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On Tuesday night, January 28, President Obama delivered his State of the Union address. After experiencing the shenanigans over the last five years, nothing said in the speech surprised me. I saw the same defiance and arrogance – the same disregard for the rule of law and the U.S. Constitution – that have characterized the Obama years from day one.
But when I read through the media’s post-game analysis, I could not help but think: What speech were they watching!?
Consider The Hill newspaper, which commended the president for his “genial tone” and for “praising” some of his “long-time foes.” The speech was “less partisan and pointed than many expected,” The Hill reported.
Yes, Obama tossed out a few bones to the Republican leadership. But does this indicate a policy shift toward reason and respect for the rule of law? No, it does not.
And does it really matter if the president uses his polite words when he describes how he is going to continue to completely undermine the U.S. Constitution? Not to most Americans.
As The Hill described: “Obama promised to unleash a torrent of new executive actions.” In the president’s own words [Emphasis added]:
“What I offer tonight is a set of concrete, practical proposals to speed up growth, strengthen the middle class, and build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class. Some require congressional action, and I’m eager to work with all of you.”
“But America does not stand still — and neither will I. So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do.”
“Let’s make this a year of action. That’s what most Americans want: for all of us in this chamber to focus on their lives, their hopes, their aspirations.”
All this follows President Obama’s thinly veiled threat issued earlier this month prior to a cabinet meeting: “I have a pen and I have a phone,” the president said, noting that he would not wait for Congress to act.
(By the way, that “year of action” sounds like a Marxist revolutionary dog whistle to me.)
Perhaps the best spin on the president’s imperialistic speech came from Politico: “Obama didn’t entirely ignore Congress.” [Emphasis added.]
Oh, well that’s a comfort.
Folks, do you see the emptiness in President Obama’s expressed willingness to “work with Congress?” What kind of negotiation can there be when the president has stated that he will act unilaterally if he doesn’t get his way?
And “genial tone” notwithstanding, we don’t have to pay much attention to what Barack Obama says anymore, except to ascertain threats to the Constitution and the rule of law. After an endless stream of broken promises, he has no credibility left. We simply must look at what Barack Obama has done.
Let’s take just one example: Congress, with the full support of the American people, rebuffed the president’s illegal alien amnesty legislative initiatives. After attempts to “work with Congress” failed, Obama implemented amnesty via executive fiat. Sure, he dressed it up in bureaucratic-speak, “selective deportation,” “deferred action,” etc., but at the end of the day, illegal aliens were allowed to stay in the country despite living here in defiance of the law, some of them dangerous criminals.
Then stealth amnesty became official Obama policy. And now it might just become the law of the land, if press reports about the Republican Party’s plans to cave on the issue are to be believed.
Here’s another example: On January 16 alone, President Obama signed 23 executive orders designed, as Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA), stated to “poke holes in the Second Amendment.” Reuter’s called it the “biggest gun control push in generations.” And Congress had no say in the matter.
This is the “Chicago Way.” And we are about to see it run rampant in Washington over the next three years on every issue under the sun. That’s the message I get from the president’s speech and the president’s “executive actions.”
When it comes to encapsulating the danger Barack Obama and the Chicago Way represents to our country and our way of life, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) put it best in an opinion column he penned for The Wall Street Journal: “Of all the troubling aspects of the Obama presidency, none is more dangerous than the president’s persistent pattern of lawlessness, his willingness to disregard the written law and instead enforce his own policies via executive fiat.” (This is a worthwhile read, so take a look if you have the time.)
Let me close with this. The president has called for a “year of action.” So let’s give him what he’s asking for. Let’s not simply complain about the corruption and lawlessness. Let’s take every single action we can to confront the Obama threat to our Constitution. You see, this is what I love so much about the work we do at Judicial Watch. We refuse to serve as spectators to the country’s demise under this president, or any president. We take action. We file lawsuits. We investigate. We publicize the results of our work. In a word, we are relentless.
Will you join us in our pursuit of justice against Obama corruption? Please click here if that’s a yes!
Judicial Watch Challenges Obama Administration’s Attack on Religious Freedom with High Court Brief
The monstrosity that is Obamacare is offensive for too many reasons to count. I’ve detailed many of them in this space. From the mandate to purchase insurance, to the taxpayer dollars used to fund Obamacare propaganda, to the numerous times the president has rewritten his own law in furtherance of his political interests – and in defiance, I might add, of the limits to his power as articulated in the U.S. Constitution.
But among all of these offenses, one that many Americans find most objectionable is the provision of the law that requires employers to provide contraceptive and abortifacient services for women – a provision that is now under consideration by the nation’s High Court. Judicial Watch jumped into the legal fray this week by filing a Supreme Court amicus curiae brief.
