice care rose about 50 percent between 2002 and 2012, according to a Post analysis of more than 1 million hospice patients' records over 11 years in California, a state that makes public detailed descriptions and that, by virtue of its size, offers a portrait of the industry.

The average length of a stay in hospice care also jumped substantially over that time, in California and nationally, according to the analysis. Profit per patient quintupled, to $1,975, California records show.

This vast growth took place as the hospice "movement," once led by religious and community organizations, was evolving into a $17 billion industry dominated by for-profit companies. Much of that is paid for by the U.S. government -- roughly $15 billion of industry revenue came from Medicare last year. . . .
It took me awhile to wrap my brain around this.

First I had to grasp that no, they weren't talking about he kind of hospice that had watched over my mother -- though already it occurred to me that most readers of the article wouldn't know enough about the subject to make the distinction; the message would likely be: Hospice care is a scam.

Then I had to overcome my automatic resistance to the idea that there's an entrepreneurial class so vile as to make a business out of phony hospice predation. Alas, once I understood the nature of the scam, it wasn't difficult to overcome this resistance, knowing as I do that if there's money to be made, there's no shortage of entrepreneurs for whom no degree of vileness would be an obstacle, and if there's a lot of money to be made, then it's likely to be more like a gold rush.

Today the Post published several letters to the editor about the Friday article ("The business of hospice"). But the response that struck the most responsive chord for me appeared only online, at the above link, in a comment by a reader who identified herself (wait, am I just assuming it's a woman?) as "ProgressiveCatholic":
As a former longterm social worker at a non-profit hospice in this area, my heart hurt to see the article in the Post not differentiate between the amazing care that local and national nonprofit hospices provide, but simply identify all hospice care as a way to abuse Medicare. The hospice I worked at for more than 8 years agonized over decisions about whether to take a patient and family off of our program, or to leave them on, receiving badly needed care, when they had elected the Medicare Hospice Benefit and lived longer than 6 months to a year.

Though I can easily imagine that for profit hospices have abused this benefit, the fact remains that many hospices who are in this field are here, and have been for decades, to provide care, not make a profit. PLEASE DIFFERENTIATE between hospices in this community, and in many, who have been providing care, many times at a financial loss, for those on the Medicare Hospice benefit, and those for-profit hospices who have moved in to the field in the last 20-30 years, and may be (?) abusing the Medicare benefit.

A long term joke among our workers was that Hospice care 'caused people to live,' in that when a patient and family have their stress relieved, when caregivers get respite and when patients get adequate pain management, they do indeed, get better for a time. This then leads to the difficult choice of taking that care away, because they no longer meet the Medicare Benefit criteria vs. leaving the care in place, but potentially misusing the benefit.

This is a drastically different issue than "making money" off of hospice care. Hospices face the dilemma of being sued for trying to take someone off of hospice care (it happened to our hospice) versus being sanctioned by Medicare if they leave someone on hospice care. Though I agree for profit hospices have created a number of problems, the way this article reads misleadingly indicates that all hospices out there are "making money off of" dying patients.
Yes, please differentiate, and then take the masterminds of the for-profit hospice ripoff and give them fair trials -- I'm thinking 15 minutes apiece should do it -- in preparation for their executions.

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Has The American Mass Media Turned Itself Into An Arm Of A Government Propaganda Machine?


One month ago, to the day, we looked at a fascinating bit of interaction, billed as a HARDtalk interview, between Glenn Greenwald and a British government stooge who broadcasts propaganda on the BBC, Stephen Sackur, the voice of Establishment Group Think. You can hit that link above and watch the interview if you'd like because Greenwald refrerred to it Friday in a German computer conference, Hamburg's 30th annual Chaos Communication Congress on Friday. Greenwald's keynote address accused the media establishment of being "guilty of failing significantly with respect to accomplishing its most crucial role: keeping governments in check." Obviously Greenwald and the other journalists who took part in the Ed Snowden whistleblower episode strayed far from the propaganda role the mainstream media has been drifting into.
“It really is the case that the United States and British governments are not only willing but able to engage in any conduct no matter how grotesque,” Greenwald said. Nevertheless, he added, journalists tasked with reporting on those issues have all too often been compliant with the blatant lies made by officials from those governments.

...“[A]t one point I made what I thought was the very unremarkable and uncontroversial observation that the reason why we have a free press is because national security officials routinely lie to the population in order to shield their power and get their agenda advanced,” recalled Greenwald, who said it is both the “the goal and duty of a journalist is to be adversarial to those people in power.”

[Sackur:] “I just cannot believe that you would suggest that senior officials, generals in the US and the British government, are actually making false claims to the public,” he remembered being told on-air.

“It really is the central view of certainly American and British media stars, that when-- especially people with medals on their chest who are called generals, but also high officials in the government-- make claims that those claims are presumptively treated as true without evidence. And that it’s almost immoral to call them into question or to question their voracity,” he said.

