The Talking Dog

November 23, 2012, Fake Fiscal Cliff[TM] Notes

Well, the always-opportunistic Georgia Senator Saxby Chambliss, who famously questioned the patriotism of his opponent, triple-amputee-as-a-result-of-military-service Max Cleland, in a senate race some years back, now takes... a stand?... and suggests that he may breach his "no new tax" pledge with Grover Norquist. Yawn. [Oh... and my college classmate, the President, forgot to mention the One True God in his Thanksgiving address. The fact that he's going to use these "Fake Fiscal Cliff[TM]" negotiations to set in motion the eventual handing over of social security to his backers on Wall Street... what did you think this was about?... will be fully offset in the minds of "my team" because there will be some token "tax increase" on fabulously rich people, so you see... we win... like "we won" on expansion of the national security state, continuation of the wars, drones, civil liberties, state secrets, Guantanamo, reining in (meaning "prosecuting") Wall Street for its economy-destroying excesses, environmental regulation, income and wealth inequality, etc., etc.... what matters is that he forgot to mention God.] Where was I?

We saw what happened in the "lame duck" session of two years ago: the Democrats, nominally "the party of the people," but even more "the party of the affluent" than even the Republicans, bent over double backwards to extend the Bush tax cuts and then double down by de-funding social security... when all they had to do was nothing, and the Bush tax cuts would have disappeared... yes, the "middle class" would have paid slightly higher taxes, but just as the Bush tax cuts disproportionately benefited the really high earners, reversing them would have disproportionately impacted the job creators said really high earners... not to mention estates... in other words, Obama's horse-shit about wanting "not to raise taxes on the middle class" involved a kabuki: trading a rather token tax increase on "the middle class" which, btw, would have still raised a huge amount of revenue (because, of course, there are so many more "middle income"... or "not rich"... than there are "rich..." for the entirely false proposition that the gaping American budgetary hole could be solved in any significant way just by increasing taxes on "the rich") for not raising taxes on the plutocrat class... at all... of course, more deficits mean more bond dealing opportunities for primary dealers... will the "win-win situations" ever stop?

In other words, boys and girls, President Obama, the man who killed "mortgage cram down" even though Bush's Treasury Secretary was for it (among other financial crimes against the middle class), has been using fake class warfare... this insistence that he can "raise taxes on the rich and not raise taxes on the middle class", as his end of the kabuki to see to it that taxes on the rich are not raised at all (and then, naturally, the Republicans do their part and insist they cannot yield on this point... it's all their fault, darn them to heck).

The only difference now with "the Fake Fiscal Cliff[TM]" is, of course, that now Social Security and Medicare are in the cross-hairs. No, not the absurdly regressive way in which they are funded, or the fact that they are not means-tested, or the fact that they benefit the (by far) most affluent group in this country, the elderly, even as the wealth gap between the young and elderly is the widest ever... there are still plenty of non-affluent elderly... and they are staring down major league benefit reductions to both Medicare and Social Security... and it's going to be Barack Obama who does it to them... in his "only Nixon could go to China" thing... only Barack Obama could pull off significant cuts to Social Security. Oh... in the name of "deficit reduction." Because "the price" will be modest upper income tax increases in purported violation of prior fealty oaths to Sir Grover of Norquist... it will all be o.k.

Anyway... blowhard Republican Senators on board with "higher taxes on the rich"? Check. Stick around for the rest. And please stop pretending there is a "left-right" dichotomy... there is only an ever narrower group of "haves"... and the rest of us. And "both parties" happen to be on the same side.

Just saying.

Update [11-27-12]: Right on cue, other Republicans, notably Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Congressman Peter King (R-NY) are on board as saying they too don't feel bound by their fealty oaths to Sir Grover. Note carefully what Graham wants: "entitlement reforms," meaning, in plain English, "benefit cuts to those most vulnerable" (those least in need of social security and other government largesse have lobbyists to insure that they will continue to receive it). Only Barack Obama could phase out social security Nixon could go to China... or something like that.

November 19, 2012, Gaza Strip tease?

