Notes From a Gilded Age

Written by Chris Floyd 06 October 2005 3567 Hits

In the department of dog-bites-man news, the NYT reports: At the Very Top, a Surge in Income in '03.

Excerpt: After falling for two years, the share of income going to the richest slice of Americans - the top tenth of 1 percent - grew significantly in 2003 while the share going to 99 percent of Americans fell, tax data released yesterday showed. At the same time, the effective income tax rates paid by the top tenth of 1 percent fell sharply, declining at more than 10 times the rate reduction for middle-class taxpayers, the new report, by the Internal Revenue Service, showed...

The I.R.S. data tend to understate incomes for those at the very top because of different rules for reporting wages and capital gains, meaning the actual disparity was larger than the official data show. Other data show that among major world economies, the United States in recent years has had the third-greatest disparity in incomes between the very top and everyone else. Only Mexico and Russia, among major economies, have greater disparity. (End)

Third place? America in third place? By God, we'll just have to try harder! If we can't beat corrupt oligarchies like Mexico and Russia in the corrupt oligarchy stakes, then for god's sake what kind of corrupt oligarchy are we? Come on, people!
 

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Goon Show: Lunacy's Long March

Written by Chris Floyd 06 October 2005 4095 Hits

Max Blumenthal notes this chilling example of how the violent extremist right-wing fringe has migrated to the very center of national power: You've Come a Long Way, Crazy! Check out Max's site to get the full sourcing on this disturbing story.

10/02/05:
WASHINGTON, Oct. 2 /Christian Wire Service/ -- National Clergy Council president, the Reverend Rob Schenck (pronounced SHANK), today attended the annual Red Mass that included President George Bush and newly appointed Chief Justice John Roberts, as well as other prominent officials including Supreme Court associate justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Anthony Kennedy and Stephen Breyer.

"After today's service, it would be hard for anyone to argue that America doesn't have a strong Judeo-Christian heritage. You had the heads of the executive and judicial branches and representatives from the legislative branch fully participating in the prayers, hymn singing and even in a clear profession of Christian faith," said Reverend Schenck. "There was no separation of church and state today."

1992:
At the 1992 Democratic Convention, Schenck was arrested and detained by the Secret Service for rushing Bill Clinton with a dead fetus in his hands, screaming about abortion. He and his brother were the people who first invited Operation Rescue to Buffalo to picket Dr. Barnett Slepian, a local abortion provider. For years, they marched outside Slepian’s home and office with threatening signs, some of which called the doctor “pig.” In 1998, Slepian was shot dead at his home. His alleged murderer, James Kopp, was arrested in France in late March.

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Heat Dry Up My Brains

Written by Chris Floyd 05 October 2005 4209 Hits

The Pittsburgh-Post Gazette gives us a glimpse of compassionate conservatism in action: No aid planned to help low-income families, seniors with energy costs.

Excerpt: The Bush administration yesterday said it has no plans to ask Congress for additional funds to help low-income families and financially stretched seniors deal with rapidly escalating home heating bills. The Energy Department is projecting that this winter's natural gas prices will run as much as 77 percent more than last winter in parts of the Midwest; home heating in the Northeast could rise by as much as 33 percent, while electricity in the South could go up 18 percent, the department's analysts said. That could mean that thousands of households won't be able to afford enough heat or electricity. But Department of Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman... said asking Congress to increase money for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program "is not on the agenda" for the administration "at this point." (End)

Of course it isn't. But that's not to say that the comp-cons of the Bushist Party don't have a plan for the poor, the old, the sick and the vulnerable who face a winter of despair and deprivation. Through methods we'd rather not mention, Empire Burlesque has obtained a draft of the Energy Department's new guidelines for "at-risk" households, written by Armstrong Williams and set for a mass mailing early next month:

A Handy Dandy Guide for Dealing With the Cold
The United States Department of Energy

President George W. Bush is your friend. President George W. Bush doesn't want you or anyone else to be cold this winter, except of course for America's enemies skulking in their caves. President George W. Bush, who protects us all from America's enemies, wants you to be warm, so you can enjoy the American way of life, which America's enemies want to destroy but can't because of President George W. Bush. So your friend and protector, President George W. Bush, wants to give you these "handy dandy" hints to help you get by in case the very minor fluctuations in fuel prices caused by all the hurricanes and terrorists and looters and Democrats and not by President George W. Bush put you in a very temporary and very minor "jam" about home heating. Are you ready? Then let's begin!

