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[Dec 23, 2010] Adventus Too often we honor swagger and bluster and wielders of force...

Hat Tip to Jesse's Café Américain
November 27, 2006 | rmadisonj.blogspot.com

Just saw the movie "Bobby," which I can strongly recommend. Yes, it's a typical Hollywood melodrama wrapped around the inevitable (no one goes to this movie not knowing how it ends). But it's an enjoyable movie, and it reminds us of what this country was once like, or once tried to be like.

It reminded me, too, why politicians appear on TV and in very carefully controlled situations, and why we rely more and more on pundits and images to tell us who we are voting for. It wasn't TV that made politicians shy away from crowds. It was us. It was 1968. It was violence.

RFK's assassination couldn't happen today; because of RFK's assassination.

But the movie ends with photos of the Kennedy family, and RFK's public career. Over those photos, and the credits, this speech plays. It is worth reading, if only to realize that giants once walked among us; and not all politicians exploit fear of violence to gain power.

On the Mindless Menace of Violence

City Club of Cleveland, Cleveland, Ohio April 5, 1968

"Too often we honor swagger and bluster and the wielders of force; too often we excuse those who are willing to build their own lives on the shattered dreams of others. Some Americans who preach nonviolence abroad fail to practice it here at home. Some who accuse others of inciting riots have by their own conduct invited them.

Some look for scapegoats, others look for conspiracies, but this much is clear; violence breeds violence, repression brings retaliation, and only a cleaning of our whole society can remove this sickness from our soul.

For there is another kind of violence, slower but just as deadly, destructive as the shot or the bomb in the night. This is the violence of institutions; indifference and inaction and slow decay. This is the violence that afflicts the poor, that poisons relations between men because their skin has different colors. This is a slow destruction of a child by hunger, and schools without books and homes without heat in the winter.

This is the breaking of a man's spirit by denying him the chance to stand as a father and as a man among other men. And this too afflicts us all. I have not come here to propose a set of specific remedies nor is there a single set. For a broad and adequate outline we know what must be done. When you teach a man to hate and fear his brother, when you teach that he is a lesser man because of his color or his beliefs or the policies he pursues, when you teach that those who differ from you threaten your freedom or your job or your family, then you also learn to confront others not as fellow citizens but as enemies - to be met not with cooperation but with conquest, to be subjugated and mastered.

We learn, at the last, to look at our brothers as aliens, men with whom we share a city, but not a community, men bound to us in common dwelling, but not in common effort. We learn to share only a common fear - only a common desire to retreat from each other - only a common impulse to meet disagreement with force. For all this there are no final answers.

Yet we know what we must do. It is to achieve true justice among our fellow citizens. The question is now what programs we should seek to enact. The question is whether we can find in our own midst and in our own hearts that leadership of human purpose that will recognize the terrible truths of our existence.

We must admit the vanity of our false distinctions among men and learn to find our own advancement in the search for the advancement of all. We must admit in ourselves that our own children's future cannot be built on the misfortunes of others. We must recognize that this short life can neither be ennobled or enriched by hatred or revenge.

Our lives on this planet are too short and the work to be done too great to let this spirit flourish any longer in our land. Of course we cannot vanish it with a program, nor with a resolution.

But we can perhaps remember - even if only for a time - that those who live with us are our brothers, that they share with us the same short movement of life, that they seek - as we do - nothing but the chance to live out their lives in purpose and happiness, winning what satisfaction and fulfillment they can.

Surely this bond of common faith, this bond of common goal, can begin to teach us something. Surely we can learn, at least, to look at those around us as fellow men and surely we can begin to work a little harder to bind up the wounds among us and to become in our hearts brothers and countrymen once again."

Robert F. Kennedy
Cleveland City Club
April 5, 1968

[Dec 23, 2010] Sustainable Recovery

Hat Tip to Jesse's Café Américain
"Too often we honor swagger and bluster and the wielders of force; too often we excuse those who are willing to build their own lives on the shattered dreams of others. Some Americans who preach nonviolence abroad fail to practice it here at home. Some who accuse others of inciting riots have by their own conduct invited them.

Some look for scapegoats, others look for conspiracies, but this much is clear; violence breeds violence, repression brings retaliation, and only a cleaning of our whole society can remove this sickness from our soul.

For there is another kind of violence, slower but just as deadly, destructive as the shot or the bomb in the night. This is the violence of institutions; indifference and inaction and slow decay. This is the violence that afflicts the poor, that poisons relations between men because their skin has different colors. This is a slow destruction of a child by hunger, and schools without books and homes without heat in the winter.

This is the breaking of a man's spirit by denying him the chance to stand as a father and as a man among other men. And this too afflicts us all. I have not come here to propose a set of specific remedies nor is there a single set. For a broad and adequate outline we know what must be done. When you teach a man to hate and fear his brother, when you teach that he is a lesser man because of his color or his beliefs or the policies he pursues, when you teach that those who differ from you threaten your freedom or your job or your family, then you also learn to confront others not as fellow citizens but as enemies - to be met not with cooperation but with conquest, to be subjugated and mastered.

We learn, at the last, to look at our brothers as aliens, men with whom we share a city, but not a community, men bound to us in common dwelling, but not in common effort. We learn to share only a common fear - only a common desire to retreat from each other - only a common impulse to meet disagreement with force. For all this there are no final answers.

Yet we know what we must do. It is to achieve true justice among our fellow citizens. The question is now what programs we should seek to enact. The question is whether we can find in our own midst and in our own hearts that leadership of human purpose that will recognize the terrible truths of our existence.

We must admit the vanity of our false distinctions among men and learn to find our own advancement in the search for the advancement of all. We must admit in ourselves that our own children's future cannot be built on the misfortunes of others. We must recognize that this short life can neither be ennobled or enriched by hatred or revenge.

Our lives on this planet are too short and the work to be done too great to let this spirit flourish any longer in our land. Of course we cannot vanish it with a program, nor with a resolution.

But we can perhaps remember - even if only for a time - that those who live with us are our brothers, that they share with us the same short movement of life, that they seek - as we do - nothing but the chance to live out their lives in purpose and happiness, winning what satisfaction and fulfillment they can.

Surely this bond of common faith, this bond of common goal, can begin to teach us something. Surely we can learn, at least, to look at those around us as fellow men and surely we can begin to work a little harder to bind up the wounds among us and to become in our hearts brothers and countrymen once again."

Robert F. Kennedy
Cleveland City Club
April 5, 1968

How to Be President in a Fact-Free America

December 16, 2010 | The Nation

Gary Younge:

I am black and British. This is not a lifestyle choice. My parents were part of the great migration from the global South when the empire, demographically speaking, struck back. It's the historical hand I was dealt. And it's not a bad hand. These are not the most interesting things about me. But at certain moments in the eight years I've lived in the United States, they have been the most confusing to others.

Shortly before I first came here some fifteen years ago, I asked a local how people would react to a black man with a British accent. "When they hear your voice, they'll add twenty points to your IQ," he said. "But when they see your face, they won't."

With some white conservatives, I've noticed, the gulf between what they see and what they hear can widen into an unbridgeable chasm. The affect of Englishness-hauteur, refined behavior and aristocracy (none of which I possess)-is something they aspire to, or at least appreciate. Blackness, on the other hand, is not.

And so when I introduce myself as a journalist from England I occasionally prompt a moment of synaptic dysfunction. The overwhelming majority get over it. But every now and then they say, "Really? I don't hear an accent."

"If you beat your head against the wall," the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci once wrote, "it is your head that breaks, not the wall."

To avoid an almighty headache I try to shut the conversation down: "Well, I can't explain that. But let's get on with the interview."

But they won't let it go. "Where in England?" "Were you born there?" "How long have you been here?"

The sad truth is that even when presented with concrete and irrefutable evidence, some people still prefer the reality they want over the one they actually live in. Herein lies one of the central problems of engaging with those on the American right. Cocooned in their own mediated ecosystem, many of them are almost unreachable through debate; the air is so fetid, reasonable discussion cannot breathe. You can't win an argument without facts, and we live in a moment when whether you're talking about climate change or WMD, facts seem to matter less and less.

I'm not referring to false consciousness here (insisting that people don't know what's best for them, which doesn't seek to understand but to infantilize them) but instead the persistent, stubborn, willful refusal to acknowledge basic, known, verifiable facts and the desire to make misinformation the cornerstone of an agenda.

The examples are legion. Most of those who believe that Obama is a Muslim (roughly one in three Republicans) also loathe his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. But Muslims don't have pastors. They also claim that Obama's 1981 trip to Pakistan as a student is evidence of his Islamic militancy and his dubious beginnings: he must have used a foreign passport, since the country was on a "no-travel list" at the time. It wasn't. In fact, in August that year the US consul general in Lahore encouraged Americans to visit, and before that, on June 14, the New York Times Travel section had run a 3,400-word piece explaining that Americans could get thirty-day visas at airports and border crossings.

That these falsehoods are proxies for racism is true but beside the point. After all, the right Swiftboated John Kerry and Whitewatered the Clintons before him. Obama's race and ethnicity merely provide an easier target, and the growing strength of Fox, the web and talk-radio mean that these slings and arrows travel faster and farther. But if Obama can't convince the right of these basic facts, what hope does he have of persuading them to support his economic and foreign policies?

The principle of compromise is fine and, given the recent election, inevitable. But you can negotiate only with those who engage in good faith. In the absence of that, Obama should expend less effort trying to win the right over and more trying to win us back.

For these fabrications gain currency only when real change proves elusive. The number who believe Obama is a Muslim has leapt 50 percent since before his election, during which time the economy has lagged. Meanwhile, whatever the inadequacies of the healthcare reform, once it passed all talk of "death panels" ceased.

Faced with the option of believing something that's not true or gaining tangible benefits like a job or healthcare, most people will take the latter. However petulant, ignorant or gullible people might be, most would prefer to hold on to their jobs, homes and health than their illusions. The problem is that Obama's failure to deliver gives little incentive to exchange fiction for fact.

Now more than ever the only way for Obama to bring about progressive change is by mobilizing his base. If the right can surge when Democrats have the presidency and both houses of Congress, there is no reason the left can't just because the GOP has the House. Indeed, now that Republicans have some power, they're easier to expose. That's what makes Obama's "compromise" on tax cuts such a strategic blunder. There will rarely be a better opportunity to lay bare the GOP's class priorities (let alone the sketchiness of its deficit-busting credentials).

"We are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue," wrote George Orwell in his essay "In Front of Your Nose." "And then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right. Intellectually, it is possible to carry on this process for an indefinite time: the only check on it is that sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield."

Obama needs to get out there and fight.

jedi_mindtrick:

American Roadkill

"…as much as I admire The Nation magazine for so many important contributions to the needed dialogue, I am deeply disappointed by the lack of an organized, orderly resistance to the sort of "Mind-F#ck" that we are being subjected to as American citizens, including by a largely complicit Democratic Party establishment."

Interesting post by "drjz" at 1:46pm.

He or she is on to the heart of the matter in many respects. We live in an age of advanced propaganda techniques and manipulation of public opinion essentially in the interest of a small clique of wealthy elites. It "worked" for a while when the liberal class functioned as a check on the powerful via a host of public and private institutions from unions and the universities to churches and a reasonably functioning free press. Those institutions have atrophied over the last several decades and the Democratic Party that was supposed to embody the aspirations of the common man and woman was co-opted beginning at least as early as the late 70's and early 80's with a final capitulation occurring under Presidents Clinton and now Obama.

jedi_mindtrick:

My purpose in blogging here at The Nation is in the hope of firing positive dialogue, or at minimum triggering some thoughtfulness in the minds of readers.

All is not lost of course, at this point, but we do appear to be entering the late stages of an American Empire collapse due to a toxic mixture of bureaucratic calcification, imperial hubris, and denial with a capital D.

I see an Age of Incoherence developing in our political landscape, and combined with the fact that too many American citizens are living in myriad, fragmented distraction bubbles pumped full with misinformation and tricked out with the latest video games and "social networking" devices, we are an entire society now transfixed in the headlights of a machine of our own making. We are destined for road kill status in short order if we do not snap out of it.

jedi_mindtrick:

Interestingly, there are occasional glimmers of hope that appear almost at random from day to day. For instance, yesterday I perused the comments section of this Yahoo! Lookout column regarding the new WaPo piece detailing the FBI's rather haphazard database creation of selected American's vital information "of interest":

http://tinyurl.com/2d8tcv8

I was pleasantly surprised by the large volume of comments that seemed to intelligently understand very sharply the danger that is posed by our growing "security state". Another less prominent but significant bit of hope arrived via a C-Span Book TV discussion moderated by Hendrik Hertzberg of a new book by Thomas Geoghegan, "Were You Born on the Wrong Continent?", in which a pointed discussion of American capitalism in light of German and Chinese models cast light on how harsh and non-participatory-not to mention, cut-throat-our own economic system has become:

http://tinyurl.com/2bq9xl2

jedi_mindtrick:

In closing, as much as I admire The Nation magazine for so many important contributions to the needed dialogue, I am deeply disappointed by the lack of an organized, orderly resistance to the sort of "Mind-F#ck" that we are being subjected to as American citizens, including by a largely complicit Democratic Party establishment. This is the basic thrust of the main arguments in the latest must read book by Chris Hedges, "Death of the Liberal Class"-- http://tinyurl.com/2b7peko . Yet, The Nation apparently cannot find it in itself to even publicize the recent protest of our endless stupid wars at the White House-http://www.stopthesewars.org --, let alone publicize Hedges' superb book.

Progressive readers here should demand more of The Nation. As it currently stands we can get nearly equal coverage of the causes that matter to us at common sites like Yahoo! or Google.

hotrod:

I give this article a C-

Just two facts (visit to pakistan and the muslim/wright thing, which isn't really a fact)
Last night, on the NPR show "the connection" out of WBUR in Boston, I heard T Friedman, the mighty columnist of the Times, complain about how the US is an irreplaceable force for good; his specific example was that China sends aid and money to bad guys like...Saudi Arabia (the connection host didn't pick up on the obvious absurdity of this, while we allow the saudis to buy arms, etc etc)

Darin_TBFRWOVF_Palin_Cuz_Shes_Hot:

Here's a point I've made repeatedly here, but our author has never read:

Facts and reason are tools one can use to achieve an objective or goal; however, politics is how groups of people choose between competeing objective or goals. The choise of goals is informed by values and opinions, not facts or logic.

Here's an example. If raising the US population's IQ was a goal, we could execute everyone with an IQ below, say, 75.

Now, that offends my values, and in my opinion, the benefit of a higher population IQ isn't worth the human cost of executing the dumb, but there can be absolutely no question that as a matter of FACT executing the dumb will without question increase the population IQ.

I doubt that politics will agree on this goal any time soon. So as you liberal mistakenly believe you have conered the market on facts, please realize that you are simply not smart enough to recognize where the debate on values ends and the use of facts start.

OneVote:

Gary - you ought to realize that the Republican Party is faith based, not a fact based organization. But, those who pass the collection plate around don't believe that God will provide - you've got to grease the wheels with real life flesh and blood, here and now - 'to get glory - you've got to give.'

dbtexas2010:

Mr. Pontificus, A simple question please? If the Republicans can take credit for shoving fiscal responsibility down the throat of a Democratic president, creating a balanced budget and a reduced deficit, how do you explain those items disappearing when the Republicans gained complete control with the election of a Republican president? Your commentary is fallacious at best, absolute comedy at worst.

drjz:

Freud and his French predecessor, Jacques Lacan expressed that a primary function of the ego is to lie and deceive, both others and oneself. Edward Bernays, Freud's nephew, came to Madison Ave. in the 30's and started the manipulations and deceptions of the ad industry, capitalizing on Freud's insights.

The republicans have institutionalized lies and deception.

Clearly listen to some of the republican "leaders," most of whom have illustrated their covert racism covered by screeching false statements about Obama's citizenship, Muslim connections and if this constitutional law scholar lacks the qualifications to be president.

Listen to folks like Haley Barbor actually defend his racist past. The disingenous deceit of Boener and McConnell, talking out of both sides of their mouths at the same time.

Listen to the deceitful, republican representative, Rohrabacher from California's right wing Orange County, expressing the usual false indignance when confronted with his use of political influence to award his friends by taking them on a junket to Honduras, when he is a vehement, racist, anti-immigrant whose words in Honduras sought to undermine Obama and the administration foreign policy inititiaves in that country, by creating his own "foreign policy."

He should be impeached and charged with treason. At the very least be charged with an ethics violation. But with the white republican takeover, nothing will be said, unless Eric Holder investigates. As a...

Arlen Specter's Deliciously Bitter Farewell to Fellow Senators You're a Bunch of Cannibals! The Nation

No one expected Arlen Specter, the grouchiest member of the Senate, to leave the chamber quietly-or, for that matter, gracefully.

But who would have thought that the Democrat turned Republican turned Democrat would exit the Senate calling his colleagues a bunch of "cannibals"

Referring not just to the intense partisanship that has come to characterize the chamber in recent years but also to the internal ideological wrangling that forced him from the Republican Party in 2009-only to be defeated in a Democratic primary in 2010-the senior senator used his valedictory address Tuesday to declare: "Eating or defeating your own is a form of sophisticated cannibalism."

Dismissing specific colleagues, particularly South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint, the Tea Party Republican who has sought to impose ideological purity tests on the GOP, as destructive players, Specter growled in a 2,600-word valedictory speech that:

"Collegiality can obviously not be maintained when negotiating with someone out to defeat you, especially in your own party. In some quarters, compromising has become a dirty word… Politics is no longer the art of the possible when senators are intransigent in their positions."

The was the general tenor of Specter's remarkable farewell address, which was characterized at some points by a refreshingly angry, bitter and at times mean-spirited tone, and at others by a sort of mourning for the decay of the Senate into a chamber of horrors.

"The days of lively debate, of many members on the floor, are all gone," Specter bluntly announced.

Decrying abuses of Senate rules in general, and the filibuster in particular, Specter grumbled: "That's not the way it was when (retiring Connecticut Senator) Chris Dodd and I were privileged to enter the world's greatest deliberative body."

Specter is, of course, correct. The Senate is dysfunctional. And his proposals to reform it are spot on:

Specter's reform proposals are essentially sound, as is his bitterness about the decline of the Senate.

But I would debate his "sophisticated cannibalism" reference.

While the "cannibal" reference is appropriate enough with regard to DeMint, there really is nothing sophisticated about the senator from South Carolina. His political flesheating is as unrefined as it is brutal.

And if the decent defeat over extending Bush-era tax cuts offers any indication, most senators are better described as "zombies."

bench rest

It is ironic that only after they face their political death and loss of power do they gain perspective.

Strange how that works.

Good riddance.

"If you beat your head against the wall," the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci once wrote, "it is your head that breaks, not the wall."

[Dec 11, 2010] Ron Paul's Nine Questions

Ron Paul's Nine Questions

In case you missed Ron Paul's passionate speech on Wikileaks please watch. this video.

With a tip of the hat to From The Old here are the questions Ron Paul asked in his speech.

Number 1: Do the America People deserve know the truth regarding the ongoing wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen?

Number 2: Could a larger question be how can an army private access so much secret information?

Number 3: Why is the hostility directed at Assange, the publisher, and not at our governments failure to protect classified information?

Number 4: Are we getting our moneys worth of the 80 Billion dollars per year spent on intelligence gathering?

Number 5: Which has resulted in the greatest number of deaths: lying us into war or Wikileaks revelations or the release of the Pentagon Papers?

Number 6: If Assange can be convicted of a crime for publishing information that he did not steal, what does this say about the future of the first amendment and the independence of the internet?

Number 7: Could it be that the real reason for the near universal attacks on Wikileaks is more about secretly maintaining a seriously flawed foreign policy of empire than it is about national security?

Number 8: Is there not a huge difference between releasing secret information to help the enemy in a time of declared war, which is treason, and the releasing of information to expose our government lies that promote secret wars, death and corruption?

Number 9: Was it not once considered patriotic to stand up to our government when it is wrong?

Thomas Jefferson had it right when he advised 'Let the eyes of vigilance never be closed'

Please note the common sense discussion of Ron Paul vs. the completely hysterical (as well as totally misguided) reaction of Sarah Palin: "Assange is an anti-American operative with blood on his hands. Why was he not pursued with the same urgency we pursue al Qaeda and Taliban leaders?"

[Dec 11, 2010] Ron Paul's Nine Questions

Ron Paul's Nine Questions

In case you missed Ron Paul's passionate speech on Wikileaks please watch. this video.

With a tip of the hat to From The Old here are the questions Ron Paul asked in his speech.

Number 1: Do the America People deserve know the truth regarding the ongoing wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen?

Number 2: Could a larger question be how can an army private access so much secret information?

Number 3: Why is the hostility directed at Assange, the publisher, and not at our governments failure to protect classified information?

Number 4: Are we getting our moneys worth of the 80 Billion dollars per year spent on intelligence gathering?

Number 5: Which has resulted in the greatest number of deaths: lying us into war or Wikileaks revelations or the release of the Pentagon Papers?

Number 6: If Assange can be convicted of a crime for publishing information that he did not steal, what does this say about the future of the first amendment and the independence of the internet?

Number 7: Could it be that the real reason for the near universal attacks on Wikileaks is more about secretly maintaining a seriously flawed foreign policy of empire than it is about national security?

Number 8: Is there not a huge difference between releasing secret information to help the enemy in a time of declared war, which is treason, and the releasing of information to expose our government lies that promote secret wars, death and corruption?

Number 9: Was it not once considered patriotic to stand up to our government when it is wrong?

Thomas Jefferson had it right when he advised 'Let the eyes of vigilance never be closed'

Please note the common sense discussion of Ron Paul vs. the completely hysterical (as well as totally misguided) reaction of Sarah Palin: "Assange is an anti-American operative with blood on his hands. Why was he not pursued with the same urgency we pursue al Qaeda and Taliban leaders?"

Bonus 10th Question

Here is a key 10th question Ron Paul failed to ask: Since when does the US have the right to impose its laws on the rest of the world?

The answer, no matter what neocons may think, is "we don't".

Sarah Palin cannot think clearly, she just reacts, perpetually grubbing for attention. The simple truth of the matter is she is not fit for office no matter how much media attention she receives. Hopefully Republicans come to their senses regarding her electability before it's too late.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock
http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com

[Dec 10, 2010] Paul Krugman Obama's Hostage Deal

There is no any real countervailing force for Repugs right now. We might argue is Obama Bush III or Clinton II but distinction between Democrats and Republicans is an illusion that is carefully maintained by MSM. This is just two wings of the same party of Oligarchy.
Economist's View

Richard H. Serlin:

Really the whole thing is just ugly looking.

I could see this kind of thing if it substantially decreased the odds of a President Palin in 2012, or any Republican. Then, we're getting these tax cuts anyway, and with a few trillion on top for the rich. But the whole package decreases unemployment by only a half percent or less in 2011, depending on the forecaster, and may increase it in 2012.

At least Obama could look like he tried with this package, as opposed to passing nothing, but the nothing could clearly be blamed on the Republicans for voting against. And anyway, the bad economy gets blamed on the party that holds the Whitehouse very strongly, so it's really an issue of how is the economy, or as Krugman pointed out what the trend is. Based on the forecasts, this package does little or nothing for either.

And no one anywhere has discussed whether the Fed would add less stimulus as a result of this one trillion. Why? Anyone want to explain why this seems to so obviously not be an influence on their behavior that no one mentions it?

Now, there's a number of nasty scary things about this package:

1) Obama yet again gives in to, and reinforces, the Republican narrative and ideology – the package is almost all tax cuts. This reinforces with the public an ideology which is extremely harmful, as we've seen over the past generation. Reagan, on the other hand, constantly tried to change the narrative and ideology, but Obama is always scared to do this.

2) He demoralizes the base and looks wimpy yet again, and that certainly hurts his chances in 2012.

3) If the economy is still bad in 2012 Republicans will scream, you can't raise taxes in a bad economy, and will have a lot of leverage, and perhaps success.

4) If the economy is a lot better in 2012, then they will scream, look tax cuts work, government spending of any kind doesn't and is bad. This will result in very harmful misleading of the public. And they will also scream tax cuts got us this recovery, raising taxes, and electing a Democrat who will raise taxes, will wreck the recovery.

5) Very ugly and inefficient way to stimulate the economy, almost all tax cuts, with small multipliers and little or no investment value. If you spend one trillion on mansions, yachts, and big screen TVs and vacations, that trillion disappears and you have one trillion in debt. If you instead stimulated the economy with one trillion in infrastructure, education, basic scientific research, etc., then you have trillions in additional income that those investments generate in the future. The short term stimulus really doesn't even cost you any money, because it makes you more money in the future than it costs you, in fact with a return a lot higher than the government's rock bottom borrowing rates today.

6) Krugman wrote in a post today, "On the straight economics, the tax deal is worth doing." This can really be misinterpreted. It depends what happens after the deal. If taxes will just be raised back up again to net it to zero after the slump ends then yes, it's better than doing nothing. But there's a good chance this won't happen. It will just stay added to the government's debt, decade after decade making it higher than it would otherwise be, and crowding out investment when the economy is not in a slump. Or, it could result in us balking about doing big things like free universal preschool and bachelor's degree or a "moon shot" in alternative energy, or just any high return government investment. All of this could far outweigh the half or quarter point less in unemployment in 2011, and it certainly would if there was little, no, or negative difference in saving us from a Republican president in 2011.

And this list is certainly not meant to be exhaustive.

ReallyNow:

What, pray tell, gives you the impression that the big O was "forced" to accept anything? All of the evidence suggests he has done what he has wanted all along, not withstanding his demonstrably false statements to the contrary.

To wit, the secret negotiations in the WH with health insurers and subsequently allowing them to write the "reform" in the Senate (look up, e.g. Liz Fowler, former and likely future Wellpoint VP) as one major example.

Obama in deeds and often in words has demonstrated he is effectively a trojan horse in the thin shell that has remained of FDRs Democratic Party.

More and more people are starting to realize that Obama is a right winger. You're obviously not one of them. If you start looking beyond your wishful thinking, that might change. When enough people wake up, the electoral changes you speak of may indeed come about. While Hope (heh) springs eternal, I'm not holding my breath.

ilsm:

The US does not tax too much, that is not the problem.

The US spends too much on the wrong things: War is wrong.

War takes resources away from productive uses.

Europe, where the kind of war the US likes to pay for originated like the Maginot Line (Star Wars) and colonies, devotes less than one third of government outlays as the US.

If the spending side were reduced by $400B, the US would still out spend its 12 largest allies, there would be huge tax cuts.

And the resources freed would go to fixing the issues the country needs to address.

This broohaha is diverting attention from the real issue and that is the militarists pillaging the US.

anne

ILSM:

The US does not tax too much, that is not the problem. The US spends too much on the wrong things: War is wrong. War takes resources away from productive uses.

[We really need to think this through carefully, there has been some work on the relative loss of productive work in the wake of war, but not nearly enough. *

* http://www.cepr.net/documents/publications/military_spending_2007_05.pdf

May, 2007

The Economic Impact of the Iraq War and Higher Military Spending
By Dean Baker ]

http://www.cepr.net/documents/publications/military_spending_2007_05.pdf

May, 2007

The Economic Impact of the Iraq War and Higher Military Spending
By Dean Baker

Executive Summary

There has been relatively little attention paid to the Iraq War's impact on the U.S. economy. It is often believed that wars and military spending increases are good for the economy. This is not generally true in most standard economic models. In fact, most models show that military spending diverts resources from productive uses, such as consumption and investment, and ultimately slows economic growth and reduces employment.

In order to get an approximation of the economic impact of the recent increase in military spending associated with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Center for Economic and Policy Research commissioned Global Insight to run a simulation with its macroeconomic model. It produced a simulation of the impact of an increase in annual U.S. military spending equal to 1 percent of GDP, approximately the actual increase in spending compared with the pre-war budget. We selected the Global Insight model for this analysis because it is a commonly used and widely respected model. Global Insight produced a set of projections that compared a scenario with an increase in annual military spending equal to 1.0 percent of GDP (current about $135 billion) relative to its baseline scenario. This is approximately equal to the increase in defense spending that has taken place compared with the pre-September 11th baseline.

The projections show that:

• After an initial demand stimulus, the effect of higher defense spending turns negative around the sixth year. After 10 years of higher defense spending, payroll employment would be 464,000 less than in the baseline scenario. After 20 years the job loss in the scenario with higher military spending rises to 668,100 compared to the baseline scenario.

• Inflation and interest rates would be considerably higher in the scenario with higher military spending. In the first five years, the annual inflation rate would be on average 0.3 percentage points higher in the scenario with higher military spending. Over the full twenty year period, inflation averages approximately 0.5 percentage points more in the high defense spending scenario. After five years, the interest rate on 10-Year Treasury notes is projected to be 0.7 percentage points higher than in the baseline scenario. After ten years, this gap is projected to rise to 0.9 percentage points, and after twenty years to 1.1 percentage points.

• Higher interest rates are projected to lead to reduced demand in the interest sensitive sectors of the economy. After five years, annual car and truck sales are projected to go down by 192,200 in the high military spending scenario. After ten years, the drop is projected to be 323,300 and after twenty years annual sales are projected to be down 731,400.

• Annual housing starts are projected to be 17,900 lower in the high military spending scenario after five years, 46,200 lower after ten years, and 38,500 lower after twenty years. The cumulative projected drop in housing starts over the twenty year period is 530,000. The drop in annual existing home sales is projected to be 128,400 after five years, 247,900 after ten years and 286,500 after twenty years.

• Higher interest rates are projected to raise the value of the dollar relative to foreign currencies. This makes imports cheaper, causing people in the United States to buy more imports and makes U.S. exports more expensive for people living in other countries, leading to a drop in exports. The model projects that in the high military spending scenario, high imports and weak exports causes the current account deficit to increase (become more negative) by $90.2 billion (2000 dollars) after five years, compared to the baseline scenario. The current account deficit is projected to be $72.5 billion higher after ten years and $112.8 billion higher (both in 2000 dollars) after twenty years. The cumulative effect of higher imports and weaker exports over twenty years is projected to add approximately $1.8 trillion (in 2000 dollars) to the country's foreign debt.

• Construction and manufacturing are the sectors that are projected to experience the largest shares of the job loss. While construction is projected to have a net gain of 8,500 jobs after five years, it is projected to lose 144,200 jobs after ten years and 211,400 jobs after twenty years in the high military spending scenario. Manufacturing is projected to lose 44,200 after five years, 95,200 jobs after ten years, and 91,500 jobs after twenty years in the high military spending scenario. Two-thirds of the projected job loss is in the durable goods sector.

The paper notes that military spending is not generally perceived to cost jobs, however, in standard economic models, its impact can be thought of in the same way as spending on the environment, which is generally believed to cost jobs. While tax and emission restrictions are often used to achieve environmental ends, it is also possible to reach environmental targets by paying people to do things that will reduce pollution. For example, it is possible to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by paying people to buy more fuel efficient cars and appliances, or paying them to install insulation and other energy saving devices.

In the case of both increased military spending and paying people to take steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, resources would be pulled away from their market directed uses. In standard economic models, this redirection of resources will cause the economy to operate less efficiently and therefore lead to slower growth and fewer jobs. In the scenario modeled in this exercise, higher interest rates are the mechanism that slows the economy and leads to fewer jobs.

In policy debates, it is important to recognize the potential job loss from military spending. The potential economic costs are often a factor in debates over environmental policy. Economic costs should also be recognized in debates over military policy. It would be useful to have the Congressional Budget Office produce its own projections of the economic impact of a sustained increase in defense spending.

[Currently basic military spending is running $830.8 billion yearly, which 18 months later is $93.5 billion more than was spent under President Bush in 2008.]

[Dec 10, 2010] Paul Krugman Obama's Hostage Deal

There is no any real countervailing force for Repugs right now. We might argue is Obama Bush III or Clinton II but distinction between Democrats and Republicans is an illusion that is carefully maintained by MSM. This is just two wings of the same party of Oligarchy.
Economist's View

Richard H. Serlin said...

Really the whole thing is just ugly looking.

I could see this kind of thing if it substantially decreased the odds of a President Palin in 2012, or any Republican. Then, we're getting these tax cuts anyway, and with a few trillion on top for the rich. But the whole package decreases unemployment by only a half percent or less in 2011, depending on the forecaster, and may increase it in 2012.

At least Obama could look like he tried with this package, as opposed to passing nothing, but the nothing could clearly be blamed on the Republicans for voting against. And anyway, the bad economy gets blamed on the party that holds the Whitehouse very strongly, so it's really an issue of how is the economy, or as Krugman pointed out what the trend is. Based on the forecasts, this package does little or nothing for either.

And no one anywhere has discussed whether the Fed would add less stimulus as a result of this one trillion. Why? Anyone want to explain why this seems to so obviously not be an influence on their behavior that no one mentions it?

Now, there's a number of nasty scary things about this package:

1) Obama yet again gives in to, and reinforces, the Republican narrative and ideology – the package is almost all tax cuts. This reinforces with the public an ideology which is extremely harmful, as we've seen over the past generation. Reagan, on the other hand, constantly tried to change the narrative and ideology, but Obama is always scared to do this.