First, a happy birthday to TD Sister, and belated happy birthdays to TD Nieces #2 and 5 (ages 14 and now 4 days respectively) and to Mrs. TD. And now... on with the all too tragic soap opera that is the Middle East.

Israel's Haaretz reports that a cease-fire deal is in the works between Israel and Hamas. The deal being brokered in Cairo with the assistance of Egypt would, hopefully, shut down the ongoing rocket barrage into Israel coming from Gaza and the Israeli air-strikes in retaliation (as well as the possible Israeli ground invasion of Gaza).

Some things that are not generally reported here that one needs to know to understand things just a little better: Israeli elections are scheduled for January 22nd of next year. That's pretty much it, actually. Hamas, as usual, technically started all this with its rocket launches (or, if you like, you can argue that Israel has technically started it with its blockades, targeted assassinations, bantustans and occupations)... but either way, innocent Palestinians (invariably far more of them) and innocent Israelis are being maimed and killed in the cross-fire on a daily basis, with nothing-- zero, nil, naught, bubkis-- in the way of possible "peace" or even anything more than the most temporary of a cessation of hostilities likely... where was I?

Oh yes... there is an Israeli election coming up. Israeli PM Bibi Netanyahu can be counted on to do what he perceives as in his personal interest, which may or may not be in the Israeli national interest (and is per se not going to be in the American national interest.. too bad about Romney, eh Bibi?). Part of the calculation right now concerns how to play on the moving Middle Eastern chessboard that not only includes rockets raining from Hamas, but Syria in the middle of a seemingly endless civil war, and an unpredictable Iran looking at its own elections (coming up next June 14th). Hamas is, of course, also calculating the effect of its actions on the Israeli elections... hoping, one would presume, to keep a relatively hard-line Israeli government (like Netanyahu's) in place, lest there be any Israeli efforts at conciliation which would undermine Hamas's raison d'etre. Which is why the Haaretz piece cites a Hamas representative cautioning Netanyahu of the disastrous Israeli domestic reaction to a ground incursion into Gaza... thing is, he's absolutely right... I don't think its sarcasm, or in any way not sincere.

Thankfully, now that our election is safely over, we can hope that the talk of (insane) American military action [for the sole purpose of benefiting Netanyahu's domestic Israeli political position, btw] against Iran will die down, and rationality can return in that quarter... of course, Israeli elections are coming up on January 22nd. And we have our "fiscal cliff" and Hostess factories closing down and Hurricane Sandy recovery and, you know... where was I? Oh... Petraeus and Allen... what's with that? [Some poetic justice in knowing that the CIA Director's private e-mails are no more "private" than yours or mine... but other than that and some schadenfreude... just a pathetic scandal... for a pathetic country where we turn on people we once lauded for their prowess at directing mass homicide and torture... because they might have had extra-marital sex. Just saying.]

Anyway, I hope that cooler heads prevail... or more to the point, that both Israel's and Hamas's leadership come to the conclusion that Bibi Netanyahu's political future will benefit if they both refrain from violence, and a cease-fire takes effect, and holds. That's about the best we can hope... and I'll take it.

November 7, 2012, A real and MEANINGFUL number

No... not the vote total of the winner of the Fake Election[TM], my college classmate, Barack Hussein Obama, but the fact that at measuring stations in Arctic and other Northern climes, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have come in at the devastatingly high 400 parts per million.

Even as much of the New York area continues to reel from the aftermath of "superstorm Sandy," with a new "Noreaster" storm expected within hours, it would appear that, whether Americans chose to recognize reality or not, reality has decided it won't wait for us.

Ah, I remember a candidate who suggested that "today is the day the oceans stop rising." Well, that candidate is no longer constrained by a reelection campaign. Perhaps he'll do something about man-made climate change (or for that matter, Guantanamo, or even the Imperial Presidency). It's not how I would bet, but I can certainly hope that those millions of people who, against all evidence and reason, continue to believe that there is a difference between "Democrats" and "Republicans," will have their unjustified beliefs vindicated with some necessary action on these most critical concerns we have.