Thankfully, the Supreme Court ruled just days ago that a group of Colorado nuns, the Little Sisters of the Poor, could have a temporary reprieve from the contraception mandate while they fight the law in court. But what if you are a for-profit company that also objects to contraception due to religious beliefs? No such luck. This administration thinks business owners aren’t protected by the First Amendment.
And that’s what happened to Hobby Lobby, an arts and crafts chain with 588 stores nationwide as well as an online presence. The beliefs of this company are clear: life begins at conception. And yet, under Obamacare, this company would be forced to provide contraception and abortifacients in violation of these religious beliefs.
This flagrant violation of religious freedom is the reason the company is fighting the law in court, reaching all the way to the Supreme Court. (Fox News reports that there are at least 40 other lawsuits from other companies challenging the law.)
And it’s the reason why we are right there with them.
As JW makes clear in its Supreme Court brief, the Obama administration is in clear violation of the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which, in accordance with the First Amendment protection of the free exercise of religion, prohibits the federal government from substantially burdening religious exercise without compelling justification.
Terming the Department of Health & Human Service’s (HHS) mandate an “unprecedented grab for power,” the Judicial Watch’s amicusbrief argues:
The challenged regulation … is not simply the consequence of poor political choices; it is the product of a dangerous entanglement of Congress and an Executive agency that ultimately tramples on religious liberties.
In an unprecedented grab for power, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) has not only unilaterally authored, enacted, and changed the contraceptive mandate, but it now seeks to redefine a separate act of Congress – the Religious Freedom Restoration Act – to preserve its power grab. This simply cannot stand.
We also argue that the owners of Hobby Lobby and other businesses should not have to choose between “fidelity to [their] faith or the imposition of unimaginable fines.” The brief also reminds the Court of James Madison’s words in the Federalist Papers: “an elective despotism was not the government we fought for.”
JW hopes the Supreme Court upholds the lower court ruling in this case. In June 2013, Hobby Lobby won a victory in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, resulting in the Obama administration petitioning the Supreme Court to review the case. The Supreme Court agreed to review the Hobby Lobby case in November, and is expected to begin hearing oral arguments in March with a ruling by late June.
Here’s a statement I offered to the press in connection with the filing of our brief:
What is at stake in this case is the First Amendment right to religious freedom. It is a pivotal battle in the Obama administration’s War on Religion. This Obama assault, through Obamacare, on the Christian Church is without modern precedent. To force Americans to violate their consciences or lose their livelihoods must be met with strenuous resistance by the Supreme Court. James Madison’s warning against “elective despotism” could not be more apt in describing the crisis caused by this Obama administration anti-Christian policy.
Now as this case works towards ultimate resolution in June, members of Congress are also weighing in with dueling briefs. This week 19 Democratic Senators filed a brief “arguing that ‘secular’ businesses should not be exempt from the mandate,” reports Fox News. (We’ve already countered that argument.)
Some Senate Republicans, meanwhile, have a different view: “The ability to practice the faith we choose is one of our great constitutional rights. The Obama administration’s contraceptive mandate stomps on that right,” Sen. David Vitter said in a statement as he joined Ted Cruz, R-Texas; John Cornyn, R-Texas; and Mike Lee, R-Utah in filing a brief of their own.
Folks, this threat to our God-given liberties is happening because lawless leftists in the Obama administration have seized control of our healthcare, leaving personal health decisions in the hands of Washington politicians and bureaucratic committees.
The Supreme Court should rule by June.
Judicial Watch Fights Cover-Up of “Air Obama” Taxpayer-Funded Vacations
I close this week with more news from Judicial Watch’s investigation of “Air Obama.”
Many Americans have been forced to put their own vacation plans on hold due to a sputtering economy. A recent Harris poll indicated that 34% of Americans have held back on travel because they are worried about the bleak economic outlook.
But the sacrifices of the American people notwithstanding, the First Family seems to have no trouble asking taxpayers to foot the bill for their lavish vacations. I’ve documented some of these trips in previous Weekly Updates, most recently just last week, when I reported that a JW investigation showed that Obama/Biden President’s Day vacations cost taxpayers $295,437.
This week, I report to you that JW has amped up its investigations of “Air Obama,” filing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits against the U.S. Secret Service and the U.S. Department of Defense to obtain records detailing the amount of government funds spent on seven separate lavish trips taken by Barack Obama and the Obama family throughout 2013.
The Secret Service Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit, pursuant to a series of FOIA requests from June to August 2013, seeksinformation from the Secret Service about “the use of U.S. Government funds to provide security and other services” to:
- “First Lady Michelle Obama, Malia Obama, Sasha Obama, and any companions on a June 2013 trip to Ireland.”
- “President Barack Obama and any companions on a June – July 2013 trip to Africa.”
- “First Lady Michelle Obama and any companions on a Summer 2012 trip to London, England for the Olympics.”
- “President Barack Obama and any companions on a December 2012 trip to Honolulu, Hawaii.”
