Barack Obama has been (somewhat notoriously) light on pardons and commutations of sentence throughout his administration. As of March he had only granted 70 pardons (the lowest since John Adams), and 180 commutations, a record that the Washington Post speculated might earn him the legacy of “one of the most merciless presidents in history.” I supposed you could argue that if he did extend mercy to those incarcerated at the hands of a ridiculously punitive justice system he might get a reputation for being “soft on crime,” and then he might not get elected again… for a third term?
It’s some small comfort however that Obama is on a bit of a spree during his final months as President, recently bringing his record up to 673 commutations and providing a light at the end of the tunnel for a number of non-violent drug offenders, including Timothy Tyler, who was busted in 1994 for selling pot and acid to an undercover cop and sentenced to life. He’s been in jail for 22 years. His sister has been fighting for his freedom, collecting over 423,000 names on his behalf—from her petition:
My brother Timothy Tyler was just 25 years old when he was sentenced to die in prison for a nonviolent drug offense. He’s watched murderers and rapists leave prison while he has no chance of ever leaving. He is now 45 years old and I want to bring him home. Timothy was a young Grateful Dead fan, who in May of 1992, sold pot and LSD to a friend who turned out to be a police informant. He had never been to prison before, but a judge was forced to give him double life without the possibility of parole because of two prior drug convictions — even though both those convictions resulted in probation.
Tyler’s case was followed pretty closely by activists against mandatory minimums and long sentencing, likely at least partially because as a Deadhead he’s a poster boy for non-violent offenders. After growing up with an abusive stepfather, he saw his first Grateful Dead show at 17, and began following the band and and doing acid fairly regularly. Tyler also dealt with bipolar disorder and psychotic episodes, at times believing Jerry Garcia was God, and once ending up in a psych ward for trying to build a dam naked on the side of an Arizona highway. In prison he became a vegetarian, and though he previously dated women, he began having sex with other inmates to escape the isolation and oppressive claustrophobia of prison.
He is set to be released in August of 2018, where he will be required to spend nine months in a residential drug treatment program, after which his mother and sister will be his support network.
Last week we told you about Pet Photo Fun, the surely well-meaning but perhaps a tad strange people who’ll animate a photo of your dead pet singing you a song of consolation from the beyond. I thought that was an ultimate in funerary tackiness, but Cremation Solutions has that shit beat by a country mile. They will craft a cremation urn to resemble the head of your deceased loved one. And for reasons never clarified, their online sample urn is the head of US President Barack Obama.
Personal cremation urns can be designed to look like anyone. We just need good pictures. We prefer one picture from the front and one from the side. Complexions can be adjusted in the final stages and customers get a chance to proof the results. We will produce a computer generated image of what your urn will look like. Once you have approved the image, we will begin production. Like all of our custom made products, their are no refunds and we can not make changes to these urns.
The urns are available in two sizes: the “keepsake” size is essentially a shrunken head which, for $600, will hold only a portion of an adult human’s ashes, or you can opt for a full-sized replica of the decedent’s head for $2,600. Which I guess seems a fair price for a cremains-stuffed uncanny abomination of your dead loved one’s severed fucking head on a plaque? (If the decedent was more the active type, there’s a poseable figure option.)
The personal urn does not come with hair. For hair we can digitally add hair if you wish, as you can see with our sample of president Obama. For people with longer hair we can add a wig from your specifications. This cremation urn comes on an elegant solid marble base. A Plaque and nameplate are also available.
It’s Roy Wood’s birthday and to celebrate here’s a little curio from 1983 of probably the greatest pub rock band in the world, The Rockers.
The Rockers consisted of Roy Wood, Phil Lynott, Bev Bevan and er, Chas Hodges from Cockney knees-up duo Chas ‘n’ Dave. They released one single “We Are the Boys (Who Make All the Noise)” this time with Status Quo’s John Coghlan on drums. Here, that number tops and tails a fine medley of Rock ‘n’ Roll standards as performed on O.T.T. - the late-night version of kid’s Saturday morning classic Tiswas, both of which were hosted by Chris (Who Wants to be a Millionaire?) Tarrant.
