Monthly Archives: March 2013

Mario Piperni and DOMA

Freedom to Marry

March 30, 2013 By

Gay marriage - Clint Eastwood  :  http://mariopiperni.com/

Regular readers will already be aware of the thoughts and opinions of James Fidlerten. Fidlerten (as he refers to himself) has been a regular contributor in the Comments section of this blog, speaking his mind on various issues. John blogs at Fidlerten Place where he writes of himself: “I’m also gay and my passions are liberal politics and feeding hungry children.”

As the Supreme Court ponders the fate of Proposition 8, DOMA and, in effect, marriage equality, I thought it interesting to view the historic proceedings from the perspective of a gay man who has fought the battles and experienced the injustices that many of us have only read about.

We hope to make James a regular contributor to this site.

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As I listened to oral arguments from both sides for two days as the U.S. Supreme Court decided the future of gay people like me, along with the questions and comments from the justices, I looked back through the past. I remembered the battles that we had fought, from Stonewall and then through the AIDS crisis where we saw so many of our gay brothers grow terribly sick and die. It was a time when our federal government, especially its president, Ronald Reagan ignored the suffering and dying of mostly gay men and provided no federal dollars to fight the epidemic named by many as the “gay disease“.

Now these men and women of the highest court has it in their hands to go the final mile in giving me and my gay brothers and sisters the same right as everyone else; to marry the one we love, and with full benefits.

The first day of arguments, I saw the reluctance in some of their comments in taking such a big step to allow same-sex couples in California to marry. By the second day, when hearing arguments concerning the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) I saw the sun breaking through the clouds ever so slightly.

I realize that gay rights have come a long way since Stonewall but now it had come down to this, the opinion of nine men and women. As far as I know, none of them is gay and I doubt that neither of them has been through some of the experiences we LGBT members have gone through to reach this day for them to have an opportunity to weigh in on our rights as Americans and human beings. I also know some of them take a dim view of the gay community and our fight for rights.

Justice Anthony Kennedy seems to hold the power, as he is seen as the only one who may side with the liberal justices on this matter. I disagree; I think Chief Justice John Roberts may rule in favor of striking down DOMA, along with Justice Kennedy. Look at his decision to opt out of repealing ObamaCare, the Affordable Care Act back in June of last year; perhaps setting a legacy for his court was one of the main drivers of his decision back then.

This is his court and he knows eventually, same-sex marriage will be accepted in every state of the union. Either Chief Justice Roberts can let his court be remembered as the one who failed to get it the first time and see the inevitability of same-sex marriage as society grows more liberal, or a court that finally realized the equal rights of all citizens, including gay people.

As far as Justice Kennedy, I know I heard a true conviction coming from his voice when he spoke of the children of gay couples and how it affected their lives saying,

“They want their parents to have full recognition and legal status,” Said Kennedy. “The voice of those children is considerable in this case, don’t you think?”

One thing is clear, we gay people are not going to go back into the closet, but instead we are going to move forward and we will fight until we have won all the rights that are entitled to us as American citizens, no more and no less than our fellow heterosexual citizens. Our agenda is simply this; joining the rest of society in enjoying all the benefits of marriage and pursuing our dreams of a better life.

Paul Clement, the lawyer representing the U.S. House of Representatives, which is defending DOMA, said at one point, “wait a minute. Let’s take a timeout here. This is a redefinition of an age-old institution. Let’s take a more cautious approach where every sovereign gets to do this for themselves.”

Justice Sonya Sotomayor shot back to him, “So they can create a class they don’t like here, homosexuals” and treat them differently under federal law when it is state law that deals with marriage?”

Justice Elena Kagan I think put the whole law into the perspective when she asked Clement, “Do we really think that Congress was doing this for uniformity reasons, or do we think that Congress’s judgment was infected by dislike, by fear, by animus, and so forth?”

Clement responded that Congress had gotten involved over marriage before to prohibit polygamy in the states.

Kagan then asked him, “Well, is [that] what happened in 1996?” She then quoted from the House Report written at the time of the law’s enactment, “Congress decided to reflect and honor a collective moral judgment and to express moral disapproval of homosexuality?”

It is clear from the proceedings that DOMA does not have a leg to stand on, as far as I am concerned, let us hope the justices see it that way also. Otherwise, the battle will go on and eventually, perhaps through a new Congress that realizes the importance of ending a law that was meant to discriminate from the very beginning, and against one group of people; LGBT members.