- “President Barack Obama and any companions on an August 2013 trip to California.”
- “President Barack Obama and any companions on an August 2013 trip to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.”
The Secret Service failed to substantively respond to these FOIA requests, and has effectively shut down Judicial Watch’s inquiries about First Family travel.
On January 13, Judicial Watch filed a separate FOIA lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Defense seeking further “records concerningFirst Lady Michelle Obama’s June 2013 trip to Ireland.”
Let’s take these trips one by one to cover what we know so far according to press reports.
- With the Ireland trip, after a brief stop in Belfast, where the President was taking part in a G-8 summit, the First Lady departed on her own, apparently aboard Air Force Two, for her side trip to Dublin. According to WashingtonDossier.com, though the White House claimed the trip was for diplomatic purposes the itinerary showed, “She and her daughters will visit the Trinity College library to explore President Obama’s Irish family roots, attend a performance by the world-famous Riverdance troupe, and visit the Wicklow Mountains national forest.”
- In a June, 2013, article, on Michelle Obama’s trip to Ireland, the Washington Times reported, “The cost of the two-day trip in Ireland and Northern Ireland has been estimated at around $5 million. U.S. taxpayers pay the cost of the first family’s travel.” The Times reported that the First Lady stayed at a $3,300-per-night hotel suite in Dublin and enjoyed a “typical Irish lunch” with U2 frontman Bono.”
- In June, 2013 Fox News reported that the President Obama’s July trip to Africa “with the first family tagging along,” was projected to cost taxpayers an estimated $100 million. According to a confidential planning document obtained by the Washington Post, “Military cargo planes will airlift in 56 support vehicles, including 14 limousines and three trucks loaded with sheets of bulletproof glass to cover the windows of the hotels where the first family will stay. Fighter jets will fly in shifts, giving 24-hour coverage over the president’s airspace, so they can intervene quickly if an errant plane gets too close.”
- According to Examiner.com , on First Lady Michelle Obama’s 2012 trip to the London Olympics, she “was seen taking shopping sprees through London and sporting a $6,800 jacket to a reception, on a trip paid with taxpayer funds.” In January, 2012, Judicial Watch obtained records from the Department of Defense revealing that the Obama’s 2009 trip to Copenhagen, Denmark, in a failed effort to secure the 2016 Olympics for the city of Chicago, cost in excess of $467,175.
- Barack Obama’s vacations to Honolulu, Hawaii, have been estimated by the Hawaii Reporterto cost the taxpayers an annual average of $4 million. But, according to WashingtonDossier.com, the 2012 Hawaii vacation may have cost even more: “This year, Obama returned from Hawaii to complete a deal on the Fiscal Cliff and then jetted back to Honolulu, where he is now engaged in Part 2 of his vacation. The second roundtrip flight added about $3.24 million to the tab this time, bringing the cost of the 2012-1013 vacation to well over $7 million.” The White House has failed to provide exact figures.
- While the total cost of Barack Obama’s August, 2013 trip to California, where he appeared on The Tonight Show, is still being withheld, the Washington Timesreported, “At $180,000 per flight hour to operate the presidential aircraft, the trip cost taxpayers more than $1.8 million just for the flying time to California and back. That doesn’t include two 50-minute flights in California on Marine One, the presidential helicopter; or the cost of lodging dozens of White House staffers and Secret Service agents overnight, or the cost of 20-vehicle motorcades at the various stops.”
- In August, 2013, the Obama family vacationed in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, where, according to U.S. News & World Report, “At a time when many more cash-strapped Americans are stuck at home instead of vacationing at the beach, President Obama next week will lead an entourage of several dozens to exclusive Martha’s Vineyard island at a cost of millions to taxpayers.”
No wonder these records have been so difficult to come by! These trips are an utter embarrassment for certain, but this is no reason to withhold information from the American people. Quite the contrary. The more shameful the behavior the greater the need for transparency. But that’s not what we’re seeing out of this administration.
The Obama administration is in cover-up mode on the costs of the Obamas’ travel. The Secret Service has, in contemptuous violation of law, simply stopped answering our FOIA inquiries. It seems that our “king” does not want taxpayers to know how much he’s spending on his unnecessary travel.
It’s been this way from the very beginning. JW began investigating these Obama trips dating back to the newly minted First Couple’s “date night” in New York. We’ve had to scratch and claw to get the records. And thanks to the diligence of our investigation and legal teams, we’ve been more successful than anyone else exposing these trip costs.
Click here to see for yourself all that we’ve uncovered.
But now the Obama administration, evidently tired of being called out on the Obamas’ excesses, is trying to shut down our inquiries by violating the Freedom of Information Act.
Now the Obama gang is going to have to answer to the courts.
Until next week…
“What will Congress do about it,” asks Dr. Paul of the president’s threat. “Do you think the Republican leadership, the John Boehners of the world will stand up to him?”