Of course Democratic strategists know fully well that when all is said and done, these motivated lefty types who would send money to PCCC in the first place are highly unlikely to leave the fold. But can they take their donations for granted? Their enthusiasm? The Republicans, to give them their due as pols, at least know how to throw red meat to the base during an election cycle, even if they are utterly craven about it. The Democrats, by way of contrast, seem to think that taking a piss on the heads of their stalwart supporters is a better strategy.
Take me, for instance. I’ve not voted for even a single Republican in my entire life (and never will). On a local level, I almost always vote for a Green-affiliated candidate or if a socialist candidate if that is possible, unless I really like the Democrat in the race. I’m not interested in a middle of the road, generic Democrat at a local level, I want true progressives. Where I live, at least, in Los Angeles, this is seldom an issue.
Stated differently, my voting is motivated like so: I have absolutely zero loyalty to the Democrats, but I LOATHE Republicans and vote accordingly.
I liked what Ralph Nader had to say in 2000—he was right about almost everything—but there was no way, none, that I wanted a Republican president emerging from a three-way race. My loyalty was to a Republican-free White House and so I voted as defense against that happening. (How worked up can anyone get about Al Gore? To me he was the candidate who was not George Bush. I felt much the same about that French guy from Massachusetts they ran in 2004).
I think there are a lot of people who, though “nominally” Democrats, vote like I do. Especially in cities, college towns and in blue states.
For the record, I’ve been lucky in recent years to have had a Representative whose votes I agreed with 95% of the time, Diane Watson, who retired from Congress in 2011. I surely can’t say that about Obama! He sucks!
I’m not saying I agree with that, because I do see Obama winning again, the GOP field is full of midgets and seems likely to remain that way—especially if Donald Trump runs as an independent and splits the GOP vote—but it does make for a compelling read:
President Obama has several key flaws which have doomed his presidency.
1. His leadership style is one of consensus and compromise. This works OK in a caretaker setting in which there are no crises and no demands for bold changes of course. Unfortunately, this era is defined by structural crises, and a leadership based on gaining consensus and compromise is basically a rudderless one in this environment.
2. He does not understand economics or finance, nor is he secure about making decisions on financial topics. As a result he deferred to the “experts,” who just happened to be Wall Street cronies and insiders who easily swayed the President with their hobgoblin stories of financial meltdown and ruin if we didn’t “save the banking sector from losses.”
3. His grasp of history is poor. The same can be said of most presidents, but Obama failed to grasp the historic opportunity to set a new sustainable course for the nation’s banking and financial sectors, and thus for its economy. He opted instead to save and protect the corrupt and embezzlement-based banking sector from losses, and he continues to do so with “extend and pretend” policies.
In a similar fashion, he has allowed the National Security State and the Global Empire to expand without any limitations.
4. He has no visible core beliefs beyond a vague sense that the Federal government and its extension, the American Empire, are forces for good. His policies can be boiled down to: support and expand the Savior State and its many fiefdoms, support and expand the Global Empire and National Security State, and allow the banking system and its Power Elites to set the agenda and control the oversight agencies and institutions.
His signature accomplishment, the “Obama-care reform” of the nation’s sickcare system, simply extends the power of existing cartels and fiefdoms and delivers an ever-larger slice of the national income to their coffers. In its basic parameters, the “reform” could easily have been supported and passed by socially liberal Republican presidents such as Richard Nixon. There is nothing remotely progressive or radical about “pooling” insurance cartels and wet-paper-bag bureaucratic tests of “the most effective treatments.”
These are simply technocratic layers added to a bloated, corrupt, venal and destructive system that already costs twice as much as those of our advanced-economy competitors.
In addition to these flaws, he has made fatal policy errors which doom the economy to implosion by November 2012. All of his administration’s policies can be distilled down to these three points:
1. The banking sector is the most important foundation of the economy. The Central State and its proxy, the Federal Reserve, pumped some $14 trillion (by some measures, $23 trillion) in cash, credit, guarantees and backstops into the banking sector and its cloaked twin, the Shadow banking System.
Meanwhile, little to nothing was done for the cash-strapped consumer or citizenry. Why?
2. The “problem” is lack of credit and “confidence.” If the State and Fed flood the banking system with credit and “restore confidence” by goosing the stock market, then people will start borrowing and spending again, and everything will be “fixed.”