2) He demoralizes the base and looks wimpy yet again, and that certainly hurts his chances in 2012.

3) If the economy is still bad in 2012 Republicans will scream, you can't raise taxes in a bad economy, and will have a lot of leverage, and perhaps success.

4) If the economy is a lot better in 2012, then they will scream, look tax cuts work, government spending of any kind doesn't and is bad. This will result in very harmful misleading of the public. And they will also scream tax cuts got us this recovery, raising taxes, and electing a Democrat who will raise taxes, will wreck the recovery.

5) Very ugly and inefficient way to stimulate the economy, almost all tax cuts, with small multipliers and little or no investment value. If you spend one trillion on mansions, yachts, and big screen TVs and vacations, that trillion disappears and you have one trillion in debt. If you instead stimulated the economy with one trillion in infrastructure, education, basic scientific research, etc., then you have trillions in additional income that those investments generate in the future. The short term stimulus really doesn't even cost you any money, because it makes you more money in the future than it costs you, in fact with a return a lot higher than the government's rock bottom borrowing rates today.

6) Krugman wrote in a post today, "On the straight economics, the tax deal is worth doing." This can really be misinterpreted. It depends what happens after the deal. If taxes will just be raised back up again to net it to zero after the slump ends then yes, it's better than doing nothing. But there's a good chance this won't happen. It will just stay added to the government's debt, decade after decade making it higher than it would otherwise be, and crowding out investment when the economy is not in a slump. Or, it could result in us balking about doing big things like free universal preschool and bachelor's degree or a "moon shot" in alternative energy, or just any high return government investment. All of this could far outweigh the half or quarter point less in unemployment in 2011, and it certainly would if there was little, no, or negative difference in saving us from a Republican president in 2011.

And this list is certainly not meant to be exhaustive.

ReallyNow said...

What, pray tell, gives you the impression that the big O was "forced" to accept anything? All of the evidence suggests he has done what he has wanted all along, not withstanding his demonstrably false statements to the contrary.

To wit, the secret negotiations in the WH with health insurers and subsequently allowing them to write the "reform" in the Senate (look up, e.g. Liz Fowler, former and likely future Wellpoint VP) as one major example.

Obama in deeds and often in words has demonstrated he is effectively a trojan horse in the thin shell that has remained of FDRs Democratic Party.

More and more people are starting to realize that Obama is a right winger. You're obviously not one of them. If you start looking beyond your wishful thinking, that might change. When enough people wake up, the electoral changes you speak of may indeed come about. While Hope (heh) springs eternal, I'm not holding my breath.

ilsm:

The US does not tax too much, that is not the problem.

The US spends too much on the wrong things: War is wrong.

War takes resources away from productive uses.

Europe, where the kind of war the US likes to pay for originated like the Maginot Line (Star Wars) and colonies, devotes less than one third of government outlays as the US.

If the spending side were reduced by $400B, the US would still out spend its 12 largest allies, there would be huge tax cuts.

And the resources freed would go to fixing the issues the country needs to address.

This broohaha is diverting attention from the real issue and that is the militarists pillaging the US.

anne

ILSM:

The US does not tax too much, that is not the problem. The US spends too much on the wrong things: War is wrong. War takes resources away from productive uses.

[We really need to think this through carefully, there has been some work on the relative loss of productive work in the wake of war, but not nearly enough. *

* http://www.cepr.net/documents/publications/military_spending_2007_05.pdf

May, 2007

The Economic Impact of the Iraq War and Higher Military Spending
By Dean Baker ]

http://www.cepr.net/documents/publications/military_spending_2007_05.pdf

May, 2007

The Economic Impact of the Iraq War and Higher Military Spending
By Dean Baker

Executive Summary

There has been relatively little attention paid to the Iraq War's impact on the U.S. economy. It is often believed that wars and military spending increases are good for the economy. This is not generally true in most standard economic models. In fact, most models show that military spending diverts resources from productive uses, such as consumption and investment, and ultimately slows economic growth and reduces employment.

In order to get an approximation of the economic impact of the recent increase in military spending associated with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Center for Economic and Policy Research commissioned Global Insight to run a simulation with its macroeconomic model. It produced a simulation of the impact of an increase in annual U.S. military spending equal to 1 percent of GDP, approximately the actual increase in spending compared with the pre-war budget. We selected the Global Insight model for this analysis because it is a commonly used and widely respected model. Global Insight produced a set of projections that compared a scenario with an increase in annual military spending equal to 1.0 percent of GDP (current about $135 billion) relative to its baseline scenario. This is approximately equal to the increase in defense spending that has taken place compared with the pre-September 11th baseline.

The projections show that:

• After an initial demand stimulus, the effect of higher defense spending turns negative around the sixth year. After 10 years of higher defense spending, payroll employment would be 464,000 less than in the baseline scenario. After 20 years the job loss in the scenario with higher military spending rises to 668,100 compared to the baseline scenario.

• Inflation and interest rates would be considerably higher in the scenario with higher military spending. In the first five years, the annual inflation rate would be on average 0.3 percentage points higher in the scenario with higher military spending. Over the full twenty year period, inflation averages approximately 0.5 percentage points more in the high defense spending scenario. After five years, the interest rate on 10-Year Treasury notes is projected to be 0.7 percentage points higher than in the baseline scenario. After ten years, this gap is projected to rise to 0.9 percentage points, and after twenty years to 1.1 percentage points.

• Higher interest rates are projected to lead to reduced demand in the interest sensitive sectors of the economy. After five years, annual car and truck sales are projected to go down by 192,200 in the high military spending scenario. After ten years, the drop is projected to be 323,300 and after twenty years annual sales are projected to be down 731,400.

• Annual housing starts are projected to be 17,900 lower in the high military spending scenario after five years, 46,200 lower after ten years, and 38,500 lower after twenty years. The cumulative projected drop in housing starts over the twenty year period is 530,000. The drop in annual existing home sales is projected to be 128,400 after five years, 247,900 after ten years and 286,500 after twenty years.

• Higher interest rates are projected to raise the value of the dollar relative to foreign currencies. This makes imports cheaper, causing people in the United States to buy more imports and makes U.S. exports more expensive for people living in other countries, leading to a drop in exports. The model projects that in the high military spending scenario, high imports and weak exports causes the current account deficit to increase (become more negative) by $90.2 billion (2000 dollars) after five years, compared to the baseline scenario. The current account deficit is projected to be $72.5 billion higher after ten years and $112.8 billion higher (both in 2000 dollars) after twenty years. The cumulative effect of higher imports and weaker exports over twenty years is projected to add approximately $1.8 trillion (in 2000 dollars) to the country's foreign debt.

• Construction and manufacturing are the sectors that are projected to experience the largest shares of the job loss. While construction is projected to have a net gain of 8,500 jobs after five years, it is projected to lose 144,200 jobs after ten years and 211,400 jobs after twenty years in the high military spending scenario. Manufacturing is projected to lose 44,200 after five years, 95,200 jobs after ten years, and 91,500 jobs after twenty years in the high military spending scenario. Two-thirds of the projected job loss is in the durable goods sector.

The paper notes that military spending is not generally perceived to cost jobs, however, in standard economic models, its impact can be thought of in the same way as spending on the environment, which is generally believed to cost jobs. While tax and emission restrictions are often used to achieve environmental ends, it is also possible to reach environmental targets by paying people to do things that will reduce pollution. For example, it is possible to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by paying people to buy more fuel efficient cars and appliances, or paying them to install insulation and other energy saving devices.

In the case of both increased military spending and paying people to take steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, resources would be pulled away from their market directed uses. In standard economic models, this redirection of resources will cause the economy to operate less efficiently and therefore lead to slower growth and fewer jobs. In the scenario modeled in this exercise, higher interest rates are the mechanism that slows the economy and leads to fewer jobs.

In policy debates, it is important to recognize the potential job loss from military spending. The potential economic costs are often a factor in debates over environmental policy. Economic costs should also be recognized in debates over military policy. It would be useful to have the Congressional Budget Office produce its own projections of the economic impact of a sustained increase in defense spending.

[Currently basic military spending is running $830.8 billion yearly, which 18 months later is $93.5 billion more than was spent under President Bush in 2008.]

[Dec 04, 2010] Shining a Light on Sociopaths by Doug Casey

Antiwar.com

From a realpolitik point of view, it makes sense for the North to occasionally kill a few South Koreans, make threatening noises, and keep the "us vs. them" rhetoric hot. It provides an excuse for their extraordinarily low standard of living, and a reason for having a police state. They use nationalism and patriotism very effectively to prop up their pathetic regime. In that regard, they are like most governments, just more extreme. But I consider the chances of an actual war to be slim.

... ... ....

L: Hm. Sarah Palin apparently does not agree with you about WikiLeaks. She's reported as going on record saying that WikiLeaks personnel should be treated like terrorists."> Sarah Palin apparently does not agree with you about WikiLeaks. She's reported as going on record saying that WikiLeaks personnel should be treated like terrorists.

Doug: And people thought I was being too hard on the Tea Party movement. This is exactly the sort of knee-jerk conservative reaction that shows that such people really don't care about freedom at all. I suspect Palin is cut from the same cloth as Baby Bush – ignorant, unintelligent, thoughtless, reactionary, and pig-headed. She belongs on reality TV, not in a position where she could damage the lives of billions of people.

L: In an interesting counterpoint, Reuters reports that Hillary Clinton defended WikiLeaks, even as she arrived in Kazakhstan at the same time as the embarrassing assessment of Kazakh leadership was leaked. Sometimes liberals do defend liberal ideas, like freedom of the press.

Doug: Sometimes. But not if it's politically incorrect press. You can rely on them only to make government larger and more expensive at every turn – that you can rely upon like a Swiss train. Hillary – like any Secretary of State – is a skilled and enthusiastic liar. Her stock in trade is deception. Everything she says is intended to forward her drive to be the President. I wonder if she'd be worse than Palin? But that's like asking if Nero would be worse than Caligula.

L: No argument from me on that. And you know I agree with you on the watchdog principle, but what if they go after private-sector entities? CNN reports that WikiLeaks' next target is a major U.S. bank.

Doug: It's a mistake to think of banks in the U.S. as being private sector entities. U.S. banks got into bed with the state decades ago, and got even more closely entwined via the latest set of regulations, and bailouts.

At this point they're really parasitical entities.

Plus, I'd guess that whatever whistle-blowing WikiLeaks is planning, it probably has to do with the bailouts or other government interactions with the banks anyway – exactly the type of thing that needs to be exposed.

[Dec 04, 2010] Philip Giraldi " Antiwar Radio with Scott Horton and Charles Goyette

Former CIA officer Philip Giraldi discusses the theory that WikiLeaks is carrying out the agenda of a foreign power, the State Department engaging in CIA-style espionage, the US/Israeli 5-part plan for regime change in Iran and why Bradley Manning's (alleged) exposure of government-gone-wild is laudable but should be prosecuted.

MP3 here. (18:05)

Jlord :

I was a tad troubled by this interview, especially given what I would consider to be the generally good work of Giraldi. I would have liked to see Scott challenge him a bit more on this, what seems to me, bizarre theory that the leaks are some kind of plot.

Further, Giraldi's belief that Manning should be prosecuted with the fullest extent of the law isn't really surprising considering his past history I suppose, but still I find his belief that what Manning did was essentially wrong to be more than disturbing.

The diplomatic cables themselves cannot be used to verify fact, since they are, as a previous commentor noted, simply based on the viewpoints of US diplomats. Working for the US government suggests a certain world view that will create perceptions and assertions through these cables that don't necessarily hold true. What certain cables ay about Iran, for example that the Saudi's want war to me only shows how retarded the Saudi's are and how the satellits of Empire are attempting to control US foreign policy.

Further, if there seems to be a pattern about the documents themselves in terms of content, well, wikileaks did say they would be releasing them in segments so that they could be reported on properly. Perhaps some of these holes will be filled in upon the next segment, or the one after.

I don't know, I just found the whole interview a tad strange.

Phil Giraldi:

I knew some would be disturbed by my comments, but I do believe that any government has an obligation to protect SOME secrets. A true whistleblower reveals criminal behavior in the knowledge that he will probably be prosecuted.

If Manning, who agreed to protect classified information, believed that he had the right to make the decision to expose 250,000 documents he has to expect that there will be consequences.

And, while it is right to expose specific criminal activity, it is wrong to reveal great masses of information that demonstrate no such thing. Why should anyone have the right to know what US diplomats think after their confidential exchanges with foreign leaders?

That goes beyond wanting to root out criminal activity, which to me is the justification for whistleblowing.

Rob:

I respect and agree with Mr. Giraldi that it's always good to keep a certain level of healthy skepticism on everything, and we shouldn't dismiss every conspiracy theory on the grounds that it sounds too far-fetched because such conspiracies actually do exist (I'm sure sometimes truth is stranger than fiction), but there are some good reasons to give Wikileaks the benefit of the doubt.

1 : The extensive government secrecy is such a huge problem - whether it being finding excuses for us going to war and destroying Iraq or other such lies which can have disastrous consequences - that any negative effects resulting from the Wiki dumps are surely a lesser evil. Glenn Greenwald talked about this in a recent article, and I agree with him. Whatever mistakes they have made, it is much more urgent to uncover far more egregious goings-on, which people have the right to know about, regardless of any laws which protect secret government documents from being reviewed by the general population.

2 : We have only seen a couple hundred documents, so there will surely be more cables bearing on people like Mubarak, Netanyahu.

3 : The whole deal on Iran seems like a complete misconception to me. The fact that certain Arab leaders have called for military / drastic action against Iran in order to thwart any imaginary weapons program is IN NO WAY in my mind proof of any support for it, on the contrary. Support from whom? The majority of the population in Arab countries is against it, overwhelmingly, so why is so much emphasis being put on what these corrupt rulers think, or are saying in order to curry favor with American diplomats? This is a total disregard for any democratic principles, to imply that they truly represent their populations. They don't.

[Dec 04, 2010] WikiLeaks Archive - Dim View of Russia and Putin

NYTimes.com
By C. J. CHIVERS

Early in 2009, as recession rippled around the world, the United States Embassy in Moscow sent to Washington a cable summarizing whispers within Russia's political class. Prime Minister President Obama and his Russian counterpart, Dmitri A. Medvedev, have called a "reset" in relations.

But scores of secret American cables from recent years, obtained by WikiLeaks and made available to several news organizations, show that beneath the public efforts at warmer ties, the United States harbors a dim view of the post-Soviet Kremlin and its leadership, and little hope that Russia will become more democratic or reliable.

The cables portray Mr. Putin as enjoying supremacy over all other Russian public figures, yet undermined by the very nature of the post-Soviet country he helped build.

Even a man with his formidable will and intellect is shown beholden to intractable larger forces, including an inefficient economy and an unmanageable bureaucracy that often ignores his edicts.

In language candid and bald, the cables reveal an assessment of Mr. Putin's Russia as highly centralized, occasionally brutal and all but irretrievably cynical and corrupt. The Kremlin, by this description, lies at the center of a constellation of official and quasi-official rackets.

Throughout the internal correspondence between the American Embassy and Washington, the American diplomats in Moscow painted a Russia in which public stewardship was barely tended to and history was distorted. The Kremlin displays scant ability or inclination to reform what one cable characterized as a "modern brand of authoritarianism" accepted with resignation by the ruled.

Moreover, the cables reveal the limits of American influence within Russia and an evident dearth of diplomatic sources. The internal correspondence repeatedly reflected the analyses of an embassy whose staff was narrowly contained and had almost no access to Mr. Putin's inner circle.

In reporting to Washington, diplomats often summarized impressions from meetings not with Russian officials, but with Western colleagues or business executives. The impressions of a largely well-known cadre of Russian journalists, opposition politicians and research institute regulars rounded out many cables, with insights resembling what was published in liberal Russian newspapers and on Web sites.

The cables sketched life almost 20 years after the Soviet Union's disintegration, a period, as the cables noted, when Mr. Medvedev, the prime minister's understudy, is the lesser part of a strange "tandemocracy" and "plays Robin to Putin's Batman." All the while, another cable noted, "Stalin's ghost haunts the Metro."

Government Corruption

In the secret American description, official malfeasance and corruption infect all elements of Russian public life - from rigging elections, to persecuting rivals or citizens who pose a threat, to extorting businesses.

The corruption was described as a drag on the nation of sufficient significance to merit the attention of Mr. Medvedev and Mr. Putin, who, paradoxically, benefited from cronies who orchestrate graft but support the Kremlin.

A cable describing the government and style of Yuri M. Luzhkov, then the mayor of Moscow, presented the puzzle.

Since 2008, Mr. Medvedev has been the face and cheerleader for the nation's supposed anti-corruption campaign. Yet a veritable kaleidoscope of corruption thrived in Moscow, much of it under the protection of a mayor who served at the president's pleasure.

The embassy wrote of a "three-tiered structure" in Moscow's criminal world, with the mayor at the top, the police and intelligence officials at the second tier and those regarded as a municipality's predators - "ordinary criminals and corrupt inspectors" - at the bottom.

In this world the government effectively was the mafia. Extortion was so widespread, the cable noted, that it had become the business of the Interior Ministry and the federal intelligence service, known by their initials in Russian, the M.V.D. and the F.S.B.

"Moscow business owners understand that it is best to get protection from the MVD and FSB (rather than organized crime groups) since they not only have more guns, resources and power than criminal groups, but they are also protected by the law," the cable noted, citing a Russian source. "For this reason, protection from criminal gangs is no longer so high in demand."

The cable further described a delicate balance.

On one hand, the prime minister and the president benefited from votes Mr. Luzhkov delivered to the country's ruling party, and perhaps from corruption that one embassy source said was so profligate that witnesses saw suitcases, presumably full of cash, being carried into the Kremlin under armed guard.

On the other, the corruption and a flagrantly rigged election in 2009 for the city's legislature had raised the question of whether Mr. Luzhkov was worth the trouble.

The cable ended on a prescient note. "Ultimately, the tandem will put Luzhkov out to pasture," it said. Eight months after this cable was written, Mr. Medvedev dismissed Mr. Luzhkov.

The embassy's consistent assessments left little hope that removing one person would be enough. Russian corruption, the cables said, was structural.

One foreign citizen, whom the embassy described as having "made a fortune in Russia's casino business," said in 2009 "that the 'levels of corruption in business were worse than we could imagine' and that after working here for over 15 years and witnessing first-hand the behavior of GOR [government of Russia] officials at all levels, he could not imagine the system changing."

The same cable noted that even if the government wanted to change it might not be able to, given that "in 2006 - at the height of Putin's control in a booming economy - it was rumored within the Presidential Administration that as many as 60 percent of his orders were not being followed."

Secretive Business Deals

In Russia, the separation between the most important businesses and government officials runs from blurry to nonexistent. The cables rendered darkly how Russian companies - often relying on what one cable called "secretive deals involving intermediary companies with unknown owners and beneficiaries" - conducted their affairs.

The cables also detailed two separate but related concerns about Russia's oil and gas sectors: a lack of modern management and capital-improvement programs, and a tendency in Mr. Putin's circle to see energy resources as political levers.

One prominent Western oil executive told Ambassador Beyrle that the inefficiencies "are so huge" that "a well that would take ten days to drill in Canada would take 20" in Russia.

"Multiply that by hundreds or thousands and you can start to imagine the costs to the economy," the cable quoted the executive as saying.

The embassy's 2009 assessment of state-owned Gazprom, Russia's largest company, was similar. "Gazprom, it said, "must act in the interests of its political masters, even at the expense of sound economic decision-making."

The cables also showed how bureaucratic, national and economic power often all converged in the Kremlin, and how the state's suitors grasped that access often equaled results.

The summary of a meeting between an Italian and American diplomats in Moscow documented the Italian diplomat's exasperation with Mr. Putin and Silvio Berlusconi, Italy's prime minister, who had gained Russia's ear.

The diplomat said that the pair enjoyed such a close relationship that they shared a "direct line," and that the Italian Foreign Ministry and Embassy "only learn of conversations" between the premiers "after the fact, and with little detail or background."

The diplomat then "explained that while the close relationship is not ideal from the bureaucracy's perspective and more detrimental than beneficial, it can be useful at times.

"He cited," the cable added, "the case of the sale to Gazprom by Italian energy giant ENI of its 20 percent share in Gazprom's oil subsidiary Gazpromneft. He said Gazprom had insisted on paying far below the market price, but that it ultimately paid the market price after Berlusconi weighed in with Putin."

Other cables described how Western businesses sometimes managed to pursue their interests by personally engaging senior Russian officials, including President Medvedev, rather than getting lost in bureaucratic channels.

The experience in late 2009 of the Intel Corporation, which hoped to import 1,000 encrypted computers for its Russia offices, offered insights into the benefits of courting the top.

"Several high-level Intel officers, including CEO Craig Barrett, and other officials, such as American Chamber of Commerce President Andrew Somers, highlighted to the GOR interlocutors, including President Medvedev, the role Intel plays in employing over 1,000 Russian engineers," a cable said.

"This high-level lobbying secured Intel a meeting with key FSB officials to explain its needs," it continued. "Intel was able to demonstrate the reasonableness of its request and, as a result, by-passed the current extensive licensing requirement."

Chuck Mulloy, an Intel spokesman, said that the meetings were not about one shipment of computers; they created an expedited process for importing such equipment, not only for Intel but for their customers and distributors. "We didn't get this as a one-time thing," he said.

The cables further revealed how the nexus of business and state interests among Russia's ruling elite had fueled suspicions in Washington that Mr. Putin, in spite of his vigorous denials, had quietly amassed a personal fortune.

A confidential cable pointedly mentioned the Swiss oil-trading company Gunvor, as being "of particular note."

The company, the cable said, is "rumored to be one of Putin's sources of undisclosed wealth" and is owned by Gennadi N. Timchenko, who is "rumored to be a former K.G.B. colleague of Putin's." One estimate said the company might control half of Russian oil exports, potentially bringing its owners billions of dollars in profit.

Gunvor's profits were especially high, the cable claimed, because in one of the few deals in which details were known, a source said that the firm included a surcharge of $1 per barrel of oil. More competitive traders, the source said, might mark up a barrel by only a nickel.

The cables provide no evidence to support the allegations about Gunvor and Mr. Luzhkov, the former Moscow mayor; neither has been charged with any crimes.

Patience Unrewarded

If two words were to summarize the secret American assessment of its relations with the Kremlin, it would be these: suspicion and frustration.

A cornerstone of Washington's approach to the relationship has been patience. Privately, American diplomats have described the hope that by moderating public criticism of Russia and encouraging market principles, Russia's government and important companies might with time evolve.

The cables underscore how frustrating the patience has been.

A summary in November 2009 of the security dialogue between the United States and Russia coolly stated that in spite of warm words between Mr. Medvedev and Mr. Obama and the establishment of a new military-to-military working group, there remained "challenges in effecting real, substantive and ongoing" dialogue.

The Defense Ministry, the cable said "has not changed its modus operandi for information exchange nor routine dialoguing since the end of the Cold War."

Russian attendees at meetings, the cable said, "are closely monitored by their Military Intelligence (GRU) handlers," and are reluctant "to engage in any dialogues outside of tightly controlled statements recited from prepared texts."

When diplomats did meet Russian officials who chose to be candid, the message they heard was sometimes blunt.

In June 2009 a delegation of Washington analysts who were accompanied by diplomats met with Aleksandr Y. Skobeltsyn of Russia's Department for Military-Technical Cooperation to discuss American concerns about sales of anti-tank guided missiles and shoulder-launched antiaircraft missiles.

The latter are a special worry in the West, where security officials fear terrorists could fire them at passenger jets.

Mr. Skobeltsyn said that Russia "shared U.S. concerns about re-transfer vulnerabilities, noting that Latin America and Middle East were especially sensitive areas."

"But, he argued, if Russia did not provide these weapons to certain countries, then 'someone else' would."

Outright distrustful relations between the Kremlin and the Soviet Union's former vassals were also evident in the records. At an appearance in Washington in 2009, Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski of Poland said that American forces would be welcome in Poland "to protect against Russian aggression."

The comment, unwelcomed by Russia and the United States alike, ignited a minor flare-up. In a cable after Mr. Sikorski's appearance, the American Embassy said that Poland had established a Bureau of European Security, which "Polish diplomats jokingly refer to as the 'Office of Threats from the East.' "

The back-channel quip eventually provided insight into the diplomatic climate in Moscow. A Polish official, formerly posted to Moscow, noted that Russia's Foreign Ministry "threw this moniker back at him during a meeting."

He told his American colleagues that the "only way" that Russia's Foreign Ministry could have known of the nickname "was to have been listening in on his phone conversations with Warsaw" - a clear suggestion that his office in Russia had been bugged.

DMZ, NJ

Excellent overview of corruption in the USA. Now, how does corruption work in Russia?
lomtevas. New York, N.Y.December 1st
No one asked me my opinion of Putin and Medvedev's government. I believe the U.S. is way off the mark in describing Russia and its leaders.

comraderoger, Moscow

From the article:

"In Russia, the separation between the most important businesses and government officials runs from blurry to nonexistent. The cables rendered darkly how Russian companies - often relying on what one cable called "secretive deals involving intermediary companies with unknown owners and beneficiaries" - conducted their affairs."

Can the same not be said about the US government and companies such as Halliburton, KBR, Blackwater [Xe] and so on? All those no bid contracts, the billions of dollars that disappeared, the blatant corruption in the entire process.

And with the recent election, the first after the Citizen's United decision, the US government has only become even more beholden to its corporate benefactors.

FredJ, KNY
6:48 pm"The United States harbors a low view of the Russian leaders and little hope that Russia will become more democratic or reliable."

As a citizen of the United States, I have grown to harbor that same low view of my own country.

harry, michigan
nd how is this any different then america;venezula;china or any other country. Instead of suitcases of cash american political figures get their money via contributions or donations. Can you name any country where there is no corruption? Why do we feel that nautural resources need to be controlled by a few and not that particular countries natural asset to be shared by their entire citizenry, because human beings are vile and greedy. I guess if you keep your greed within some defined limits you can call yourself a democracy, but hey we can't even do that much.
Jason Atchley, Austin, TXDecember 1st
6:49 pmIt is very interesting to see the inner workings of diplomacy and how it "really" works. I understand it might not be the best situation for our Nation but it is compelling reading nonetheless.

Jason Atchley

Haitch76, NYC
Give up on this democracy business, for God's sake. Everyone preaches democracy but no one practices it. It's like the "free market"--never free, always controlled. Way back when, Madison thought that having one representative for 30,000 people was a sure sigh that the majority would never rule. Now we have 500,000 plus. Here in the good ole USA, we have oligarchy, ditto for Russia.
Tobias Weisserth, Hamburg, Germany
The weird thing is that the Russian authorities are actually acting outraged about the cables' contents. The information about Russia in the cables is already common knowledge among the general public in Europe for a long time. Everybody KNOWS Russia is a corrupt non-ethical state that is dominated by gangsters and doesn't have a functioning legal system. All you had to do to come to that conclusion a long time ago was to follow the regular news.

Isn't it funny how those leaked cables manage to embarrass both the US and Russia at the same time?

I hope state leaders keep their calm now.

LynneBoston, MA
This is so counter productive. I cannot believe there are any of us who do not speak about other expecting some sort of confidentiality. Childishness to assume otherwise. Destructive to believe you are a hero for exposing private conversations that absolutely hurt our standing in the world. I guess this administration will leave the US in worse standing than the last.
Cathy Kayser, San Jose, Costa Rica
Given the fact that Russia has been less than competely helpful in dealing with Iran, is it any wonder that US diplomatic officials consider their motives suspect?
Sebastien, P.Rocky Point, NY

Why can't Putin and Medvedev and the politician in Russia be simply bribed right in the open, like American Congress? Russian mafia would be called "lobbyists" instead and everything would be fine.

David, Sao Paulo
All very interesting. No doubt, Russia is corrupt. The US is also corrupt, in many of the same ways. Are sweetheart deals that shovelled billions into Halliburton and Blackwater any different than Russian corruption? Putin might well be disengaged. Bush was incredibly disengaged and frequently working from home in Crawford. Sharing the spoils of corruption is a challenge for the Russians, just as it is for the Americans. AIG, Goldman and other elite vampire squid have been inhaling all that is not nailed down as aggressively as Russian businesses attack their own treasury. The common man's only real recourse is to invest in those companies who seem most likely to benefit from the cronyistic farce we pretend is market capitalism.
AmatureHistorian, NYC
So what? At least things gets done over there if you have the connection or money. Russian has been complaining for years that agreement reached with American official/envoy is useless because the president/congress often decides to tag on their pork. There is even an instance where the official pretends to speak for Bush Sr. when he is in fact speaking for himself. Moscow follow through with the agreement and ended up protesting to Washington about breach of understanding.
Nightwood, MI
Please oh please, tell me something new. Maybe our super intellectual or mystic George Bush could look into Putin's eyes and see an upright, decent person ready to work for the common good. Nobody, nobody that i know has ever completely trusted Russia. There have been times when we have been hopeful, but it has always been a wary sort of hopeful, never firmly grounded in reality.
Ron Bannon, Newark, NJ
Good! Our government has consistently pried into our private/secret lives, and it's about time that we the people pried into theirs.
Frunobulax, Chicago
The rackets that run the US write checks to politicians and lobbyists. I'd take the Russian rackets any day: at least there's no pretence that they're criminals.
lisztian, San Diego, CA
So many of the contents of the cables are so easily available from public sources that it's hard to see why many of them were made restricted-access. The only surprise would have been if our diplomats had ever shared--or never lost--Bush's rosy-eyed initial perception of Putin's soul.

I'm also sure that every country's embassy in DC sends similarly jaundiced reports home about politics and personalities here. Ally or adversary, you need to know the weaknesses of your counterparts. Now, when will Wikileaks unveil a trove of Russian, Chinese or British diplomatic correspondence?

Casual Observer, Los Angelest
Putin is what he is and anyone who does not imagine that he knows what everyone else thinks of him underestimates the kind of person needed to survive in post-U.S.S.R. Russia.

Russia is the victim of centuries of autocracy or anarchy and so has never been able to enjoy the benefits available to stable and egalitarian societies. If that was not bad enough, Russia proved that Marx was a great writer but a poor designer of social systems in just seventy years, leaving it with a strangely incompetent assembly of dysfunctional subsystems that completely controlled the entire society. There was no state that could be reoriented to a more legalistic and democratic form of government. On top of that most all of the participants in the ruling class were highly intelligent and realized that they had a very screwed up country.

Enter the helpful products of Professor Friedman's Chicago Day Glo Mysterious Free Market Players ensemble to encourage the most screwed up redistribution of wealth and enterprise in human history, creating nothing so remarkable as oligarchial control of the Russian economy.

Only a former top officer of the KGB could ever figure out what is going on in Russia, so Putin or somebody like him was destined to replace first more democratically inclined leaders following Gorbachev.

Dick Bloom, West Chester, PA
We had our chance under Boris Yeltsin and blew it. We helped overthrow the old regime and then stood and watched while the Russian economy self-destructed. Putin knows what the US appears unable to fathom: that his semi-planned economy is a temporary expedient until the country fully embraces the free market system, just as he is. The taste for free enterprise isn't necessarily inherited, you know, even though you feel it is. For millennia now, Russians, according to scholar Richard Pipes, have inherited just the opposite--the desire to be told what to do. But that Putin's Russia doesn't meet our high standards of freedom is our own damned fault: had we handled the 1990s differently, we'd not only have a true friend in the Kremlin but an equal and opposite trading partner, with markets so unimaginably vast they'd keep the rest of the world busy until Putin was no longer needed. But we blew it.
Jeff, L.A.
A serious student of American history and the Cold War will understand that although the U.S. was victorious in terms of surviving the Cold War it broke our political system resulting in a right wing coup against President Kennedy. The coup leaders considered Kennedy a traitor, because he sought to lessen tensions with the Soviet Union, deescalate Vietnam and no doubt because he supported civil rights legislation and regulation of business at home. The template for the coup involved allowing all aspects of American society to continue to function as before, including the press, with the hidden hand of the security apparatus influencing opinion and guiding policy while rewarding those institutions directly related to the coup such as the CIA, FBI, military industrial complex, and right wing fascist billionaires.

Putin, when faced with the civil and economic anarchy of the collapse of the Soviet Union, and being a long term KGB agent was fully aware of the American coup, and used it as a rough template to order Russian society, meaning the security service would be the power behind the throne, and the media would self censor etc.

Since Russia has no tradition of democracy the template eroded over time into a kleptocracy that attempts to appear benign and meet the basic needs of the Russian consumer as does the United States. The key difference is the disproportionate power corporations have in the United States.