When things get a little nippy, you can always:

1.  Set yourself on fire.
2.  Climb inside the microwave and set it on "high" for 20 minutes. (If you do not have a microwave, you can always just climb inside an ordinary stove set at 180 degrees for 3 hours. Be sure to turn yourself at least once every 30 minutes.)
3.  Run round and round the house with 60 pounds of buckwheat strapped across your back.
4.  Body heat is an excellent source of winter warmth. Invite friends and family over, strip naked and pile yourselves into a pyramid. This is even more fun if everyone is wearing canvas bags over their heads and have their hands bound with plastic cuffs!
5.  Make a burnt offering unto the Lord.
6.  Hire yourself out as stoop labor building condos for Young Republicans in the new Allbaugh Heights district of New Orleans.
7.  Sign up for President George W. Bush's special all-expenses-paid* "Commander-in-Chief Holiday Excursion" to the sun-kissed climes of ancient Babylon!

*Price of body armor not included.

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Notes From Underground: Exposing the Maw of Bush's Gulag

Written by Chris Floyd 30 September 2005 10457 Hits
This is a slightly expanded version of the column published in the Sept. 30 edition of The Moscow Times, where you will find full annotations and links to sources for this piece. For more, see the earlier posts on this issue: The Good Captain and Dark as a Dungeon. The illustration is by the incomporable Bogorad, the artist for The Moscow Times.

Quietly, firmly, relentlessly, the good captain laid out the list of atrocities committed at
the order of the enemies of freedom: "Death threats, beatings, broken bones, murder, exposure to elements, extreme forced physical exertion, hostage-taking, stripping, sleep deprivation and degrading treatment."

A catalogue of depravity, all of it designed – with diabolical sophistry – by self-exalted men cloaking their violent perversions with sham piety and righteous sputum. This was terrorism on a grand scale, chewing up the innocent and guilty alike.

The good man in question is of course Captain Ian Fishback, the born-again U.S. Army officer who has blown the whistle on the systematic abuse of captives rounded up in George W. Bush's Terror War. Fishback, frustrated after 17 months of trying to get the above atrocities investigated through official channels, finally turned to Human Rights Watch – and top Republican senators – seeking redress for the bloody dishonor that Bush has brought upon America.

In one sense, Fishback's revelations – corroborated by other soldiers, now lying low to ward off the inevitable reprisals by Bush minions – are not news. For example, I've been writing in Counterpunch and elsewhere about the use of torture in Bush's global gulag since January 2002. It was no secret; at first, the Bushists even bragged about it. "The gloves are coming off" was a favorite phrase of the deskbound tough guys cracking foxy to an enthralled media.

They also boasted of "unleashing" the CIA, which set up its own "shadow army" of non-uniformed combatants operating outside the law – i.e., "terrorists," in Bush's own definition – while creating secret prisons all over the world. As one CIA op enthused to the Boston Globe: "'We are doing things I never believed we would do – and I mean killing people!" A senior Bush official proudly pointed to the ultimate authority for this deadly system: "If the commander-in-chief didn't think it was appropriate, we wouldn't be doing it."  (continued)

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Five Feet High and Rising

Written by Chris Floyd 30 September 2005 1869869667 Hits
Our webmaster, toastmaster and master of all trades, Rich Kastelein, digs up this important story from Democracy Now:  After the Flood: Where Have All the Prisoners Gone? More Than 500 From New Orleans Jail Still Unaccounted For.

These were prisoners abandoned by guards as the flood waters rose. Some had to break out of their own cells, with the water chest-high; others descended to the lower levels of the jail to rescue other prisoners. And lest Bill Bennett and his ilk think this was just a matter of hard-core criminal scum getting no better than they deserved, Rich digs out this telling quote: "Some of these prisoners were in fact serving misdemeanor sentences, and others were picked up for parole violations, but the vast, vast majority of the prisoners being held at Orleans Parish Prison were pretrial detainees. They had only been charged. They had not been tried and convicted."