Ron Paul explains that his mission is not as a politician, but as an educator. And thanks to Gov. Ventura fo mentioning Dr. Paul’s educational arm, the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity!
Watch the whole interview:
Activist Post: Government of the Rich, by the Rich and for the Rich: It’s Time for ‘Militant Nonviolent Resistance’
John W. Whitehead
“[E]verywhere, “time is winding up,” in the words of one of our spirituals, “corruption in the land, people take a stand, time is winding up.”—Martin Luther King Jr.
We now live in a two-tiered system of governance. There are two sets of laws: one set for the government and its corporate allies, and another set for you and me.
The laws which apply to the majority of the population allow the government to do things like sending SWAT teams crashing through your door in the middle of the night, rectally probing you during a roadside stop, or listening in on your phone calls and reading all of your email messages, confiscating your property, or indefinitely detaining you in a military holding cell. These are the laws which are executed every single day against a population which has up until now been blissfully ignorant of the radical shift taking place in American government.
Then there are the laws constructed for the elite, which allow bankers who crash the economy to walk free. They’re the laws which allow police officers to avoid prosecution when they shoot unarmed citizens, strip search non-violent criminals, or taser pregnant women on the side of the road, or pepper spray peaceful protestors. These are the laws of the new age we are entering, an age of neo-feudalism, in which corporate-state rulers dominate the rest of us, where the elite create the laws which can result in a person being jailed for possessing a small amount of marijuana while bankers that launder money for drug cartels walk free. In other words, we have moved into an age where we are the slaves and they are the rulers.
Unfortunately, this two-tiered system of government has been a long time coming. As I detail in my book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, the march toward an imperial presidency, to congressional intransigence and impotence, to a corporate takeover of the mechanisms of government, and the division of America into haves and have nots has been building for years.
Thus we now find ourselves at a point where, for the first time in history, Congress is dominated by a majority of millionaires who are, on average, 14 times wealthier than the average American. Making matters worse, as the Center for Responsive Politics reports, “at a time when lawmakers are debating issues like unemployment benefits, food stamps and the minimum wage, which affect people with far fewer resources, as well as considering an overhaul of the tax code,” our so-called representatives are completely out of touch with the daily struggles of most Americans–those who live from paycheck to paycheck and are caught in the exhausting struggle to survive on a day-to-day basis.
Indeed, although America is supposed to be a representative republic, these people– who earn six-figure salaries and inhabit a world exempt from parking tickets, where gym membership is free and health care is second-to-none, where you only have to work two, maybe three days a week and get 32 fully reimbursed road trips home a year, travel to foreign lands, discounts in Capitol Hill tax-free shops and restaurants, free reserved parking at Washington National Airport, free fresh-cut flowers from the Botanic Gardens, and free assistance in the preparation of income taxes–neither represent nor serve the American people. They have instead appointed themselves our masters.
While Congress should be America’s representative body, too many of its members bear little resemblance to those they have been elected to represent. As Dan Eggen reports for The Washington Post: “The new figures underscore a long-standing trend of wealth accumulation in Congress, which is populated overwhelmingly with millionaires and near-millionaires who often own multiple homes and other assets out of reach for most of the voters they represent.”
Many of our politicians live like kings. Chauffeured around in limousines, flying in private jets and eating gourmet meals, all paid for by the American taxpayer, they are far removed from those they are supposed to represent. Such a luxurious lifestyle makes it difficult to identify with the “little guy”–the roofers, plumbers and blue-collar workers who live from paycheck to paycheck and keep the country running with their hard-earned dollars and the sweat of their brows.
The unfortunate but simple fact is that the rich sit perched at the top of the government. As Joseph Stiglitz writes for Vanity Fair:
Virtually all U.S. senators, and most of the representatives in the House, are members of the top 1 percent when they arrive, are kept in office by money from the top 1 percent, and know that if they serve the top 1 percent well they will be rewarded by the top 1 percent when they leave office. By and large, the key executive-branch policymakers on trade and economic policy also come from the top 1 percent. When pharmaceutical companies receive a trillion-dollar gift–through legislation prohibiting the government, the largest buyer of drugs, from bargaining over price–it should not come as cause for wonder. It should not make jaws drop that a tax bill cannot emerge from Congress unless big tax cuts are put in place for the wealthy. Given the power of the top 1 percent, this is the way you would expect the system to work.
Sadly, electoral politics have been so thoroughly corrupted by corporate money that there is little chance, even for a well-meaning person, to affect any real change through Congress. Whether it be the Oval Office or the halls of Congress, the road to the ballot box is an expensive one, and only the wealthy, or those supported by the wealthy, are even able to get to the starting line.