Perhaps this court will choose to take a pass on any broad definition and refer to only California and the other states that have already legalized gay marriage, I hope not. DOMA should fall I would think, which will finally lead to many more states legalizing gay marriage.  Same-sex marriages I would think are here to stay.

 

Fidlerten publishes Fidlerten Place

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Mario Piperni’s Illustrated Late-Night Humor

Some Late Night Political Humor

March 29, 2013 By

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Baking my special Easter bread today. It’s a sweet, raisin-filled bread similar to panettone…only better. This is the first year I’m attempting to knead the dough with a stand mixer instead of doing it by hand. It’s got me a little worried in that the mechanical process seemed to require more bread flour than I would normally add to the mixture. After 10 minutes in the KitchenAid, I decided to finish the kneading by hand. The danger with dough is over-kneading but I checked my baby seconds ago and it’s doubled in size in the last hour. Perfect. That first slice of hot Easter bread with a dab of butter is mere hours away!

While I wait, here’s the best of late night political humor via Daniel Kurtzman’s Political Humor.

Happy Friday.

“The Supreme Court heard arguments on the constitutionality of same-sex marriage. It could be a major blow for those who believe that marriage should be between two bitterly and eventually overweight people of the opposite sex.” –Jimmy Kimmel

“I hope they legalize gay marriage because I need to be alive when ‘Gay Divorce Court’ hits the air. That’s how I’ll be spending my days.” –David Letterman

“Rush Limbaugh said that lesbians don’t have to worry about their appearance, so they are free to get fat. Moments later, Rush Limbaugh officially come out as a lesbian.” –Conan O’Brien

“A recent poll found that 58% of Americans now think it should be legal for gays and lesbians to get married. And the other 42% object only because they don’t want to go to another goddamn wedding.” –Stephen Colbert

“Some people traveled to Washington and paid as much as $6,000 to watch the Supreme Court’s deliberations on gay marriage. Yeah, $6,000. Maybe that’s why the Supreme Court launched its 41-city Monsters of Gay Marriage Deliberation Tour.” –Conan O’Brien

“Congresswoman Michele Bachmann is under investigation for alleged misuse of campaign funds. She’s blaming the accusations on her arch nemesis: the facts.” –Jay Leno

Michele Bachmann   -    http://mariopiperni.com/

“Last night President Obama celebrated Passover by hosting a seder at the White House. There was an awkward moment when Sasha asked, ‘Hey, I thought we were Muslim.” –Conan O’Brien

“It was proposed this week that members of Congress use video conferencing and other remote technology to work from their home states instead of Washington. They figure they can get just as much ‘not done’ at home as they get ‘not done’ in Washington.” –Jay Leno

 ”I think I finally figured out where Sarah Palin came from. Someone cast a spell on a YouTube comment and it came to life.” –Jon Stewart

“Over the weekend the current Pope and the former Pope had lunch together. The waiter who served them said they spent the whole time bitching about their boss.” –Conan O’Brien

“Thanks to Televangelists Pat Robertson and John Hagee, we know that bad weather is always God’s punishment for man’s moral failings. Hurricanes form from rising moisture created from hot, steamy man-action aboard a gay Caribbean cruise.”  –Stephen Colbert

Religious Right - Congress - Church   :   http://mariopiperni.com/

“According to a new survey, the average member of Congress can speak only at a 10th-grade level. Which is worse than it sounds, because the average 10th grader can speak only at a 5th-grade level.” –Jay Leno

“The Republican National Committee announced that it will spend $10 million to reach out to Hispanic, Asian, and African-American voters – you know, to ask them not to vote.” –Jimmy Fallon
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Greg Palast on the Neo-Con Squeeze

The Real Reason for the Iraq War

Greg Palast’s Column

By Greg Palast


(Photo via Wikipedia Commons)

Greg Palast is a New York Times bestselling author and fearless investigative journalist whose reports appear on BBC Television Newsnight and in The Guardian. Palast eats the rich and spits them out. Catch his reports and films at www.GregPalast.com, where you can also securely send him your documents marked, “confidential”.

Because it was marked “confidential” on each page, the oil industry stooge couldn’t believe the US State Department had given me a complete copy of their secret plans for the oil fields of Iraq.

Actually, the State Department had done no such thing. But my line of bullshit had been so well-practiced and the set-up on my mark had so thoroughly established my fake identity, that I almost began to believe my own lies.

I closed in. I said I wanted to make sure she and I were working from the same State Department draft. Could she tell me the official name, date and number of pages? She did.