George Xanich, Bethel, Maine
Russia's, then the Soviet Union, past is based on paranoia of the West, as history has shown Russia victimize by foreign invaders. From the Muscovite empire to Napoleon onto WWII, Russia has always made self sacrifices to preserve its autonomy. These leaks show Russia and its leaders in less than a stellar view. Because of Russia's xenophobia the leaks only adds to their paranoia of the west!

thomas, nyc

the frog is calling the lizard ugly......we have the highest percentage of incarcerations to population on the planet....including Russia & China....democracy indeed!

marcchi, IL

The really important news in the current wikileaks release is that gates, clinton, and possibly obama --if he did micromanage the honduras coup and its aftershocks-- committed a felony by conspiring to undermine the enforcement of an american law and by suppressing a well-argued and documented denunciation by a usa government official, in the honduras embassy of the usa, that a fact punished by american law, a coup d'etat against a democracy, had taken place.

because of their behavior after the honduras coup, gates, clinton, and possibly obama have made themselves *impeachable* for violating their oath to defend the american constitution and make any possible effort to respect and enforce the laws of the usa. [and congrats to lanny davis!]

karlmarx, Boston MA
The whole Wikileaks episode is real interesting, this has happened a number of times before. How come there are no French, German, or as Friedman was want to say Chinese Wikileaks? How come we don't post secret communiques of Al Quaeda. The evidence like that of 9/11 suggests widespread incompetence. Rather than worry about the content of these leaks a more productive idea is to understand the totally lax security that brought us 9/11 and now this. Can't the U.S. government keep anything secret.

RefugeeUS

Clearly, the pot (US gov) is calling the kettle (Russian Gov) BLACK (corrupt oligarchy).

With a little editing of the article, our current state of affairs does not look much better than our "frieds" (frenemy?) across the Bering Strait:

"In [the US], the separation between the most important [corporations] and government officials runs from blurry to nonexistent. [Wars, bailouts, elections, and high court decisions] rendered darkly how [US] companies - often relying ... "secretive deals involving [lobbyists] with []known [clients] and beneficiaries" - conducted their affairs."

John Aronson, Hampshire County, MA
We here in the US should find it disturbing that our State Department appears to believe there are only two kinds of people in the world; contemptible fools and contemptible toadies.
awhitdsan francisco
So the Embassy staff is contained. How many of them speak fluent Russian? How many have social relations with ordinary Russians?
Scottsdale Jack, Scottsdale, AZ
7:44 pmOh, the Russians aren't "reliable"? What does that mean? They don't automatically support every crusade the US elite decides to engage in (attack on Iraq, pressure on Iran, mindless support for Israel, etc.?).

News flash: lots of us peons here in the US don't support these things either.

Mr. Spock, NYC
i've read all the comments and i find the knee-jerk cynicism equating the US corruption to Russian corruption interesting. Americans don't travel enough. I've spent extensive time in Eastern Europe and Russia, the differences between corruption there and here is not just in magnitude but in kind. No comparison. Every level of govt. is corrupt. Most frighteningly, the police. Profoundly corrupt.

These comments that want to equate the problems in the US with those in Russia simply can't fathom what it is like over there. The US has its problems, especially in the systemic corruption of congress and the fund raising of elected officials, but it isn't close to Russia.

Refugee, US
@30 (anonymous from WA). While your love of your new country is commendable, your anger towards those who critique the US govt/system by comparing it to the Russian govt/system appears misplaced. There is nothing ignorant nor ungrateful in criticizing the US system, especially when it strays far from ideals such as fairness, honesty, dignity, etc. In fact, each American is granted the right to do so by the First Amendment of the United States constitution and should exercise such right freely.

There is a difference between the American ideals (such as freedom, democracy, balance of powers, a middle class) and reality. I grew up in a very corrupt system (the Philippines) and have traveled many times to Russia, so I understand what living in a corrupt system looks like. One gets a little concerned when actions, procedures, roadblocks, etc of American agencies and large corporations are becoming as absurd, irrational, pointless, and self-interested as those in the Filipino and Russian systems.

momma methane, luzerne
Putin's swiss oil interests don't sound too much different than Corbett's ties to Dutch Shell vis a vis the sale of Marcellus Shale access by East Resources in here in PA. Penn's woods aren't so sylvan, and Harrisburg ain't that much different from Moscow....
satyasampurnaKota
Going by the track record, the corruption at high level exist even in American government. The findings of prefrential allotment of business to certain influential politician companies post Iraq war is the best example.
Paul I. Adujie, New York, United States
The Pentagon Papers are the precursors or progenitors of WikiLeaks and Mr. Julien Assange ... I do fervently and passionately believe that Mr. Assange and his coterie of associates and facilitators stand for truth and honesty in public discourse.

Conspiracies, falsehoods and deceits, are the stock of diplomats, politicians and government officials... it seems... from these revelations by WikiLeaks ... conspiracies, falsehoods and deceits are the tools of injustices worldwide... and this is what WikiLeaks have exposed again and again...

The world should starve politicians, diplomats and other charlatans of secrecy which enable them to engage in shenanigans!

WikiLeaks and The New York Times stand for public good, our common good.

Andre Shoumatoff, Park City, Utah
Very insightful article detailing the depth of corruption in Russia. This means that WikiLeaks may have actually caused some benefit as it may perhaps serve as a wake-up call to some officials in Russia. It is sad to see this country having gone this direction when it so-recently had so much potential.

[Dec 04, 2010] Shining a Light on Sociopaths by Doug Casey

Antiwar.com

From a realpolitik point of view, it makes sense for the North to occasionally kill a few South Koreans, make threatening noises, and keep the "us vs. them" rhetoric hot. It provides an excuse for their extraordinarily low standard of living, and a reason for having a police state. They use nationalism and patriotism very effectively to prop up their pathetic regime. In that regard, they are like most governments, just more extreme. But I consider the chances of an actual war to be slim.

... ... ....

L: Hm. Sarah Palin apparently does not agree with you about WikiLeaks. She's reported as going on record saying that WikiLeaks personnel should be treated like terrorists."> Sarah Palin apparently does not agree with you about WikiLeaks. She's reported as going on record saying that WikiLeaks personnel should be treated like terrorists.

Doug: And people thought I was being too hard on the Tea Party movement. This is exactly the sort of knee-jerk conservative reaction that shows that such people really don't care about freedom at all. I suspect Palin is cut from the same cloth as Baby Bush – ignorant, unintelligent, thoughtless, reactionary, and pig-headed. She belongs on reality TV, not in a position where she could damage the lives of billions of people.

L: In an interesting counterpoint, Reuters reports that Hillary Clinton defended WikiLeaks, even as she arrived in Kazakhstan at the same time as the embarrassing assessment of Kazakh leadership was leaked. Sometimes liberals do defend liberal ideas, like freedom of the press.

Doug: Sometimes. But not if it's politically incorrect press. You can rely on them only to make government larger and more expensive at every turn – that you can rely upon like a Swiss train. Hillary – like any Secretary of State – is a skilled and enthusiastic liar. Her stock in trade is deception. Everything she says is intended to forward her drive to be the President. I wonder if she'd be worse than Palin? But that's like asking if Nero would be worse than Caligula.

L: No argument from me on that. And you know I agree with you on the watchdog principle, but what if they go after private-sector entities? CNN reports that WikiLeaks' next target is a major U.S. bank.

Doug: It's a mistake to think of banks in the U.S. as being private sector entities. U.S. banks got into bed with the state decades ago, and got even more closely entwined via the latest set of regulations, and bailouts.

At this point they're really parasitical entities.

Plus, I'd guess that whatever whistle-blowing WikiLeaks is planning, it probably has to do with the bailouts or other government interactions with the banks anyway – exactly the type of thing that needs to be exposed.

[Dec 04, 2010] Philip Giraldi " Antiwar Radio with Scott Horton and Charles Goyette

Former CIA officer Philip Giraldi discusses the theory that WikiLeaks is carrying out the agenda of a foreign power, the State Department engaging in CIA-style espionage, the US/Israeli 5-part plan for regime change in Iran and why Bradley Manning's (alleged) exposure of government-gone-wild is laudable but should be prosecuted.

MP3 here. (18:05)

Jlord :

I was a tad troubled by this interview, especially given what I would consider to be the generally good work of Giraldi. I would have liked to see Scott challenge him a bit more on this, what seems to me, bizarre theory that the leaks are some kind of plot.

Further, Giraldi's belief that Manning should be prosecuted with the fullest extent of the law isn't really surprising considering his past history I suppose, but still I find his belief that what Manning did was essentially wrong to be more than disturbing.

The diplomatic cables themselves cannot be used to verify fact, since they are, as a previous commentor noted, simply based on the viewpoints of US diplomats. Working for the US government suggests a certain world view that will create perceptions and assertions through these cables that don't necessarily hold true. What certain cables ay about Iran, for example that the Saudi's want war to me only shows how retarded the Saudi's are and how the satellits of Empire are attempting to control US foreign policy.

Further, if there seems to be a pattern about the documents themselves in terms of content, well, wikileaks did say they would be releasing them in segments so that they could be reported on properly. Perhaps some of these holes will be filled in upon the next segment, or the one after.

I don't know, I just found the whole interview a tad strange.

Phil Giraldi:

I knew some would be disturbed by my comments, but I do believe that any government has an obligation to protect SOME secrets. A true whistleblower reveals criminal behavior in the knowledge that he will probably be prosecuted.

If Manning, who agreed to protect classified information, believed that he had the right to make the decision to expose 250,000 documents he has to expect that there will be consequences.

And, while it is right to expose specific criminal activity, it is wrong to reveal great masses of information that demonstrate no such thing. Why should anyone have the right to know what US diplomats think after their confidential exchanges with foreign leaders?

That goes beyond wanting to root out criminal activity, which to me is the justification for whistleblowing.

Rob:

I respect and agree with Mr. Giraldi that it's always good to keep a certain level of healthy skepticism on everything, and we shouldn't dismiss every conspiracy theory on the grounds that it sounds too far-fetched because such conspiracies actually do exist (I'm sure sometimes truth is stranger than fiction), but there are some good reasons to give Wikileaks the benefit of the doubt.

1 : The extensive government secrecy is such a huge problem - whether it being finding excuses for us going to war and destroying Iraq or other such lies which can have disastrous consequences - that any negative effects resulting from the Wiki dumps are surely a lesser evil. Glenn Greenwald talked about this in a recent article, and I agree with him. Whatever mistakes they have made, it is much more urgent to uncover far more egregious goings-on, which people have the right to know about, regardless of any laws which protect secret government documents from being reviewed by the general population.

2 : We have only seen a couple hundred documents, so there will surely be more cables bearing on people like Mubarak, Netanyahu.

3 : The whole deal on Iran seems like a complete misconception to me. The fact that certain Arab leaders have called for military / drastic action against Iran in order to thwart any imaginary weapons program is IN NO WAY in my mind proof of any support for it, on the contrary. Support from whom? The majority of the population in Arab countries is against it, overwhelmingly, so why is so much emphasis being put on what these corrupt rulers think, or are saying in order to curry favor with American diplomats? This is a total disregard for any democratic principles, to imply that they truly represent their populations. They don't.

[Dec 04, 2010] WikiLeaks Archive - Dim View of Russia and Putin

NYTimes.com
By C. J. CHIVERS

Early in 2009, as recession rippled around the world, the United States Embassy in Moscow sent to Washington a cable summarizing whispers within Russia's political class. Prime Minister President Obama and his Russian counterpart, Dmitri A. Medvedev, have called a "reset" in relations.

But scores of secret American cables from recent years, obtained by WikiLeaks and made available to several news organizations, show that beneath the public efforts at warmer ties, the United States harbors a dim view of the post-Soviet Kremlin and its leadership, and little hope that Russia will become more democratic or reliable.

The cables portray Mr. Putin as enjoying supremacy over all other Russian public figures, yet undermined by the very nature of the post-Soviet country he helped build.

Even a man with his formidable will and intellect is shown beholden to intractable larger forces, including an inefficient economy and an unmanageable bureaucracy that often ignores his edicts.

In language candid and bald, the cables reveal an assessment of Mr. Putin's Russia as highly centralized, occasionally brutal and all but irretrievably cynical and corrupt. The Kremlin, by this description, lies at the center of a constellation of official and quasi-official rackets.

Throughout the internal correspondence between the American Embassy and Washington, the American diplomats in Moscow painted a Russia in which public stewardship was barely tended to and history was distorted. The Kremlin displays scant ability or inclination to reform what one cable characterized as a "modern brand of authoritarianism" accepted with resignation by the ruled.

Moreover, the cables reveal the limits of American influence within Russia and an evident dearth of diplomatic sources. The internal correspondence repeatedly reflected the analyses of an embassy whose staff was narrowly contained and had almost no access to Mr. Putin's inner circle.

In reporting to Washington, diplomats often summarized impressions from meetings not with Russian officials, but with Western colleagues or business executives. The impressions of a largely well-known cadre of Russian journalists, opposition politicians and research institute regulars rounded out many cables, with insights resembling what was published in liberal Russian newspapers and on Web sites.

The cables sketched life almost 20 years after the Soviet Union's disintegration, a period, as the cables noted, when Mr. Medvedev, the prime minister's understudy, is the lesser part of a strange "tandemocracy" and "plays Robin to Putin's Batman." All the while, another cable noted, "Stalin's ghost haunts the Metro."

Government Corruption

In the secret American description, official malfeasance and corruption infect all elements of Russian public life - from rigging elections, to persecuting rivals or citizens who pose a threat, to extorting businesses.

The corruption was described as a drag on the nation of sufficient significance to merit the attention of Mr. Medvedev and Mr. Putin, who, paradoxically, benefited from cronies who orchestrate graft but support the Kremlin.

A cable describing the government and style of Yuri M. Luzhkov, then the mayor of Moscow, presented the puzzle.

Since 2008, Mr. Medvedev has been the face and cheerleader for the nation's supposed anti-corruption campaign. Yet a veritable kaleidoscope of corruption thrived in Moscow, much of it under the protection of a mayor who served at the president's pleasure.

The embassy wrote of a "three-tiered structure" in Moscow's criminal world, with the mayor at the top, the police and intelligence officials at the second tier and those regarded as a municipality's predators - "ordinary criminals and corrupt inspectors" - at the bottom.

In this world the government effectively was the mafia. Extortion was so widespread, the cable noted, that it had become the business of the Interior Ministry and the federal intelligence service, known by their initials in Russian, the M.V.D. and the F.S.B.

"Moscow business owners understand that it is best to get protection from the MVD and FSB (rather than organized crime groups) since they not only have more guns, resources and power than criminal groups, but they are also protected by the law," the cable noted, citing a Russian source. "For this reason, protection from criminal gangs is no longer so high in demand."

The cable further described a delicate balance.

On one hand, the prime minister and the president benefited from votes Mr. Luzhkov delivered to the country's ruling party, and perhaps from corruption that one embassy source said was so profligate that witnesses saw suitcases, presumably full of cash, being carried into the Kremlin under armed guard.

On the other, the corruption and a flagrantly rigged election in 2009 for the city's legislature had raised the question of whether Mr. Luzhkov was worth the trouble.

The cable ended on a prescient note. "Ultimately, the tandem will put Luzhkov out to pasture," it said. Eight months after this cable was written, Mr. Medvedev dismissed Mr. Luzhkov.

The embassy's consistent assessments left little hope that removing one person would be enough. Russian corruption, the cables said, was structural.

One foreign citizen, whom the embassy described as having "made a fortune in Russia's casino business," said in 2009 "that the 'levels of corruption in business were worse than we could imagine' and that after working here for over 15 years and witnessing first-hand the behavior of GOR [government of Russia] officials at all levels, he could not imagine the system changing."

The same cable noted that even if the government wanted to change it might not be able to, given that "in 2006 - at the height of Putin's control in a booming economy - it was rumored within the Presidential Administration that as many as 60 percent of his orders were not being followed."

Secretive Business Deals

In Russia, the separation between the most important businesses and government officials runs from blurry to nonexistent. The cables rendered darkly how Russian companies - often relying on what one cable called "secretive deals involving intermediary companies with unknown owners and beneficiaries" - conducted their affairs.

The cables also detailed two separate but related concerns about Russia's oil and gas sectors: a lack of modern management and capital-improvement programs, and a tendency in Mr. Putin's circle to see energy resources as political levers.

One prominent Western oil executive told Ambassador Beyrle that the inefficiencies "are so huge" that "a well that would take ten days to drill in Canada would take 20" in Russia.

"Multiply that by hundreds or thousands and you can start to imagine the costs to the economy," the cable quoted the executive as saying.

The embassy's 2009 assessment of state-owned Gazprom, Russia's largest company, was similar. "Gazprom, it said, "must act in the interests of its political masters, even at the expense of sound economic decision-making."

The cables also showed how bureaucratic, national and economic power often all converged in the Kremlin, and how the state's suitors grasped that access often equaled results.

The summary of a meeting between an Italian and American diplomats in Moscow documented the Italian diplomat's exasperation with Mr. Putin and Silvio Berlusconi, Italy's prime minister, who had gained Russia's ear.

The diplomat said that the pair enjoyed such a close relationship that they shared a "direct line," and that the Italian Foreign Ministry and Embassy "only learn of conversations" between the premiers "after the fact, and with little detail or background."

The diplomat then "explained that while the close relationship is not ideal from the bureaucracy's perspective and more detrimental than beneficial, it can be useful at times.

"He cited," the cable added, "the case of the sale to Gazprom by Italian energy giant ENI of its 20 percent share in Gazprom's oil subsidiary Gazpromneft. He said Gazprom had insisted on paying far below the market price, but that it ultimately paid the market price after Berlusconi weighed in with Putin."

Other cables described how Western businesses sometimes managed to pursue their interests by personally engaging senior Russian officials, including President Medvedev, rather than getting lost in bureaucratic channels.

The experience in late 2009 of the Intel Corporation, which hoped to import 1,000 encrypted computers for its Russia offices, offered insights into the benefits of courting the top.

"Several high-level Intel officers, including CEO Craig Barrett, and other officials, such as American Chamber of Commerce President Andrew Somers, highlighted to the GOR interlocutors, including President Medvedev, the role Intel plays in employing over 1,000 Russian engineers," a cable said.

"This high-level lobbying secured Intel a meeting with key FSB officials to explain its needs," it continued. "Intel was able to demonstrate the reasonableness of its request and, as a result, by-passed the current extensive licensing requirement."

Chuck Mulloy, an Intel spokesman, said that the meetings were not about one shipment of computers; they created an expedited process for importing such equipment, not only for Intel but for their customers and distributors. "We didn't get this as a one-time thing," he said.

The cables further revealed how the nexus of business and state interests among Russia's ruling elite had fueled suspicions in Washington that Mr. Putin, in spite of his vigorous denials, had quietly amassed a personal fortune.

A confidential cable pointedly mentioned the Swiss oil-trading company Gunvor, as being "of particular note."

The company, the cable said, is "rumored to be one of Putin's sources of undisclosed wealth" and is owned by Gennadi N. Timchenko, who is "rumored to be a former K.G.B. colleague of Putin's." One estimate said the company might control half of Russian oil exports, potentially bringing its owners billions of dollars in profit.

Gunvor's profits were especially high, the cable claimed, because in one of the few deals in which details were known, a source said that the firm included a surcharge of $1 per barrel of oil. More competitive traders, the source said, might mark up a barrel by only a nickel.

The cables provide no evidence to support the allegations about Gunvor and Mr. Luzhkov, the former Moscow mayor; neither has been charged with any crimes.

Patience Unrewarded

If two words were to summarize the secret American assessment of its relations with the Kremlin, it would be these: suspicion and frustration.

A cornerstone of Washington's approach to the relationship has been patience. Privately, American diplomats have described the hope that by moderating public criticism of Russia and encouraging market principles, Russia's government and important companies might with time evolve.

The cables underscore how frustrating the patience has been.

A summary in November 2009 of the security dialogue between the United States and Russia coolly stated that in spite of warm words between Mr. Medvedev and Mr. Obama and the establishment of a new military-to-military working group, there remained "challenges in effecting real, substantive and ongoing" dialogue.

The Defense Ministry, the cable said "has not changed its modus operandi for information exchange nor routine dialoguing since the end of the Cold War."

Russian attendees at meetings, the cable said, "are closely monitored by their Military Intelligence (GRU) handlers," and are reluctant "to engage in any dialogues outside of tightly controlled statements recited from prepared texts."

When diplomats did meet Russian officials who chose to be candid, the message they heard was sometimes blunt.

In June 2009 a delegation of Washington analysts who were accompanied by diplomats met with Aleksandr Y. Skobeltsyn of Russia's Department for Military-Technical Cooperation to discuss American concerns about sales of anti-tank guided missiles and shoulder-launched antiaircraft missiles.

The latter are a special worry in the West, where security officials fear terrorists could fire them at passenger jets.

Mr. Skobeltsyn said that Russia "shared U.S. concerns about re-transfer vulnerabilities, noting that Latin America and Middle East were especially sensitive areas."

"But, he argued, if Russia did not provide these weapons to certain countries, then 'someone else' would."

Outright distrustful relations between the Kremlin and the Soviet Union's former vassals were also evident in the records. At an appearance in Washington in 2009, Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski of Poland said that American forces would be welcome in Poland "to protect against Russian aggression."

The comment, unwelcomed by Russia and the United States alike, ignited a minor flare-up. In a cable after Mr. Sikorski's appearance, the American Embassy said that Poland had established a Bureau of European Security, which "Polish diplomats jokingly refer to as the 'Office of Threats from the East.' "

The back-channel quip eventually provided insight into the diplomatic climate in Moscow. A Polish official, formerly posted to Moscow, noted that Russia's Foreign Ministry "threw this moniker back at him during a meeting."

He told his American colleagues that the "only way" that Russia's Foreign Ministry could have known of the nickname "was to have been listening in on his phone conversations with Warsaw" - a clear suggestion that his office in Russia had been bugged.

DMZ, NJ

Excellent overview of corruption in the USA. Now, how does corruption work in Russia?
lomtevas. New York, N.Y.December 1st
No one asked me my opinion of Putin and Medvedev's government. I believe the U.S. is way off the mark in describing Russia and its leaders.

comraderoger, Moscow

From the article:

"In Russia, the separation between the most important businesses and government officials runs from blurry to nonexistent. The cables rendered darkly how Russian companies - often relying on what one cable called "secretive deals involving intermediary companies with unknown owners and beneficiaries" - conducted their affairs."

Can the same not be said about the US government and companies such as Halliburton, KBR, Blackwater [Xe] and so on? All those no bid contracts, the billions of dollars that disappeared, the blatant corruption in the entire process.

And with the recent election, the first after the Citizen's United decision, the US government has only become even more beholden to its corporate benefactors.

FredJ, KNY
6:48 pm"The United States harbors a low view of the Russian leaders and little hope that Russia will become more democratic or reliable."

As a citizen of the United States, I have grown to harbor that same low view of my own country.

harry, michigan
nd how is this any different then america;venezula;china or any other country. Instead of suitcases of cash american political figures get their money via contributions or donations. Can you name any country where there is no corruption? Why do we feel that nautural resources need to be controlled by a few and not that particular countries natural asset to be shared by their entire citizenry, because human beings are vile and greedy. I guess if you keep your greed within some defined limits you can call yourself a democracy, but hey we can't even do that much.
Jason Atchley, Austin, TXDecember 1st
6:49 pmIt is very interesting to see the inner workings of diplomacy and how it "really" works. I understand it might not be the best situation for our Nation but it is compelling reading nonetheless.

Jason Atchley

Haitch76, NYC
Give up on this democracy business, for God's sake. Everyone preaches democracy but no one practices it. It's like the "free market"--never free, always controlled. Way back when, Madison thought that having one representative for 30,000 people was a sure sigh that the majority would never rule. Now we have 500,000 plus. Here in the good ole USA, we have oligarchy, ditto for Russia.
Tobias Weisserth, Hamburg, Germany
The weird thing is that the Russian authorities are actually acting outraged about the cables' contents. The information about Russia in the cables is already common knowledge among the general public in Europe for a long time. Everybody KNOWS Russia is a corrupt non-ethical state that is dominated by gangsters and doesn't have a functioning legal system. All you had to do to come to that conclusion a long time ago was to follow the regular news.

Isn't it funny how those leaked cables manage to embarrass both the US and Russia at the same time?

I hope state leaders keep their calm now.

LynneBoston, MA
This is so counter productive. I cannot believe there are any of us who do not speak about other expecting some sort of confidentiality. Childishness to assume otherwise. Destructive to believe you are a hero for exposing private conversations that absolutely hurt our standing in the world. I guess this administration will leave the US in worse standing than the last.
Cathy Kayser, San Jose, Costa Rica
Given the fact that Russia has been less than competely helpful in dealing with Iran, is it any wonder that US diplomatic officials consider their motives suspect?
Sebastien, P.Rocky Point, NY

Why can't Putin and Medvedev and the politician in Russia be simply bribed right in the open, like American Congress? Russian mafia would be called "lobbyists" instead and everything would be fine.

David, Sao Paulo
All very interesting. No doubt, Russia is corrupt. The US is also corrupt, in many of the same ways. Are sweetheart deals that shovelled billions into Halliburton and Blackwater any different than Russian corruption? Putin might well be disengaged. Bush was incredibly disengaged and frequently working from home in Crawford. Sharing the spoils of corruption is a challenge for the Russians, just as it is for the Americans. AIG, Goldman and other elite vampire squid have been inhaling all that is not nailed down as aggressively as Russian businesses attack their own treasury. The common man's only real recourse is to invest in those companies who seem most likely to benefit from the cronyistic farce we pretend is market capitalism.
AmatureHistorian, NYC
So what? At least things gets done over there if you have the connection or money. Russian has been complaining for years that agreement reached with American official/envoy is useless because the president/congress often decides to tag on their pork. There is even an instance where the official pretends to speak for Bush Sr. when he is in fact speaking for himself. Moscow follow through with the agreement and ended up protesting to Washington about breach of understanding.
Nightwood, MI
Please oh please, tell me something new. Maybe our super intellectual or mystic George Bush could look into Putin's eyes and see an upright, decent person ready to work for the common good. Nobody, nobody that i know has ever completely trusted Russia. There have been times when we have been hopeful, but it has always been a wary sort of hopeful, never firmly grounded in reality.
Ron Bannon, Newark, NJ
Good! Our government has consistently pried into our private/secret lives, and it's about time that we the people pried into theirs.
Frunobulax, Chicago
The rackets that run the US write checks to politicians and lobbyists. I'd take the Russian rackets any day: at least there's no pretence that they're criminals.
lisztian, San Diego, CA
So many of the contents of the cables are so easily available from public sources that it's hard to see why many of them were made restricted-access. The only surprise would have been if our diplomats had ever shared--or never lost--Bush's rosy-eyed initial perception of Putin's soul.

I'm also sure that every country's embassy in DC sends similarly jaundiced reports home about politics and personalities here. Ally or adversary, you need to know the weaknesses of your counterparts. Now, when will Wikileaks unveil a trove of Russian, Chinese or British diplomatic correspondence?

Casual Observer, Los Angelest
Putin is what he is and anyone who does not imagine that he knows what everyone else thinks of him underestimates the kind of person needed to survive in post-U.S.S.R. Russia.

Russia is the victim of centuries of autocracy or anarchy and so has never been able to enjoy the benefits available to stable and egalitarian societies. If that was not bad enough, Russia proved that Marx was a great writer but a poor designer of social systems in just seventy years, leaving it with a strangely incompetent assembly of dysfunctional subsystems that completely controlled the entire society. There was no state that could be reoriented to a more legalistic and democratic form of government. On top of that most all of the participants in the ruling class were highly intelligent and realized that they had a very screwed up country.

Enter the helpful products of Professor Friedman's Chicago Day Glo Mysterious Free Market Players ensemble to encourage the most screwed up redistribution of wealth and enterprise in human history, creating nothing so remarkable as oligarchial control of the Russian economy.

Only a former top officer of the KGB could ever figure out what is going on in Russia, so Putin or somebody like him was destined to replace first more democratically inclined leaders following Gorbachev.

Dick Bloom, West Chester, PA
We had our chance under Boris Yeltsin and blew it. We helped overthrow the old regime and then stood and watched while the Russian economy self-destructed. Putin knows what the US appears unable to fathom: that his semi-planned economy is a temporary expedient until the country fully embraces the free market system, just as he is. The taste for free enterprise isn't necessarily inherited, you know, even though you feel it is. For millennia now, Russians, according to scholar Richard Pipes, have inherited just the opposite--the desire to be told what to do. But that Putin's Russia doesn't meet our high standards of freedom is our own damned fault: had we handled the 1990s differently, we'd not only have a true friend in the Kremlin but an equal and opposite trading partner, with markets so unimaginably vast they'd keep the rest of the world busy until Putin was no longer needed. But we blew it.
Jeff, L.A.
A serious student of American history and the Cold War will understand that although the U.S. was victorious in terms of surviving the Cold War it broke our political system resulting in a right wing coup against President Kennedy. The coup leaders considered Kennedy a traitor, because he sought to lessen tensions with the Soviet Union, deescalate Vietnam and no doubt because he supported civil rights legislation and regulation of business at home. The template for the coup involved allowing all aspects of American society to continue to function as before, including the press, with the hidden hand of the security apparatus influencing opinion and guiding policy while rewarding those institutions directly related to the coup such as the CIA, FBI, military industrial complex, and right wing fascist billionaires.

Putin, when faced with the civil and economic anarchy of the collapse of the Soviet Union, and being a long term KGB agent was fully aware of the American coup, and used it as a rough template to order Russian society, meaning the security service would be the power behind the throne, and the media would self censor etc.

Since Russia has no tradition of democracy the template eroded over time into a kleptocracy that attempts to appear benign and meet the basic needs of the Russian consumer as does the United States. The key difference is the disproportionate power corporations have in the United States.

George Xanich, Bethel, Maine
Russia's, then the Soviet Union, past is based on paranoia of the West, as history has shown Russia victimize by foreign invaders. From the Muscovite empire to Napoleon onto WWII, Russia has always made self sacrifices to preserve its autonomy. These leaks show Russia and its leaders in less than a stellar view. Because of Russia's xenophobia the leaks only adds to their paranoia of the west!

thomas, nyc

the frog is calling the lizard ugly......we have the highest percentage of incarcerations to population on the planet....including Russia & China....democracy indeed!

marcchi, IL

The really important news in the current wikileaks release is that gates, clinton, and possibly obama --if he did micromanage the honduras coup and its aftershocks-- committed a felony by conspiring to undermine the enforcement of an american law and by suppressing a well-argued and documented denunciation by a usa government official, in the honduras embassy of the usa, that a fact punished by american law, a coup d'etat against a democracy, had taken place.

because of their behavior after the honduras coup, gates, clinton, and possibly obama have made themselves *impeachable* for violating their oath to defend the american constitution and make any possible effort to respect and enforce the laws of the usa. [and congrats to lanny davis!]

karlmarx, Boston MA
The whole Wikileaks episode is real interesting, this has happened a number of times before. How come there are no French, German, or as Friedman was want to say Chinese Wikileaks? How come we don't post secret communiques of Al Quaeda. The evidence like that of 9/11 suggests widespread incompetence. Rather than worry about the content of these leaks a more productive idea is to understand the totally lax security that brought us 9/11 and now this. Can't the U.S. government keep anything secret.

RefugeeUS

Clearly, the pot (US gov) is calling the kettle (Russian Gov) BLACK (corrupt oligarchy).

With a little editing of the article, our current state of affairs does not look much better than our "frieds" (frenemy?) across the Bering Strait:

"In [the US], the separation between the most important [corporations] and government officials runs from blurry to nonexistent. [Wars, bailouts, elections, and high court decisions] rendered darkly how [US] companies - often relying ... "secretive deals involving [lobbyists] with []known [clients] and beneficiaries" - conducted their affairs."

John Aronson, Hampshire County, MA
We here in the US should find it disturbing that our State Department appears to believe there are only two kinds of people in the world; contemptible fools and contemptible toadies.
awhitdsan francisco
So the Embassy staff is contained. How many of them speak fluent Russian? How many have social relations with ordinary Russians?
Scottsdale Jack, Scottsdale, AZ
7:44 pmOh, the Russians aren't "reliable"? What does that mean? They don't automatically support every crusade the US elite decides to engage in (attack on Iraq, pressure on Iran, mindless support for Israel, etc.?).

News flash: lots of us peons here in the US don't support these things either.

Mr. Spock, NYC
i've read all the comments and i find the knee-jerk cynicism equating the US corruption to Russian corruption interesting. Americans don't travel enough. I've spent extensive time in Eastern Europe and Russia, the differences between corruption there and here is not just in magnitude but in kind. No comparison. Every level of govt. is corrupt. Most frighteningly, the police. Profoundly corrupt.

These comments that want to equate the problems in the US with those in Russia simply can't fathom what it is like over there. The US has its problems, especially in the systemic corruption of congress and the fund raising of elected officials, but it isn't close to Russia.

Refugee, US
@30 (anonymous from WA). While your love of your new country is commendable, your anger towards those who critique the US govt/system by comparing it to the Russian govt/system appears misplaced. There is nothing ignorant nor ungrateful in criticizing the US system, especially when it strays far from ideals such as fairness, honesty, dignity, etc. In fact, each American is granted the right to do so by the First Amendment of the United States constitution and should exercise such right freely.