Just consider the 2012 presidential election cycle. Both parties spent $1 billion each attempting to get their candidate elected to the presidency. This money came from rich donors and corporate sponsors, intent on getting their candidate in office. Once in office, these already privileged wealthy bureaucrats enter into a life of even greater privilege, unfortunately at the expense of the American taxpayer. It doesn’t even seem to matter whether they’re Democrats or Republicans–they all take full advantage of what one news report described as “a mountain of perks that most Fortune 500 companies couldn’t begin to rival.”
Even President Obama’s closest advisers are millionaires, including those on his 15-member cabinet. It is not unusual for some of them to own vacation homes, such as Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of Health and Human Services, who owns a “summer home worth more than a million dollars.”
And then there are the lobbyists, the source of much corruption and exchanging of money in Washington. With an estimated 26 lobbyists per congressman, it should come as no surprise that once elected, even those with the best of intentions seem to find it hard to resist the lure of lobbyist dollars, of which there are plenty to go around.
This lobbying is in turn buoyed by a congressional lifestyle which demands that our representatives spend the majority of their time fund raising for campaigns, rather than responding to the needs of their constituents. In November 2012, the Democratic House leadership offered a model daily schedule to newly elected Democrats which suggests a ten-hour day, five hours of which are dominated by “call time” and “strategic outreach,” including fund raisers and correspondence with potential donors. Three or four hours are for actually doing the job they were elected to do, such as attending committee meetings, voting on legislation, and interacting with constituents.
When half of one’s time is devoted to asking for money from rich individuals and special interests, there is no way that he can respond to the problems which pervade the country. Even well-meaning Congressmen face a Catch-22 where they are pushed to fundraise to secure their seats, but then once in office, it is basically impossible for them to do their jobs. The full ramifications of this are laid out by Rep. Brad Miller (D-NC):
Any member who follows that schedule will be completely controlled by their staff, handed statements that their staff prepared, speaking from talking points they get emailed from leadership… It really does affect how members of Congress behave if the most important thing they think about is fundraising. You end up being nice to people that probably somebody needs to be questioning skeptically… You won’t ask tough questions in hearings that might displease potential contributors, won’t support amendments that might anger them, will tend to vote the way contributors want you to vote.
What we are faced with is a government by oligarchy–in other words, one that is of the rich, by the rich and for the rich. Yet the Constitution’s Preamble states that it is “we the people” who are supposed to be running things. If our so-called “representative government” is to survive, we must first wrest control of our government from the wealthy elite who run it. That is a problem with no easy solutions, and voting is the least of what we should be doing.
“What they don’t want,” noted comedian George Carlin, is “a population of citizens capable of critical thinking. They don’t want well-informed, well-educated people capable of critical thinking. They’re not interested in that. That doesn’t help them. That’s against their interests.”
A population of citizens capable of critical thinking? That’s a good place to start, and it’s a sure-fire way to jumpstart a revolution. As Abraham Lincoln said, “Wise men established these great self-evident truths, that when in the distant future some man, some faction, some interest, should set up the doctrine that none but rich men, or none but white men, were entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, their posterity should look up again at the Declaration of Independence and take courage to renew the battle which their fathers began.”
Inspiring words, but what do they really mean for those of us laboring under the weight of an overreaching, militarized, corrupt government that grows increasingly so with each passing day?
How can we change this state of affairs? The government is too big, too powerful, and its overlords too entrenched to willingly give up any of its power or wealth. The wisest option is to employ the tactics of past protest movements such as the Bonus Army, the Civil Rights Movement, and the 1960s anti-war movement, all of which used sleep-ins, sit-ins and marches to oppose government policies, counter injustice and bring about meaningful change.
For example, in May of 1932, more than 43,000 people, dubbed the Bonus Army—World War I veterans and their families—marched on Washington. Out of work, destitute and with families to feed, more than 10,000 veterans set up tent cities in the nation’s capital and refused to leave until the government agreed to pay the bonuses they had been promised as a reward for their services. The Senate voted against paying them immediately, but the protesters didn’t budge. Congress adjourned for the summer, and still the protesters remained encamped. Finally, on July 28, under orders from President Herbert Hoover, the military descended with tanks and cavalry, beating some protesters senseless and setting their makeshift camps on fire. Still, the protesters returned the following year, and eventually their efforts not only succeeded in securing payment of the bonuses but contributed to the passage of the G.I. Bill of Rights.
Similarly, the Civil Rights Movement mobilized hundreds of thousands of people to strike at the core of an unjust and discriminatory society. Likewise, while the 1960s anti-war movement began with a few thousand perceived radicals, it ended with hundreds of thousands of protesters, spanning all walks of life, demanding the end of American military aggression abroad.
What these movements had was a coherent message, the mass mobilization of a large cross section of American society, what Martin Luther King Jr. called a philosophy of “militant nonviolent resistance” and an eventual convergence on the nation’s seat of power—Washington, DC—the staging ground for the corporate coup, where the shady deals are cut, where lobbyists and politicians meet, and where corporate interests are considered above all else.