Bingo! I’d just beaten the Military-Petroleum Complex in a lying contest, so I had a right to be chuffed.

After phoning numbers from California to Kazakhstan to trick my mark, my next calls were to the State Department and Pentagon. Now that I had the specs on the scheme for Iraq’s oil – that State and Defense Department swore, in writing, did not exist – I told them I’d appreciate their handing over a copy (no expurgations, please) or there would be a very embarrassing story on BBC Newsnight.

Within days, our chief of investigations, Ms Badpenny, delivered to my shack in the woods outside New York a 323-page, three-volume programme for Iraq’s oil crafted by George Bush’s State Department and petroleum insiders meeting secretly in Houston, Texas.

I cracked open the pile of paper – and I was blown away.

Like most lefty journalists, I assumed that George Bush and Tony Blair invaded Iraq to buy up its oil fields, cheap and at gun-point, and cart off the oil. We thought we knew the neo-cons true casus belli: Blood for oil.

But the truth in the Options for Iraqi Oil Industry was worse than “Blood for Oil”. Much, much worse.

The key was in the flow chart on page 15, Iraq Oil Regime Timeline & Scenario Analysis:

“…A single state-owned company …enhances a government’s relationship with OPEC.”

https://i0.wp.com/assets.vice.com/content-images/contentimage/no-slug/c2e001a56cbf6658dfc45f72dcf71b55.jpg
An infographic produced by the author presenting the Iraq war’s secret history. Click to enlarge.

Let me explain why these words rocked my casbah.

I’d already had in my hands a 101-page document, another State Department secret scheme, first uncovered by Wall Street Journal reporter Neil King, that called for the privatisation, the complete sell-off of every single government-owned asset and industry. And in case anyone missed the point, the sales would include every derrick, pipe and barrel of oil, or, as the document put it, “especially the oil”.

That plan was created by a gaggle of corporate lobbyists and neo-cons working for the Heritage Foundation. In 2004, the plan’s authenticity was confirmed by Washington power player Grover Norquist. (It’s hard to erase the ill memory of Grover excitedly waving around his soft little hands as he boasted about turning Iraq into a free-market Disneyland, recreating Chile in Mesopotamia, complete with the Pinochet-style dictatorship necessary to lock up the assets – while behind Norquist, Richard Nixon snarled at me from a gargantuan portrait.)

The neo-con idea was to break up and sell off Iraq’s oil fields, ramp up production, flood the world oil market – and thereby smash OPEC and with it, the political dominance of Saudi Arabia.

General Jay Garner also confirmed the plan to grab the oil. Indeed, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld fired Garner, when the General, who had lived in Iraq, complained the neo-con grab would set off a civil war. It did. Nevertheless, Rumsfeld replaced Garner with a new American viceroy, Paul Bremer, a partner in Henry Kissinger’s firm, to complete the corporate takeover of Iraq’s assets – “especially the oil”.

But that was not to be. While Bremer oversaw the wall-to-wall transfer of Iraqi industries to foreign corporations, he was stopped cold at the edge of the oil fields.

How? I knew there was only one man who could swat away the entire neo-con army: James Baker, former Secretary of State, Bush family consiglieri and most important, counsel to Exxon-Mobil Corporation and the House of Saud.

(One unwitting source was industry oil-trading maven Edward Morse of Lehman/Credit Suisse, who threatened to sue Harper’s Magazine for my quoting him. Morse denied I ever spoke with him. But when I played the tape from my hidden recorder, his memory cleared and he scampered away.)

There was no way in hell that Baker’s clients, from Exxon to Abdullah, were going to let a gaggle of neo-con freaks smash up Iraq’s oil industry, break OPEC production quotas, flood the market with six million bbd of Iraqi oil and thereby knock the price of oil back down to $13 a barrel where it was in 1998.


The author.

Big Oil could not allow Iraq’s oil fields to be privatised and taken from state control. That would make it impossible to keep Iraq within OPEC (an avowed goal of the neo-cons) as the state could no longer limit production in accordance with the cartel’s quota system. The US oil industry was using its full political mojo to prevent their being handed ownership of Iraq’s oil fields.

That’s right: The oil companies didn’t want to own the oil fields – and they sure as hell didn’t want the oil. Just the opposite. They wanted to make sure there would be a limit on the amount of oil that would come out of Iraq.