There is a difference between the American ideals (such as freedom, democracy, balance of powers, a middle class) and reality. I grew up in a very corrupt system (the Philippines) and have traveled many times to Russia, so I understand what living in a corrupt system looks like. One gets a little concerned when actions, procedures, roadblocks, etc of American agencies and large corporations are becoming as absurd, irrational, pointless, and self-interested as those in the Filipino and Russian systems.

momma methane, luzerne
Putin's swiss oil interests don't sound too much different than Corbett's ties to Dutch Shell vis a vis the sale of Marcellus Shale access by East Resources in here in PA. Penn's woods aren't so sylvan, and Harrisburg ain't that much different from Moscow....
satyasampurnaKota
Going by the track record, the corruption at high level exist even in American government. The findings of prefrential allotment of business to certain influential politician companies post Iraq war is the best example.
Paul I. Adujie, New York, United States
The Pentagon Papers are the precursors or progenitors of WikiLeaks and Mr. Julien Assange ... I do fervently and passionately believe that Mr. Assange and his coterie of associates and facilitators stand for truth and honesty in public discourse.

Conspiracies, falsehoods and deceits, are the stock of diplomats, politicians and government officials... it seems... from these revelations by WikiLeaks ... conspiracies, falsehoods and deceits are the tools of injustices worldwide... and this is what WikiLeaks have exposed again and again...

The world should starve politicians, diplomats and other charlatans of secrecy which enable them to engage in shenanigans!

WikiLeaks and The New York Times stand for public good, our common good.

Andre Shoumatoff, Park City, Utah
Very insightful article detailing the depth of corruption in Russia. This means that WikiLeaks may have actually caused some benefit as it may perhaps serve as a wake-up call to some officials in Russia. It is sad to see this country having gone this direction when it so-recently had so much potential.

[Nov 28, 2010] Tax Hikes, Status Competitiveness, and Social Stratification

naked capitalism

Hugh

I think there is this whole mythology about money, that it was one of the primordial constituents of the universe, that if the rich get their hands on it, it is rightfully theirs, but if any of the rest of us do, our ownership of it is highly conditional and negotiable.

Money is nothing more than tokens that give access to resources. Most of us would have no problem with the idea that a society should be able to distribute its resources in a fair and equitable manner. But substitute the word "money" into the above phrase, and you will elicit every hackneyed argument we have all heard a million times about how money is some indissolvable part of our being and that the loss of a limb or possibly two would be preferable to any reduction in wealth, even if with such a reduction, you still would be able to live comfortably.

This mythology of money is all political, class oriented, and class generated propaganda. You can quibble about the exact figures but roughly speaking the top 1% own 1/3 of the country and the top 10% own 2/3 of it. A democratic society and this degree of wealth inequality are antithetical to each other. The wealthy tell us that any mitigation of this inequality will be tantamount to theft and will ruin the country.

If we turn back to the resource perspective though, we see the opposite is true. What is ruining the country is the out of whack distribution of resources, and no group in a society should be able to hoard society's resources at the expense of society as a whole. That is what we are really talking about here.

Now I am sure some (the corporatists, plutocrats, kleptocrats, however you wish to call them) will say that if we support a redistribution of the nation's resources, the government is likely to take them and misspend them. Well, yes. But why is this so? It's so because our government is bought by the those very same corporatists, plutocrats, and kleptocrats. It is like they have a sockpuppet on each hand, and the sockpuppet on the left hand is warning us that the sockpuppet on the right hand can't be trusted.

And that's what this comes down to. We need both economic and political solutions that will restore the use of society's resources to society and remove the corporatist/kleptocratic stranglehold on our political process. This is not an either/or. It is a sine qua non.

kievite

Hugh,

I think you are missing one important dimension: the ability to use those allocated tokens for resources. That make your point of view way too simplistic and historically belonging to pre-Marx thinking about the problem. Ability to use capital productively is a skill that is unequally distributed.

There is a huge difference between spending those tokens on girls and drinks and building a company that produces a new, useful product. So the society as a whole is interested in allocation of those tokens to "right people".

After all this unequal allocation has a natural limit of approximately 80 years. That's why I think the inheritance tax is so important, but unequal distribution of "tokens" can be tolerated in democratic societies.

Allen C:

Ultimately, a society is worse off when many folks collect handsome incomes compared to their relative contribution. The declining numbers of truly productive are unwilling and/or unable to run for public office. Societal decay is a multi-generational phenomenon requiring both recognition and process in order to prevent its otherwise certain outcome.

Unfortunately, we are unable to bring back our Founding Fathers for a revision. It may be impossible to craft a societal governance model that inherently prevents decay.

[Nov 28, 2010] "FDR, Reagan, and Obama"

Obama is essentially a center-right President.
Obama is a "captive of right-wing mythology":

FDR, Reagan, and Obama, by Paul Krugman: Some readers may recall that back during the Democratic primary Barack Obama shocked many progressives by praising Ronald Reagan as someone who brought America a "sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship that had been missing." I was among those who found this deeply troubling - because the idea that Reagan brought a transformation in American dynamism is a right-wing myth, not borne out by the facts. (There was a surge in productivity and innovation - but it happened in the 90s, under Clinton, not under Reagan).

All the usual suspects pooh-poohed these concerns; it was ridiculous, they said, to think of Obama as a captive of right-wing mythology.

But are you so sure about that now?

And here's this, from Thomas Ferguson: Obama saying

We didn't actually, I think, do what Franklin Delano Roosevelt did, which was basically wait for six months until the thing had gotten so bad that it became an easier sell politically because we thought that was irresponsible. We had to act quickly.

As Ferguson explains, this is a right-wing smear. What actually happened was that during the interregnum between the 1932 election and the1933 inauguration - which was much longer then, because the inauguration didn't take place until March - Herbert Hoover tried to rope FDR into maintaining his policies, including rigid adherence to the gold standard and fiscal austerity. FDR declined to be part of this.

But Obama buys the right-wing smear.

More and more, it's becoming clear that progressives who had their hearts set on Obama were engaged in a huge act of self-delusion. Once you got past the soaring rhetoric you noticed, if you actually paid attention to what he said, that he largely accepted the conservative storyline, a view of the world, including a mythological history, that bears little resemblance to the facts.

And confronted with a situation utterly at odds with that storyline … he stayed with the myth.

sam

I repeat myself yet again on this blog, but if you actually examine what Obama has done and wants to do he is essentially a center-right President. For example, if you read in to the recently passed Health Care legislation it's almost identical to what McCain and Orin Hatch proposed in the nineties.

It seems the Democratic Party believes without having sufficient evidence that the country, in general, has shifted right when in fact most polls show that most Americans, while claiming to be Republican or conservative, hold beliefs similar to the views of Democrats who believe that the government has an important role to play in society besides transferring income from the very bottom to the highest top.

[Nov 28, 2010] Tax Hikes, Status Competitiveness, and Social Stratification

naked capitalism

Hugh

I think there is this whole mythology about money, that it was one of the primordial constituents of the universe, that if the rich get their hands on it, it is rightfully theirs, but if any of the rest of us do, our ownership of it is highly conditional and negotiable.

Money is nothing more than tokens that give access to resources. Most of us would have no problem with the idea that a society should be able to distribute its resources in a fair and equitable manner. But substitute the word "money" into the above phrase, and you will elicit every hackneyed argument we have all heard a million times about how money is some indissolvable part of our being and that the loss of a limb or possibly two would be preferable to any reduction in wealth, even if with such a reduction, you still would be able to live comfortably.

This mythology of money is all political, class oriented, and class generated propaganda. You can quibble about the exact figures but roughly speaking the top 1% own 1/3 of the country and the top 10% own 2/3 of it. A democratic society and this degree of wealth inequality are antithetical to each other. The wealthy tell us that any mitigation of this inequality will be tantamount to theft and will ruin the country.

If we turn back to the resource perspective though, we see the opposite is true. What is ruining the country is the out of whack distribution of resources, and no group in a society should be able to hoard society's resources at the expense of society as a whole. That is what we are really talking about here.

Now I am sure some (the corporatists, plutocrats, kleptocrats, however you wish to call them) will say that if we support a redistribution of the nation's resources, the government is likely to take them and misspend them. Well, yes. But why is this so? It's so because our government is bought by the those very same corporatists, plutocrats, and kleptocrats. It is like they have a sockpuppet on each hand, and the sockpuppet on the left hand is warning us that the sockpuppet on the right hand can't be trusted.

And that's what this comes down to. We need both economic and political solutions that will restore the use of society's resources to society and remove the corporatist/kleptocratic stranglehold on our political process. This is not an either/or. It is a sine qua non.

kievite

Hugh,

I think you are missing one important dimension: the ability to use those allocated tokens for resources. That make your point of view way too simplistic and historically belonging to pre-Marx thinking about the problem. Ability to use capital productively is a skill that is unequally distributed.

There is a huge difference between spending those tokens on girls and drinks and building a company that produces a new, useful product. So the society as a whole is interested in allocation of those tokens to "right people".

After all this unequal allocation has a natural limit of approximately 80 years. That's why I think the inheritance tax is so important, but unequal distribution of "tokens" can be tolerated in democratic societies.

Allen C:

Ultimately, a society is worse off when many folks collect handsome incomes compared to their relative contribution. The declining numbers of truly productive are unwilling and/or unable to run for public office. Societal decay is a multi-generational phenomenon requiring both recognition and process in order to prevent its otherwise certain outcome.

Unfortunately, we are unable to bring back our Founding Fathers for a revision. It may be impossible to craft a societal governance model that inherently prevents decay.

[Nov 28, 2010] "FDR, Reagan, and Obama"

Obama is essentially a center-right President.
Obama is a "captive of right-wing mythology":

FDR, Reagan, and Obama, by Paul Krugman: Some readers may recall that back during the Democratic primary Barack Obama shocked many progressives by praising Ronald Reagan as someone who brought America a "sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship that had been missing." I was among those who found this deeply troubling - because the idea that Reagan brought a transformation in American dynamism is a right-wing myth, not borne out by the facts. (There was a surge in productivity and innovation - but it happened in the 90s, under Clinton, not under Reagan).

All the usual suspects pooh-poohed these concerns; it was ridiculous, they said, to think of Obama as a captive of right-wing mythology.

But are you so sure about that now?

And here's this, from Thomas Ferguson: Obama saying

We didn't actually, I think, do what Franklin Delano Roosevelt did, which was basically wait for six months until the thing had gotten so bad that it became an easier sell politically because we thought that was irresponsible. We had to act quickly.

As Ferguson explains, this is a right-wing smear. What actually happened was that during the interregnum between the 1932 election and the1933 inauguration - which was much longer then, because the inauguration didn't take place until March - Herbert Hoover tried to rope FDR into maintaining his policies, including rigid adherence to the gold standard and fiscal austerity. FDR declined to be part of this.

But Obama buys the right-wing smear.

More and more, it's becoming clear that progressives who had their hearts set on Obama were engaged in a huge act of self-delusion. Once you got past the soaring rhetoric you noticed, if you actually paid attention to what he said, that he largely accepted the conservative storyline, a view of the world, including a mythological history, that bears little resemblance to the facts.

And confronted with a situation utterly at odds with that storyline … he stayed with the myth.

sam

I repeat myself yet again on this blog, but if you actually examine what Obama has done and wants to do he is essentially a center-right President. For example, if you read in to the recently passed Health Care legislation it's almost identical to what McCain and Orin Hatch proposed in the nineties.

It seems the Democratic Party believes without having sufficient evidence that the country, in general, has shifted right when in fact most polls show that most Americans, while claiming to be Republican or conservative, hold beliefs similar to the views of Democrats who believe that the government has an important role to play in society besides transferring income from the very bottom to the highest top.

[Nov 16, 2010] Chris Hedges Death of the Liberal Class

See also American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America The deeply un-Christian ideology of the Christian "dominionists" (about 7% of Christians) with the behavior and belief systems that were part and parcel of fascism. . The author tries to answer the questions: How is it that well intentioned churches and their members have come to believe that homosexuality is THE problem facing the U.S. today? How can self-professed Christians become unabased cheerleaders for war? How do Christians get so caught up in television personality cults masquerading as Christian ministries? Seel also the_best_and_the_brightest_have_led_america_off_a_cliff
November 16, 2010 | naked capitalism
Don't expect the so-called experts to fix it either. They can't. They are loyal to the decaying political and financial systems that empowered them.

Kevin de Bruxelles:

In most countries, the "liberal class" is to the right of center. In these countries the working classes would never be foolish enough to put their faith in a liberal class. Instead they built up workingmen's social democratic and labour parties to represent their interests. In America a relatively high standard of living (compared to the rest of the world) was achieved and the sacrifices required to have a socialist party (higher taxes for example) were rejected by the American working classes and they are now reaping the results.

The liberal class does do a good job in looking after their own narrow class interests. They dominate higher education; move effortlessly within the corporate elites; are able to protect many of their identity politics clients, all while sneering down on the unwashed mass of working class peasants. They are able to avoid the fallout of their failed policies by living in wealthy enclaves and sending their children to private schools. Since looking out for the working classes would in fact hit at some of their privileges and/or mean curbing some of the more outrageous demands of their identity clients, there is not one reason liberals should change what they are doing.

What does need to change is working class people thinking the liberals (or conservatives for that matter) are going to look after working class interests. Of course limited between a choice of the disdain of the liberal class versus the crass emotional appeals of conservatives, the working classes all too often fall for the latter.

Hedges is able to occupy the high moral ground of a social critic only at the price of rejecting power. While that is fine for him – and social critics are certainly valuable – it is a bit like a priest rejecting the sinful world of reality and retreating to a monastery from where he can issue morally indisputable proclamations. The working classes need to develop a political identity that is hungry for power and everything that goes along with it.

The problem is that there is a deep hatred of the working classes within liberal circles. Who can deny that one of the strongest forces working against civil rights were the white working classes? The same thing goes for many of the identity clients so beloved by Liberals. Gays, feminism, illegal immigration, diversity in general, etc are all things looked at with suspicion at best within the working classes.

But the working classes are now so overwhelmed by non-stop entertainment, especially sports, that they have little to no time for any sort of political thinking outside of emotional reactions to the latest race-based topic. But it is only they who can advance their class interests. Only when they put down the remote control and start organizing themselves the way their European cousins did a century ago will American working classes start to reverse their steady 40 years of decline. Waiting for some sort of reformed Liberal class to do it for them will just lead to even more decades of despair.

Death of the Liberal Class

October 21, 2010

Thomas King:

5.0 out of 5 stars A compelling analysis of the threat to democracy in America

In THE DEATH OF THE LIBERAL CLASS, Chris Hedges makes the case that the liberal class -- which historically has spoken for the interests of the poor and middle classes -- has largely been devastated, or at least co-opted, by a corporate elite that is relentlessly driving the country toward oligarchy. The liberal class has abandoned its traditional role in democracy and has instead endorsed unfettered capitalism and globalization as well as profit driven wars, and as a result, any realistic check on the power of corporate interests has been obliterated. Hedges effectively uses his own experiences, and those of others, to show how journalism -- even at elite "liberal" publications like the New York Times -- is being increasingly distorted and controlled by those with money and power.

As Hedges points out, the real division in America today is not between Democrats and Republicans, but between average citizens and the corporate and financial elite. Addressing -- or even discussing -- the problem is nearly impossible because doing so involves transgressing the taboo of class warfare and invoking the "vocabulary of Marx." Without a robust liberal voice to engage in this debate, there is a very real danger that things will degrade into violence as the middle and working classes become increasingly disenfranchised, angry and confused.

The final chapter of the book talks about the impact of the Internet and how, rather than being a medium for broad-based, enlightened discourse, if often results in increased "balkanization" and hardening of views. The Internet is also destroying the livelihood of much of the creative class that has traditionally been one of the pillars of liberalism.

Hedges is correct to recognize the role that technology is playing -- but the future impact is likely to be far greater than most people imagine. It is not just about the Internet. All forms of information technology are accelerating, and the next decade is likely to see unprecedented advances in areas like job automation as well as in technologies that further enable the offshoring of work. The result will be even more dramatic inequality of both income and power as wages are further depressed and unemployment rises. For an overview of how technology is likely to impact the future economic and social landscape, I would strongly recommend this book:

The Lights in the Tunnel: Automation, Accelerating Technology and the Economy of the Future

As Hedges points out, the liberal class has been swept aside and the social safety nets for the middle and working classes are being relentlessly destroyed -- and it is happening just as we will have the most need for those safety nets. To understand the full extent of the danger we will soon face, read both "The Death of the Liberal Class" (for political perspective) and "The Lights in the Tunnel" (to understand the coming impact of technology).

[Nov 16, 2010] Chris Hedges Death of the Liberal Class

See also American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America The deeply un-Christian ideology of the Christian "dominionists" (about 7% of Christians) with the behavior and belief systems that were part and parcel of fascism. . The author tries to answer the questions: How is it that well intentioned churches and their members have come to believe that homosexuality is THE problem facing the U.S. today? How can self-professed Christians become unabased cheerleaders for war? How do Christians get so caught up in television personality cults masquerading as Christian ministries? Seel also the_best_and_the_brightest_have_led_america_off_a_cliff
November 16, 2010 | naked capitalism
Don't expect the so-called experts to fix it either. They can't. They are loyal to the decaying political and financial systems that empowered them.

Kevin de Bruxelles:

In most countries, the "liberal class" is to the right of center. In these countries the working classes would never be foolish enough to put their faith in a liberal class. Instead they built up workingmen's social democratic and labour parties to represent their interests. In America a relatively high standard of living (compared to the rest of the world) was achieved and the sacrifices required to have a socialist party (higher taxes for example) were rejected by the American working classes and they are now reaping the results.

The liberal class does do a good job in looking after their own narrow class interests. They dominate higher education; move effortlessly within the corporate elites; are able to protect many of their identity politics clients, all while sneering down on the unwashed mass of working class peasants. They are able to avoid the fallout of their failed policies by living in wealthy enclaves and sending their children to private schools. Since looking out for the working classes would in fact hit at some of their privileges and/or mean curbing some of the more outrageous demands of their identity clients, there is not one reason liberals should change what they are doing.

What does need to change is working class people thinking the liberals (or conservatives for that matter) are going to look after working class interests. Of course limited between a choice of the disdain of the liberal class versus the crass emotional appeals of conservatives, the working classes all too often fall for the latter.

Hedges is able to occupy the high moral ground of a social critic only at the price of rejecting power. While that is fine for him – and social critics are certainly valuable – it is a bit like a priest rejecting the sinful world of reality and retreating to a monastery from where he can issue morally indisputable proclamations. The working classes need to develop a political identity that is hungry for power and everything that goes along with it.

The problem is that there is a deep hatred of the working classes within liberal circles. Who can deny that one of the strongest forces working against civil rights were the white working classes? The same thing goes for many of the identity clients so beloved by Liberals. Gays, feminism, illegal immigration, diversity in general, etc are all things looked at with suspicion at best within the working classes.

But the working classes are now so overwhelmed by non-stop entertainment, especially sports, that they have little to no time for any sort of political thinking outside of emotional reactions to the latest race-based topic. But it is only they who can advance their class interests. Only when they put down the remote control and start organizing themselves the way their European cousins did a century ago will American working classes start to reverse their steady 40 years of decline. Waiting for some sort of reformed Liberal class to do it for them will just lead to even more decades of despair.

Death of the Liberal Class

October 21, 2010

Thomas King:

5.0 out of 5 stars A compelling analysis of the threat to democracy in America

In THE DEATH OF THE LIBERAL CLASS, Chris Hedges makes the case that the liberal class -- which historically has spoken for the interests of the poor and middle classes -- has largely been devastated, or at least co-opted, by a corporate elite that is relentlessly driving the country toward oligarchy. The liberal class has abandoned its traditional role in democracy and has instead endorsed unfettered capitalism and globalization as well as profit driven wars, and as a result, any realistic check on the power of corporate interests has been obliterated. Hedges effectively uses his own experiences, and those of others, to show how journalism -- even at elite "liberal" publications like the New York Times -- is being increasingly distorted and controlled by those with money and power.

As Hedges points out, the real division in America today is not between Democrats and Republicans, but between average citizens and the corporate and financial elite. Addressing -- or even discussing -- the problem is nearly impossible because doing so involves transgressing the taboo of class warfare and invoking the "vocabulary of Marx." Without a robust liberal voice to engage in this debate, there is a very real danger that things will degrade into violence as the middle and working classes become increasingly disenfranchised, angry and confused.

The final chapter of the book talks about the impact of the Internet and how, rather than being a medium for broad-based, enlightened discourse, if often results in increased "balkanization" and hardening of views. The Internet is also destroying the livelihood of much of the creative class that has traditionally been one of the pillars of liberalism.

Hedges is correct to recognize the role that technology is playing -- but the future impact is likely to be far greater than most people imagine. It is not just about the Internet. All forms of information technology are accelerating, and the next decade is likely to see unprecedented advances in areas like job automation as well as in technologies that further enable the offshoring of work. The result will be even more dramatic inequality of both income and power as wages are further depressed and unemployment rises. For an overview of how technology is likely to impact the future economic and social landscape, I would strongly recommend this book:

The Lights in the Tunnel: Automation, Accelerating Technology and the Economy of the Future

As Hedges points out, the liberal class has been swept aside and the social safety nets for the middle and working classes are being relentlessly destroyed -- and it is happening just as we will have the most need for those safety nets. To understand the full extent of the danger we will soon face, read both "The Death of the Liberal Class" (for political perspective) and "The Lights in the Tunnel" (to understand the coming impact of technology).

[Nov 13, 2010] "Money and the Midterms- Are the Parties Over- Interview with Thomas Ferguson"

But in fact, American political parties are mostly bank accounts. What you are told is the voice of the people is usually the sound of money talking.

First posted at New Deal 2.0

Lynn Parramore: What do you make of the 2010 Election?

Thomas Ferguson: The 2010 election was not like others. It was certainly not simply 2006 in reverse, this time with the Republicans winning by a landslide. There is an obvious cumulative process at work here, with first one party and then the other receiving lopsided votes of no confidence from voters. The U.S. economy is barely moving; millions of Americans are looking for work and struggling to find ways to salvage their life savings and pensions; the international position of the U.S. is sliding; and the government is largely paralyzed on issues that voters care about most. We have clearly been in a political crisis for some years; the meaning of the 2010 election is that this crisis is becoming much deeper, moving into an entirely different stage. The parallels to the Great Depression are eerie: At that time, in many countries, voters seem to have followed an "in-out," "out-in" rule. But that process does not go on forever. As the Depression deepened with no solutions, all kinds of strange creatures started creeping out of the shadows. The U.S. seems to be entering that stage.

Lynn Parramore: You're implying the political system failed in some serious way. How so?

Thomas Ferguson: 2008 had all the earmarks of a classic realigning election, as my old colleague Walter Dean Burnham describes them. In the wake of the financial collapse, it looked for all the world like voters were ready for, even demanding, major reforms. They had elected a Democratic President on a promise of "Change," with both houses of Congress solidly Democratic. That's why many people were thinking that Obama was going give us a modern New Deal. They really believed him when he promised change. Instead, Obama's failure on the economy has discredited the whole idea of the activist state. The dimensions of this failure were spectacular: he didn't move aggressively to combat unemployment, the economic stimulus was half as large as it needed to be, and he didn't deal with the mortgage crisis. So unemployment stayed way up, and many people remain in danger of losing their homes or are underwater on their mortgages, with the whole housing sector stalling out. To make matters worse, the administration lavished aid on the financial sector. The spectacle of the government aiding bankers, who turned around and paid themselves record bonuses, has just been unbearable for millions of people.

What the election really shows is not that the parties can't agree - Democrats and most of the GOP leadership finally agreed on the bank bailouts, for example - but that the American people will not accept the policies that leaders in both parties prefer. In 2006 and 2008, the population voted no-confidence in the Republicans on the war and the economy. They have just now presented the Democrats with another resounding a no-confidence vote. What makes the current situation intractable is the fundamental reason for these serial failures. It's obvious: big money dominates both major parties. The Obama campaign's dependence on money and personnel from the financial sector was clear to anyone who looked, even before he won the nomination, promoted Geithner, brought Summers back, and reappointed Bernanke. For years I've promised people that I'll tell you who bought your candidate before you vote for him or her, by simply applying my "investment theory of political parties." When I analyzed the early money in Obama's campaign in March, 2008, it was impossible not to see that many of the people responsible for the financial crisis were major Obama supporters. As I wrote for TPM, serious financial reform would not be on President Obama's agenda.

Lynn Parramore: Lots of people point out that the banks have paid back the bailout funds and that the government actually made money on the deal. Can Obama at least claim that this policy was good for the American people?

Thomas Ferguson: The bailout was originally not Obama's but George Bush's, though Obama supported it during the campaign. The "banks-paid-us-back" story is mostly Treasury propaganda. The claim is really based on a narrow accounting of TARP funds. In fact, a lot of that aid has not been paid back. AIG, for example, is still heavily owned by the government. Secondly, the aid was way, way underpriced - meaning that the federal government got very little for its money. If you want to see what market-driven terms you could get for aiding banks at the height of the crisis, just look at what Warren Buffett received for buying into Goldman Sachs. Most importantly of all, the banks actually got far more help than the direct TARP monies. They received sweeping FDIC guarantees on their debt and truly gigantic amounts of aid from Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, and the Federal Reserve. All three of these entities have supported the market for mortgage-backed securities that the banks own. They bought huge amounts of them, taking the risks right out of banks, putting it on taxpayers, and in the process handing handsome profits to banks. Regulators allowed the banks to rip off their depositors and credit and debit card holders, while the Fed handed out virtually free money to banks. To add insult to injury, the regulators have allowed the bankers to use the profits from all these government subsidies to award themselves huge, indeed, record-setting bonuses. Those funds should have been used to strengthen the balance sheets of the banks. And if all this weren't enough, regulators also permitted the banks to hide the true value of their bad loans and they let it be known that the largest ones were Too Big To Fail, which allows them to borrow funds more cheaply than smaller banks. The net result of these big bank-friendly "forbearance" policies is that we have all paid to make these banks fabulously profitable, yet they still remain very weak institutions and are not lending. The resemblance to Japan's "lost decade" is obvious.

Lynn Parramore: Was there ever a chance that Obama could be a new FDR?

Thomas Ferguson: People who were hailing Obama as a new FDR were viewing American politics through the wrong lens. They were treating public policy as the result of the will of voters. But in fact, American political parties are mostly bank accounts. What you are told is the voice of the people is usually the sound of money talking.

Much of my research has been devoted to showing how both parties are dominated by blocs of large investors. The policy choices political parties present to the public on Social Security, macroeconomic policy, campaign finance reform, and indeed nearly every other policy area save a handful of hot-button "social issues" are basically dominated by big money. The consequences are disastrous: Neither party can level with the American people in crises. They cannot diagnose problems like the financial crisis with any honesty and they can't make any detailed case for why the policies they do sponsor would actually benefit ordinary Americans. What we get instead are pseudo-explanations, myths, and sometimes, obvious mendacity. Political discussions in the media, where they are not distorted by the plain interests of the concerns themselves, are dominated by denizens of the "think tank" and "policy institute" world. Most of these institutions are heavily driven by, surprise, surprise, big money in the form of donors. As Robert Johnson and I documented in our paper for last year's INET Conference, growing inequality in the United States complicates this dismal picture by converting regulatory agencies into recruiting grounds for would be millionaires via the revolving door, while at the same time permitting the financial sector to substitute virtually untraceable stock tips for direct contributions.

Lynn Parramore: Where do you see politicians making up policy myths right now?

Thomas Ferguson: On the Republican side, you again have people claiming that the problems of the Great Recession can be solved by reapplying the policies of Herbert Hoover. Surely this is amazing; they are plumping for going straight back to the deregulated market economy that brought you the 2008 disaster. It's simply crazy, for example, to even consider leaving financial houses free to decide on their own level of leverage, to sell derivatives on exchanges that are not fully transparent, or to sell junk securities to their own customers without telling them. But the Republicans are threatening to roll back even the anemic Dodd-Frank financial "reform" legislation, though, to be fair, they will have plenty of Democratic support for some of this.

And it's obvious that neither party wants to address the problem of campaign finance reform. Instead, the Democrats spent part of the campaign talking up dangers from "foreign" money. It's not as though the problems of the system of American political financing come from foreign money. The problem is mostly domestic money. And the Supreme Court has made everything worse with its Citizens United decision. But, note well, the tragedy of big money in the Democratic Party was clear long before that Supreme Court ruling or even before Obama started running for president. Just look at the earlier cases I analyzed in my Golden Rule.

Fundamentally, the problem of money and politics is very simple: campaigning is costly, much more costly than classical democratic theory has acknowledged. Some way has to be found to pay for it. We may take it as an axiom that those who pay for the campaign will control it. So the choices boil down to just two: either we all pay a little, through public financing of campaigns, or a relative handful of the super-rich end up controlling the system because they pay for the campaign.

Lynn Parramore: Does the financial sector give more to Democrats or Republicans?

Thomas Ferguson: We've all seen the staggering statistics on lobbying and political contributions by the financial sector over the last couple of years. More recently, we've also heard about how finance is supposed to have turned against the Democrats. There's something to this: bank contributions to the Republicans increased when discussions of a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau started as the House began considering Dodd-Frank. Contributions to the GOP swelled when the White House panicked after Scott Brown won the special election to fill Ted Kennedy's seat in Massachusetts and endorsed the so-called "Volcker Rule", just as public indignation about bank bonuses was at its height. But the size of the shift toward Republicans has been exaggerated. If you look at total political contributions from securities and investment firms over the entire 2009-2010 election cycle, you will see that more money still flowed to the Democrats. Commercial banks, a narrower sub-group of the financial sector, gave more to Republicans, but only by about 60-40.

Lynn Parramore: So where does all this leave the American political system?

Thomas Ferguson: I think the answer is pretty clear: The political system is disintegrating, probably heading toward a real breakdown of some sort. The striking thing is that if you look beneath the surface of the victorious Republican Party, it is about as contentiously divided as the Democrats. The Tea Party's distrust of the party establishment is apparent, but the divisions within the GOP predated the Tea Party's emergence. They were obvious in 2008. At that time, it was pretty clear that a majority of the party did not want McCain. But there was no consensus on an alternative. 2012 is looking like a repeat of 2008: All kinds of people are eyeing the race, including several would-be candidates who can probably raise large war chests. In the end, somebody is going to win - my dark horse candidate is Haley Barbour, probably the Republican politician who is most closely connected to big business - but the whole party is unlikely to unite around him or her. In all probability, the GOP primaries will turn into a demolition derby, tending to discredit everyone involved. I also doubt that the Republican governors who are now promising to cut state budgets will find the public nearly as receptive to deep cuts as they think it will be, as people watch essential social services disappear, prisons empty, and see educational institutions trashed out that are in many cases the only hope of lagging states. Nor do I believe there is any popular majority for cutting Social Security, which is clearly emerging as a major issue just as we speak. And parts of the health care legislation are really popular, so that just saying no is going to look pretty foolish after some months.

The key to the future of American politics is the course of unemployment, though that is linked vitally to housing markets and how you deal with people's lost pensions and savings. If unemployment stays high, I would not be surprised to see some intra-party challenges to President Obama, even though right now everyone dismisses that possibility. The unions went down the line with Obama for the last two years and they have little to show for it; some of them are already scouting other possibilities. It is also interesting to speculate about Jerry Brown - just watch his star rise if he succeeds in overcoming the California fiscal crisis. Were Brown to defeat Obama in a few primaries, then the temptation for Hillary Clinton to come in would be intense. And right now the United States is mired down in two shooting wars that are not going very well.

Even more interesting are the possibilities of a third party candidacy - the obvious entrant is Mayor Bloomberg. He's plainly considering it. I notice that he does not appear to have folded the network of organizations that quietly talked up his candidacy in 2008. That tells you plenty.

Lynn Parramore: So is American politics fated to be all doom and gloom?

Thomas Ferguson: If you want a happy ending, you probably shouldn't follow our system too closely in the next few years. Instead, go see a Disney movie, unless perhaps Tim Burton is making it. Bloomberg, Brown, or Hillary Clinton, though, are all known quantities. But the experience of the Great Depression was that as things failed to improve the swamp creatures got their chance. And when the economic situation shook out, the geopolitics became more sinister. It would be a rash person indeed who counted on a happy ending to this mess.

Selected Comments

attempter

This is a pretty good synopsis. It gives a good one-paragraph summary of the Bailout and correctly pegs these facts:
  1. The people are rejecting both parties; all recent elections were rejections, not affirmations.
  2. The only exception to that was the extent to which people really did believe Obama's lies about "change".

While the "progressives" themselves look incorrigible, the fact that the masses in general believed in this fraudulent campaign simply reflects their desperation for real Change. It was enough for them to look upon Obama as a kind of de facto "alternate" candidate. (The 2010 election demonstrates how they realized their error. The Dems are eternally Dems and are just as worthless and criminal as the Reps.)