Of course, it wouldn't make any difference if they were all hard-core convicts; the inhumanity of abandoning them to the flood would be just as egregious. But we'll certainly keep tracking this story as it develops.

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Miraculous Organ: The Revelation of Saint William

Written by Chris Floyd 29 September 2005 7983 Hits

Virtuous Bill Bennett dreams of genocide:

"I do know that it's true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could -- if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down."

That was Bennett, Reaganite moral scold and gambling junkie, holding forth on his radio talk show this week. (Via Media Matters.) To be sure, Wild Bill then pulled a classic Nixonian maneuver: divulging an evil intent, then qualifying it, for public consumption, with pious contextualizing. Nixon, as we all recall so fondly, once rounded off a discussion on procuring a million dollars in political slush fund money with a stirring aside -- aimed squarely at the secret microphone he knew was recording the entire conversation: "We could do that -- but it would be wrong." Of course, his minions were in on the scam -- and the slush money duly flowed.

In like manner, Bennett followed up his astonishing disclosure of the secret dreams of a vast swathe of Bush Faction faithful with some quick butt-covering for his 'abort 'em all' remark: "That would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do...." So far, so hypocritically good; but even at this point, even though he obviously realized that he'd given away too much of the game (hence the backpedaling), he still couldn't let go of the idea. Instead, he finished the sentence by going right back to the "justification" for -- and let's be clear about this -- the destruction of the black race in America, by saying: "But your crime rate would go down."

The crime rate among African-Americans was not even the topic of the exchange that gave rise to this outburst; it was a discussion about Social Security and the purported effects that 30 years of legal abortion has had on reducing the tax base to support the program -- typical right-wing, rag-chewing arcana. That's what makes Bennett's genocidal image even more remarkable: it just sprang into his head as the perfect illustration of an abstract point he was trying to make on an entirely different subject. It was just there, in his mind, as a template, a thought pattern, a mental connection -- an idea he had already envisioned.

And of course, Bennett's idea of eliminating African-Americans entirely is directly tied to the widespread -- and largely open -- right-wing  belief in the  inherent criminality of  black  people: a belief that was on naked display during the destruction of New Orleans, when the wildest rumors of "savagery" among the flood survivors were taken as gospel truth and amplified throughout the media (and not just the openly right-wing media). We now know that almost all of these horror stories -- child rape and wanton murder in the Superdome, vast armed gangs seizing control of whole quadrants of the city, etc. -- were completely false. But this racist meme -- which obviously lies behind Bennett's gruesome fantasy -- is impervious to reality.

All in all, a most revealing emission from the primordial ooze of the Bushist mind. Or as Shakespeare once said: "Murder, though it hath no tongue, will speak with most miraculous organ."

(This is an updated version of the earlier post.)

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Love and Theft

Written by Chris Floyd 28 September 2005 3882 Hits

Among our many other remissals, we are often remiss here in not linking enough to Jonathan Schwarz at A Tiny Revolution. This, er, remissalosity stems mainly from the fact that everything Jon posts is worth reading and we assume that all right-minded people out there are already reading him every day. Also, he is a lot funnier than I am, so why would I want to advertise that fact? I get enough humiliation from the mirror every morning. But we digress. Jon has got several great posts up on his front page right now, so why not scoot on over there and give them a look? Particularly fine are the "New Slogans for the Democratic Party" that Jon and several commenters have come up with, including:

"The Democrats: Blood Money FOR THE PEOPLE."
"The Democratic Party: We're here, we're becoming rapidly irrelevant, get used to it."
"We're the Democratic Party. No, we're the Democratic Party. You shut up. No, you shut up."

Jon also comes up with "The Nasser Quote That Never Goes Out of Style." Below, we excerpt -- all right -- steal the entire post:

Here's Larry Johnson, former CIA agent, on his discussions with people he knows in the mideast:

"Our friends and allies naively believe that we have a plan and know what we are doing... they are convinced that we have a secret plan we are not sharing with them... They look at me with disbelief and bewilderment when I tell them there is no secret plan and we are as incompetent as they fear."

Now, here's something Gamal Nasser said to Miles Copeland—another CIA agent—in the fifties:

"The genius of you Americans is that you never made clear-cut stupid moves, only complicated stupid moves which makes us wonder at the possibility that there may be something to them we are missing."

Man, that's an evergreen.