It is no coincidence that just prior to his assassination in April 1968, King was plotting “to build a shantytown in Washington, patterned after the bonus marches of the thirties, to dramatize how many people have to live in slums in our nation.”
King’s advice still rings true: “We need to put pressure on Congress to get things done. We will do this with First Amendment activity. If Congress is unresponsive, we’ll have to escalate in order to keep the issue alive and before it. This action may take on disruptive dimensions, but not violent in the sense of destroying life or property: it will be militant nonviolence.”
The balance of power that was once a hallmark of our republic no longer exists. James Madison’s warning that “the accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elected, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny” has, regrettably come to pass.
Clearly, it’s time for a mass movement dedicated to change through “militant nonviolence.” If not, the shadow of tyranny that now hangs over us will eventually destroy every last semblance of freedom.
“We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor,” Martin Luther King Jr. warned in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” “It must be demanded by the oppressed.”
No Jobs For Americans
Paul Craig Roberts
The alleged recovery took a direct hit from Friday’s payroll jobs report. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the economy created 74,000 net new jobs in December.
Wholesale and retail trade accounted for 70,700 of these jobs or 95.5%. It is likely that the December wholesale and retail hires were temporary for the Christmas shopping season, which doesn’t seem to have been very exuberant, especially in light of Macy’s decision to close five stores and lay off 2,500 employees. It is a good bet that these December hires have already been laid off.
A job gain of 74,000, even if it is real, is about half of what is needed to keep the unemployment rate even with population growth. Yet the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the unemployment rate fell from 7.0% to 6.7%. Clearly, this decline in unemployment was not caused by the reported 74,000 jobs gain. The unemployment rate fell, because Americans unable to find jobs ceased looking for employment and, thereby, ceased to be counted as unemployed.
In America the unemployment rate is a deception just like everything else. The rate of American unemployment fell, because people can’t find jobs. The fewer the jobs, the lower the unemployment rate.
I noticed today that the financial media presstitutes were a bit hesitant to hype the drop in the rate of unemployment when there was no jobs growth to account for it. The Wall Street and bank economists did their best to disbelieve the jobs report as did some of the bought-and-paid-for academic economists. Too many interests have a stake in the non-existent recovery declared 4.5 years ago to be able to admit that it is not really there.
I have been examining the monthly jobs reports for a decade or longer. I must say that I am struck by the December report. Normally, a mainstay of jobs gain is the category “education and health services,” with “ambulatory health care services” adding thousands of jobs. In December the net contribution of “education and health services” was zero, with “ambulatory health care services” losing 4,100 jobs and health care losing 6,000 jobs. If memory serves, this is a first. Perhaps it reflects adverse impacts of the ripoff known as Obamacare, possibly the worst piece of domestic legislation passed in decades.
I was also struck by the report that the gain in employment of waitresses and bartenders, normally a large percentage of the job gain, was down to 9,400 jobs, which were offset by declines elsewhere, such as the layoff of local school teachers.
Aren’t Washington’s priorities wonderful? $1,000 billion per year in Quantitative Easing, essentially subsidies for 6 banks “too big to fail,” and nothing for school teachers. It should warm every Republican’s heart.
A tiny bright spot in the payroll jobs report is 9,000 new manufacturing jobs. The US manufacturing workforce has declined so dramatically since jobs offshoring became the policy of American corporations that 9,000 jobs hardly register on the scale. Fabricated metal products, which I think is roofing metal, accounted for 56% of the manufacturing jobs. Roofing metal is not an export. Employment in the production of manufactured products that could be exported, such as “computer and electronic equipment,” and “electronic instruments” declined by 2,400 and 3,500 respectively.
Clearly, this is not a payroll jobs report that provides cover for the looting of the prospects of ordinary Americans by the financial and offshoring elites. One can wonder how the BLS civil servants who produced it can avoid retribution. It will be interesting to see what occurs in the January payroll jobs report.
The Disenchantment of American Politics
Considering the problems we face as a nation, the torpor and lassitude of current politics in America seems like a kind of offense against history. What other people have allowed circumstances to run over them like so many ‘possums sleeping on the highway?
The financial disturbances of recent years especially have trashed millions of households, yet the fat middle (no pun intended) of the broad public (ditto) seems strangely content with all the tawdry sideshows of the day — Black Thursday, the Kardashians, the NFL playoffs, Twitter, texting, twerking, side boobs — taking little-to-no interest in politics while their prospects for a habitable future swirl around the drain. How might we account for such supernatural passivity?
And, since human affairs don’t remain static indefinitely, in what direction might things go when the political mood finally heaves and shifts? The possibilities are unsettling.