November 6, 2012, Go ahead... throw your vote away

Thanks to whomever posted this gem from the Simpsons "Treehouse of Horror VII." Be it Kang or Kotos, Goldman or Sachs... my vote is "no thanks."

Vote any way you want. You know where I stand.

November 2, 2012, Like a hurricane blew in or something

All is well here in Stately Dog Manor in Brooklyn... alas, Familia TD in the NYC suburbs, especially up in Rockland County, continue to be without power. On a broader note, the Grey Lady gives us this round-up of frustrations associated with the (inevitably) slow recovery in many places from last weekend's Hurricane Sandy.

One of the frustrations that had been a growing irritant was the running of the NYC Marathon (given that there remain hundreds of thousands without power not to mention a seeming inability to get here-- and frustrations involving the intersection of marathoners with hotel reservations and storm refugees-- I would have voted to postpone it as a matter of good taste if nothing else, but as our Lord Mayor reminds us, this is only nominally a democracy). Although, as an entered runner, I was prepared to run the race, my twelfth NYC (just two weeks after my Midwest double of Indianapolis and Columbus in the same weekend), and indeed, I ran 12 or 13 miles yesterday through power-outed lower Manhattan to pick up my race number at the Javits Convention Center... the race has now been canceled. Ramifications to follow... but the short answer is... it just looked bad to do this in a city with hundreds of thousands still without power... or water... or food... As noted above, I fully agree with this call. And now I suppose I am freed up to see if there are [hurricane relief] volunteer opportunities in the area...

Where was I going? The broader point, of course, is that this is the new normal: we now have had a major, regionally disruptive storm here in the Northeast at least every year for the last three years (this year's Sandy, last year's Irene plus the Halloween blizzard, and the crazy Christmas blizzard and lunatic record snow winter of the prior year)... Obviously, Southern coastal climes can also expect more regular and destructive storms too (to go along with oil spills). And we know that inland, tornadoes, droughts and wildfires have gone crazy. Can we really live like this, ever more totally dependent on a complex but vulnerable system itself totally dependent on electric power and gasoline that more and more routinely disappears for a few days or weeks every year... ever more separated from nature by complexity, but thrown right back to nature when the complexity fails? Sure-- most of the world lives like this, but we prefer to believe we're "special" and only "the little people" (See Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia,Yemen, etc., etc.) have to live this way. Hey... what do I know?

Meanwhile, of seeming relevance, in Fake Election News [TM], the Lord Mayor's grudging endorsement of Barack Obama is ostensibly based on this whole climate change issue... But does this matter? Mayor Mike has the cash to hire lobbyists to bribe Congressmen to make real change if he wants. His own empire is dependent on the good will of the financial sector... btw... this may actually be why he canceled the marathon (ING, the title sponsor, seems to have seen the public relations disaster coming.) But... is it really "Advantage Obama"? H/T to TD Mom... who leads me to this... that there are massive power outages in Ohio's most Democratic areas... this has somehow managed not to be reported widely here. Funny that.

The big question, or the little question, or the irrelevant question is... which candidate would buck the status quo (and oil and financial industry campaign contributions) to do anything meaningful on the subject... Barack promised that his nomination would be the day the oceans stopped rising... Seems that hasn't happened, and the likeliest "global warning scenario"-- Katrina as a regular event-- is now the new normal. Best get used to life full of this kind of disruption.

And so, without a decent segue, I jump to hobby horse news, from our nation's permanent moral Katrina down GTMO way, defense lawyers for KSM and minions are asking for the proceedings to be televised. Like the ancient Chinese practice of "rectification of names"... forcing our society to deal with the reality of what it's doing (at least once in a while) would be hugely helpful to its overall health. In other words: there is simply no chance it will happen.

Our nation and society, for all our paranoia with "security," seems pretty much vulnerable to rather elemental forces (the weather? THE WEATHER?) And all this amidst economic malaise (or permanent contraction).

Fortunately, we have plenty of booze in the house... this is definitely a bad week to have given up drinking...