“Obviously we went through the Iraq War, in which those very two same governments specifically and deliberately lied repeatedly to the government, to their people, over the course of two years to justify an aggressive war that destroyed a country of 26 million people. But we’ve seen it continuously over the last six months as well.”

From there, he went on to cite the example of US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who earlier this year made remarks to Congress that were quickly proved false by documents leaked to Greenwald by Mr. Snowden. The very first National Security Agency document he was shown, Greenwald said, “revealed that the Obama administration had succeeded in convincing court, a secret court, to compel phone companies to turn over to the NSA every single phone record of every single telephone call.”

Clapper “went to the Senate and lied to their faces...which is at least as serious of a crime as anything Edward Snowden is accused of," Greenwald added.

But DNI Clapper aside, Greenwald said that the established media continues to reject the notion that government officials spew lies. Snowden’s NSA documents have exposed those fibs on more than one occasion, he noted, yet reporters around the world continue to take the word of officials as fact rather than dig from the truth.

“Their role is not to be adversarial. Their role is to be loyal spokespeople to those powerful factions that they pretend to exercise oversight,” Greenwald said.

But as the US, UK and other governments continue to feed the media lies, Greenwald said their operations are far from being single-pronged. The US “knows that its only hope for continuing to maintain its regiment of secrecy behind which it engages with radical and corrupt acts is to intimidate and deter and threaten people who are would-be whistleblowers and transparency activists from coming forward and doing what it is that they do by showing them that they’ll be subjected to even the most extreme punishments and there’s nothing that they can do about it,” he said. “And it’s an effective tactic.”

...The NSA’s goal, Greenwald said, is to “ensure that all forms of human communication... are collected, monitored, stored and analyzed by that agency and by their allies.”

I just happen to be reading Stephen Kinzer's great new book on John Foster and Allen Dulles, The Brothers and Kinzer provides ample examples throughout the chapters dealing with Allen Dulles' role as CIA director of how he inaugurated the policies of subverting and coopting the media. Thursday we saw how he was able to get a NY Times reporter fired for reporting the inconvenient truth about Guatemala, just as the CIA was about the launch a covert war against that country and replace the democratically-elected president with a brutal fascist dictator more in line with CIA ideals. As Kinzer explained, the Dulles brothers, under the protection of President Eisenhower, were able to create "a nexus of power unmatched in American history."
Law prohibited the CIA from operating within the United States, but Allen interpreted it loosely. He sought to shape coverage of world events in the American press through calls to editors and publishers... Perhaps the most imaginative media operation was taking control of the animated film version of George Orwell's anti-totalitarian classic Animal Farm. The book's ending, in which animals realize that both ruling groups in the barnyard are equally corrupt, is a trenchant rejection of the binary worldview. Allen realized that this message implicitly contradicted much of what the United States was saying about the Cold War. By investing in the film and influencing its content through a team of operatives who included E. Howard Hunt... he arranged for the film version to end quite differenty. Only the pigs are corrupt, and ultimately patriotic rebels overthrow them. Orwell's widow was disgusted, but the film reached a wide audience. The United States Information Agency distributed it around the world.
Republicans always seek to fight totalitarianism-- or at least the kind that endangers American corporate profits-- with... what elese? totalitarianism. The Dulles brothers may have made it standard operating procedure for the American government, but Obama sure isn't doing anything to ameliorate a problem that got very much out of control under the Cheney-Bush administration.

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Republican Party Class War Is Relentless But It's Turning Especially Ugly Right Now


A friend, who apparently doesn't read this blog, just called me astounded that this week 1.3 million Americans would be losing their unemployment benefis. He had just found out. "What are they going to do," he asked. I mentioned something about turning their anger, in a decidedly non-electoral way towards the individual conservatives in Congress, who have authored their impending misery. He pointed out that if anyone gets shot it'll probably be someone at a WalMart or post office, rather than a Paul Ryan, John Boehner or Ted Cruz, all merciless persecutors of the working poor.

Friday, Obama's Director of the National Economic Council, Gene Sperling, told the press that "While we remain disappointed that Congress did not heed the President's call to extend emergency unemployment benefits for next year before the holidays, the President as well as the Democratic Congressional leadership have made clear the importance of extending the benefits immediately upon Congress's return. Senator Jack Reed and Senator Heller have put forward bipartisan legislation to extend emergency unemployment insurance for three months which would prevent these 1.3 million workers and their families from losing benefits while giving more time for consideration of further extension through 2014, and Leader Reid will bring it to a vote as soon as they return. The President strongly encourages both the Democratic and Republican Congressional leadership and their members to support this bipartisan solution and to pass the Reed-Heller bill."

There were some people who weren't fans of Elizabeth Warren's campaign speech (above) about all of us being in the same boat. Those are conservatives, usually conservative Republicans. Normal people found the speech uplifting and inspiring. A few days ago a Columbia University sociology professor, Shamus Khan, author of Privilege: The Making of an Adolescent Elite at St. Paul’s School,did an Op Ed for the NY Times, We Are Not All In This Together, as part of their "great Divide" series on inequality.
Rising income inequality troubles Americans. Some of us worry that the fate of the many has become divorced from the fortunes of the few. Others are concerned that the government will attack inequality by taking their hard-earned money and giving it to the less virtuous.