A Failure to Lead
If you care about poll numbers, they tell a simple story of contempt for the current crop of US political leaders. Congress rates a 12 percent approval rating and President Obama, at 35 percent, scores lower than Richard Nixon did in the midst of the Watergate fiasco. I’m surprised that Obama’s numbers aren’t lower (and I voted for him, twice). After all, few American lives were actually touched by the lies and shenanigans that spun off of Watergate, and money was an inconsequential part of it. But a whole lot of people were affected by Obama’s dissimulations around the Affordable Care Act, while his tragic failure to reestablish the rule of law in banking from the get-go in 2009 probably amounts to impeachable malfeasance. Add to this the NSA domestic spying operations revealed by Edward Snowden plus the troops indefinitely garrisoned in Asian countries and you have a portrait of a creeping Orwellian contagion.
The only whiff of rebellion in the air lately has emanated from the so-called conservative end of the political spectrum: the Tea Party. Its complaints mainly range around the offenses of Big Government, though a certain incoherence pervades its agenda as a whole. (I will get to that presently.) I am sympathetic to gripes against the size and reach of government but I’m convinced that the swerve of US politics in the not-distant future will hinge on the failure of government at this scale to conduct any business competently. Anyway, as a veteran of the hippie uprising of the 1960s, when the Left was insurgent against an obdurate “establishment,” it’s interesting to observe the perverse flip-flop of history that has now put the Tea Party in charge of rebellion central.
The failures of the Left these days are pretty obvious and awful. They got their storybook change-agent elected president and he hasn’t done a darn thing in five years to halt the wholesale racketeering that pervades our national life. Obama’s Department of Justice is home to more zombies than the Grand Cemetery of Port-Au-Prince. The Attorney General’s office essentially signed off on prosecuting bank fraud when Lanny Breuer, chief of the Criminal Division, declared some banks too big to jail. End of story, as Tony Soprano used to say.
Obama promised to brick up the revolving door between Wall Street and the federal agencies and he only added more turnstiles to the gate. Most of the government officials involved in the 2009 TARP program and related crisis management operations are now pulling in six figure salaries at the banks and hedge funds they formerly regulated, while a veteran fixer (Mary Jo White) from the whitest white shoe fixit law shop in the land (Debevoise & Plimpton) was appointed to head the SEC a year ago.
The Left, as represented by President Obama and a majority in the US Senate, did nothing to arrest the ongoing corporate hijacking of the USA. When the Supreme Court ruled in the Citizens United case (2010) that corporations could buy elections via unlimited campaign contributions under the free speech clause of the constitution, Obama had the chance to propose new legislation or a constitutional amendment to redefine the distinction between human persons and corporate “persons.” You’d think that as a constitutional lawyer, he would have been eager to lead on this. But he just ignored the historic opportunity and, anyway, he was on the receiving end of gobs of corporate “free speech” money to run his reelection campaign.
Apart from its pitiful roll-out bugs, the Affordable Care Act has the odor of the biggest insurance scam in history. People joke these days about Obama serving George W. Bush’s fourth term. The internal contradictions of Democratic Party behavior under Obama have only driven political cynicism to new heights. The millennial generation must feel horribly swindled by it.
A Paucity of Good Options
As for the rebellious conservative Tea Party faction, it is hard for me to square their umbrage at Big Government with their avidity for foreign wars (and support for the military-industrial rackets behind them), their failure to oppose the security-state activities of the NSA (while branding whistleblower Snowden “a traitor”), their love of corporate commercial tyranny a la Wal-Mart, their devotion to economically suicidal suburban sprawl, their zeal to control the social and sexual conduct of their fellow citizens, and their efforts to impose religion in civic affairs — all of which is to ask, what do they mean when they shout about “liberty?”
These contradictions probably seem abstruse compared to the gritty plight of ordinary citizens getting monkey-hammered in an economy that can provide neither decent incomes nor dignified, meaningful social roles for classes of people who could be earnest, honest, and enterprising given the chance. This gets to a more general failure across the political spectrum to apprehend the larger changing dynamics of our time — resource scarcity, capital impairment, contraction, environmental collapse, population overshoot — and to frame a coherent response to these developments. In short, the politicians seem to have no idea where history is taking us, and no road-map to prepare for the journey to get there.
There will probably always be some alignment of Left and Right in politics, but from time to time the packages they come in and the ideologies they contain are in desperate need of either rehabilitation or dissolution. I’d bet that we may soon see the demise of both the Democratic and Republican parties as they are currently structured. They’ve been around an awful long time now, and their presence probably provides a certain reassuring familiarity, but that is also the same growth medium as contempt. The useless and tiresome public quarrels they spawn these days, the kabuki theater debt ceiling showdowns, the can-kickings, and other evasions of responsibility, erode basic institutional trust to a dangerous degree; the people lose faith in the courts, the news media, the banks, the value of their money, and eventually all authority. The two major parties function as mere conduits for all the racketeering operations that define life in this nation today. The mature two-party system may prove to have been a transient product of America’s industrial heyday, which is now over despite the euphoria over stock bubbles, shale oil, computers and other new technology. If the two old parties dry up and blow away, will anyone shed a tear for them? When that happens, there may not be enough political vitality left at the federal level to reconstitute them in new packaging.