Saddam wasn’t trying to stop the flow of oil – he was trying to sell more. The price of oil had been boosted 300 percent by sanctions and an embargo cutting Iraq’s sales to two million barrels a day from four. With Saddam gone, the only way to keep the damn oil in the ground was to leave it locked up inside the busted state oil company which would remain under OPEC (i.e. Saudi) quotas.

The James Baker Institute quickly and secretly started in on drafting the 323-page plan for the State Department. With authority granted from the top (i.e. Dick Cheney), ex-Shell Oil USA CEO Phil Carroll was rushed to Baghdad in May 2003 to take charge of Iraq’s oil. He told Bremer, “There will be no privatisation of oil – END OF STATEMENT.” Carroll then passed off control of Iraq’s oil to Bob McKee of Halliburton, Cheney’s old oil-services company, who implemented the Baker “enhance OPEC” option anchored in state ownership.

Some oil could be released, mainly to China, through limited, but lucrative, “production sharing agreements”.

And that’s how George Bush won the war in Iraq. The invasion was not about “blood for oil”, but something far more sinister: blood for no oil. War to keep supply tight and send prices skyward.

Oil men, whether James Baker or George Bush or Dick Cheney, are not in the business of producing oil. They are in the business of producing profits.

And they’ve succeeded. Iraq, capable of producing six to 12 million barrels of oil a day, still exports well under its old OPEC quota of three million barrels.

The result: As we mark the tenth anniversary of the invasion this month, we also mark the fifth year of crude at $100 a barrel.

As George Bush could proudly say to James Baker: Mission Accomplished!

Follow Greg on Twitter: @Greg_Palast

Previously – How Bukowski Taught Me Not to Jerk Off Into My Own Belly Button

This week, VICE readers can download, for free, Greg Palast’s investigation of the war in Iraq in the BBC film, Bush Family Fortunes, at www.GregPalast.com – as well as the illustrated poster of “The Secret History of War over Oil in Iraq” from Palast’s international bestseller, Armed Madhouse, also at www.GregPalast.com

Humor: The Borowitz Report

Bitter Scalia Leaves U.S.

Posted by
borowitz-scalia-thomas.jpg

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Justice Antonin Scalia dropped a bombshell on the Supreme Court today, announcing his decision to resign from the Court “effective immediately” and leave the United States forever.

Calling this week “by far the worst week of my life,” Justice Scalia lashed out at his fellow-Justices and the nation, saying, “I don’t want to live in a sick, sick country that thinks the way this country apparently thinks.”

Justice Scalia said that he had considered fleeing to Canada, “but they not only have gay marriage but also national health care, which is almost as evil.”

He said the fact that nations around the world recognizing same-sex marriage are “falling like deviant dominoes” would not deter him from leaving the United States: “There are plenty of other countries that still feel the way I do. I’ll move to Iran if I have to.”

Throwing off his robe in a dramatic gesture, Justice Scalia reserved his harshest parting shot for his fellow-Justices, screaming, “Damn you! Damn each and every one of you to hell! You call yourself judges? That’s a good one. You’re nothing but animals!”

Breathing heavily after his tirade, he turned to Justice Clarence Thomas and said, “Except you, Clarence. Are you coming with me?”

Justice Thomas said nothing in reply.

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Photograph by Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images.

Mario Piperni on the Diabolical Evangelical

Evangelical Homophobe Claims That Gays Are Intolerant of His Views

March 28, 2013 By

Marriage Equality Poster  -  http://mariopiperni.com/

Imagine that. All this time we were under the impression that it was the bigots and homophobes who lacked tolerance and respect for the LGBT community. Apparently not. According to some poor hurt soul over at Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network, it’s the other way around.

When it comes to the issue of same-sex marriage, are Evangelical Christians actually the ones more ridiculed than homosexuals?

In the media’s narrative, you would think that homosexuals are the poor souls who have been banished by society like ugly stepchildren and are now rising to overcome incredible odds.

But what about today? Let’s be honest: If you are a conservative evangelical who believes in the biblical definition of traditional marriage then guess what? You are one of the following: An outcast, a bigot, narrow-minded, a “hater” or all of the above.

So here’s a question that may be a bit rhetorical in nature: Is it not the responsibility of the homosexual activist leaders to become much more vocal and preach tolerance and acceptance of the views from Bible-believing evangelicals?

Arrogant evangelical bastards. As is the case with all bullies, any time the victim stands up for themselves and fights the lies, smear and abuse that is thrown their way, the bully cries foul. When Pat Robertson speaks of marriage equality leading to bestiality, child molestation and pedophilia, there’s not one damn reason for gays and lesbians to preach acceptance of those perverted views.