(The same would obviously be true of a pseudo-alternative run by Bloomberg, who would represent more of the neoliberal same. At best maybe it would result in more gridlock, if a rich pseudo-"independent" became president.)

3. We can have American elections again only if America takes back control of them, including financial control. All elites are unified in trying to prevent this. Citizens United was a formal ratification of the general anti-democratic conspiracy.

So Ferguson is right in saying that whoever pays for the election will receive value from it. If you want democracy, you need full public funding and to purge large-scale private funding. If, on the other hand, you allow large private bribes and "corporate speech", then you receive kleptocracy, and that's implicitly what you always wanted.

You want to will an end, you have to will the means. You will a means, you implicitly will the end those means guarantee.

That's a law of life.

(BTW, to achieve a real transformation in Argentina 10 years ago required, among other things, basically getting rid of and replacing the existing, irremediably corrupt supreme court. Just saying.)

I think, however, that the returns are in and the evidence proves that "representative democracy" itself is just pseudo-democracy, and cannot be "reformed". Even without a rogue supreme court validating direct corporate purchase of elections, that would go on constantly anyway. It's the same war of attrition that regulators can never win so long as the rackets exist at all.

So it follows that if we want democracy, we have to completely rid ourselves of the rackets, of corporate power itself. (That's just one of many, many reasons to do so.)

And we know that one part of how organized crime was able to seize power in the first place was through its control of these "representatives". We know that the whole point of setting up a "republic" in the first place was to ensure that the elites could most effectively rule a divided people. (Cf. Federalist #51.)

So again, if we will liberty and democracy, it follows that we must recognize representative pseudo-democracy as an inadequate means and relegate it to history's trash heap with the rest of the systems which have been proven inherently criminal. We must institute the only mode of polity and economy which has been proven to work on a practical level, to safeguard the people's sovereignty, and to give adequate scope to our positive freedom imperative: Direct democracy, true federalism, and the cooperative stewardship economy.

kievite
While I myself periodically write posts in this style something is definitely wrong with your approach to the problem. Let me play Devil Advocate here.

First of all there is no evidence that money played less role in the USA politics in the past. Elections were always extremely corrupt. Two party system was always a trick to prevent emergence of the third party and, in essence, just an improved and more sophisticated variant of the USSR one party system. So what exactly you are complaining about ? :-)

The key problem is the we deal with the transformation of capitalism into financial (casino) capitalism and this process trumps other factors. There is little that can be done after train left the station under Reagan or even earlier. Events just run their natural course and it was not bad years at all, if you think about them. I would say that 1970-2010 was probably the most prosperous 50 years in the USA history. Almost each family has a car, most have separate housing, enough food, superabundant amount of clothing, electronics (computer, cell-phones after 2000, Internet access, etc), etc, can enjoy traveling during vacations, etc. Is not this a paradise for common people?

If you think about logical complexity of providing peaceful coexistence of 300 million people for 50 years, this is a really an achievement or ruling elite and the such a nation can be called (borrowing the term from our Republican friends) a blessed nation. One big danger - nationalism - the force the blow up the USSR is almost completely absent. In this sense too, the USA can be called a blessed nation.

History shows that each economic regime comes to a natural end. I think we might be close to a logical end of casino capitalism stage. The current regime may slump another several miles but I doubt that it will survive. The real question here is what next ?

My feeling is that this failed bet on financial institutions providing revenue from foreign operations on the scale enough to sustain the economy on the strength of the dollar as reserve currency was doomed from the very beginning and became really self-defeating after emergence of euro.

Financial institutions tried their best to grow but in a process became far more reckless gamblers then is healthy due to disappearance of the regulation (everybody and his brother wanted them to grow and prosper) and put nation well-being into question.

Now there is a zugzwang situation: if you demolish financial institutions you will lose the dubious advantages of building them up for the last 30 years and associated foreign operations revenue streams.

If you let them survive, the cost of keeping them afloat is sinking everything else. Essentially in the current form they impose a tax on the economy that suppresses growth of other sectors. The extent of this effect is debatable but that's how I see it.

"Peak everything" does not help in this situation either and that's a huge difference with Great Depression. Another big different is disappearance of the Communist Block which helped indirectly to provide a countervailing force to excessive greed and as such played important positive role in the USA economic development.

I think this framework is more productive way to look at the current political and economic problems than any fixation on elections and (illusive) two party system.

attempter
November 13, 2010 at 9:59 am If you read the OP you'd see it was largely about elections, therefore I focused on them in the .

As a general rule I regard them as a detail. As I said, pseudo-democracy is an irremediable scam.

Although the criminals certainly like when you repeat their talking points for them: "Nothing's changed, this is just a doldrum. It's always been like this at times."

Of course if you really understand "peak everything", then you know why it's never remotely been like this.

As for what's really in store unless we fight, I've written extensively about that, but here's my best crystallization:

http://attempter.wordpress.com/2010/07/05/part-4-the-full-fury-of-the-new-feudal-war-the-intended-end-state/

DownSouth
November 13, 2010 at 11:39 am •

kievite

First of all there is no evidence that money played less role in the USA politics in the past. Elections were always extremely corrupt. Two party system was always a trick to prevent emergence of the third party and, in essence, just an improved and more sophisticated variant of the USSR one party system. So what exactly you are complaining about ?

This is way too heavy-handed an interpretation of American history. As George Orwell asserted in "England Your England": "All such arguments boil down to saying that half a loaf is the same as not bread." For, as Orwell went on to point out (the year was 1941), "In England such concepts as justice, liberty, and objective truth are still believed in."

Are these concepts still believed in within the United States? I don't know. There has certainly been a well orchestrated campaign by leading Universities and think-tanks over the last 50 years to destroy these ideals. And assertions like yours, by making it sound like there was never a time in history when these concepts were believed in, only aids and abets the right-wing.

Recommended reading here is Kevin Phillips' Wealth and Democracy. In the first great contest between the Whigs (Jeffersonians) and the Tories (Federalists/Hamiltonians) on the American stage, the Tories were thoroughly routed. Here's Phillips:

Hamilton's use of government banking and debt to reward a wealthy elite trespassed on the Revolutionary credo, as did the excise taxes so anathemous to farmers…

Wealth and aristocracy remained a target through 1800 as the rich-poor gap widened in the major cities. The share of assets held by the top 10 percent in New York City climbed from 54 percent in 1789 to 61 percent by 1795, while much the same thing occurred in Philadelphia. New York and Pennsylvania were also the hotbeds of conspicuous speculation, and Pennsylvania farmers were the angriest over Federalist taxes. When the elections of 1800 gave Jefferson twenty of the two states' combined twenty-seven electoral votes, the Virginian beat John Adams, and no Federalist ever again held the presidency.

There are other counterfactuals to your sweeping generalization that "Elections were always extremely corrupt."

kievite
"I would say that 1970-2010 was probably the most prosperous 50 years in the USA history…. Is not this a paradise for common people? ….. this is a really an achievement or ruling elite and the such a nation can be called (borrowing the term from our Republican friends) a blessed nation."

The period from 1970-2007 was a period of declining fortunes for the bottom two quintiles of US society, treading water for the middle two quintiles, and improving fortunes for only the upper quintile, and this very heavily weighted to the top 1%. Beginning in 2008, all quintiles except the upper quintile, and perhaps even the top 10%, went into a tailspin.

kievite
"My feeling is that this failed bet on financial institutions providing revenue from foreign operations on the scale enough to sustain the economy on the strength of the dollar as reserve currency was doomed from the very beginning and became really self-defeating after emergence of euro."

"Sustain the economy" for whom? The distribution of the rewards of imperialism, whether of the traditional kind (acquire raw materials and resources on the cheap and export expensive manufactured goods) or the new kind (neo-imperialism or financial imperialism, the alliance of neoliberalism with neoconservatism whereby capital, finance and financial products are the export product) , are always highly skewered toward the rich and the powerful of the empire.

kievite
"…if you demolish financial institutions you will lose the dubious advantages of building them up for the last 30 years and associated foreign operations revenue streams."

Who cares, other than the economic and political overlords? The economic benefits from these financial institutions flow only to a very select portion of the population. Why should the 99% who don't receive any benefit care whether they live or die?

Mickey Marzick in Akron, Ohio
I think you would agree that Federalist #51 is a continuation of Federalist #10.

If ever there was a more explicit, honest explanaton of how to thwart majority rule and why doing so was necessary, Madison penned it in #10. Reading both #10 and #51 and then reading the US Constitution should dispel any illusions of "democracy" extolled in Civics 101. Couple these writings with the historical context – French Revolution abroad and Whiskey Rebellion here – in which they were written and the fact that the Founding Elites were not "democrats" is no surprise.

Blaming it all on money is too simplistic! And to assert that the political system is disintegrating, as opposed to undergoing transformation, is a bit of a stretch. If it is then the outcome is likely to be a right-wing authoritarianism of the kind that will likely find many of us "disappearing" into the void of cyberspace with no identity or record of ever having existed outside of immediate family and friends. Los desaparecidos nuevos!

Such thinking absolves the "left" of any culpabillity or responsibilty for this failure. Or at least it fails to explain the resurgence of the reactionary right – a process that began in 1964, if not sooner, and its growing domination of American politics since the late 60s. The eclipse/rout of the "left" in this country since then is what requires explanation. Then how the situation can be reversed, if at all.

With the "left" demonized, its ideas discredited, and balkanization fragmenting it into nonsignifcance since the late 60s, any attempt to equate Obama with FDR was pure hype and ahistorical. Conditions in 2007-08 were vastly different from those in 1929-32. Back then, there was a fairly well organized LEFT to the left of FDR. Banks were mistrusted, if not hated, and stuffing money in the mattress was taken literally. Moreover, the very existence of the Soviet Union made many a capitalist willing to "share the wealth" to "prove" that capitalism works for everyone rather than confront the red alternative head on. It is no concidence that the demise of the Soviet Union, death of the New Deal Coalition, and resurgence of the RIGHT in this country have coincided. Naomi Klein has documented this in DISASTER CAPITALISM.

Obama himself is a product of this counterrevolution [1968-present] and his purported "radicalism" has to be examined in this light. His capture by the "leftwing" of the bankers is hardly surprising. Nor is their investment and susbequent payback. A generational groupthink shared by ruling elites of either persuasion, but with the fundamentals of the "American Consensus" agreed upon by all.

With the New Deal Coalition dead, organized labor a vague memory, and the electorate fragmented into competing factions, the Left simply has no leverage. Unable to disrupt the machine, yet alone shut it down, there's nothing to push/pull Obama left. There is no permanent base, but rather, a fluid amalgam of competing factions. Ironically, the sustainable majority able to capture all three branches of government over time envisioned by Madison in Fed #10 and #51 has been built. But it's on the RIGHT. How sustainable is debatable, but for now…

Even Keynesianism, the economic orthodoxy of the Left for much of the postwar period has been found wanting. Once "progressive" it is now one side of a reactionary coin that limits debate on economics to how much capitalism is in the offing. Complete laissez-faire versus regulated laissez-faire! There's simply no discussion of any alternative to capitalism. That is a significant difference between the 1930s and the present.

Taking money out of politics will only matter if the Left can create a sustainable majority to supplant the current one. Otherwise, let's not kid ourselves any longer with overly simplistic monocausal explanations of what is wrong with the American political system. The hour is getting late…

attempter
I have no idea where you people are getting this "monocausal" stuff from my comment. I reiterate, I went with the example from the OP.

I could write a hundred comments using a hundred different examples to reach my conclusion, and as I said above elections are not one of my main examples.

I specified #51 because I've often had occasion lately to think about this quote:

It is of great importance in a republic not only to guard the society against the oppression of its rulers, but to guard one part of the society against the injustice of the other part. Different interests necessarily exist in different classes of citizens. If a majority be united by a common interest, the rights of the minority will be insecure. There are but two methods of providing against this evil: the one by creating a will in the community independent of the majority - that is, of the society itself; the other, by comprehending in the society so many separate descriptions of citizens as will render an unjust combination of a majority of the whole very improbable, if not impracticable.

So I kind of had it on the brain.

I wrote more extensively on both:

http://attempter.wordpress.com/2010/07/14/federalism-and-the-corporate-gangs-madisons-federalist-10/

http://attempter.wordpress.com/2010/07/28/madisons-federalist-51-corporate-power-vs-the-naked-citizen/

I agree completely that the Professional Left, i.e. the corporate liberals, are a traitor cadre, while what used to be called the real Left have been airbrushed out of the media existence. We're in the "sphere of deviance", to use one term of art from analysis of the MSM. (And this even though polls consistently show that America is a center to center-left country, and therefore far to the left of the economic elites, political class, and MSM.)

But the left-right spectrum is no longer useful anyway, in part because of that gaping lacuna and total abdication.

The real spectrum runs democrat/citizen to elitist. Both conservatives and liberals are far to the elitist end of the spectrum by now, especially on economic matters.

Which leads to the great specific faultline which splits all issues and defines all positions no matter what they are: corporatism vs. anti-corporatism.

skippy
November 13, 2010 at 8:22 pm Welcome to Whop Whop

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0120491/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i0mDGxWC2VQ

Skippy…if you can't buy them off…chain them.

Roger Bigod
I agree with your diagnosis, and I'm open to the idea that radical reform is a good idea. But I couldn't understand any of your last sentence. I have no idea what any of the terms mean or how the institutions would work.

The Constitution relies on Common Law notions of the 3 branches, and there were 13 working examples at the state level, so anyone reading it knew exactly what they were being asked to ratify. There was a theory of institutions in the work of Montesquieu.

For a radical revision of our political machinery, there is no comparable intellectual substrate. We are exhorted to organize, to become activist. But where are the guidelines, the goals, the practical steps to take next?

attempter
It's some of the same substrate. Read Bernard Bailyn's Ideological Origins of the American Revolution for an extended discussion of the heritage and connotations of concepts/terms like rights, consent, representation, constitution, and sovereignty.

The book itself is something of a whitewash of the many of the founders, but however much they actually did cherish those ideals, here we learn what those ideals really meant.

So if the goal were to be put in terms of resuming the long-neglected and/or hijacked American Revolution, that's one source which can help us to understand what we're really talking about.

As for what I meant by my sentence:

We must institute the only mode of polity and economy which has been proven to work on a practical level, to safeguard the people's sovereignty, and to give adequate scope to our positive freedom imperative: Direct democracy, true federalism, and the cooperative stewardship economy.

Direct democracy is government by local councils, or in American history, in some places at least, town halls. These councils could be organized along any number of lines – at the workplace, by profession, or by economic region, or by community, some combination of these, and there are probably other possibilities I'm not thinking of.

True federalism means power is exercised at the level from whence it arises in the first place, among the people in their workplaces and/or communities. Authority is delegated upward, e.g. to regional councils, only on a provisional, mostly consultative basis, and all representatives are subject to instant recall. All significant decision-making, of course, remains in the hands of the local councils.

(This is also the proper manifestation of sovereignty, which always and only reposes in the people, and can only be conditionally delegated to any smaller and/or "higher" group.)

A cooperative economy is one where sovereignty would be properly organized economically. Since no one can legitimately "own" land, natural resources, or the socially constructed infrastructure, i.e. the means of production, such resources and infrastructure would be either cooperatively worked and self-managed by the worker council, and/or distributed on the basis of useful possession or productive stewardship, or any similar term one preferred.

This is the only way to not abrogate economic sovereignty and to ensure the most effective production. Since all rents would be purged, this would be by far the most equitably productive economy. That's what I was referring to when I referred to its unique practicality. (Although I also meant that the Spanish collectives of the Civil War accomplished prodigies of production under the most free circumstances any communities and workers have known, until they were destroyed by the combined treachery and violence of liberals, communists, and fascists.)

What to do to accomplish this? Any constructive economic relocalization action is worthwhile, but especially increasing local food production and rationalizing its local distribution. Getting involved in local politics on behalf of this relocalization goal is also needful, but I think the political action probably needs to follow the established economic (or other practical) action.

That's just a few thoughts for now.

nilys
Ferguson starts with a good premise that "both parties are dominated by blocs of large investors", but fails to develop it. I got excited, expecting to read about different blocs, their hidden interests and disagreements and struggles with one another, and how these interests of a particular group of "money bags" are packaged and sold to the public as a good public policy. Instead, Ferguson went on to talk about personalities – and all the familiar faces – Hillary, Jerry, Haley, Bloomberg – who cares who of these figure heads wins? Personalities and petty personal feuds are mistaken for politics and especially deep politics. Even Ferguson can't help but fall into the personality cult. Indeed, no happy ending…
hermanas
I was stunned to hear that America was the world's "oldest democracy" the other day. 234 years, in all the thousands of years of political institutions, democracy doesn't seem to have any legs.
Tom Crowl
You're sadly right…

No democracy has been able to overcome the creeping problem of cronyism (rooted in the boundaries of biological alt-ruism).

In fact, all such systems… while implicitly recognizing the issue… (that's what's behind things like a House of Commons and the use of sortition (juries), etc.)…

Have not recognized the need to evolve with changing circumstances. Instead they allow the self-worship of their own eventually-mythologized institutions to render them incapable of reform and easily gamed… and control fraud grows.

How Would Hunter-gatherers Run the World? (Psst… They DO!) http://culturalengineer.blogspot.com/2009/11/how-would-hunter-gatherers-run-world.html

Ayn Rand & Alan Greenspan: The Altruism Fly in the Objectivist Ointment http://culturalengineer.blogspot.com/2009/10/ayn-rand-alan-greenspan-altruism-fly-in.html

Tom Crowl
November 13, 2010 at 9:13 am suppose its obvious but I meant to say:

"Have NOT recognized the need…"

Mickey Marzick in Akron, Ohio
November 13, 2010 at 11:02 am The United States is not a "democracy" but rather a republican form of representative government designed to thwart the will of the majority. The latter can manifest itself only when all three branches of government have been captured by it over time. If anything, the separation of powers and checks and balances enumerated in the US Constitution and built into the political system are little more than a divide-and-conquer strategy to prevent the majority of propertyless from "confiscating" the property of the minority.

For as James Madison stated explicitly in Federalist #10:

"the most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribuion of property. Those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society."

And that Mr. Madison and the other Founding Fathers were decidely "those who held [property]" should put paid any pretense at democracy. Indeed, the paradox in need of explanation would seem to be how the Founding Fathers deemed human nature evil and corrupted by self-interest then miraculaously and magnanimously opted to set up a government that did not promote THEIR collective self-interest?

It may not be the fairytale taught in civics courses from day one, but the United States is not a DEMOCRACY by any stretch of the imagination.

i on the ball patriot
November 13, 2010 at 1:01 pm Mickey - you are on fire as of late - good comments all.

Regarding this …

"And that Mr. Madison and the other Founding Fathers were decidely "those who held [property]" should put paid any pretense at democracy. Indeed, the paradox in need of explanation would seem to be how the Founding Fathers deemed human nature evil and corrupted by self-interest then miraculaously and magnanimously opted to set up a government that did not promote THEIR collective self-interest?'

No paradox at all, what they set up did promote their collective self interests, it was a representative republic and of course not a direct democracy, but it was indeed a step along the way TOWARDS direct democracy. They were slave owners, women did not vote and the Indian population at the time were demonized as heathens, etc. So they have no corner on magnanimity but are rather a function OF THEIR TIME.

But you used a term that should be brought center stage and always held up as a guide and a lens in examining the status quo and the need for change and formulating that change. That is the term COLLECTIVE SELF INTEREST, for in the end it is the collective self interest of groups that is the glue of those groups, and the fewer groups that a society has that do not contribute to that collective self interest the stronger that society is.

But before making those observations consider first that we are far more ready for direct democracy than at the inception of our constitution. Physical chain slavery is gone (yes, debt slavery has taken over but that is another issue), women now have the right to vote (I know some that want to give it back), Indians have been assimilated into the culture (poorly and painfully, yes, but they are not as heavily demonized and exploited), etc., in short, the time for direct democracy is at hand.

So … if one views the present scene through that COLLECTIVE SELF INTEREST LENS one can make some observations about the groups that our society is comprised of and whether or not each identifiable group strengthens or weakens that glue. If a society sets; fairness, equality, sustainability, individual freedom, Free Speech, religious freedom, prudence, etc. as highest ideals, then one can see that …

Excessive income wealth and excessive asset wealth are unfair and not in the collective self interest and must be regulated as they deprive the rest of the group a fair share. No pigs allowed in the new constitutional rewrite!

Excessive privately owned media conglomerations, especially those that use the public commons for transmittal, that create an overly loud voice with the volume to drown out other voices denies those others their Free Speech and are therefore not in the collective self interest of the group and should be downsized. Bye Bye megaphone rich folks!

Etc. …

The point here Mickey is that it is a good term, and a good lens of analysis to use because it keeps to the forefront of our thinking that the balance of both the individual and the group, THE COLLECTIVE SELF INTEREST, of the group, is the glue that binds us all together and strengthens us. And so it should be woven more into the dialog. Reclaiming the language will be key to moving forward all of our collective self interests!

Are we ready for election boycotts yet? I think they will be in our collective self interests as they would help move direct democracy along.

Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

reslez
November 13, 2010 at 3:39 pm I frequently see people suggest election boycotts. What I have never seen is a convincing explanation that links election boycotts to actual progress. Maybe you support boycotts because you believe the act of voting supports a corrupt system, or it causes voters to become complicit. This seems more like a position based on hollow moral consistency than something that would actually lead to change.

The country needs more action and energy, not more apathy and abstention. At any rate action and energy should be attempted. But the psychology of non-voting means non-voters are actually less likely to take other forms of action. They already believe they have no voice. If people were swarming the ballot box to vote for the Rent Is Too D*mn High party or any other third party they prefer, the existing system would be cratered. Even if - or because - those third party candidates would fail to change the system. Their failure would be revelatory.

For the vast majority, abstention is a form of sleepwalking. I'm not saying people who are already Awake should waste time with the existing political system, I'm saying most people are Asleep and will only awaken once they stop Dreaming that the system works or non-voting is anything other than abdication.

i on the ball patriot
Yes, I support election boycotts because voting DOES legitimize and validate a corrupt system, and yes, lending your good name to the corrupt process makes you complicit with the gangster government that corrupt process produces and their gangster actions. There is nothing morally inconsistent about it.

Election boycotts are "not more apathy and abstention" as you claim (the system line I might point out) but rather they are an active rejection of the system - a 'vote of no confidence' in the entire government. And they can be made even more active by writing to one's supervisor of elections explaining why one is opting out. In addition they are, and can be more of if better organized, a force outside of the system to rally around and discuss the formulation of a constitutional rewrite for a new government that is more responsible to the collective self interest of the people.

Ferguson claims this election was a resounding 'vote of no confidence' in democrats. He makes that absurd claim based on a miserably low 42% turnout, and completely disregards the greater 'vote of no confidence' in the entire government - 58% of the electorate BOYCOTTED the elections. This in spite of the worst economy in years, a fact that should have swamped the voting booths but did not, and the over the top corrupt system spent almost FOUR BILLION getting out the vote to validate the scam …

"Midterm election spending approaches $4 billion"

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-campaign-finance-20101028,0,5077420.story

Those people that are asleep will awaken sooner when they realize their power. When they realize that a 58% boycott of the scam electoral process is a number that they should celebrate and build on. It is an exciting and an enormous expression of 'no confidence' in this gangster government. Run with this good news and shout it out to the world! rally around it! 58% of scamericans rejected their crooked government! Whoopee!!!!

And that four billion dollars wasted on the validation scam would have fed a lot of homeless people!

Deception is the strongest political force on then planet.

skippy
I voted with my feet, by not using them, by showing my backside.

No Obama's, no Palings, no religious backed, billionaire, thinktankistan, military industrial, health care cough oxymoron, financial innovator, moneyed special interest lobbyist, no right or left animal will ever receive my stamp ever again, out of a lack, of a human candidate.

James
And the alternative to boycotts given the fact that the status quo sucks is what?

On second thought, asked and answered. Think about it.

Siggy

Our contract for government specifies that which is a Federal Republic, not a democracy!

What has been eroded is the Federal Republic in favor of something that represents itself as a democracy. It's time to consider making a choice, which shall you have: A republic or a democracy?

Do you want free markets or fair markets? Do you want a currency that maintains its purchasing power? Or, do you want easy credit and unprosecuted financial fraud?

Make a list, vote it.

Richard Kline
I would be happy indeed if Ferguson's consideration of a real implosion of the two-handed one party system was in any way imminent, but I have no such optimism. One function of Ferguson's discussion of personalities for 2012 is his engagement with the reality that there are no substantive alternatives in the offing. No 'personality' alternatives; no structural alternatives; that election cycle is two years away. That is a function of the failure of organizing. The stasis we have no can easily, quite easily, slink along for several decades. Consider the politics of, say, France, between the Great Wars. Nothing, exactly nothing, changed in their broad social and geopolitical program despite the messy inefficacy and frank unpopularity of all significant political parties. Britain didn't look much better. Germany only got change you can get dead from from outside the system. You see, folks, stasis is GOOD for the oligarchy: they don't need functioning government beyond a false front level. Indeed, one could well say that stasis is the _policy_ of the oligarchy because it is the environoment in which they thrive, at the expense of everyone else, literally in our case since we are paying them directly out of government monies to rule us for themselves. Sick . . . .

But I also think the analysis that 'voters are rejecting both parties' is at best half true. This seems to be crowdsource consensus of the past election, but it really wasn't what happened. Voters unhappy because of unemployment 'thought out the Democrats?' Bunk. Yes, bunk; read the returns. Areas with high unemployment which had Democrats mostly kept them. And to a degree rightly so. Every poll of the last two plus years shows that the public as a whole understands exactly what the Republican economic program is, dislikes it totally, and has at least a little more confidence in the Democratic program (to oversimplify and concede, wrongly, that the Democrats even have a program). So voters unemployed chose the party which, with a patina of sanity, might do them some good. Democratic losses were heavy in areas that in recent years have been Republican leaning. That is, two years ago those areas through out Republicans to punish them, but now in the hope that the Repubs are sufficiently chastened voted them back in. The turn to Democrats there was largely due to independent swing votes moving more or less tactically rather than in any way in preference for Democrats. What we are really seeing is that long-standing voter preferences are _hardening_ not loosening in their respective areas. Independent voters are notoriously fickle in American history, and they are, with great and perhaps justified cynicism, shopping their votes cycle by cycle to whomever they think will pay them out the most. I mean Dubya bought the independents for $450 a head, outbidding Gore (anyone remember _that_ execrable stinkfest). The Democrats had a superb opportunity to cement themselves in office for multiple cycles by actually delivering some reform but they couldn't trample that opportunity fast enough in their efforts to pay out to the oligarchy enough to win their favor, failing there too.

We are likely to see stasis of much the present structure for _years_, and quite possibly for several decades. The only break in that would be the successful organizing of an actual reformist party, revolution, or a major asterioid impact, all of which are on similar orders of magnitude in probability in my view. -And public discontent will be met with repression. At this point, Americans are such a cowed lot it won't take very much repression to get them back in their cubicles either. Stasis in decine can last a remarkably long time. Four generations is not unusual historically, though I wouldn't see that as the likely term here now.

Mickey Marzick in Akron, Ohio
Well said and succinct, especially the last paragraph!

"The only break in that would be the successful organizing of an actual reformist party, revolution, or a major asterioid impact, all of which are on similar orders of magnitude in probability in my view. -And public discontent will be met with repression."

Careful, you might be mistaken for a "defeatist" rather than a realist. The "Great Awakening" is upon US. Can't you see it?

What irks me is the subjectivist, chiliastic, millenarian wishful thinking of so many on the Left that believe it's merely a question of waking up – not successful organizing and getting dirty, down in the mud. Even if the people have woken up, it's a long march to successful organizing before any appreciable difference will be noticed. I may not like your odds… but they are accurate.

John Strong
I think is mention of "swamp creatures" is very instructive. We have become immune to some very inflammatory in-group/out-group rhetoric that has the whiff of serious conflict to those of us old enough to remember it. Add to this that the dialogue (and increasingly policy) is to a greater extent than ever controlled by the commentariat, and you really have the potential for cultural upheaval. If I were Canada or Mexico, I'd be getting a little nervous.

jake chase
All talk about voter "decisions" is nonsense. The percentage of voters who consider anything resembling information cannot be as high as five percent.

The remainder relies exclusively upon received ideas, preconceptions susceptible to clever propaganda, and comes to the table knowing nothing whatsoever about how things actually work. To expect anything good to result from our system is akin to Einstein's view of insanity.

Rodger Malcolm Mitchell
Unfortunately, Ferguson bemoans the fact that not all of the TARP money was "paid back" to the government, and that the government "lost money" on the deal. He does not realize that money "paid back" to the government is the same as a tax. .

When GM proudly trumpeted it had paid back $8.1 billion of government loans, it really should have said, "We just paid $8.1 billion in taxes, which removed $8.1 billion from the economy, thereby slowing the economy accordingly. We could have used that $8.1 billion to hire people or to expand in other ways, but instead we chose just to throw it on a bonfire."

A monetarily sovereign government never should lend money to its citizens. It only should give money. But Ferguson does not understand the implications of monetary sovereignty. He thinks the federal government's finances are like yours and mine, and that somehow the federal government needs tax money.

That false belief is the cause of much of our current problems.

Rodger Malcolm Mitchell

James
Well then, WHY, pray tell, doesn't the Treasury just credit the bank accounts of the unemployed? Problem solved, yes? Instant stimulus applied exactly where it's needed the most.
reslez
Well then, WHY, pray tell, doesn't the Treasury just credit the bank accounts of the unemployed?

This is only a mystery if you haven't been paying attention. Anything that would benefit the people - the unemployed, homedebtors - is politically impossible. Anything that would benefit the banks is achieved instantly and with the minimum possible debate.

James
This is only a mystery if you haven't been paying attention.

Granted, but the question was meant to be rhetorical and leading, thank you very much.

To the larger question, these MMT'ers always imply, if not state outright, that there truly is a free lunch when it comes to sovereigns and monetary policy. What I'd like to know is what's the limit to this foolishness? Especially knowing full well that if Washington ever comes to embrace this stuff wholeheartedly the debt will surely know no bounds.

If taxation's only purpose is to reinforce the need for the sovereign's currency in the first place, why not reduce the tax rate to say 5% across the board (yeah right, see how long that last before the GOP is calling for even MORE tax cuts!) and be done with it? And if debt really doesn't matter and it doesn't have to actually be debt in the first place, why even keep track of it in the first place, except purely as a measure of the size of the overall economy? For that matter, why are we even using the Fed as a debt based currency issue mechanism, other than the obvious answer: to make rich bankers even richer.

These are serious questions, I'm not merely being facetious. So go ahead one of you econophiles, go ahead and 'splain it to me please.

JTFaraday
November 13, 2010 at 8:43 pm "Well then, WHY, pray tell, doesn't the Treasury just credit the bank accounts of the unemployed? Problem solved, yes? Instant stimulus applied exactly where it's needed the most."

Anyone over 60 who got rolled should be given their social security benefits early. If a society sees fit to involuntarily retire people early, it should back it up.

We're opening the SS discussion shortly. Time to reform the system.

"And if debt really doesn't matter and it doesn't have to actually be debt in the first place, why even keep track of it in the first place, except purely as a measure of the size of the overall economy?"

Because if they conceded it didn't matter then everyone under 60 will likewise want instant credits to their account so they can pursue their creative interests and then there will be no one left to scrub John Thain's golden toilet.

And, needless to say, we can't have that.

reslez
November 13, 2010 at 2:52 pm You're right of course on the economics, but you miss the point. The propaganda claim "government made a profit on TARP" is intended to reassure voters that money was not given away to banks. A monetarily sovereign government can certainly give away money to whatever groups it chooses, but that it chooses to support wealthy oligarchs instead of the people is simply obscene.

Tom Crowl
November 13, 2010 at 8:55 am American politics IS broken. And money is a central branch of the problem. However the root is cronyism ( and this is rooted in the boundaries of biological altruism).

"Big" money is dominating and distorting political decision to the detriment of this (and historically eventually ALL) representative systems. It's also behind of problems in credit creation, btw.

I don't believe that public financing of elections will solve this problem. I fear it will lead to only 'government approved' candidates and government approved parties… and result in a whole new industry designed to game that as much as they game the military-industrial relationship and the Wall Street-Washington unholy alliance.

Approximately $4 billion was spent on this last campaign I understand. That's less than the price of a video game on sale for each of the 130 million registered voters.

Of course most never actually give to a cause or campaign.

I believe that can and will change (and it must… personal involvement is critical for a capable electorate… "Capability ENABLES Responsibility… government funded elections will lead to LESS participation).

The Commons-dedicated Account concept… by offering BOTH the capability for the micro-contribution as well as the capability for charitable contribution through the same system…

Eventually results in a stable and ubiquitous user-base. Since an account does NOT need to be continuously funded and has utility even when un-funded…

This 'facebook'-like network offers opportunities for 'empowered' local political association not currently available.

Further the existence of a 'scalable' platform (unlike a facebook page, a User's can have multiple pages focused on differing levels of political jurisdiction.