If party politics are weak, muddled, and contradictory, the divisions between Americans are starkly clear: wealth in America has never been so unevenly distributed — the fabled one percent versus everyone else. Despite the election of a mixed-race president, and the wish-fulfillment fantasies of Hollywood, race relations in the USA remain tense. 2013 was the year of the “knockout” game for black teenagers randomly targeting “woods” (i.e. non-black “peckerwoods”), some of whom died. It was the year of George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the Trayvon Martin case and the echoing recriminations.
Divisions between men and women are tragically compounded by the dangerous dynamics of work in America that leave many men (especially men) in a vacuum of purpose, meaning, and potency. It is almost impossible these days for low-skilled men to support a family. The indignity of this thunders through broken communities and the penitentiary cellblocks. But the anomie is also expressed in the higher ranks of an economy where office work can be done by anybody, and gender confusion lately has been valorized as a compensating mechanism for the marginalization of men and the failure of manhood. The political blowback from this, when it comes, is apt to be fierce. Look no further than Duck Dynasty.
The ongoing national culture war pits the “traditional values” faction against the sexual libertarians; the red states against the blue states; urban against the conflated suburban and rural; the Christian fundamentalists against an array of other positions and belief groups; the entitlement “socialists” against the “free market” conservatives.
Perhaps most divisive of all will be the schism between the young and the old over the table scraps of the dying industrial economy.
These tensions will not remain unresolved indefinitely.
In Part II: Get Ready For Strange Days, we’ll forecast the direction that this resolution may follow. The last time the USA faced a comparable political convulsion was the decade leading into the Civil War, but this time it will be more complex and confusing and it will have a different ending. A dominant theme will be a continued loss of faith in the Federal government to solve our ills, and a re-emergence of reliance on local support networks at the state, municipal, community and family levels.
This devolution will likely play out very differently across the major regions of the US. And most will follow this course unwillingly.
Strange days are coming.
We have heard all day long what a dismal wreck the Republican Party is about to become, or has, courtesy of the “Wheel of Misfortune” among others. In light of this “fold” we though the following “infographic”, courtesy of Jim Quinn’s Burning Platform, would help with a “fair and balanced” perspective ofjust how irresponsible Washington has become, and that at the end of the day, there is no difference between “our” team and “their” team.
- Decision looms in Holder’s Fast and Furious contempt case (nraila.org)
- ATF tries to block Fast and Furious whistle-blower from publishing book (foxnews.com)
- ZeroHedge: Patriot Act Author Calls For Clapper’s Prosecution And Reign In NSA Abuses (silveristhenew.com)
- NSA collects millions of e-mail address books globally (fedcyber.com)
- Obamacare’s Mandate Of Death And Destruction (personalliberty.com)
- ‘Obamacare’: Ill informed people? #funfact (falkenhaug.com)
- George Will: If Christie Thinks Libertarianism Is Dangerous, Some Will Say He May Be Dangerous (newsbusters.org)
- George Will: Christie Will Devour Your Liberties (libertyfirewall.com)
- Chris Christie sounds like Obama (ConservativeActionAlerts.com)
- If Christie Thinks Libertarianism Is ‘Dangerous,’ ‘Christie Himself May Be Dangerous’ (youviewed.com)
- The Magnificent Seven Vital Reasons to Join the Libertarian Party Now (venitism.blogspot.com)
- Libertarian society will fail. (whedonfreak976.wordpress.com)
- It’s Time For Everyone To Become A Libertarian (personalliberty.com)
- Libertarian Party: Defending the Fourth Amendment for 42 years (venitism.blogspot.com)
- Libertarians Mount Independence Day Protest Against NSA, PRISM Surveillance (thecollegefix.com)
- The rise of libertarianism – again (bangordailynews.com)
- Obama calls IRS’s targeting of conservative groups ‘outrageous’ (thehill.com)
- IRS Conservative Witchhunt Started In 2011 With High-Level Officials Involved (sgtreport.com)
- That’s the story? Jaw-dropping NYT headline on IRS scandal: ‘Gives GOP an issue to seize on’ (twitchy.com)
- Obama: IRS Targeting of Conservatives Would be “Outrageous (whitehousedossier.com)
- ZeroHedge: The IRS Explains Its Targeting Of Conservatives (silveristhenew.com)
- Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. on the Protection of the Bahamas’ Clifton Bay (repeatingislands.com)
- Trial lawyers line up against Keystone XL (junkscience.com)
- Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Edward Burtynsky Host the Second Annual Waterkeeper Gala on May 23 (local-news.jtn-network.com)