Anyone who would deny another human being the same rights that they themselves enjoy is a narrow-minded, bigoted hater and they deserve all the scorn and ridicule that is thrown their way.

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Naked Capitalism on the U.S. Oligarchy

Oligarchy Exists Inside Our Democracy

Posted: 27 Mar 2013 11:38 PM PDT

By Ed Walker, who writes regularly for Firedoglake as masaccio

Suddenly it looks like we are seeing political victories for progressives, on LGBT rights, on issues important to Hispanics, even occasionally on issues important to women. At the same time, we lose every single battle over economic issues. How is it that when polls show that a huge majority oppose cuts to Social Security, Democratic politicians like President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin are all for it, as are the Republicans? How is it that when Obama gets elected on a pledge to hike taxes on incomes above $250K, with a huge majority and control of the Senate, and a legislative situation where all he has to do is nothing and it happens, and then it doesn’t? How is it that the same bill continued a bunch of disgusting loopholes for the richest Americans and the corporations they control, like the NASCAR loophole that essentially only benefits one enormously wealthy family? How is it that within days of hearings showing the incompetence of JPMorgan’s derivatives traders the House Agriculture Committee cleared legislation to inflict derivative losses on the FDIC?

To answer that question, we have to get outside of normal discourse in the US, and take up a new work: oligarchy. Fortunately Yves has already crossed the boundary line from acceptable discourse into the unmentionable, so even though our pundit class doesn’t seem to grasp the possibility, it’s easy to see that this single concept explains the apparent discrepancy between wins on social issues and utter defeat on all economic issues.

We think of the US as the Shining City on the Hill of Democracy. Maybe so. But as Jeffrey Winters and Benjamin Page say in their article Oligarchy in the United States?, kindly made available by the author, it is perfectly possible for an oligarchy to function quite nicely inside a democracy. In this paper, and this somewhat more accessible version, Winters and Page answer three questions: a) what is oligarchy? b) how can you have an oligarchy in what is ostensibly a democracy, and c) how can an oligarchy function when there is such a large number of hyper-wealthy people? As to the first, they define oligarchy to mean rule by the richest citizens, a definition that follows Aristotle. This is from Politics, IV, viii:

For polity or constitutional government may be described generally as a fusion of oligarchy and democracy; but the term is usually applied to those forms of government which incline towards democracy, and the term aristocracy to those which incline towards oligarchy, because birth and education are commonly the accompaniments of wealth.

It’s easy enough for an oligarchy to work inside a democracy. Historically, the richest citizens had to fight to protect their wealth and power, with expensive castles and armies and alliances with other oligarchs. As the nation state evolved, the rich struck a deal: the state would take on the burdens of protecting property from foreigners, peasants and other oligarchs, and the rich agreed at least in theory to abide by the same rules as everyone else in the state. Of course, the rich played an important role in determining how those rules would be established. Winters and Page point to a number of provisions in the US Constitution that wet things up for significant control by the rich. Not least is Art. I, Section 10, which prohibits states from passing laws that impair the obligation of contracts, and the Fifth Amendment, which prohibits taking property without due process and just compensation. The Constitution protected wealthy slavers, awarding them extra votes so they could insure control in their home states.

Throughout our history, the richest among us have used their wealth to secure favorable laws. The full extent of that influence is obvious in hindsight, even if at the time other motivations may have seemed important. Laws that restricted voting may have looked like ways to enforce racial prejudice, but they also applied to poor whites as well. Poll taxes, property requirements and other requirements were designed to insure that undesirables couldn’t vote.

Turning to the question of coordination among the oligarchs, how can they work together when there are so many of them. The answer is that all of these hyper-rich people share three important interests:

1. Protecting and preserving wealth
2. Insuring the unrestricted use of wealth
3. Acquiring more wealth.

They don’t have to conspire to protect their interests. They just have to shut up and let a few of them manage the specifics. As an example, consider the Estate Tax. Its function is partly to generate revenue, but its social role is to break up large fortunes. The Walton heirs, a group which has done nothing to deserve great wealth besides belonging to the lucky sperm club, provides leadership for the rest of the oligarchy on this issue. They spend vast sums of money to insure that their children do not suffer the indignity of living on less than billions and billions of dollars of inherited money. You can count the members of the oligarchy who oppose the Walton heirs on this issue, and they do not oppose changes with the kinds of money and influence that the Walton heirs bring, only by cheap talk.