Here we then have opportunities for outreach and campaigning on a MUCH cheaper basis as well as the capability for LOCAL enterprises to engage their communities at the level at which they operate. This system will drastically LOWER the cost of campaigns and (I believe) eventually and paradoxically REDUCE the influence of money in politics.

This is a sketchy and quick synopsis but this is just a comment.

The account mechanism is patented (I still need $2005 for final bill to attorney and patent fees by Dec 7 if any want to be helpful and smart investors) and I'd really appreciate the chance to get this going.

I'm not the religious type. But I always have felt that what the 'historical' Jesus was talking about with "the meek shall inherit the earth"… is that the only chance this planet has is for regular people to stand up and take responsibility for it. To 'inherit' is not to be given something and be able to abandon responsibility for it… its just the opposite.

We've been given the right of self-governance… but have NOT taken up the responsibility.

Why Politics MUST be Localized http://culturalengineer.blogspot.com/2010/10/why-politics-must-be-localized.html

Empowering the Commons: The Dedicated Account (Part I) http://culturalengineer.blogspot.com/2010/08/empowering-commons-dedicated-account.html

LinkedIn http://www.linkedin.com/in/culturalengineer

Demo & FAQ http://www.Chagora.com

I'm neither a businessman nor a politician. I'm a citizen. I take the role seriously.

Jackrabbit
Many thanks to Tom Ferguson and others (Yves, Reich, Black, etc.) for speaking out. And thanks to attempter, Richard Kline, i_on_th_ball_patriot and many others that have written such illuminating comments on this blog and others. Some day these heroic efforts will be better understood and appreciated by a wide audience.

As the economy deteriorates, the banks and the super-wealthy have more and more difficulty covering the corruption. Any real reform could be a long time coming, though, as the system works to bamboozle people into playing along with FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt).

Writing that last sentence reminds me of the song lyrics: "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."

john
Can we please stop talking about "campaign finance reform" and start a serious discussion with real language about re-criminalizing bribery? To be considered a "serious candidate" in our entirely corrupt system one must first systematically solicit bribes and succeed. Advertisements on TV should be viewed as confessions of the prior crime of solicitation of bribery. Journalist should be a name reserved for reporters who show us how the corrupt serve their pay masters.

Money is not delivering progress, but we are still using its market tested language to talk about it. Use real language, please. There are no criminals in the current disasters because our entirely corrupt system was used to first de-criminalize innumerable crimes. Lets start calling fraud fraud, bribery bribery, theft theft. Yves is pretty good here about calling looting looting.

Roger Bigod
hermanas:

The fragility of democracy has been known for some time. Aristotle thought there was a cycle of chaos -> monarchy -> aristocracy -> democracy -> chaos.

The Founders had read the history of ancient Greece and Rome, and some of their letters show that there were trying to set up institutions that would resist the processes of decay. Much of the Constitution is plumbing, designed to control and direct the flow of political power to the proper channels at the Federal level. Problems of democracy v. aristocracy are punted to the states.

It's easy to imagine the Founders as considering grand principles in the light of history's sweep and exercising amazing foresight. But all this was secondary to the main goal of cobbling together something that the self-interested, bickering states would ratify.

A revealing exchange occurred one day in the Convention when the delegates got into a long, emotional discussion of the franchise, including the question of restricting it to those with property. Gouverneur Morris, who spoke the most during the proceedings, was silent. Finally, he got up and told them that they were wasting their time because no matter what the written rules said, the rich would find a way to control the outcome if their interests were seriously threatened. He didn't say he approved, just that the real world operated that way.

When Morris was Ambassador to France during the Revolution, someone asked him about the possibility of a written constitution on the US model. His was that the US Constitution worked when applied by the US electorate, but that if the French electorate were put in charge, it would result in disaster. So he did have some trust in "the people". In fact, since the final document is almost all his final working draft, we have him to thank for its one emotionally evocative sentence, the to-do list that begins "We, the People".

In the civics class mythology, the Founders were inspired by Divine Wisdom to produce a supernaturally perfect document. But it didn't look that way to them. Around 1812, Morris decided that the Constitution had been a failure and should be scrapped. It looks like the US was in better shape at the time than it is today, so it's natural to wonder what he would think. Put the French electorate in charge?

hermanas
On a return flight from Paris to New York many years ago, after the meal was served, passengers went aft to smoke per regulation. The pilot, having diffulty controlling pitch requested everyone return to their seats where flight attendants said they could not smoke. French passengers rose and went back aft. When the pilot came back to plead with them, their response was "we smoke or we crash". The pilot said, "O.K. fine", and we arrived safely in NYC. But my luggage was lost.

hermanas
And thank you, Roger, for your educated response.

DownSouth
Tom Ferguson said: The political system is disintegrating, probably heading toward a real breakdown of some sort.

[….]

But the experience of the Great Depression was that as things failed to improve the swamp creatures got their chance. And when the economic situation shook out, the geopolitics became more sinister. It would be a rash person indeed who counted on a happy ending to this mess.

Here's a visual metaphor for what we have. We have an inverted pyramid, both in our political life and our economic life. Those who should be on top of the structure are instead at the bottom doing a "balancing act" by using, as Ferguson put it, "pseudo-explanations, myths, and sometimes, obvious mendacity." The structure is highly unstable and, as the video shows, the entire structure can be brought down by the slightest disturbance.

I would say our political and economic overlords opted for this inverted pyramidal structure beginning in the 1960s. It began with all the lies used to justify the Vietnam War, and the trend has been downhill ever since. So I would agree with Ferguson that our current crisis was a long time in the making.

We could say we are currently in Act X on the national stage. Act IX was the period from 1929 to the 1960s. During Act IX our national and economic overlords opted for more or less a pyramidal structure. Governmental, religious, media, educational and other institutions enjoyed a high level of legitimacy and broad support from the governed. The economic and political overlords didn't engage in the barrage of "pseudo-explanations, myths, and sometimes, obvious mendacity" to near the extent that they do now.

Act XIII on the American stage was the period that began shortly after the Civil War and lasted until 1929, when the political and economic structure came tumbling down. Act XIII was very much like Act X, our current act, in that it was a highly unstable inverted pyramid. The perfidy and treachery of our economic and political overlords knew no bounds.

As Ferguson makes clear, the really interesting part will come when the current inverted pyramid comes tumbling down, when "the swamp creatures" get "their chance." In the 1930s, the United States dodged lightening. The "swamp creatures" were held at bay and the nation experienced a revival and reawakening of the Jeffersonian ideals of equal justice, equal treatment before the law and popular democracy. Thus we had a renewal of important themes during Act I of our national drama.

Germany, however, wasn't so lucky.

Siggy
Interesting point of view. Could you clarify just what popular democracy is? Are you suggesting that we dispense with the Federal Republic? Then again it seems that over time and by various events we've already thrown it out; e.g., the repeal of Glass-Steagell.

The earlier reference to Federalist #10 and #51 is very apt. I find it encouraging that there is some knowledge of those two essays. They examine the necessity and essence of balancing the interests of the landed class with those of the rentier class.

I very much agree with Mr. Ferguson and would like to see him address the issue of just when is it that we shall have some inquisitions and prosecutions. My sense is that unless and until we have some prosecutions, the cancer will continue to destroy our Federal Republic.

DownSouth
Siggy,

When I talk about "popular democracy," I'm talking about elections like the one that occurred in 1800 when Jefferson prevailed over the Federalists (for more explanation see my 11:39 a.m. comment above). The flip side of this would be the type of elections that predominated in the late 19th century during the zenith of the Gilded Age, such as described here:

The Richmond County methods in Georgia and Alabama--wholesale ballot-box stuffing, open bribery, various forms of intimidation, and massive voting by dead or fictitious Negroes. The Richmond County methods of Georgia were almost precisely duplicated in the "Harrison County methods" used in East Texas to defeat "Cyclone" Davis. Indeed, in Texas the phrase "Harrison County methods" became the standard term defining the most effective Democratic campaign technique of the Populist era. Even on the face of the returns, and including in the total the controlled vote of South Texas, the Populist vote jumped from the 23 per cent of 1892 to almost 40 per cent in 1894. The "official" statewide total showed Nugent had been defeated for the governorship by 230,000 to 160,000, though a number of steps were taken to ensure that the real outcome would be forever beyond recovery. –The Populist Moment, Lawrence Goodwyn

And I agree that "the earlier reference to Federalist #10 and #51 is very apt" and "find it encouraging that there is some knowledge of those two essays." However, the way in which these documents were used in the comments above lacks subtlety. What it boils down to is that now, in response to the myth of American Exceptionalism, comes the counter myth. Malicious intent is ascribed to the Founding Fathers that did not exist.

To begin with, to evaluate the Founding Fathers by today's standards gives a highly distorted picture. Take Elvis Presley, for instance. In his day he was a highly innovative, and extremely controversial, figure. But in comparison to Mick Jagger, or even more so to some of today's popular musicians, he hardly seems radical. Yet no one would even remotely think of dethroning Elvis as "The King of Rock and Roll." Yet there are those who would rob the Founding Fathers of their place in political and economic history, even though in their day they were quite radical, and extremely controversial.

There's a book that everyone should read called The Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom: Its Evolution and Consequences in American History. It serves as a strong antidote and counterweight to some of the Marxist- and constructivist-inspired histories written by the likes of Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky.

The Founding Fathers were not so much interested in examining "the necessity and essence of balancing the interests of the landed class with those of the rentier class" as they were finding a way to deal with "the tyranny of the majority" or "an excess of democracy." And their concerns were not limited to the material world--property. They included the spiritual world as well--oppressive religious majorities. Wherever "a majority are united by a common interest or passion," Madison concluded, "the rights of the minority are in danger." And as Madison went on to explain:

That diabolical, Hell-conceived principle of persecution rages among some, and to their eternal infamy, the clergy can furnish their quota of imps for such business. This vexes me the most of anything whatever. There are…in the adjacent country not less than 5 or 6 well meaning men in close jail for publishing their religious sentiments, which in the main are very orthodox.

As Lance Banning in his essay in The Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom explains:

Madison was deeply dedicated to the Revolutionary principle that governments derive their just authority from popular consent and must remain responsive to people's will. He was dedicated, too, to "justice," by which he meant equality before the law and scrupulous respect by government for natural law and natural rights. However obvious it seems to us that the desire to reconcile these two commitments is the fundamental paradox of every liberal democracy, early revolutionary thinkers did not necessarily anticipate a conflict.

In his 10:11 a.m. comment above Mickey alleges "Such thinking absolves the 'left' of any culpabillity or responsibilty for this failure. Or at least it fails to explain the resurgence of the reactionary right – a process that began in 1964, if not sooner, and its growing domination of American politics since the late 60s."

Personally, I think much of the "culpability or responsibility" for the failures of the left and "the resurgence of the reactionary right…and its growing domination of American politics since the late 60s" is to be found not in someone else's thinking, but in Mickey's.

"From each according to his ability, to each according to his need (or needs)" goes the creed popularized by Karl Marx in his 1875 Critique of the Gotha Program. But what percentage of any general population really believes in that manifesto. How many people really desire "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need," or equality in other words? I would say a minority, and quite a small minority.

The great Mexican painter Diego Rivera thought he had found in the ancient indigenous civilizations of Western Mexico examples of the egalitarian paradises of the past conceived by the Marxist ideology he embraced. The clay figures he collected from those cultures, after all, were so utterly human, capturing the empathetic expressions of everyday people in their daily communal life. Later studies, however, such as those in Ancient West Mexico: Art and Archaeology of the Unknown Past, revealed something very different. The very clay figures Rivera collected in the belief that they were emblems of equality served just the opposite purpose. They were created and used as high-status objects that conveyed prestige and rank to their owners. Only the tribal elite owned these artistic creations.

Studies of extant primitive cultures reveal similar phenomenon, as is discussed in Moral Sentiments and Material Interests. No one starves in these primitive tribal societies, so the "needs" of all members of the tribe are met. However, the most productive hunters and gatherers are showered with adoration and prestige. They are the ones who rise to leadership positions within the tribe. Conversely, slackers and free-riders are shunned and ridiculed.

So there is something to this "natural law" that Madison spoke of after all (and which I think our reigning plutocrats are fixin' to learn about--and maybe the hard way). Most people desire hierarchy, but a hierarchy ordered on merit, performance, excellence and achievement. What a majority of people want is "justice," by which is meant "equality before the law and scrupulous respect by government for natural law and natural rights." This is something very different from a desire that everyone be equal, and herein lays one of the great miscalculations of the today's American left.

i on the ball patriot
November 13, 2010 at 5:00 pm You suddenly sound like a libertarian …

DownSouth says; "Studies of extant primitive cultures reveal similar phenomenon, as is discussed in Moral Sentiments and Material Interests. No one starves in these primitive tribal societies, so the "needs" of all members of the tribe are met. However, the most productive hunters and gatherers are showered with adoration and prestige. They are the ones who rise to leadership positions within the tribe. Conversely, slackers and free-riders are shunned and ridiculed."

Yes, just like today in scamerica slackers and free riders are "shunned and ridiculed." Is this what you go on to say, and appear to advocate, when you say below, "So there is something to this "natural law" that Madison spoke of after all (and which I think our reigning plutocrats are fixin' to learn about--and maybe the hard way)." …

http://images.google.com/images?gbv=2&hl=en&safe=off&rls=ig&newwindow=1&q=homeless+people&sa=N&start=20&ndsp=20&biw=1020&bih=619

DownSouth says further; "So there is something to this "natural law" that Madison spoke of after all (and which I think our reigning plutocrats are fixin' to learn about--and maybe the hard way). Most people desire hierarchy, but a hierarchy ordered on merit, performance, excellence and achievement. What a majority of people want is "justice," by which is meant "equality before the law and scrupulous respect by government for natural law and natural rights." This is something very different from a desire that everyone be equal, and herein lays one of the great miscalculations of the today's American left."

Yes, there is something to natural law, it is Darwinian cannibalistic and civilized societies strive to rise above it in pursuit of the COLLECTIVE SELF INTEREST of the society.

Most people do not desire hierarchy, rather they recognize that it is imposed upon them by simply being born as a cannibalistic organism (those that are really perceptive), and further magnified in intensity by being born into a hierarchical environment that reflects again that cannibalistic dog eat dog nature that has skewed and colored that environment that they are born into.

People are not born "slackers and free riders" as you claim. That is pure bullshit! People are made into slackers and free riders trying to cope with those who celebrate their cannibalistic Darwinian nature and act on it in an unbridled fashion. That is the nature celebrated in the artifacts you describe made in a PRIMATIVE culture, one that we must strive to rise above.

Those who claim that there is something to this "natural Law", and then use that something to justify taking far more than what would be a just share in a fair society, and then using that wealth to further shape the Darwinian dog eat dog cannibalistic world that we are all born into, in to a far greater Darwinian world, are full of self aggrandizing deceptive crap.

It is they who have created the aggregate generationally corrupted environment that comes with the imposition of a crooked FED and a scam 'rule of law'.

"SLACKERS AND FREE RIDERS" ARE NOT NATURAL, THEY ARE A PRODUCT OF, AND ARE CREATED BY, THEIR ALREADY FURTHER DARWINIZED ENVIRONMENT THAT THEY ARE BORN INTO - as in - you are what you have been through, but now and the future are up to you.

What most people really want is security and an opportunity to grow their human spirit/life force to its fullest potential. Perceptive people recognize that comes from recognizing "natural law" - yes, the pecking ordered competitive hierarchal system thrust upon us - but then rising above it by limiting that system, not because we "desire" it, but rather because we are forced by being born into it to honor it.

The balance that best serves the COLLECTIVE SELF INTEREST is the balance that will best do the job for all in the society and at the same time best serve evolution. If evolution is unhappy, as she appears to be with the present lop sided societal arrangement (just look around you globally for proof of that) she will give us a well deserved boot into the dust bin of unrecorded history.

Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

DownSouth
November 13, 2010 at 8:53 pm i on the ball patriot,

You and I must be using very different definitions of "natural law." And I don't suppose that's surprising, because the concept of natural law has been under concerted attack for several decades now by economists (most notably those from the Chicago School) and by the New Atheists (who hail from other disciplines of the social sciences).

Here's how Thomas Jefferson described natural law:

Nature hath implanted in our breasts a love of others, a sense of duty to them, a moral instinct in short…impelling us to virtuous actions, and warning us against those which are vicious.

Here's David Little talking about Jefferson and moral law in his essay in The Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom:

He tried to demonstrate that once the common moral denominator of all religions has been isolated, it is then possible to detach and dispense with the respective "dogmas" of the different traditions. Religious dogmas are, declared Jefferson, "totally unconnected with morality."

And here's Jefferson again in a letter to Thomas Law in 1814:

Some have made the love of God the foundation of morality… [But] if we did a good act merely from the love of God and a belief that it is pleasing to him, whence arises the morality of the Atheist[s]? … Their virtue must have some other foundation."

C.S. Lewis also wrote extensively about the Law of Nature in Right and Wrong as a Clue to the Meaning of the Universe:

Now this Law or Rule about Right and Wrong used to be called the Law of Nature.

[….]

This law was called the Law of Nature because people thought every one knew it be nature and did not need to be taught it. They did not mean, of course, that you might not find an odd individual here and there who did not know it, just as you find a few people who are colour-blind or have no ear for a tune. But taking the race as a whole, they thought that the human idea of decent behavior was obvious to every one. And I believe they were right. If they were not, then all the things we said about the war were nonsense. What was the sense in saying the enemy wee in the wrong unless right is a real thing which the Nazis at bottom knew as well as we did and ought to have practiced? If they had had no notion of what we mean by right, then, though we might still have had to fight them, we could no more have blamed them for that than for the colour of their hair.

I know that some people say the idea of a Law of Nature or decent behavior known to all men is unsound, because different civilizations and different ages have had quite different moralities.

But this is not true. There have been differences between their moralities, but these have never amounted to anything like a total difference. If anyone will take the trouble to compare the moral teaching of, say, the ancient Egyptians, Babylonians, Hindus, Chinese, Greeks and Romans, what will really strike him will be how very like they are to each other and to our own. Some of the evidence for this I have put together in the appendix of another book called "The Abolition of Man," but for our present purpose I need only ask the reader to think what a totally different morality would mean. Think of a country where people were admire for running away in battle, or where a man felt proud of double-crossing all the people who had been kindest to him. You might as well try to imagine a country where two and two make five. Men have differed as regards what people you ought to be unselfish to--whether it was only your own family, or your fellow countrymen, or every one. But they have always agreed that you ought not to put yourself firs. Selfishness has never been admired.

[….]

The laws of nature, as applied to stones or trees, may only mean 'what Nature, in fact, does'. But if you turn to the Law of Human Nature, the Law of Decent Behaviour, it is a different matter. That law certainly does not mean 'what human beings, in fact, do'; for as I said before, many of them do not obey this law at all, and none of them obey it completely. The law of gravity tells you what stones do if you drop them; but the Law of Human Nature tells you what human beings ought to do and do not.

As to your assertion that "most people do not desire hierarchy," there is no empirical data whatsoever to support that assertion. It's a utopian concept that Marx dreamed up. In simpler societies, people rise in the hierarchy because of what they can do for the society. Here's an example from Moral Sentiments and Material Interests:

There are also large differences in hunting ability among men. For example, there is a five-fold difference in the long-term average hunting returns between the best and worst hunter in the sample of Ache men. Similar discrepancies in hunting ability across men have been found among the !Kung, Hadza, Hiwi, Gunwinggu, Agta, and Machiguenga. Therefore, even among men of the same age, there must be net transfers over the long term from families producing a surplus to families producing a deficit.

Why do superior performers continue to outperform and give their excess production away? Well certainly many of the potential returns are not material, but have to do with the striving for prestige, status and adulation:

Costly signaling theory provides the basis for arguing that generosity--incurring the costs of providing collective goods--is one means by which individuals and coalitions compete for status, and ultimately for the material and fitness-enhancing correlates of status (such as possible power, mates, and economic resources). The quality-dependent cost of providing the collective good guarantees the honesty of the signaler's claim to such qualities as resource control, leadership abilities, kin-group solidarity, economic productivity, or good health and vigor--information that is useful to the signaler's potential mates, allies, and competitors.

Here's another example of the same phenomenon:

Because the first medieval rulers had been barbarians, most of what followed derived from their customs. Chieftains like Ermanaric, Alaric, Attila, and Clovis rose as successful battlefield leaders whose fighting skills promised still more triumphs to come. Each had been chosen by his warriors, who, after raising him on their shields, had carried him to a pagan temple or a sacred stone and acclaimed him there… Lesser tribesmen were grateful to him for the spoils of victory, though his claim on their allegiance also had supernatural roots.

[….]

[T]he chieftains had been chosen for merit, and early kings wore crowns only ad vitam aut culpam--for life or until removed for fault.

In the United States we have taken this concept and turned it on its head. Our political and financial overlords have not been elevated to the top of the hierarchy because of what they do for society. Quite the opposite, they think in terms of what society can do for them. That's why I say the inverted pyramid is a perfect metaphor for current US society. And it's unstable because it flies in the face of perhaps a million years of human evolution, all but the last 10,000 years or so lived in small hunter-gatherer societies in which the "law of nature" evolved.

skippy
Natural selection is the process by which traits become more or less common in a population due to consistent effects upon the survival or reproduction of their bearers. It is a key mechanism of evolution.

The natural genetic variation within a population of organisms may cause some individuals to survive and reproduce more successfully than others in their current environment.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_selection

Skippy….Concur, whom made the environment…own it.

PS. do the poor have so many kids, as to hope, for one successful functioning psychopath (cough professional) to make the family proud?

DownSouth
i on the ball patriot,

And one other thing. Maybe I wasn't clear when I used the term "slackers and free-riders." Not only low producers, but high prodcers in primitive societies can also find themselves on the outs if they aren't sufficiently generous. Here's Moral Sentiments again:

Those who do not produce or share enough are often subject to criticism, either directly or through gossip and social ostracism. Anecdotes of shirkers being excluded from distributions until they either boosted their production or sharing levels are found among the Maimande, Pilaga, Gunwinggu, Washo, Machiguenga, Agta, and Netsilik Eskimo.

ceasley7
Maybe I'm crazy but I consider the crooks running the show now to be the swamp creatures. Illegal wars, no rule of law ….
Ignim Brites
Well a pretty dreary piece. My take on the current political situation is based on the idea that there will not be another mega bailout. The party with the best program for dealing with the TBTF banks will seize the popular imagination for a decade. It could be quite exciting if Bernanke and Geithner try an end run around Congress. The possibility of spectacle of the these two in chains is not to be dismissed.
Hugh
Most of what Ferguson is saying is what many of us here and elsewhere have been saying for an age. Is swamp creatures some oblique reference to Huey Long? Or to radicals in general. Because it was those radicals who pushed FDR and the Establishment into those actions for which they now get, deservedly, so much credit.

But seriously Jerry Brown? Governor Moonbeam? For a political scientist and historian, Ferguson is showing a real lapse of memory. As for Barbour, possible, but he is a founder of the big lobbying firm Barbour Griffith & Rogers, that and being governor of the poorest state in the country are hardly recommendations. I mean what is he going to run on "Vote for me and I will make the rest of the country as poor as Mississippi"? Yeah, that'll work.

ZeroInMyOnes
November 13, 2010 at 3:18 pm That leaves Hillary.
craazyman
November 13, 2010 at 4:53 pm Sarah Palin his a nicer butt.
F. Beard
But the experience of the Great Depression was that as things failed to improve the swamp creatures got their chance. Thomas Ferguson

And why not? Are our problems so big that a $1 million check sent to every American adult citizen from the US Treasury would not solve them?

There's a huge political prize for the first political party to realize it is almost that simple. The other parties will kick themselves to death for being so blind.

lark
The reason this country has worked, despite all the negatives that Ferguson describes so well, is because it has provided a powerful 'jobs machine'.

Globalization and outsourcing ended all that. I think the balance that we took for granted has disintegrated – and the center has disintegrated, with that.

It is interesting that the Tea Party and the unions agree on stopping globalization.

This international economic order is going to bite the dust. That may even be good for ordinary Americans, because we will manufacture more of what we consume.

[Nov 13, 2010] "Money and the Midterms- Are the Parties Over- Interview with Thomas Ferguson"

But in fact, American political parties are mostly bank accounts. What you are told is the voice of the people is usually the sound of money talking.

First posted at New Deal 2.0

Lynn Parramore: What do you make of the 2010 Election?

Thomas Ferguson: The 2010 election was not like others. It was certainly not simply 2006 in reverse, this time with the Republicans winning by a landslide. There is an obvious cumulative process at work here, with first one party and then the other receiving lopsided votes of no confidence from voters. The U.S. economy is barely moving; millions of Americans are looking for work and struggling to find ways to salvage their life savings and pensions; the international position of the U.S. is sliding; and the government is largely paralyzed on issues that voters care about most. We have clearly been in a political crisis for some years; the meaning of the 2010 election is that this crisis is becoming much deeper, moving into an entirely different stage. The parallels to the Great Depression are eerie: At that time, in many countries, voters seem to have followed an "in-out," "out-in" rule. But that process does not go on forever. As the Depression deepened with no solutions, all kinds of strange creatures started creeping out of the shadows. The U.S. seems to be entering that stage.

Lynn Parramore: You're implying the political system failed in some serious way. How so?

Thomas Ferguson: 2008 had all the earmarks of a classic realigning election, as my old colleague Walter Dean Burnham describes them. In the wake of the financial collapse, it looked for all the world like voters were ready for, even demanding, major reforms. They had elected a Democratic President on a promise of "Change," with both houses of Congress solidly Democratic. That's why many people were thinking that Obama was going give us a modern New Deal. They really believed him when he promised change. Instead, Obama's failure on the economy has discredited the whole idea of the activist state. The dimensions of this failure were spectacular: he didn't move aggressively to combat unemployment, the economic stimulus was half as large as it needed to be, and he didn't deal with the mortgage crisis. So unemployment stayed way up, and many people remain in danger of losing their homes or are underwater on their mortgages, with the whole housing sector stalling out. To make matters worse, the administration lavished aid on the financial sector. The spectacle of the government aiding bankers, who turned around and paid themselves record bonuses, has just been unbearable for millions of people.

What the election really shows is not that the parties can't agree - Democrats and most of the GOP leadership finally agreed on the bank bailouts, for example - but that the American people will not accept the policies that leaders in both parties prefer. In 2006 and 2008, the population voted no-confidence in the Republicans on the war and the economy. They have just now presented the Democrats with another resounding a no-confidence vote. What makes the current situation intractable is the fundamental reason for these serial failures. It's obvious: big money dominates both major parties. The Obama campaign's dependence on money and personnel from the financial sector was clear to anyone who looked, even before he won the nomination, promoted Geithner, brought Summers back, and reappointed Bernanke. For years I've promised people that I'll tell you who bought your candidate before you vote for him or her, by simply applying my "investment theory of political parties." When I analyzed the early money in Obama's campaign in March, 2008, it was impossible not to see that many of the people responsible for the financial crisis were major Obama supporters. As I wrote for TPM, serious financial reform would not be on President Obama's agenda.

Lynn Parramore: Lots of people point out that the banks have paid back the bailout funds and that the government actually made money on the deal. Can Obama at least claim that this policy was good for the American people?

Thomas Ferguson: The bailout was originally not Obama's but George Bush's, though Obama supported it during the campaign. The "banks-paid-us-back" story is mostly Treasury propaganda. The claim is really based on a narrow accounting of TARP funds. In fact, a lot of that aid has not been paid back. AIG, for example, is still heavily owned by the government. Secondly, the aid was way, way underpriced - meaning that the federal government got very little for its money. If you want to see what market-driven terms you could get for aiding banks at the height of the crisis, just look at what Warren Buffett received for buying into Goldman Sachs. Most importantly of all, the banks actually got far more help than the direct TARP monies. They received sweeping FDIC guarantees on their debt and truly gigantic amounts of aid from Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, and the Federal Reserve. All three of these entities have supported the market for mortgage-backed securities that the banks own. They bought huge amounts of them, taking the risks right out of banks, putting it on taxpayers, and in the process handing handsome profits to banks. Regulators allowed the banks to rip off their depositors and credit and debit card holders, while the Fed handed out virtually free money to banks. To add insult to injury, the regulators have allowed the bankers to use the profits from all these government subsidies to award themselves huge, indeed, record-setting bonuses. Those funds should have been used to strengthen the balance sheets of the banks. And if all this weren't enough, regulators also permitted the banks to hide the true value of their bad loans and they let it be known that the largest ones were Too Big To Fail, which allows them to borrow funds more cheaply than smaller banks. The net result of these big bank-friendly "forbearance" policies is that we have all paid to make these banks fabulously profitable, yet they still remain very weak institutions and are not lending. The resemblance to Japan's "lost decade" is obvious.

Lynn Parramore: Was there ever a chance that Obama could be a new FDR?

Thomas Ferguson: People who were hailing Obama as a new FDR were viewing American politics through the wrong lens. They were treating public policy as the result of the will of voters. But in fact, American political parties are mostly bank accounts. What you are told is the voice of the people is usually the sound of money talking.

Much of my research has been devoted to showing how both parties are dominated by blocs of large investors. The policy choices political parties present to the public on Social Security, macroeconomic policy, campaign finance reform, and indeed nearly every other policy area save a handful of hot-button "social issues" are basically dominated by big money. The consequences are disastrous: Neither party can level with the American people in crises. They cannot diagnose problems like the financial crisis with any honesty and they can't make any detailed case for why the policies they do sponsor would actually benefit ordinary Americans. What we get instead are pseudo-explanations, myths, and sometimes, obvious mendacity. Political discussions in the media, where they are not distorted by the plain interests of the concerns themselves, are dominated by denizens of the "think tank" and "policy institute" world. Most of these institutions are heavily driven by, surprise, surprise, big money in the form of donors. As Robert Johnson and I documented in our paper for last year's INET Conference, growing inequality in the United States complicates this dismal picture by converting regulatory agencies into recruiting grounds for would be millionaires via the revolving door, while at the same time permitting the financial sector to substitute virtually untraceable stock tips for direct contributions.

Lynn Parramore: Where do you see politicians making up policy myths right now?

Thomas Ferguson: On the Republican side, you again have people claiming that the problems of the Great Recession can be solved by reapplying the policies of Herbert Hoover. Surely this is amazing; they are plumping for going straight back to the deregulated market economy that brought you the 2008 disaster. It's simply crazy, for example, to even consider leaving financial houses free to decide on their own level of leverage, to sell derivatives on exchanges that are not fully transparent, or to sell junk securities to their own customers without telling them. But the Republicans are threatening to roll back even the anemic Dodd-Frank financial "reform" legislation, though, to be fair, they will have plenty of Democratic support for some of this.

And it's obvious that neither party wants to address the problem of campaign finance reform. Instead, the Democrats spent part of the campaign talking up dangers from "foreign" money. It's not as though the problems of the system of American political financing come from foreign money. The problem is mostly domestic money. And the Supreme Court has made everything worse with its Citizens United decision. But, note well, the tragedy of big money in the Democratic Party was clear long before that Supreme Court ruling or even before Obama started running for president. Just look at the earlier cases I analyzed in my Golden Rule.

Fundamentally, the problem of money and politics is very simple: campaigning is costly, much more costly than classical democratic theory has acknowledged. Some way has to be found to pay for it. We may take it as an axiom that those who pay for the campaign will control it. So the choices boil down to just two: either we all pay a little, through public financing of campaigns, or a relative handful of the super-rich end up controlling the system because they pay for the campaign.

Lynn Parramore: Does the financial sector give more to Democrats or Republicans?

Thomas Ferguson: We've all seen the staggering statistics on lobbying and political contributions by the financial sector over the last couple of years. More recently, we've also heard about how finance is supposed to have turned against the Democrats. There's something to this: bank contributions to the Republicans increased when discussions of a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau started as the House began considering Dodd-Frank. Contributions to the GOP swelled when the White House panicked after Scott Brown won the special election to fill Ted Kennedy's seat in Massachusetts and endorsed the so-called "Volcker Rule", just as public indignation about bank bonuses was at its height. But the size of the shift toward Republicans has been exaggerated. If you look at total political contributions from securities and investment firms over the entire 2009-2010 election cycle, you will see that more money still flowed to the Democrats. Commercial banks, a narrower sub-group of the financial sector, gave more to Republicans, but only by about 60-40.

Lynn Parramore: So where does all this leave the American political system?

Thomas Ferguson: I think the answer is pretty clear: The political system is disintegrating, probably heading toward a real breakdown of some sort. The striking thing is that if you look beneath the surface of the victorious Republican Party, it is about as contentiously divided as the Democrats. The Tea Party's distrust of the party establishment is apparent, but the divisions within the GOP predated the Tea Party's emergence. They were obvious in 2008. At that time, it was pretty clear that a majority of the party did not want McCain. But there was no consensus on an alternative. 2012 is looking like a repeat of 2008: All kinds of people are eyeing the race, including several would-be candidates who can probably raise large war chests. In the end, somebody is going to win - my dark horse candidate is Haley Barbour, probably the Republican politician who is most closely connected to big business - but the whole party is unlikely to unite around him or her. In all probability, the GOP primaries will turn into a demolition derby, tending to discredit everyone involved. I also doubt that the Republican governors who are now promising to cut state budgets will find the public nearly as receptive to deep cuts as they think it will be, as people watch essential social services disappear, prisons empty, and see educational institutions trashed out that are in many cases the only hope of lagging states. Nor do I believe there is any popular majority for cutting Social Security, which is clearly emerging as a major issue just as we speak. And parts of the health care legislation are really popular, so that just saying no is going to look pretty foolish after some months.