This presumes demand is strong, and all that’s needed is credit for people to satisfy their thirst for more goods and services.
Meanwhile, back in reality, people realized they didn’t need a third car, fourth TV, 17th “cute blouse,” 23rd pair of shoes, etc., and now that their home is worth less than their mortgage (or their remaining equity is minimal), they can’t really afford the luxury travel, boats, etc. they enjoyed when they thought their house would keep rising in value forever and tapping that rising equity was painless.
Demand is slack because everyone who could afford more crap already owns more crap than they need or even want. The percentage of the populace who would like more stuff cannot afford more stuff. Their household incomes and wages are declining, and their expenses for essentials are rising.
The Fed’s largesse to banks (free money in unlimited quantities) doesn’t reach them; all it does is boost assets held by the top 10%.
3. Boosting the assets of this top 10% (or 20% if you include those who have equity of some sort beyond the $2,500 in their IRA) will cause a “wealth effect” that will “trickle down” to the lower 80% as the top 20% buy more Coach handbags, enjoy fine dining at tony upscale restaurants, etc.
Unfortunately, this may help boost Coach’s profit margins, but the vast majority of the “trickle-down” consists of low-paying retail clerks and busboys.
In other words, the “wealth effect” is bogus, a charade deployed to defend the pillaging of the economy via financialization and Fed intervention.
4. Pushing the dollar lower in a “beggar thy neighbor” currency war is the best way to boost the U.S. economy. Apparently no one in the President’s team looked at financial history to identify the nations which grew rich and powerful by debasing their currency.
In a perverse blowback to this misguided policy, corporate profits earned overseas were certainly goosed, but so were import prices, one of the reasons (along with the Fed’s easy-money quantitative easing) for rising costs to consumers.
If you set out to design a policy that impoverished 80% of the citizenry and channeled a larger share of the national income to the top 10%, then this is precisely the set of policies you would pursue.
Nothing important has been fixed; nothing important has even been addressed. The institutions of governance are captured and corraled by the monied Elites to the point that the government has lost control of its own institutions, which now rule as quasi-independent fiefdoms. The citizenry, bought off on the cheap by stale Bread (rapacious student loans, food stamps which offer the veneer of normalcy, extended unemployment benefits so no angry mobs form, etc.) and dazed and distracted by the Media Circus, keep quiet in their complicity, while the Power Elites revel in the freedoms offered by a caretaker Administration.
If President Obama had fought for fundamental structural reforms and lost, he would still have support.
Surely I’m not the only one who found Obama’s “concession” speech today nauseating, am I? What the fuck was up with that? The time for civility has long ago passed, Mr. President and it’s depressing to hear you speak of working together with Republicans and all that bipartisan bullshit. Are you for fucking real? Unless your shit gets real bare-knuckled—and soon—you can kiss your historical moment goodbye, pal. If you’re delusional enough to think that this crew of Republicans has any intention of working with you on anything, you are tragically mistaken. They want you and your agenda, dead, dude.
“Look, you ignorant, Fox News-watching rednecks….I have heard your illogical cries to ‘cut government spending’ and will do just that — starting immediately.
“I’m implementing a 20 percent cut to ALL federal programs, starting with the three federal programs that consume the majority of our tax dollars: Medicare/Medicaid, Social Security and Defense.
“Don’t whine to me about how you ‘need’ your government-subsidized Medicare or Medicaid…you want cuts to government spending; you’ll get cuts to government spending.
“Don’t bitch about how you can’t afford to have your Social Security check cut. You’ve made it clear that federal budget cuts are your priority.
“And just in case you think we need MORE defense spending, let me fill you in — the US military budget is larger than the military budgets of China, Britain, France, Russia, Germany, Japan, Saudia Arabia, Italy, South Korea, Brazil, Canada, and Australia combined.
“YOU may want to piss our tax dollars away in unwinnable wars, but since you’ve demanded cuts to federal spending, I’ll be lopping 20 percent off the the defense budget.
“In short, fuck you brain-dead idiots. Ask for cuts to federal spending and you’ll get cuts to federal spending. Please direct any whining to the Republicans you voted into office, because I’m done with you inbred asshole teabaggers.”
That’s exactly what Obama should have said today. But he didn’t.
Comment of the Day: What Obama Should Have Said (Gawker)