The oligarchs have armies of professionals to influence economic policy. These people see themselves as independent professionals, but they need patronage to maintain their positions, and they get it by providing research and advocacy for the policies and facts that support the views of their controllers. Just watch those supposedly independent lawyers espouse laughable positions in courts, and then watch those indefensible positions win in supposedly independent courts. The same is true of economists and accountants and pretty much any profession you can name.

Winters and Page have some thoughts on the makeup of the oligarchy in the US, but their attempts rely on simple measures like income and wealth alone, and are not completely convincing. Part of the problem is that it is difficult to analyze the patterns of influence with a few raw numbers and simple measures of concentration of wealth and income. There is no obvious way to measure the power of working through corporations, foundations, think tanks, and even universities, which bring a deep range of pressures to bear on government officials. But even the raw numbers show that the power and influence of the rich is enormous, and much greater than any other segment of the population.

It’s only recently that the Oligarchy has lost interest in the bargain about following the rules. Entire industries are off limits for prosecution. Rules are randomly changed to favor the interests of the rich. And worst of all, democracy itself isn’t working. We used to operate under some general form of majority rule. That is not the case in either house. In the House, under the Hastert Rule, the Speaker, John Boehner, will not present a bill that doesn’t have the support of a majority of his party. That means that a minority of the House can prevent any bill from being heard. That minority comes from small states in the most conservative parts of the country.

The Senate operates under rules that allow a single Senator to stop a bill in its tracks. A minority can prevent discussion of any bill. That’s bad enough, but the same rule applies to appointment of judges and the officials in policy positions. These require the advice and consent of the Senate, but again, a minority can prevent consideration of even routine appointments for any reason or for no reason. That means that we do not have judges in many courts, and that the President cannot govern with the people he thinks best.

These matters are largely the fault of the Republicans, who are the party of the rich, the oligarchs. But at least in the Senate, the Democrats could change these rules. They refused to do so in the face of the bad faith of the Republicans. It’s at least as much the fault of Harry Reid as it is the fault of the party of the rich.

The primary impact of this leverage in the hands of the minority is on economic issues. The oligarchy is just as divided as the rest of the population on social issues, like immigration, LGBT rights, women’s issues and similar non-financial matters. It turns out that, for example, some of the oligarchs have family or friends or are themselves LGBT. Their interests in wars and other kinds of issues are also divided. Because of that, democracy could theoretically work on those issues. It’s only those economic issues where the rich are on the same team, and they always win those battles.

And that’s exactly how things are working out. On matters of direct interest to the oligarchy, they win. You can have your silly laws about marriage or abortion as long as they get their way on money. It’s a lousy bargain, and it doesn’t have to be that way.

Obama: A View from the Left

Barack Obama’s Economic Legacy: The Billionaire-Boosting Big Four on His Wish List

By Gaius Publius. Follow him on Twitter @Gaius_Publius. Cross posted from AmericaBlog

I’ve been writing about Obama’s Legacy Tour (sorry, his second term) from time to time without focusing on the legacy itself. So this post will lay down a marker — in brief, what’s on Obama’s economic legacy list, and what will he get if he succeeds? Consider this the Legacy View from 10,000 feet.

I think the whole of Barack Obama’s two-term economic agenda is topped by these four items:

  1. Health care “reform” — a privatized alternative to Medicare expansion
  2. A “grand bargain” in which social insurance benefits are rolled back
  3. Plentiful oil & gas and passage of the Keystone Sludgepipe (KXL pipeline)
  4. Passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement

And that’s the list. Privatized “Medicare expansion” (the ACA). Benefits cuts for SS and Medicare. Keystone. TPP. If Obama gets these four, he’s a happy man, and in his mind he goes out in glory.

Notice, by the way, that these are his economic wants. His social agenda — gay rights, women’s rights, immigrant rights and the rest — well, I’ll leave it to you to decide how hard he’s fought for these things, and why he’s fought for them (or not). This piece is only concerned with his economic wants. Why? The reason is here.

Why do I think he wants these things strongly? Occam’s switchblade: Because he acts like it. If you disagree, let’s wait till the Obama show is over, then show me the economic policy he’s fought for harder. (And no, I’m not counting the tepid stimulus tied to the bankers’ Never Go To Jail card. That was on his list (and he won), but it doesn’t top the items above. I think you could argue that this was his forced response to the end of the Bush II crisis, something he had to do before moving onto his own must-have agenda.)