The key to the future of American politics is the course of unemployment, though that is linked vitally to housing markets and how you deal with people's lost pensions and savings. If unemployment stays high, I would not be surprised to see some intra-party challenges to President Obama, even though right now everyone dismisses that possibility. The unions went down the line with Obama for the last two years and they have little to show for it; some of them are already scouting other possibilities. It is also interesting to speculate about Jerry Brown - just watch his star rise if he succeeds in overcoming the California fiscal crisis. Were Brown to defeat Obama in a few primaries, then the temptation for Hillary Clinton to come in would be intense. And right now the United States is mired down in two shooting wars that are not going very well.

Even more interesting are the possibilities of a third party candidacy - the obvious entrant is Mayor Bloomberg. He's plainly considering it. I notice that he does not appear to have folded the network of organizations that quietly talked up his candidacy in 2008. That tells you plenty.

Lynn Parramore: So is American politics fated to be all doom and gloom?

Thomas Ferguson: If you want a happy ending, you probably shouldn't follow our system too closely in the next few years. Instead, go see a Disney movie, unless perhaps Tim Burton is making it. Bloomberg, Brown, or Hillary Clinton, though, are all known quantities. But the experience of the Great Depression was that as things failed to improve the swamp creatures got their chance. And when the economic situation shook out, the geopolitics became more sinister. It would be a rash person indeed who counted on a happy ending to this mess.

Selected Comments

attempter

This is a pretty good synopsis. It gives a good one-paragraph summary of the Bailout and correctly pegs these facts:
  1. The people are rejecting both parties; all recent elections were rejections, not affirmations.
  2. The only exception to that was the extent to which people really did believe Obama's lies about "change".

While the "progressives" themselves look incorrigible, the fact that the masses in general believed in this fraudulent campaign simply reflects their desperation for real Change. It was enough for them to look upon Obama as a kind of de facto "alternate" candidate. (The 2010 election demonstrates how they realized their error. The Dems are eternally Dems and are just as worthless and criminal as the Reps.)

(The same would obviously be true of a pseudo-alternative run by Bloomberg, who would represent more of the neoliberal same. At best maybe it would result in more gridlock, if a rich pseudo-"independent" became president.)

3. We can have American elections again only if America takes back control of them, including financial control. All elites are unified in trying to prevent this. Citizens United was a formal ratification of the general anti-democratic conspiracy.

So Ferguson is right in saying that whoever pays for the election will receive value from it. If you want democracy, you need full public funding and to purge large-scale private funding. If, on the other hand, you allow large private bribes and "corporate speech", then you receive kleptocracy, and that's implicitly what you always wanted.

You want to will an end, you have to will the means. You will a means, you implicitly will the end those means guarantee.

That's a law of life.

(BTW, to achieve a real transformation in Argentina 10 years ago required, among other things, basically getting rid of and replacing the existing, irremediably corrupt supreme court. Just saying.)

I think, however, that the returns are in and the evidence proves that "representative democracy" itself is just pseudo-democracy, and cannot be "reformed". Even without a rogue supreme court validating direct corporate purchase of elections, that would go on constantly anyway. It's the same war of attrition that regulators can never win so long as the rackets exist at all.

So it follows that if we want democracy, we have to completely rid ourselves of the rackets, of corporate power itself. (That's just one of many, many reasons to do so.)

And we know that one part of how organized crime was able to seize power in the first place was through its control of these "representatives". We know that the whole point of setting up a "republic" in the first place was to ensure that the elites could most effectively rule a divided people. (Cf. Federalist #51.)

So again, if we will liberty and democracy, it follows that we must recognize representative pseudo-democracy as an inadequate means and relegate it to history's trash heap with the rest of the systems which have been proven inherently criminal. We must institute the only mode of polity and economy which has been proven to work on a practical level, to safeguard the people's sovereignty, and to give adequate scope to our positive freedom imperative: Direct democracy, true federalism, and the cooperative stewardship economy.

kievite
While I myself periodically write posts in this style something is definitely wrong with your approach to the problem. Let me play Devil Advocate here.

First of all there is no evidence that money played less role in the USA politics in the past. Elections were always extremely corrupt. Two party system was always a trick to prevent emergence of the third party and, in essence, just an improved and more sophisticated variant of the USSR one party system. So what exactly you are complaining about ? :-)

The key problem is the we deal with the transformation of capitalism into financial (casino) capitalism and this process trumps other factors. There is little that can be done after train left the station under Reagan or even earlier. Events just run their natural course and it was not bad years at all, if you think about them. I would say that 1970-2010 was probably the most prosperous 50 years in the USA history. Almost each family has a car, most have separate housing, enough food, superabundant amount of clothing, electronics (computer, cell-phones after 2000, Internet access, etc), etc, can enjoy traveling during vacations, etc. Is not this a paradise for common people?

If you think about logical complexity of providing peaceful coexistence of 300 million people for 50 years, this is a really an achievement or ruling elite and the such a nation can be called (borrowing the term from our Republican friends) a blessed nation. One big danger - nationalism - the force the blow up the USSR is almost completely absent. In this sense too, the USA can be called a blessed nation.

History shows that each economic regime comes to a natural end. I think we might be close to a logical end of casino capitalism stage. The current regime may slump another several miles but I doubt that it will survive. The real question here is what next ?

My feeling is that this failed bet on financial institutions providing revenue from foreign operations on the scale enough to sustain the economy on the strength of the dollar as reserve currency was doomed from the very beginning and became really self-defeating after emergence of euro.

Financial institutions tried their best to grow but in a process became far more reckless gamblers then is healthy due to disappearance of the regulation (everybody and his brother wanted them to grow and prosper) and put nation well-being into question.

Now there is a zugzwang situation: if you demolish financial institutions you will lose the dubious advantages of building them up for the last 30 years and associated foreign operations revenue streams.

If you let them survive, the cost of keeping them afloat is sinking everything else. Essentially in the current form they impose a tax on the economy that suppresses growth of other sectors. The extent of this effect is debatable but that's how I see it.

"Peak everything" does not help in this situation either and that's a huge difference with Great Depression. Another big different is disappearance of the Communist Block which helped indirectly to provide a countervailing force to excessive greed and as such played important positive role in the USA economic development.

I think this framework is more productive way to look at the current political and economic problems than any fixation on elections and (illusive) two party system.

attempter
November 13, 2010 at 9:59 am If you read the OP you'd see it was largely about elections, therefore I focused on them in the reply.

As a general rule I regard them as a detail. As I said, pseudo-democracy is an irremediable scam.

Although the criminals certainly like when you repeat their talking points for them: "Nothing's changed, this is just a doldrum. It's always been like this at times."

Of course if you really understand "peak everything", then you know why it's never remotely been like this.

As for what's really in store unless we fight, I've written extensively about that, but here's my best crystallization:

http://attempter.wordpress.com/2010/07/05/part-4-the-full-fury-of-the-new-feudal-war-the-intended-end-state/

DownSouth
November 13, 2010 at 11:39 am •

kievite

First of all there is no evidence that money played less role in the USA politics in the past. Elections were always extremely corrupt. Two party system was always a trick to prevent emergence of the third party and, in essence, just an improved and more sophisticated variant of the USSR one party system. So what exactly you are complaining about ?

This is way too heavy-handed an interpretation of American history. As George Orwell asserted in "England Your England": "All such arguments boil down to saying that half a loaf is the same as not bread." For, as Orwell went on to point out (the year was 1941), "In England such concepts as justice, liberty, and objective truth are still believed in."

Are these concepts still believed in within the United States? I don't know. There has certainly been a well orchestrated campaign by leading Universities and think-tanks over the last 50 years to destroy these ideals. And assertions like yours, by making it sound like there was never a time in history when these concepts were believed in, only aids and abets the right-wing.

Recommended reading here is Kevin Phillips' Wealth and Democracy. In the first great contest between the Whigs (Jeffersonians) and the Tories (Federalists/Hamiltonians) on the American stage, the Tories were thoroughly routed. Here's Phillips:

Hamilton's use of government banking and debt to reward a wealthy elite trespassed on the Revolutionary credo, as did the excise taxes so anathemous to farmers…

Wealth and aristocracy remained a target through 1800 as the rich-poor gap widened in the major cities. The share of assets held by the top 10 percent in New York City climbed from 54 percent in 1789 to 61 percent by 1795, while much the same thing occurred in Philadelphia. New York and Pennsylvania were also the hotbeds of conspicuous speculation, and Pennsylvania farmers were the angriest over Federalist taxes. When the elections of 1800 gave Jefferson twenty of the two states' combined twenty-seven electoral votes, the Virginian beat John Adams, and no Federalist ever again held the presidency.

There are other counterfactuals to your sweeping generalization that "Elections were always extremely corrupt."

kievite
"I would say that 1970-2010 was probably the most prosperous 50 years in the USA history…. Is not this a paradise for common people? ….. this is a really an achievement or ruling elite and the such a nation can be called (borrowing the term from our Republican friends) a blessed nation."

The period from 1970-2007 was a period of declining fortunes for the bottom two quintiles of US society, treading water for the middle two quintiles, and improving fortunes for only the upper quintile, and this very heavily weighted to the top 1%. Beginning in 2008, all quintiles except the upper quintile, and perhaps even the top 10%, went into a tailspin.

kievite
"My feeling is that this failed bet on financial institutions providing revenue from foreign operations on the scale enough to sustain the economy on the strength of the dollar as reserve currency was doomed from the very beginning and became really self-defeating after emergence of euro."

"Sustain the economy" for whom? The distribution of the rewards of imperialism, whether of the traditional kind (acquire raw materials and resources on the cheap and export expensive manufactured goods) or the new kind (neo-imperialism or financial imperialism, the alliance of neoliberalism with neoconservatism whereby capital, finance and financial products are the export product) , are always highly skewered toward the rich and the powerful of the empire.

kievite
"…if you demolish financial institutions you will lose the dubious advantages of building them up for the last 30 years and associated foreign operations revenue streams."

Who cares, other than the economic and political overlords? The economic benefits from these financial institutions flow only to a very select portion of the population. Why should the 99% who don't receive any benefit care whether they live or die?

Mickey Marzick in Akron, Ohio
I think you would agree that Federalist #51 is a continuation of Federalist #10.

If ever there was a more explicit, honest explanaton of how to thwart majority rule and why doing so was necessary, Madison penned it in #10. Reading both #10 and #51 and then reading the US Constitution should dispel any illusions of "democracy" extolled in Civics 101. Couple these writings with the historical context – French Revolution abroad and Whiskey Rebellion here – in which they were written and the fact that the Founding Elites were not "democrats" is no surprise.

Blaming it all on money is too simplistic! And to assert that the political system is disintegrating, as opposed to undergoing transformation, is a bit of a stretch. If it is then the outcome is likely to be a right-wing authoritarianism of the kind that will likely find many of us "disappearing" into the void of cyberspace with no identity or record of ever having existed outside of immediate family and friends. Los desaparecidos nuevos!

Such thinking absolves the "left" of any culpabillity or responsibilty for this failure. Or at least it fails to explain the resurgence of the reactionary right – a process that began in 1964, if not sooner, and its growing domination of American politics since the late 60s. The eclipse/rout of the "left" in this country since then is what requires explanation. Then how the situation can be reversed, if at all.

With the "left" demonized, its ideas discredited, and balkanization fragmenting it into nonsignifcance since the late 60s, any attempt to equate Obama with FDR was pure hype and ahistorical. Conditions in 2007-08 were vastly different from those in 1929-32. Back then, there was a fairly well organized LEFT to the left of FDR. Banks were mistrusted, if not hated, and stuffing money in the mattress was taken literally. Moreover, the very existence of the Soviet Union made many a capitalist willing to "share the wealth" to "prove" that capitalism works for everyone rather than confront the red alternative head on. It is no concidence that the demise of the Soviet Union, death of the New Deal Coalition, and resurgence of the RIGHT in this country have coincided. Naomi Klein has documented this in DISASTER CAPITALISM.

Obama himself is a product of this counterrevolution [1968-present] and his purported "radicalism" has to be examined in this light. His capture by the "leftwing" of the bankers is hardly surprising. Nor is their investment and susbequent payback. A generational groupthink shared by ruling elites of either persuasion, but with the fundamentals of the "American Consensus" agreed upon by all.

With the New Deal Coalition dead, organized labor a vague memory, and the electorate fragmented into competing factions, the Left simply has no leverage. Unable to disrupt the machine, yet alone shut it down, there's nothing to push/pull Obama left. There is no permanent base, but rather, a fluid amalgam of competing factions. Ironically, the sustainable majority able to capture all three branches of government over time envisioned by Madison in Fed #10 and #51 has been built. But it's on the RIGHT. How sustainable is debatable, but for now…

Even Keynesianism, the economic orthodoxy of the Left for much of the postwar period has been found wanting. Once "progressive" it is now one side of a reactionary coin that limits debate on economics to how much capitalism is in the offing. Complete laissez-faire versus regulated laissez-faire! There's simply no discussion of any alternative to capitalism. That is a significant difference between the 1930s and the present.

Taking money out of politics will only matter if the Left can create a sustainable majority to supplant the current one. Otherwise, let's not kid ourselves any longer with overly simplistic monocausal explanations of what is wrong with the American political system. The hour is getting late…

attempter
I have no idea where you people are getting this "monocausal" stuff from my comment. I reiterate, I went with the example from the OP.

I could write a hundred comments using a hundred different examples to reach my conclusion, and as I said above elections are not one of my main examples.

I specified #51 because I've often had occasion lately to think about this quote:

It is of great importance in a republic not only to guard the society against the oppression of its rulers, but to guard one part of the society against the injustice of the other part. Different interests necessarily exist in different classes of citizens. If a majority be united by a common interest, the rights of the minority will be insecure. There are but two methods of providing against this evil: the one by creating a will in the community independent of the majority - that is, of the society itself; the other, by comprehending in the society so many separate descriptions of citizens as will render an unjust combination of a majority of the whole very improbable, if not impracticable.

So I kind of had it on the brain.

I wrote more extensively on both:

http://attempter.wordpress.com/2010/07/14/federalism-and-the-corporate-gangs-madisons-federalist-10/

http://attempter.wordpress.com/2010/07/28/madisons-federalist-51-corporate-power-vs-the-naked-citizen/

I agree completely that the Professional Left, i.e. the corporate liberals, are a traitor cadre, while what used to be called the real Left have been airbrushed out of the media existence. We're in the "sphere of deviance", to use one term of art from analysis of the MSM. (And this even though polls consistently show that America is a center to center-left country, and therefore far to the left of the economic elites, political class, and MSM.)

But the left-right spectrum is no longer useful anyway, in part because of that gaping lacuna and total abdication.

The real spectrum runs democrat/citizen to elitist. Both conservatives and liberals are far to the elitist end of the spectrum by now, especially on economic matters.

Which leads to the great specific faultline which splits all issues and defines all positions no matter what they are: corporatism vs. anti-corporatism.

skippy
November 13, 2010 at 8:22 pm Welcome to Whop Whop

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0120491/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i0mDGxWC2VQ

Skippy…if you can't buy them off…chain them.

Roger Bigod
I agree with your diagnosis, and I'm open to the idea that radical reform is a good idea. But I couldn't understand any of your last sentence. I have no idea what any of the terms mean or how the institutions would work.

The Constitution relies on Common Law notions of the 3 branches, and there were 13 working examples at the state level, so anyone reading it knew exactly what they were being asked to ratify. There was a theory of institutions in the work of Montesquieu.

For a radical revision of our political machinery, there is no comparable intellectual substrate. We are exhorted to organize, to become activist. But where are the guidelines, the goals, the practical steps to take next?

attempter
It's some of the same substrate. Read Bernard Bailyn's Ideological Origins of the American Revolution for an extended discussion of the heritage and connotations of concepts/terms like rights, consent, representation, constitution, and sovereignty.

The book itself is something of a whitewash of the many of the founders, but however much they actually did cherish those ideals, here we learn what those ideals really meant.

So if the goal were to be put in terms of resuming the long-neglected and/or hijacked American Revolution, that's one source which can help us to understand what we're really talking about.

As for what I meant by my sentence:

We must institute the only mode of polity and economy which has been proven to work on a practical level, to safeguard the people's sovereignty, and to give adequate scope to our positive freedom imperative: Direct democracy, true federalism, and the cooperative stewardship economy.

Direct democracy is government by local councils, or in American history, in some places at least, town halls. These councils could be organized along any number of lines – at the workplace, by profession, or by economic region, or by community, some combination of these, and there are probably other possibilities I'm not thinking of.

True federalism means power is exercised at the level from whence it arises in the first place, among the people in their workplaces and/or communities. Authority is delegated upward, e.g. to regional councils, only on a provisional, mostly consultative basis, and all representatives are subject to instant recall. All significant decision-making, of course, remains in the hands of the local councils.

(This is also the proper manifestation of sovereignty, which always and only reposes in the people, and can only be conditionally delegated to any smaller and/or "higher" group.)

A cooperative economy is one where sovereignty would be properly organized economically. Since no one can legitimately "own" land, natural resources, or the socially constructed infrastructure, i.e. the means of production, such resources and infrastructure would be either cooperatively worked and self-managed by the worker council, and/or distributed on the basis of useful possession or productive stewardship, or any similar term one preferred.

This is the only way to not abrogate economic sovereignty and to ensure the most effective production. Since all rents would be purged, this would be by far the most equitably productive economy. That's what I was referring to when I referred to its unique practicality. (Although I also meant that the Spanish collectives of the Civil War accomplished prodigies of production under the most free circumstances any communities and workers have known, until they were destroyed by the combined treachery and violence of liberals, communists, and fascists.)

What to do to accomplish this? Any constructive economic relocalization action is worthwhile, but especially increasing local food production and rationalizing its local distribution. Getting involved in local politics on behalf of this relocalization goal is also needful, but I think the political action probably needs to follow the established economic (or other practical) action.

That's just a few thoughts for now.

nilys
Ferguson starts with a good premise that "both parties are dominated by blocs of large investors", but fails to develop it. I got excited, expecting to read about different blocs, their hidden interests and disagreements and struggles with one another, and how these interests of a particular group of "money bags" are packaged and sold to the public as a good public policy. Instead, Ferguson went on to talk about personalities – and all the familiar faces – Hillary, Jerry, Haley, Bloomberg – who cares who of these figure heads wins? Personalities and petty personal feuds are mistaken for politics and especially deep politics. Even Ferguson can't help but fall into the personality cult. Indeed, no happy ending…
hermanas
I was stunned to hear that America was the world's "oldest democracy" the other day. 234 years, in all the thousands of years of political institutions, democracy doesn't seem to have any legs.
Tom Crowl
You're sadly right…

No democracy has been able to overcome the creeping problem of cronyism (rooted in the boundaries of biological alt-ruism).

In fact, all such systems… while implicitly recognizing the issue… (that's what's behind things like a House of Commons and the use of sortition (juries), etc.)…

Have not recognized the need to evolve with changing circumstances. Instead they allow the self-worship of their own eventually-mythologized institutions to render them incapable of reform and easily gamed… and control fraud grows.

How Would Hunter-gatherers Run the World? (Psst… They DO!) http://culturalengineer.blogspot.com/2009/11/how-would-hunter-gatherers-run-world.html

Ayn Rand & Alan Greenspan: The Altruism Fly in the Objectivist Ointment http://culturalengineer.blogspot.com/2009/10/ayn-rand-alan-greenspan-altruism-fly-in.html

Tom Crowl
November 13, 2010 at 9:13 am suppose its obvious but I meant to say:

"Have NOT recognized the need…"

Mickey Marzick in Akron, Ohio
November 13, 2010 at 11:02 am The United States is not a "democracy" but rather a republican form of representative government designed to thwart the will of the majority. The latter can manifest itself only when all three branches of government have been captured by it over time. If anything, the separation of powers and checks and balances enumerated in the US Constitution and built into the political system are little more than a divide-and-conquer strategy to prevent the majority of propertyless from "confiscating" the property of the minority.

For as James Madison stated explicitly in Federalist #10:

"the most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribuion of property. Those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society."

And that Mr. Madison and the other Founding Fathers were decidely "those who held [property]" should put paid any pretense at democracy. Indeed, the paradox in need of explanation would seem to be how the Founding Fathers deemed human nature evil and corrupted by self-interest then miraculaously and magnanimously opted to set up a government that did not promote THEIR collective self-interest?

It may not be the fairytale taught in civics courses from day one, but the United States is not a DEMOCRACY by any stretch of the imagination.

i on the ball patriot
November 13, 2010 at 1:01 pm Mickey - you are on fire as of late - good comments all.

Regarding this …

"And that Mr. Madison and the other Founding Fathers were decidely "those who held [property]" should put paid any pretense at democracy. Indeed, the paradox in need of explanation would seem to be how the Founding Fathers deemed human nature evil and corrupted by self-interest then miraculaously and magnanimously opted to set up a government that did not promote THEIR collective self-interest?'

No paradox at all, what they set up did promote their collective self interests, it was a representative republic and of course not a direct democracy, but it was indeed a step along the way TOWARDS direct democracy. They were slave owners, women did not vote and the Indian population at the time were demonized as heathens, etc. So they have no corner on magnanimity but are rather a function OF THEIR TIME.

But you used a term that should be brought center stage and always held up as a guide and a lens in examining the status quo and the need for change and formulating that change. That is the term COLLECTIVE SELF INTEREST, for in the end it is the collective self interest of groups that is the glue of those groups, and the fewer groups that a society has that do not contribute to that collective self interest the stronger that society is.

But before making those observations consider first that we are far more ready for direct democracy than at the inception of our constitution. Physical chain slavery is gone (yes, debt slavery has taken over but that is another issue), women now have the right to vote (I know some that want to give it back), Indians have been assimilated into the culture (poorly and painfully, yes, but they are not as heavily demonized and exploited), etc., in short, the time for direct democracy is at hand.

So … if one views the present scene through that COLLECTIVE SELF INTEREST LENS one can make some observations about the groups that our society is comprised of and whether or not each identifiable group strengthens or weakens that glue. If a society sets; fairness, equality, sustainability, individual freedom, Free Speech, religious freedom, prudence, etc. as highest ideals, then one can see that …

Excessive income wealth and excessive asset wealth are unfair and not in the collective self interest and must be regulated as they deprive the rest of the group a fair share. No pigs allowed in the new constitutional rewrite!

Excessive privately owned media conglomerations, especially those that use the public commons for transmittal, that create an overly loud voice with the volume to drown out other voices denies those others their Free Speech and are therefore not in the collective self interest of the group and should be downsized. Bye Bye megaphone rich folks!

Etc. …

The point here Mickey is that it is a good term, and a good lens of analysis to use because it keeps to the forefront of our thinking that the balance of both the individual and the group, THE COLLECTIVE SELF INTEREST, of the group, is the glue that binds us all together and strengthens us. And so it should be woven more into the dialog. Reclaiming the language will be key to moving forward all of our collective self interests!

Are we ready for election boycotts yet? I think they will be in our collective self interests as they would help move direct democracy along.

Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

reslez
November 13, 2010 at 3:39 pm I frequently see people suggest election boycotts. What I have never seen is a convincing explanation that links election boycotts to actual progress. Maybe you support boycotts because you believe the act of voting supports a corrupt system, or it causes voters to become complicit. This seems more like a position based on hollow moral consistency than something that would actually lead to change.

The country needs more action and energy, not more apathy and abstention. At any rate action and energy should be attempted. But the psychology of non-voting means non-voters are actually less likely to take other forms of action. They already believe they have no voice. If people were swarming the ballot box to vote for the Rent Is Too D*mn High party or any other third party they prefer, the existing system would be cratered. Even if - or because - those third party candidates would fail to change the system. Their failure would be revelatory.

For the vast majority, abstention is a form of sleepwalking. I'm not saying people who are already Awake should waste time with the existing political system, I'm saying most people are Asleep and will only awaken once they stop Dreaming that the system works or non-voting is anything other than abdication.

i on the ball patriot
Yes, I support election boycotts because voting DOES legitimize and validate a corrupt system, and yes, lending your good name to the corrupt process makes you complicit with the gangster government that corrupt process produces and their gangster actions. There is nothing morally inconsistent about it.

Election boycotts are "not more apathy and abstention" as you claim (the system line I might point out) but rather they are an active rejection of the system - a 'vote of no confidence' in the entire government. And they can be made even more active by writing to one's supervisor of elections explaining why one is opting out. In addition they are, and can be more of if better organized, a force outside of the system to rally around and discuss the formulation of a constitutional rewrite for a new government that is more responsible to the collective self interest of the people.

Ferguson claims this election was a resounding 'vote of no confidence' in democrats. He makes that absurd claim based on a miserably low 42% turnout, and completely disregards the greater 'vote of no confidence' in the entire government - 58% of the electorate BOYCOTTED the elections. This in spite of the worst economy in years, a fact that should have swamped the voting booths but did not, and the over the top corrupt system spent almost FOUR BILLION getting out the vote to validate the scam …

"Midterm election spending approaches $4 billion"

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-campaign-finance-20101028,0,5077420.story

Those people that are asleep will awaken sooner when they realize their power. When they realize that a 58% boycott of the scam electoral process is a number that they should celebrate and build on. It is an exciting and an enormous expression of 'no confidence' in this gangster government. Run with this good news and shout it out to the world! rally around it! 58% of scamericans rejected their crooked government! Whoopee!!!!

And that four billion dollars wasted on the validation scam would have fed a lot of homeless people!

Deception is the strongest political force on then planet.

skippy
I voted with my feet, by not using them, by showing my backside.

No Obama's, no Palings, no religious backed, billionaire, thinktankistan, military industrial, health care cough oxymoron, financial innovator, moneyed special interest lobbyist, no right or left animal will ever receive my stamp ever again, out of a lack, of a human candidate.

James
And the alternative to boycotts given the fact that the status quo sucks is what?

On second thought, asked and answered. Think about it.

Siggy

Our contract for government specifies that which is a Federal Republic, not a democracy!

What has been eroded is the Federal Republic in favor of something that represents itself as a democracy. It's time to consider making a choice, which shall you have: A republic or a democracy?

Do you want free markets or fair markets? Do you want a currency that maintains its purchasing power? Or, do you want easy credit and unprosecuted financial fraud?

Make a list, vote it.

Richard Kline
I would be happy indeed if Ferguson's consideration of a real implosion of the two-handed one party system was in any way imminent, but I have no such optimism. One function of Ferguson's discussion of personalities for 2012 is his engagement with the reality that there are no substantive alternatives in the offing. No 'personality' alternatives; no structural alternatives; that election cycle is two years away. That is a function of the failure of organizing. The stasis we have no can easily, quite easily, slink along for several decades. Consider the politics of, say, France, between the Great Wars. Nothing, exactly nothing, changed in their broad social and geopolitical program despite the messy inefficacy and frank unpopularity of all significant political parties. Britain didn't look much better. Germany only got change you can get dead from from outside the system. You see, folks, stasis is GOOD for the oligarchy: they don't need functioning government beyond a false front level. Indeed, one could well say that stasis is the _policy_ of the oligarchy because it is the environoment in which they thrive, at the expense of everyone else, literally in our case since we are paying them directly out of government monies to rule us for themselves. Sick . . . .

But I also think the analysis that 'voters are rejecting both parties' is at best half true. This seems to be crowdsource consensus of the past election, but it really wasn't what happened. Voters unhappy because of unemployment 'thought out the Democrats?' Bunk. Yes, bunk; read the returns. Areas with high unemployment which had Democrats mostly kept them. And to a degree rightly so. Every poll of the last two plus years shows that the public as a whole understands exactly what the Republican economic program is, dislikes it totally, and has at least a little more confidence in the Democratic program (to oversimplify and concede, wrongly, that the Democrats even have a program). So voters unemployed chose the party which, with a patina of sanity, might do them some good. Democratic losses were heavy in areas that in recent years have been Republican leaning. That is, two years ago those areas through out Republicans to punish them, but now in the hope that the Repubs are sufficiently chastened voted them back in. The turn to Democrats there was largely due to independent swing votes moving more or less tactically rather than in any way in preference for Democrats. What we are really seeing is that long-standing voter preferences are _hardening_ not loosening in their respective areas. Independent voters are notoriously fickle in American history, and they are, with great and perhaps justified cynicism, shopping their votes cycle by cycle to whomever they think will pay them out the most. I mean Dubya bought the independents for $450 a head, outbidding Gore (anyone remember _that_ execrable stinkfest). The Democrats had a superb opportunity to cement themselves in office for multiple cycles by actually delivering some reform but they couldn't trample that opportunity fast enough in their efforts to pay out to the oligarchy enough to win their favor, failing there too.

We are likely to see stasis of much the present structure for _years_, and quite possibly for several decades. The only break in that would be the successful organizing of an actual reformist party, revolution, or a major asterioid impact, all of which are on similar orders of magnitude in probability in my view. -And public discontent will be met with repression. At this point, Americans are such a cowed lot it won't take very much repression to get them back in their cubicles either. Stasis in decine can last a remarkably long time. Four generations is not unusual historically, though I wouldn't see that as the likely term here now.

Mickey Marzick in Akron, Ohio
Well said and succinct, especially the last paragraph!

"The only break in that would be the successful organizing of an actual reformist party, revolution, or a major asterioid impact, all of which are on similar orders of magnitude in probability in my view. -And public discontent will be met with repression."

Careful, you might be mistaken for a "defeatist" rather than a realist. The "Great Awakening" is upon US. Can't you see it?

What irks me is the subjectivist, chiliastic, millenarian wishful thinking of so many on the Left that believe it's merely a question of waking up – not successful organizing and getting dirty, down in the mud. Even if the people have woken up, it's a long march to successful organizing before any appreciable difference will be noticed. I may not like your odds… but they are accurate.

John Strong
I think is mention of "swamp creatures" is very instructive. We have become immune to some very inflammatory in-group/out-group rhetoric that has the whiff of serious conflict to those of us old enough to remember it. Add to this that the dialogue (and increasingly policy) is to a greater extent than ever controlled by the commentariat, and you really have the potential for cultural upheaval. If I were Canada or Mexico, I'd be getting a little nervous.

jake chase
All talk about voter "decisions" is nonsense. The percentage of voters who consider anything resembling information cannot be as high as five percent.

The remainder relies exclusively upon received ideas, preconceptions susceptible to clever propaganda, and comes to the table knowing nothing whatsoever about how things actually work. To expect anything good to result from our system is akin to Einstein's view of insanity.

Rodger Malcolm Mitchell
Unfortunately, Ferguson bemoans the fact that not all of the TARP money was "paid back" to the government, and that the government "lost money" on the deal. He does not realize that money "paid back" to the government is the same as a tax. .

When GM proudly trumpeted it had paid back $8.1 billion of government loans, it really should have said, "We just paid $8.1 billion in taxes, which removed $8.1 billion from the economy, thereby slowing the economy accordingly. We could have used that $8.1 billion to hire people or to expand in other ways, but instead we chose just to throw it on a bonfire."

A monetarily sovereign government never should lend money to its citizens. It only should give money. But Ferguson does not understand the implications of monetary sovereignty. He thinks the federal government's finances are like yours and mine, and that somehow the federal government needs tax money.

That false belief is the cause of much of our current problems.

Rodger Malcolm Mitchell

James
Well then, WHY, pray tell, doesn't the Treasury just credit the bank accounts of the unemployed? Problem solved, yes? Instant stimulus applied exactly where it's needed the most.
reslez
Well then, WHY, pray tell, doesn't the Treasury just credit the bank accounts of the unemployed?

This is only a mystery if you haven't been paying attention. Anything that would benefit the people - the unemployed, homedebtors - is politically impossible. Anything that would benefit the banks is achieved instantly and with the minimum possible debate.

James
This is only a mystery if you haven't been paying attention.

Granted, but the question was meant to be rhetorical and leading, thank you very much.

To the larger question, these MMT'ers always imply, if not state outright, that there truly is a free lunch when it comes to sovereigns and monetary policy. What I'd like to know is what's the limit to this foolishness? Especially knowing full well that if Washington ever comes to embrace this stuff wholeheartedly the debt will surely know no bounds.

If taxation's only purpose is to reinforce the need for the sovereign's currency in the first place, why not reduce the tax rate to say 5% across the board (yeah right, see how long that last before the GOP is calling for even MORE tax cuts!) and be done with it? And if debt really doesn't matter and it doesn't have to actually be debt in the first place, why even keep track of it in the first place, except purely as a measure of the size of the overall economy? For that matter, why are we even using the Fed as a debt based currency issue mechanism, other than the obvious answer: to make rich bankers even richer.