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Pretzel Logic

Written by Chris Floyd 28 September 2005 4821 Hits

From a piece first published on January 18, 2002, in The Moscow Times:

The bloviations of public hypocrisy are a never-ceasing wonder to behold. The art of mouthing sanctimonious twaddle while peddling murderous hardball on the side requires a degree of moral dislocation – an almost total divorce of word from deed, of image from reality – rarely seen outside madhouses, government offices, televised pulpits and certain caves in remote Afghanistan.

And these days there are no more adept practitioners of this dark art than those mighty Twin Towers now holding up the values of Western Civilization – George W. Bush and Tony Blair.

As we all know, the snack-challenged American prez can scarce ope his upper orifice without intoning noisome pieties about his own "good heart," his love of God and his humble struggle to walk each day in the footsteps of Jesus. Of course, we also know that he is responsible for more state-sanctioned killings than anyone else in modern American history; that he has given himself the power to assassinate anyone on earth, anywhere, anytime (even without those dandy new tribunal powers he awarded himself last year); and that through his connections to the Carlyle Group – that shadowy broker of backroom deals and bristling ordnance – his family and cronies will personally profit from every war and rumor of war he can stir up throughout the world. A sanctimonious death-dealing hypocrite, in other words, on a par with that other heaver of holy upchuck, Osama bin Laden.

Bush churns out moral idiocy so fast it's hard to keep up, but last week brought us a particularly glaring example. The U.S. military is now amassing captured members of Al-Qaeda at its peculiar military base in Cuba. (We almost said "alleged members of Al-Qaeda" before we remembered the First Rule of Bush Jurisprudence: everyone is guilty until proven innocent – and sometimes even then.) The captives – having first been forcibly shaved in an act of deliberate religious humiliation – are now being caged and chained and subjected to, er, "intense interrogation."

This treatment is a violation of the Geneva Convention, of course; but Bush has decreed that these men are "unlawful combatants," not prisoners-of-war (despite all his soaring rhetoric about the September attacks being "an act of war" and so on). Therefore, in the chilling words of Pretzie's squinty henchman, Donald Rumsfeld, these human beings "have no rights." And because they are technically on foreign soil, they cannot avail themselves of the protections of the U.S. legal system. (Those that have not yet been shredded by the Great Pretzel and that other chicken-hawk draft-dodger, John Ashcroft, that is.)

Thus the captives can be trussed up, tortured and killed at the pleasure of Jesus' favorite little sunbeam, Pretzie. However, the Pentagon has forbidden the national press to show pictures of the prisoners as they disembark in their wretched state. And what is the justification for this ham-handed censorship? It's simple, say the brass: such media intrusions on the captives' privacy would be a violation of – you guessed it – the Geneva Convention.

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Family Business/Shadow Warriors

Written by Chris Floyd 28 September 2005 4490 Hits

The piece below was first published in The Moscow Times on January 25, 2005. The first half deals with the then-breaking (and now forgotten) Enron scandal. The second half of the column deals more directly with the Bush Faction's use of torture and other illegal methods in the Terror War.

Family Business
Enron the Great, "The Mother of Harlots and Abominations of the Earth," has fallen. The vast wake of its collapse has covered the White House with stinking pitch, and occasioned much excited comment amongst the punditry. Unfortunately, most of these editorial exhalations have veered between tortured defenses of the Dear Leader and gleeful gibes of the most unnuanced sort: e.g., "How is George Bush just like Bill Clinton? They'd both do anything for a Lay."

Here at the Global Eye, of course, we eschew the bitter prose of partisanship and the low tone of sniggering frivolity. As always, we seek to elevate the level of public discourse, to give, as it were, a choral voice to what Lincoln called "the better angels of our nature." Toward that end, we have today invited a very special guest commentator on the Enron scandal: James, the brother of Jesus.

Rebbe James has no little experience with the troublesome nexus between government and powerful special interests. He spent several decades as the undisputed head of his brother's religious organization, an extremist variant within Judaism that espoused radical asceticism and stressed charitable works over theological posturing.  Resisting both the modernizing pressures of the Western infidels occupying his country and the relentless ambitions of the devious Roman collaborator, Saul of Tarsus, James held the group together until he was executed in a political plot engineered by Roman functionaries and local intriguers. His brother's organization was eliminated a few years later when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and proscribed all local sects except the collaborationists: a few Jewish splinter groups – and the followers of Saul.