What’s his purpose in pushing for these items?

I’ve examined each of these items separately before, and will again. (For newbies, the TPP discussions are here and here.) But I want to short-form the discussion. What does Obama get out of each of these high-priority items? Taking them one by one, a summary:

■ Privatized “Medicare expansion” (Obamacare or ACA) is a neoliberal solution to a public health care problem. It gives money to billionaires (in this case, insurance and Pharma CEOs) as a privatized way to solve a public need, and it blocks actual Medicare from being expanded to younger people. Win-win for the neolibs. Young people now will never get access to Medicare.

■ The “Grand Bargain” is a pretend way to solve a pretend problem (the deficit) with a disguised real goal — start the rollback of social insurance programs. (See here at 1:30 and elsewhere in the clip; note, that’s 2006.) Rolling back social insurance is a neoliberal wet dream. Clinton was on that path until a certain blue dress got in the way. The next Clinton will be on that path as well. Obama’s been after benefit cuts since his inauguration.

■ Oil and gas production under Obama is off the charts, at a mid-term high. This is obviously a big-time Obama goal, and getting Keystone approved is a clear must-have. Keystone has been fast-tracked since the beginning, and after a speed-bump in which the environmental movement reared its powerful head and asked for the wrong thing, it’s fast-tracked today. The latest government Keystone study was authored by the pipeline’s owner, TransCanada.

Keystone is coming. Make no mistake. Obama wants it bad. It will make him Climate Criminal Number One, but not in his mind.

■ TPP is the latest trade agreement in a gaggle of trade agreements that enshrine capital as the only entity with global travel rights. TPP too is coming, and every billionaire on the planet will pay both the House and the Senate major money to please-please-please make it so. Obama will eagerly sign if they pass TPP through Congress. (For an added why, see below.)

So that’s the big four. Remember that list —

Privatized Medicare expansion (done)
Benefit cuts (in process)
Keystone (coming)
TPP trade agreement (coming)

Did you notice? Every item on that list promotes billionaire wealth. By a lot. Obama got the first one, is working on the second, and he has more than three years to get the last two. Then he’s out of office and into Clinton land.

All four have to be blocked. We screwed up on the first — thanks, Dennis “Plane Ride” Kucinich and the other “bold” progressives in Congress. But we can still win the other three.

What does post-presidential Obama look like?

Post-presidential Obama looks like post-presidential Bill Clinton: World-wide acclaim. Sneaky neoliberal “do-gooder” foundation. Library (with obscure funding). And Bill Clinton money.

Since every item on his list promotes billionaire wealth, he’ll get Clinton money and then some (inflation, don’t you know, plus added value for extra effort). That means he’ll also get the Big-Money–funded foundation (“The Barack Obama More-for-Them Institute”), and of course, the donor-compromised library.

But what about reputation and acclaim? In my estimation at least, likely not. The man may have to live with disappointment after all. As I noted earlier, things are coming to a head, on many fronts. If they do, James Galbraith may be right (as quoted here):

For if and when he ventures out, for the rest of his life, the eyes of all those, whose hopes he once raised will follow him. The old, the poor, the jobless, the homeless: their eyes will follow him wherever he goes.

Because sometimes, there really is justice in the world. And also because, the minute people get that he really is Climate Criminal Number One (after all, he’ll be that Keystone dude till he dies), Obama will be Them, not Us, for as long as post-industrial civilization survives. Roughly the length of the rest of his daughters’ lives, I think, unless James Hansen is really really wrong.

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Mario Piperni on Untraditional Stupidity

When in Doubt, Blame the Gay Guy – for Everything

March 27, 2013 By

Republican elephant in the bedroom   -   http://mariopiperni.com/

Another conservative dinosaur raises its big ugly homophobic head. In a USA Today piece, former senator and Mr. Conservative himself, Jim DeMint, recycles the tired old argument that gay marriage leads to a deterioration of traditional marriage and is therefore responsible in part for the welfare state.

Without strong families grounded in marriage, we cannot hold back the ever-expanding power of government. As the marriage culture weakens, Big Government grows. Just look how the welfare state has expanded as the unwed childbearing rate has grown from single digits in the 1960s to more than 40% today.

Marriage policy exists to encourage a man and a woman to commit to each other permanently and exclusively as husband and wife and to be father and mother to any children. Sound marriage policy strengthens civil society and reduces the role of government.