What both sides seem to agree on is that from the late 1940s until the early 1970s things were different. Those coming home from the war entered college in record numbers, which fueled a generation of economic growth. As each year passed, a majority of Americans were economically better off. Incipient political movements that confronted racial oppression and gender discrimination flourished.

Today, when we try to imagine our ideal future, we often turn to this unique moment of our past in which the expansion of rights, the advancement of the economy, and the march toward equality appeared to constitute the defining trinity of American life.

The Obama administration has done little to push back directly against the rise of inequality. But earlier this month, in a speech announcing his plans to dedicate the rest of his term to the problem, Mr. Obama joined the chorus in suggesting that we turn to postwar America for answers. Yet perhaps we are yearning for a past that, in terms of its dynamics, is not terribly different from the present.

During our golden age not all Americans experienced the same kind of growth and mobility. The richest among us saw their share of the national income decline. They were also stagnant: in comparison to their counterparts in other periods in the 20th century, a higher proportion of the wealthiest Americans had inherited their money rather than earned it.

Doesn’t the fact that millions of Americans were better off more than counterbalance the fact that a few rich people weren’t rising so quickly? I certainly think so. But America’s golden age of parity and today’s winner-take-all society have something in common. The economic experiences of the many and of the few are the opposite of each other.

We understand this basic insight: In a world of finite resources, if you have more, I have less. But we also believe that the magical quality of markets can counteract these dynamics. The imagery we deploy is revealing. Markets behave like water. Resources can and should flow freely and if they do, we’ll all be better off. President John F. Kennedy famously used an analogy to imprint this elegant view of economic relations upon the American psyche, “A rising tide lifts all the boats.” Yet the evidence of the past 70 years shows that this is a myth.

In the postwar period the rich found themselves in a quandary. Their wages and their membership were static. They needed to resuscitate themselves. This required allies who shared a basic concern. The rich thought, not incorrectly, that high tax rates were handicapping their capacity to advance. And they found common ground with suburbanites who didn’t see social spending as something that enhanced their lives and neighborhoods, but as something that transferred their tax dollars to a different kind of American-- urban, of a notably darker hue-- who had only recently gained political legitimacy. Through a tax revolt these groups went to work dismantling social programs.

They were terribly successful and they helped turn America on its head. Since the late 1970s, it has been average Americans who have experienced comparative wage stagnation and who are more likely than their parents to stay in the same economic position. For the rich, the story is the exact opposite.

Let’s say you’re fortunate enough to be in the top 1 percent of American families; at a minimum you make almost $400,000 a year. Things aren’t just good; they seem to keep getting better. While the median American worker received about a 5 percent wage increase since 1979, your raise was above 150 percent. From your perch, even when you look at people right below you in the top 5 percent, you find that the rate of your wage growth is much greater than theirs

The satisfaction of looking down is met with the anxiety of looking up. That’s because even within the 1 percent, those who make more money than you do are outpacing your wage gains at an even greater rate than you are outpacing those below you. But it’s hard to be jealous. When you look at some of the richest people around you, you notice that they aren’t just the children of other very rich people. Warren E. Buffett, Bill Gates and Michael R. Bloomberg may have had well-off parents, but they weren’t born billionaires.

If you’re an average American, you don’t see this at all. It’s been more than 30 years, and you’ve barely seen a drop trickle down.

This helps us better understand why it is that the rich and the rest see the world differently, and why it’s difficult to develop political movements based on economic solidarity. We can think of elites as selfish, power-hungry monsters, or we can think of them as being like others: products of their particular experience and likely to overgeneralize from it. Elites understand their own world well enough. Yes, they underestimate the advantages that helped them along the way and overestimate their own contributions to their status. But they are not wrong to think that for them there is more mobility and growth today than there was a generation ago. What they do not see (or care to see) is that for others, stagnation is the new normal.

As a worldview, there’s something seductive in imagining that what’s good for me is good for everyone. Realizing my own advantage, then, doesn’t only feel good; it’s the moral thing to do. But sadly there isn’t much evidence that greed is good.

This leaves us with two lessons. The first is that just as political alliances brought us out of our golden age, they can also return us to it. This will not be easy. The nation has often come together in response to shared threats, but a political project like this is tougher. Those who want the lion’s share of the national wealth will threaten to leave our shores. Let them. There are plenty of civic-minded members of the elite who recognize that absent major changes, our future is clear: more and more for the richest and a society where the mass of the citizenry idles. This is democracy in decline.

The second lesson is harder. We are not in this together. We need to get back to what made America great, when the many and not the few were winning. To do so we must stop conflating moral arguments with economic ones. Instead of operating under the fiction that we will all benefit from a proposed change in economic direction, let’s be honest. If a few of us are better off, then many are not. If many are better off, then the few will be constrained. Which world would you rather live in? To me the answer is obvious.

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