James' central role was later suppressed by the Saultines, who were now almost exclusively Gentile, and overwhelmingly anti-Semitic. They had bigger fish to fry: seizing the wealth and power of the Roman Empire. This Christian coalition – which operated according to Saul's conspiratorial dictum of being "all things to all men," then lowering the boom once you're in control – condemned the remaining loyalists to Jesus' family as heretics, and relegated James to the back pages of their anthology of folk myth and theological posturing, The New Testament. The rest, as they say, is history – and a pretty sordid tale it's been, too.

But as they also say, you can't keep a good man down. So, through the miracle of modern publishing, we are pleased to welcome Rebbe James back to the "marketplace of ideas," to give us his views on the Bush-Enron debacle, and its deeper implications for global business culture – especially the vexing question of labor relations. Take it away, James!

"Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten.

"Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat at your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days.

"Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth.

"Hearken, my beloved brethren: hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs to the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?"

Wonder if we will see testimony of this caliber on Capitol Hill anytime soon? Or will the Enron-spattered Democrats let the Enron-encrusted Republicans wriggle free, out of mutual self-interest for the profitable status quo? [Note, September 2005: Yep, that's exactly what they did.]

As for the president, and his transparent lies about his relationship to Enron's influence-peddling chairman, Kenneth Lay, we'll let the venerable Rebbe have the last word: 

"If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain."

Shadow Warriors
Meanwhile, the latest Saultine Emperor has set his own private army loose in Afghanistan. Yes, the pale riders of the CIA are back in the saddle again, operating under "greatly relaxed rules of engagement" as they do Bush's covert bidding, the Boston Globe reports.

Bush is building a "shadow military organization" within the CIA, top US officials say – proudly. Like the "unlawful combatants" of Al-Qaeda, these troops wear no uniforms, are not bound by the rules of war like honorable soldiers under their country's flag, engage in terrorist actions as well as combat, and answer to no one but their divinely-inspired leader.

Do these Osamic echoes trouble the self-proclaimed defenders of democracy and civilization? Not a whit.  ''If we didn't think it was appropriate, we wouldn't be doing it," said a senior Bush official. "If the commander in chief didn't think it appropriate, we wouldn't be doing it. If it ain't broke, why fix it?"

Why indeed? After all, a similar set-up worked wonders back in Vietnam, where the CIA's Phoenix Program murdered anywhere from 20,000 (the CIA's own admission) to 70,000 people. But hell, they were just a bunch of commies, right? Or suspected commies. Or suspected commie sympathizers. Or their families. Or whatever. As one Phoenix vet told Congress: "Quite often it was a matter of expediency just to eliminate a person in the field rather than deal with the paperwork."

Now those happy days are here again. ''We are doing things I never believed we would do – and I mean killing people!" enthused one of Bush's new Praetorians.

Rebbe James? Any comments?

"The wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God."

Heretic! Appeaser! Send this nut to Guantanamo Bay!

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Dark as a Dungeon

Written by Chris Floyd 28 September 2005 8296 Hits

Below are a couple of vintage pieces that will be used as sources for the upcoming Global Eye column this week, which deals with the revelations of Captain Ian Fishback about the widespread, systematic, countenanced and encouraged use of torture in Bush's Terror War gulag. Fishback's devastating evidence, corroborated by other soldiers and gathered over the course of 17 months with the help of his fellow officers, adds even more weight to the mountainous bill of indictment against the Bush Faction. The good captain's moral courage stirred a mild flurry of media interest over the weekend, but now the usual dignified silence is settling over the affair. There will be much more on this in the MT column, which will be posted here as well.

The articles below will be used as sources for the passages in the column noting that torture was endemic, systematic -- and openly approved by the top levels of the Bush administration -- from the earliest days of the Terror War. Both of the columns were first published in January 2002. This descent into atrocity and dishonor didn't start with Abu Ghraib or even the criminal invasion of Iraq. The taint had set in long before that.

Pretzel Logic (Jan. 18, 2002)
Family Business/Shadow Warriors (Jan. 25, 2002)

Below is an excerpt from "Shadow Warriors":

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