Oh please. We’ve all heard these empty arguments from homophobes before. They speak of preserving traditional marriage but it never seems to dawn on them that their own marriage breakdowns and divorces have done more to damage their phony take on traditional marriage than anything same-sex marriage could ever do.

David Boaz of the Cato Institute rips DeMint to shreds.

Yes indeed. Stable families are less likely to be on welfare…But DeMint and other social conservatives make a logical leap when they connect that point to gay marriage. Gay people making the emotional and financial commitments of marriage is not the cause of family breakdown or welfare spending.

When DeMint says that “family breakdown” is causing poverty – and thus a demand for higher government spending – he knows that he’s really talking about unwed motherhood, divorce, children growing up without fathers, and the resulting high rates of welfare usage and crime.

So why raise the problems of broken families and then propose to prevent gay people from getting married?

Indeed. What exactly do gays and same-sex marriage have to do with the problems plaguing the family unit? And how does anyone’s “traditional marriage” get affected, adversely or otherwise, by the decision to marry by two people of the same sex who love each other? It doesn’t of course but it does serve as a convenient scapegoat for bigots to 1) feed their homophobic mania and 2) further blame the ills of society and government on a group which for the most part, does not vote Republican.

As the author suggests, if one was serious about tackling the issue of “family breakdown”, then it would be far more prudent to put in place a ban on divorce and premarital sex. But conservatives would never suggest doing anything that radical. Why not? Because conservatives are quite aware that Republicans do get divorced and Republicans do engage in premarital and adulterous sex. No need to upset them when it is…

…far better to pick on a small group, a group not perceived to be part of the Republican constituency, and blame them for social breakdown and its associated costs.

The good news is that Jim DeMint is out of congress and locked up in some corner office at the irrelevant Heritage Foundation where no one needs to pay attention to anything he says or does. Except when it’s time to mock him, of course.

The bad news is that the monkey in the video below is still in congress.

Yeah, that’s it Stevie the Wonder Boy. The constitution never mentions gay marriage so it must mean it’s against marriage equality. Fucking idiot.

I really have no more patience for these people. None at all.

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Mario Piperni on Scalia

Antonin Scalia – A Limbaugh With Robes

MARCH 26, 2013 BY 

Antonin Scalia - The Mad Inquisitor  :   http://mariopiperni.com/

Whatever the outcome of the Supreme Court hearing on same-sex marriage, history tells us that whenever the forces battling for equality reach a tipping point (as they inevitably do), there is no stopping them. Marriage equality will be the law of the land this June…and if not, then some other June in the near future.

And when that history is written, one of the chief villains in this sordid tale of intolerance and ignorance will be Justice Antonin Scalia – for what sets this Supreme Court justice apart from every other bigot fighting to restrict rights, is the special joy Scalia takes in defending his homophobia.

Here are a couple of examples from a Mother Jone’s piece on the 7 worst things Scalia has ever said about homosexuality.

In 2003, during oral arguments in Lawrence v. Texas, the case challenging a Texas law that criminalized homosexual sex, Scalia came up with a tasteless analogy to illustrate the issue. “[S]uppose all the States had laws against flagpole sitting at one time, you know, there was a time when it was a popular thing and probably annoyed a lot of communities, and then almost all of them repealed those laws,” Scalia asked the attorney fighting the Texas law. “Does that make flagpole sitting a fundamental right?”

Vile little prick. Another…

During oral arguments in Lawrence, the attorney challenging the Texas law argued that it was “fundamentally illogical” for straight people to be able to have non-procreative sex without being harassed by the state while same-sex couples did not have the right to be “free from a law that says you can’t have any sexual intimacy at all.” But Scalia pointed out that gays and lesbians could just have sex with people of the opposite sex instead. “It doesn’t say you can’t have—you can’t have any sexual intimacy. It says you cannot have sexual intimacy with a person of the same sex.” Later on in his dissent, Scalia argued that Americans’ constitutional right to equal protection under the law wasn’t violated by the Texas law for that reason. “Men and women, heterosexuals and homosexuals, are all subject to [Texas’] prohibition of deviate sexual intercourse with someone of the same sex.”

As the MJ piece points out, this was the exact same argument made by racists who defended bans on interracial marriages. The ban, the haters would say, was equally restrictive to both whites and blacks and, therefore, constitutional.

Whatever great legal mind Antonin Scalia once possessed, it is no longer the case. He is now a mean-spirited 77-year-old bigot who derives great pleasure in making outlandish statements and then sitting back and reveling in the reaction.

Scalia is, in the words of an observer, Rush with a robe.

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