These are serious questions, I'm not merely being facetious. So go ahead one of you econophiles, go ahead and 'splain it to me please.

JTFaraday
November 13, 2010 at 8:43 pm "Well then, WHY, pray tell, doesn't the Treasury just credit the bank accounts of the unemployed? Problem solved, yes? Instant stimulus applied exactly where it's needed the most."

Anyone over 60 who got rolled should be given their social security benefits early. If a society sees fit to involuntarily retire people early, it should back it up.

We're opening the SS discussion shortly. Time to reform the system.

"And if debt really doesn't matter and it doesn't have to actually be debt in the first place, why even keep track of it in the first place, except purely as a measure of the size of the overall economy?"

Because if they conceded it didn't matter then everyone under 60 will likewise want instant credits to their account so they can pursue their creative interests and then there will be no one left to scrub John Thain's golden toilet.

And, needless to say, we can't have that.

reslez
November 13, 2010 at 2:52 pm You're right of course on the economics, but you miss the point. The propaganda claim "government made a profit on TARP" is intended to reassure voters that money was not given away to banks. A monetarily sovereign government can certainly give away money to whatever groups it chooses, but that it chooses to support wealthy oligarchs instead of the people is simply obscene.

Tom Crowl
November 13, 2010 at 8:55 am American politics IS broken. And money is a central branch of the problem. However the root is cronyism ( and this is rooted in the boundaries of biological altruism).

"Big" money is dominating and distorting political decision to the detriment of this (and historically eventually ALL) representative systems. It's also behind of problems in credit creation, btw.

I don't believe that public financing of elections will solve this problem. I fear it will lead to only 'government approved' candidates and government approved parties… and result in a whole new industry designed to game that as much as they game the military-industrial relationship and the Wall Street-Washington unholy alliance.

Approximately $4 billion was spent on this last campaign I understand. That's less than the price of a video game on sale for each of the 130 million registered voters.

Of course most never actually give to a cause or campaign.

I believe that can and will change (and it must… personal involvement is critical for a capable electorate… "Capability ENABLES Responsibility… government funded elections will lead to LESS participation).

The Commons-dedicated Account concept… by offering BOTH the capability for the micro-contribution as well as the capability for charitable contribution through the same system…

Eventually results in a stable and ubiquitous user-base. Since an account does NOT need to be continuously funded and has utility even when un-funded…

This 'facebook'-like network offers opportunities for 'empowered' local political association not currently available.

Further the existence of a 'scalable' platform (unlike a facebook page, a User's can have multiple pages focused on differing levels of political jurisdiction.

Here we then have opportunities for outreach and campaigning on a MUCH cheaper basis as well as the capability for LOCAL enterprises to engage their communities at the level at which they operate. This system will drastically LOWER the cost of campaigns and (I believe) eventually and paradoxically REDUCE the influence of money in politics.

This is a sketchy and quick synopsis but this is just a comment.

The account mechanism is patented (I still need $2005 for final bill to attorney and patent fees by Dec 7 if any want to be helpful and smart investors) and I'd really appreciate the chance to get this going.

I'm not the religious type. But I always have felt that what the 'historical' Jesus was talking about with "the meek shall inherit the earth"… is that the only chance this planet has is for regular people to stand up and take responsibility for it. To 'inherit' is not to be given something and be able to abandon responsibility for it… its just the opposite.

We've been given the right of self-governance… but have NOT taken up the responsibility.

Why Politics MUST be Localized http://culturalengineer.blogspot.com/2010/10/why-politics-must-be-localized.html

Empowering the Commons: The Dedicated Account (Part I) http://culturalengineer.blogspot.com/2010/08/empowering-commons-dedicated-account.html

LinkedIn http://www.linkedin.com/in/culturalengineer

Demo & FAQ http://www.Chagora.com

I'm neither a businessman nor a politician. I'm a citizen. I take the role seriously.

Jackrabbit
Many thanks to Tom Ferguson and others (Yves, Reich, Black, etc.) for speaking out. And thanks to attempter, Richard Kline, i_on_th_ball_patriot and many others that have written such illuminating comments on this blog and others. Some day these heroic efforts will be better understood and appreciated by a wide audience.

As the economy deteriorates, the banks and the super-wealthy have more and more difficulty covering the corruption. Any real reform could be a long time coming, though, as the system works to bamboozle people into playing along with FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt).

Writing that last sentence reminds me of the song lyrics: "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."

john
Can we please stop talking about "campaign finance reform" and start a serious discussion with real language about re-criminalizing bribery? To be considered a "serious candidate" in our entirely corrupt system one must first systematically solicit bribes and succeed. Advertisements on TV should be viewed as confessions of the prior crime of solicitation of bribery. Journalist should be a name reserved for reporters who show us how the corrupt serve their pay masters.

Money is not delivering progress, but we are still using its market tested language to talk about it. Use real language, please. There are no criminals in the current disasters because our entirely corrupt system was used to first de-criminalize innumerable crimes. Lets start calling fraud fraud, bribery bribery, theft theft. Yves is pretty good here about calling looting looting.

Roger Bigod
hermanas:

The fragility of democracy has been known for some time. Aristotle thought there was a cycle of chaos -> monarchy -> aristocracy -> democracy -> chaos.

The Founders had read the history of ancient Greece and Rome, and some of their letters show that there were trying to set up institutions that would resist the processes of decay. Much of the Constitution is plumbing, designed to control and direct the flow of political power to the proper channels at the Federal level. Problems of democracy v. aristocracy are punted to the states.

It's easy to imagine the Founders as considering grand principles in the light of history's sweep and exercising amazing foresight. But all this was secondary to the main goal of cobbling together something that the self-interested, bickering states would ratify.

A revealing exchange occurred one day in the Convention when the delegates got into a long, emotional discussion of the franchise, including the question of restricting it to those with property. Gouverneur Morris, who spoke the most during the proceedings, was silent. Finally, he got up and told them that they were wasting their time because no matter what the written rules said, the rich would find a way to control the outcome if their interests were seriously threatened. He didn't say he approved, just that the real world operated that way.

When Morris was Ambassador to France during the Revolution, someone asked him about the possibility of a written constitution on the US model. His reply was that the US Constitution worked when applied by the US electorate, but that if the French electorate were put in charge, it would result in disaster. So he did have some trust in "the people". In fact, since the final document is almost all his final working draft, we have him to thank for its one emotionally evocative sentence, the to-do list that begins "We, the People".

In the civics class mythology, the Founders were inspired by Divine Wisdom to produce a supernaturally perfect document. But it didn't look that way to them. Around 1812, Morris decided that the Constitution had been a failure and should be scrapped. It looks like the US was in better shape at the time than it is today, so it's natural to wonder what he would think. Put the French electorate in charge?

hermanas
On a return flight from Paris to New York many years ago, after the meal was served, passengers went aft to smoke per regulation. The pilot, having diffulty controlling pitch requested everyone return to their seats where flight attendants said they could not smoke. French passengers rose and went back aft. When the pilot came back to plead with them, their response was "we smoke or we crash". The pilot said, "O.K. fine", and we arrived safely in NYC. But my luggage was lost.

hermanas
And thank you, Roger, for your educated response.

DownSouth
Tom Ferguson said: The political system is disintegrating, probably heading toward a real breakdown of some sort.

[….]

But the experience of the Great Depression was that as things failed to improve the swamp creatures got their chance. And when the economic situation shook out, the geopolitics became more sinister. It would be a rash person indeed who counted on a happy ending to this mess.

Here's a visual metaphor for what we have. We have an inverted pyramid, both in our political life and our economic life. Those who should be on top of the structure are instead at the bottom doing a "balancing act" by using, as Ferguson put it, "pseudo-explanations, myths, and sometimes, obvious mendacity." The structure is highly unstable and, as the video shows, the entire structure can be brought down by the slightest disturbance.

I would say our political and economic overlords opted for this inverted pyramidal structure beginning in the 1960s. It began with all the lies used to justify the Vietnam War, and the trend has been downhill ever since. So I would agree with Ferguson that our current crisis was a long time in the making.

We could say we are currently in Act X on the national stage. Act IX was the period from 1929 to the 1960s. During Act IX our national and economic overlords opted for more or less a pyramidal structure. Governmental, religious, media, educational and other institutions enjoyed a high level of legitimacy and broad support from the governed. The economic and political overlords didn't engage in the barrage of "pseudo-explanations, myths, and sometimes, obvious mendacity" to near the extent that they do now.

Act XIII on the American stage was the period that began shortly after the Civil War and lasted until 1929, when the political and economic structure came tumbling down. Act XIII was very much like Act X, our current act, in that it was a highly unstable inverted pyramid. The perfidy and treachery of our economic and political overlords knew no bounds.

As Ferguson makes clear, the really interesting part will come when the current inverted pyramid comes tumbling down, when "the swamp creatures" get "their chance." In the 1930s, the United States dodged lightening. The "swamp creatures" were held at bay and the nation experienced a revival and reawakening of the Jeffersonian ideals of equal justice, equal treatment before the law and popular democracy. Thus we had a renewal of important themes during Act I of our national drama.

Germany, however, wasn't so lucky.

Siggy
Interesting point of view. Could you clarify just what popular democracy is? Are you suggesting that we dispense with the Federal Republic? Then again it seems that over time and by various events we've already thrown it out; e.g., the repeal of Glass-Steagell.

The earlier reference to Federalist #10 and #51 is very apt. I find it encouraging that there is some knowledge of those two essays. They examine the necessity and essence of balancing the interests of the landed class with those of the rentier class.

I very much agree with Mr. Ferguson and would like to see him address the issue of just when is it that we shall have some inquisitions and prosecutions. My sense is that unless and until we have some prosecutions, the cancer will continue to destroy our Federal Republic.

DownSouth
Siggy,

When I talk about "popular democracy," I'm talking about elections like the one that occurred in 1800 when Jefferson prevailed over the Federalists (for more explanation see my 11:39 a.m. comment above). The flip side of this would be the type of elections that predominated in the late 19th century during the zenith of the Gilded Age, such as described here:

The Richmond County methods in Georgia and Alabama--wholesale ballot-box stuffing, open bribery, various forms of intimidation, and massive voting by dead or fictitious Negroes. The Richmond County methods of Georgia were almost precisely duplicated in the "Harrison County methods" used in East Texas to defeat "Cyclone" Davis. Indeed, in Texas the phrase "Harrison County methods" became the standard term defining the most effective Democratic campaign technique of the Populist era. Even on the face of the returns, and including in the total the controlled vote of South Texas, the Populist vote jumped from the 23 per cent of 1892 to almost 40 per cent in 1894. The "official" statewide total showed Nugent had been defeated for the governorship by 230,000 to 160,000, though a number of steps were taken to ensure that the real outcome would be forever beyond recovery. –The Populist Moment, Lawrence Goodwyn

And I agree that "the earlier reference to Federalist #10 and #51 is very apt" and "find it encouraging that there is some knowledge of those two essays." However, the way in which these documents were used in the comments above lacks subtlety. What it boils down to is that now, in response to the myth of American Exceptionalism, comes the counter myth. Malicious intent is ascribed to the Founding Fathers that did not exist.

To begin with, to evaluate the Founding Fathers by today's standards gives a highly distorted picture. Take Elvis Presley, for instance. In his day he was a highly innovative, and extremely controversial, figure. But in comparison to Mick Jagger, or even more so to some of today's popular musicians, he hardly seems radical. Yet no one would even remotely think of dethroning Elvis as "The King of Rock and Roll." Yet there are those who would rob the Founding Fathers of their place in political and economic history, even though in their day they were quite radical, and extremely controversial.

There's a book that everyone should read called The Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom: Its Evolution and Consequences in American History. It serves as a strong antidote and counterweight to some of the Marxist- and constructivist-inspired histories written by the likes of Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky.

The Founding Fathers were not so much interested in examining "the necessity and essence of balancing the interests of the landed class with those of the rentier class" as they were finding a way to deal with "the tyranny of the majority" or "an excess of democracy." And their concerns were not limited to the material world--property. They included the spiritual world as well--oppressive religious majorities. Wherever "a majority are united by a common interest or passion," Madison concluded, "the rights of the minority are in danger." And as Madison went on to explain:

That diabolical, Hell-conceived principle of persecution rages among some, and to their eternal infamy, the clergy can furnish their quota of imps for such business. This vexes me the most of anything whatever. There are…in the adjacent country not less than 5 or 6 well meaning men in close jail for publishing their religious sentiments, which in the main are very orthodox.

As Lance Banning in his essay in The Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom explains:

Madison was deeply dedicated to the Revolutionary principle that governments derive their just authority from popular consent and must remain responsive to people's will. He was dedicated, too, to "justice," by which he meant equality before the law and scrupulous respect by government for natural law and natural rights. However obvious it seems to us that the desire to reconcile these two commitments is the fundamental paradox of every liberal democracy, early revolutionary thinkers did not necessarily anticipate a conflict.

In his 10:11 a.m. comment above Mickey alleges "Such thinking absolves the 'left' of any culpabillity or responsibilty for this failure. Or at least it fails to explain the resurgence of the reactionary right – a process that began in 1964, if not sooner, and its growing domination of American politics since the late 60s."

Personally, I think much of the "culpability or responsibility" for the failures of the left and "the resurgence of the reactionary right…and its growing domination of American politics since the late 60s" is to be found not in someone else's thinking, but in Mickey's.

"From each according to his ability, to each according to his need (or needs)" goes the creed popularized by Karl Marx in his 1875 Critique of the Gotha Program. But what percentage of any general population really believes in that manifesto. How many people really desire "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need," or equality in other words? I would say a minority, and quite a small minority.

The great Mexican painter Diego Rivera thought he had found in the ancient indigenous civilizations of Western Mexico examples of the egalitarian paradises of the past conceived by the Marxist ideology he embraced. The clay figures he collected from those cultures, after all, were so utterly human, capturing the empathetic expressions of everyday people in their daily communal life. Later studies, however, such as those in Ancient West Mexico: Art and Archaeology of the Unknown Past, revealed something very different. The very clay figures Rivera collected in the belief that they were emblems of equality served just the opposite purpose. They were created and used as high-status objects that conveyed prestige and rank to their owners. Only the tribal elite owned these artistic creations.

Studies of extant primitive cultures reveal similar phenomenon, as is discussed in Moral Sentiments and Material Interests. No one starves in these primitive tribal societies, so the "needs" of all members of the tribe are met. However, the most productive hunters and gatherers are showered with adoration and prestige. They are the ones who rise to leadership positions within the tribe. Conversely, slackers and free-riders are shunned and ridiculed.

So there is something to this "natural law" that Madison spoke of after all (and which I think our reigning plutocrats are fixin' to learn about--and maybe the hard way). Most people desire hierarchy, but a hierarchy ordered on merit, performance, excellence and achievement. What a majority of people want is "justice," by which is meant "equality before the law and scrupulous respect by government for natural law and natural rights." This is something very different from a desire that everyone be equal, and herein lays one of the great miscalculations of the today's American left.

i on the ball patriot
November 13, 2010 at 5:00 pm You suddenly sound like a libertarian …

DownSouth says; "Studies of extant primitive cultures reveal similar phenomenon, as is discussed in Moral Sentiments and Material Interests. No one starves in these primitive tribal societies, so the "needs" of all members of the tribe are met. However, the most productive hunters and gatherers are showered with adoration and prestige. They are the ones who rise to leadership positions within the tribe. Conversely, slackers and free-riders are shunned and ridiculed."

Yes, just like today in scamerica slackers and free riders are "shunned and ridiculed." Is this what you go on to say, and appear to advocate, when you say below, "So there is something to this "natural law" that Madison spoke of after all (and which I think our reigning plutocrats are fixin' to learn about--and maybe the hard way)." …

http://images.google.com/images?gbv=2&hl=en&safe=off&rls=ig&newwindow=1&q=homeless+people&sa=N&start=20&ndsp=20&biw=1020&bih=619

DownSouth says further; "So there is something to this "natural law" that Madison spoke of after all (and which I think our reigning plutocrats are fixin' to learn about--and maybe the hard way). Most people desire hierarchy, but a hierarchy ordered on merit, performance, excellence and achievement. What a majority of people want is "justice," by which is meant "equality before the law and scrupulous respect by government for natural law and natural rights." This is something very different from a desire that everyone be equal, and herein lays one of the great miscalculations of the today's American left."

Yes, there is something to natural law, it is Darwinian cannibalistic and civilized societies strive to rise above it in pursuit of the COLLECTIVE SELF INTEREST of the society.

Most people do not desire hierarchy, rather they recognize that it is imposed upon them by simply being born as a cannibalistic organism (those that are really perceptive), and further magnified in intensity by being born into a hierarchical environment that reflects again that cannibalistic dog eat dog nature that has skewed and colored that environment that they are born into.

People are not born "slackers and free riders" as you claim. That is pure bullshit! People are made into slackers and free riders trying to cope with those who celebrate their cannibalistic Darwinian nature and act on it in an unbridled fashion. That is the nature celebrated in the artifacts you describe made in a PRIMATIVE culture, one that we must strive to rise above.

Those who claim that there is something to this "natural Law", and then use that something to justify taking far more than what would be a just share in a fair society, and then using that wealth to further shape the Darwinian dog eat dog cannibalistic world that we are all born into, in to a far greater Darwinian world, are full of self aggrandizing deceptive crap.

It is they who have created the aggregate generationally corrupted environment that comes with the imposition of a crooked FED and a scam 'rule of law'.

"SLACKERS AND FREE RIDERS" ARE NOT NATURAL, THEY ARE A PRODUCT OF, AND ARE CREATED BY, THEIR ALREADY FURTHER DARWINIZED ENVIRONMENT THAT THEY ARE BORN INTO - as in - you are what you have been through, but now and the future are up to you.

What most people really want is security and an opportunity to grow their human spirit/life force to its fullest potential. Perceptive people recognize that comes from recognizing "natural law" - yes, the pecking ordered competitive hierarchal system thrust upon us - but then rising above it by limiting that system, not because we "desire" it, but rather because we are forced by being born into it to honor it.

The balance that best serves the COLLECTIVE SELF INTEREST is the balance that will best do the job for all in the society and at the same time best serve evolution. If evolution is unhappy, as she appears to be with the present lop sided societal arrangement (just look around you globally for proof of that) she will give us a well deserved boot into the dust bin of unrecorded history.

Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

DownSouth
November 13, 2010 at 8:53 pm i on the ball patriot,

You and I must be using very different definitions of "natural law." And I don't suppose that's surprising, because the concept of natural law has been under concerted attack for several decades now by economists (most notably those from the Chicago School) and by the New Atheists (who hail from other disciplines of the social sciences).

Here's how Thomas Jefferson described natural law:

Nature hath implanted in our breasts a love of others, a sense of duty to them, a moral instinct in short…impelling us to virtuous actions, and warning us against those which are vicious.

Here's David Little talking about Jefferson and moral law in his essay in The Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom:

He tried to demonstrate that once the common moral denominator of all religions has been isolated, it is then possible to detach and dispense with the respective "dogmas" of the different traditions. Religious dogmas are, declared Jefferson, "totally unconnected with morality."

And here's Jefferson again in a letter to Thomas Law in 1814:

Some have made the love of God the foundation of morality… [But] if we did a good act merely from the love of God and a belief that it is pleasing to him, whence arises the morality of the Atheist[s]? … Their virtue must have some other foundation."

C.S. Lewis also wrote extensively about the Law of Nature in Right and Wrong as a Clue to the Meaning of the Universe:

Now this Law or Rule about Right and Wrong used to be called the Law of Nature.

[….]

This law was called the Law of Nature because people thought every one knew it be nature and did not need to be taught it. They did not mean, of course, that you might not find an odd individual here and there who did not know it, just as you find a few people who are colour-blind or have no ear for a tune. But taking the race as a whole, they thought that the human idea of decent behavior was obvious to every one. And I believe they were right. If they were not, then all the things we said about the war were nonsense. What was the sense in saying the enemy wee in the wrong unless right is a real thing which the Nazis at bottom knew as well as we did and ought to have practiced? If they had had no notion of what we mean by right, then, though we might still have had to fight them, we could no more have blamed them for that than for the colour of their hair.

I know that some people say the idea of a Law of Nature or decent behavior known to all men is unsound, because different civilizations and different ages have had quite different moralities.

But this is not true. There have been differences between their moralities, but these have never amounted to anything like a total difference. If anyone will take the trouble to compare the moral teaching of, say, the ancient Egyptians, Babylonians, Hindus, Chinese, Greeks and Romans, what will really strike him will be how very like they are to each other and to our own. Some of the evidence for this I have put together in the appendix of another book called "The Abolition of Man," but for our present purpose I need only ask the reader to think what a totally different morality would mean. Think of a country where people were admire for running away in battle, or where a man felt proud of double-crossing all the people who had been kindest to him. You might as well try to imagine a country where two and two make five. Men have differed as regards what people you ought to be unselfish to--whether it was only your own family, or your fellow countrymen, or every one. But they have always agreed that you ought not to put yourself firs. Selfishness has never been admired.

[….]

The laws of nature, as applied to stones or trees, may only mean 'what Nature, in fact, does'. But if you turn to the Law of Human Nature, the Law of Decent Behaviour, it is a different matter. That law certainly does not mean 'what human beings, in fact, do'; for as I said before, many of them do not obey this law at all, and none of them obey it completely. The law of gravity tells you what stones do if you drop them; but the Law of Human Nature tells you what human beings ought to do and do not.

As to your assertion that "most people do not desire hierarchy," there is no empirical data whatsoever to support that assertion. It's a utopian concept that Marx dreamed up. In simpler societies, people rise in the hierarchy because of what they can do for the society. Here's an example from Moral Sentiments and Material Interests:

There are also large differences in hunting ability among men. For example, there is a five-fold difference in the long-term average hunting returns between the best and worst hunter in the sample of Ache men. Similar discrepancies in hunting ability across men have been found among the !Kung, Hadza, Hiwi, Gunwinggu, Agta, and Machiguenga. Therefore, even among men of the same age, there must be net transfers over the long term from families producing a surplus to families producing a deficit.

Why do superior performers continue to outperform and give their excess production away? Well certainly many of the potential returns are not material, but have to do with the striving for prestige, status and adulation:

Costly signaling theory provides the basis for arguing that generosity--incurring the costs of providing collective goods--is one means by which individuals and coalitions compete for status, and ultimately for the material and fitness-enhancing correlates of status (such as possible power, mates, and economic resources). The quality-dependent cost of providing the collective good guarantees the honesty of the signaler's claim to such qualities as resource control, leadership abilities, kin-group solidarity, economic productivity, or good health and vigor--information that is useful to the signaler's potential mates, allies, and competitors.

Here's another example of the same phenomenon:

Because the first medieval rulers had been barbarians, most of what followed derived from their customs. Chieftains like Ermanaric, Alaric, Attila, and Clovis rose as successful battlefield leaders whose fighting skills promised still more triumphs to come. Each had been chosen by his warriors, who, after raising him on their shields, had carried him to a pagan temple or a sacred stone and acclaimed him there… Lesser tribesmen were grateful to him for the spoils of victory, though his claim on their allegiance also had supernatural roots.

[….]

[T]he chieftains had been chosen for merit, and early kings wore crowns only ad vitam aut culpam--for life or until removed for fault.

In the United States we have taken this concept and turned it on its head. Our political and financial overlords have not been elevated to the top of the hierarchy because of what they do for society. Quite the opposite, they think in terms of what society can do for them. That's why I say the inverted pyramid is a perfect metaphor for current US society. And it's unstable because it flies in the face of perhaps a million years of human evolution, all but the last 10,000 years or so lived in small hunter-gatherer societies in which the "law of nature" evolved.

skippy
Natural selection is the process by which traits become more or less common in a population due to consistent effects upon the survival or reproduction of their bearers. It is a key mechanism of evolution.

The natural genetic variation within a population of organisms may cause some individuals to survive and reproduce more successfully than others in their current environment.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_selection

Skippy….Concur, whom made the environment…own it.

PS. do the poor have so many kids, as to hope, for one successful functioning psychopath (cough professional) to make the family proud?

DownSouth
i on the ball patriot,

And one other thing. Maybe I wasn't clear when I used the term "slackers and free-riders." Not only low producers, but high prodcers in primitive societies can also find themselves on the outs if they aren't sufficiently generous. Here's Moral Sentiments again:

Those who do not produce or share enough are often subject to criticism, either directly or through gossip and social ostracism. Anecdotes of shirkers being excluded from distributions until they either boosted their production or sharing levels are found among the Maimande, Pilaga, Gunwinggu, Washo, Machiguenga, Agta, and Netsilik Eskimo.

ceasley7
Maybe I'm crazy but I consider the crooks running the show now to be the swamp creatures. Illegal wars, no rule of law ….
Ignim Brites
Well a pretty dreary piece. My take on the current political situation is based on the idea that there will not be another mega bailout. The party with the best program for dealing with the TBTF banks will seize the popular imagination for a decade. It could be quite exciting if Bernanke and Geithner try an end run around Congress. The possibility of spectacle of the these two in chains is not to be dismissed.
Hugh
Most of what Ferguson is saying is what many of us here and elsewhere have been saying for an age. Is swamp creatures some oblique reference to Huey Long? Or to radicals in general. Because it was those radicals who pushed FDR and the Establishment into those actions for which they now get, deservedly, so much credit.

But seriously Jerry Brown? Governor Moonbeam? For a political scientist and historian, Ferguson is showing a real lapse of memory. As for Barbour, possible, but he is a founder of the big lobbying firm Barbour Griffith & Rogers, that and being governor of the poorest state in the country are hardly recommendations. I mean what is he going to run on "Vote for me and I will make the rest of the country as poor as Mississippi"? Yeah, that'll work.

ZeroInMyOnes
November 13, 2010 at 3:18 pm That leaves Hillary.
craazyman
November 13, 2010 at 4:53 pm Sarah Palin his a nicer butt.
F. Beard
But the experience of the Great Depression was that as things failed to improve the swamp creatures got their chance. Thomas Ferguson

And why not? Are our problems so big that a $1 million check sent to every American adult citizen from the US Treasury would not solve them?

There's a huge political prize for the first political party to realize it is almost that simple. The other parties will kick themselves to death for being so blind.

lark
The reason this country has worked, despite all the negatives that Ferguson describes so well, is because it has provided a powerful 'jobs machine'.

Globalization and outsourcing ended all that. I think the balance that we took for granted has disintegrated – and the center has disintegrated, with that.

It is interesting that the Tea Party and the unions agree on stopping globalization.

This international economic order is going to bite the dust. That may even be good for ordinary Americans, because we will manufacture more of what we consume.

[Nov 05, 2010] Paul Krugman - The Focus Hocus-Pocus

Mr. Obama's problem wasn't lack of focus; it was lack of audacity. At the start of his administration he settled for an economic plan that was far too weak. ... Mr. Obama ... could have chosen to be bold - to make Plan A the passage of a truly adequate economic plan, with Plan B being to place blame for the economy's troubles on Republicans if they succeeded in blocking such a plan.

But he chose a seemingly safer course: a medium-size stimulus package that was clearly not up to the task. ... Worse, there was no Plan B. ... Instead, he and his officials continued to claim that their original plan was just right, damaging their credibility ... as the economy continued to fall short.

Meanwhile, the administration's bank-friendly policies and rhetoric - dictated by fear of hurting financial confidence - ended up fueling populist anger, to the benefit of even more bank-friendly Republicans. Mr. Obama added to his problems by effectively conceding the argument over the role of government in a depressed economy.

I felt a sense of despair during Mr. Obama's first State of the Union address, in which he declared that "families across the country are tightening their belts and making tough decisions. The federal government should do the same." Not only was this bad economics ... it was almost a verbatim repeat of what John Boehner, the soon-to-be House speaker, said when attacking the original stimulus. If the president won't speak up for his own economic philosophy, who will?

So where, in this story, does "focus" come in? Lack of nerve? Yes. Lack of courage in one's own convictions? Definitely. Lack of focus? No.

And why would failing to tackle health care have produced a better outcome? The focus people never explain.

Of course, there's a subtext to the whole line that health reform was a mistake: namely, that Democrats should stop acting like Democrats and go back to being Republicans-lite. Parse what people like Mr. Bayh are saying, and it amounts to demanding that Mr. Obama spend the next two years cringing and admitting that conservatives were right.

There is an alternative: Mr. Obama can take a stand.

[Nov 05, 2010] Paul Krugman - The Focus Hocus-Pocus

Mr. Obama's problem wasn't lack of focus; it was lack of audacity. At the start of his administration he settled for an economic plan that was far too weak. ... Mr. Obama ... could have chosen to be bold - to make Plan A the passage of a truly adequate economic plan, with Plan B being to place blame for the economy's troubles on Republicans if they succeeded in blocking such a plan.

But he chose a seemingly safer course: a medium-size stimulus package that was clearly not up to the task. ... Worse, there was no Plan B. ... Instead, he and his officials continued to claim that their original plan was just right, damaging their credibility ... as the economy continued to fall short.

Meanwhile, the administration's bank-friendly policies and rhetoric - dictated by fear of hurting financial confidence - ended up fueling populist anger, to the benefit of even more bank-friendly Republicans. Mr. Obama added to his problems by effectively conceding the argument over the role of government in a depressed economy.

I felt a sense of despair during Mr. Obama's first State of the Union address, in which he declared that "families across the country are tightening their belts and making tough decisions. The federal government should do the same." Not only was this bad economics ... it was almost a verbatim repeat of what John Boehner, the soon-to-be House speaker, said when attacking the original stimulus. If the president won't speak up for his own economic philosophy, who will?

So where, in this story, does "focus" come in? Lack of nerve? Yes. Lack of courage in one's own convictions? Definitely. Lack of focus? No.

And why would failing to tackle health care have produced a better outcome? The focus people never explain.

Of course, there's a subtext to the whole line that health reform was a mistake: namely, that Democrats should stop acting like Democrats and go back to being Republicans-lite. Parse what people like Mr. Bayh are saying, and it amounts to demanding that Mr. Obama spend the next two years cringing and admitting that conservatives were right.

There is an alternative: Mr. Obama can take a stand.

[Nov 04, 2010] "Rules of Our Society Should Not Be Bought and Sold": Roosevelt Election Roundup

Round-up of verdicts on the US elections by the New Deal 2.0 team, assembled by Lynn Parramore, Editor of New Deal 2.0 and Media Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute

In the wake of a Democratic loss not seen in the House since 1938, upended Senate seats, and Republican gubernatorial wins, Roosevelt Institute Fellows weigh in. Was the vote a referendum on Democrats? What will it mean moving forward?

"The American people are voting against the political system. They are given the choice between the marketed vision of false hope and the vision of everyman financed by those who are attempting to take away vital services. Anger at the financial bailouts is understandable and a vote to cut off government from using our future tax burden to fortify the powerful is also quite sensible. The problem is that in the era of money politics, no coalition from either party can make good on the mirage of their marketed vision.

That both Alan Grayson and Russ Feingold were defeated after being ardent critics of the bailouts and the industry friendly financial regulatory reform is a clear warning that the money system can defeat the politician who represents the people's interest against powerful vested interests.

In an appearance on MSNBC and an interview with Salon.com, Grayson argued that the "enthusiasm gap" that prompted millions of liberal voters to stay home Tuesday happened because the Obama administration and congressional Democrats did not fight hard enough for progressive values.

"Our strategy for two years has been appeasement, and look where it got us," Grayson told MSNBC. "I think Democrats want to see a fighting leadership, they want to see a fighting president - somebody who actually accomplishes good things for constituents."

All of this points to the fundamental need for reform of government incentives in order to restore the power of votes relative to the power of money. And to the fact that reform is the precursor to limiting the domination of our state by concentrated money interests, both corporate and by wealthy individuals. The rules of our society should not be bought and sold."

-Robert Johnson, Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow and Director of the Project on Global Finance; Executive Director of the Institute for New Economic Thinking

"High unemployment and a housing market that's right out of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea would wreck any regime's reelection prospects. This was no communication failure: The administration had nothing to offer ordinary people. Facing a wave of secret money, you can't win elections by just saving banks."

- Tom Ferguson, Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow; Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts, Boston

"In my view, President Obama had one key mission: to prove the value of government. He and his defenders argue that he has achieved much. In particular, they cite health care reform, financial re-regulation, the Recovery Act of 2009, and some even claim he has a workable strategy in Afghanistan. All these were agenda items that needed addressing. Obama has been able to convince too few Americans that any of them were adequately addressed. In fact, they were not, and he never seemed to come to terms with that central fact. To the contrary, he seemed to bury his head in the sand. His claim was that we got so much done but no one really knew about it. This was not bad public relations. It was not failure of government. It was inadequate policy and the failure to own up to it. Obama said a few times he got seventy percent of his agenda done. He got something done, sure, but in no case did it solve the pressing problems they were addressing. This is a man who willfully has averted his eyes from reality, I fear, and the public knew it. And the stunning electoral losses - made a little more tolerable by the constant lowering of expectations - don't look like they will shake him up. Equanimity is his constant goal, even in the face of such adversity."

-Jeff Madrick, Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow and author of The Case for Big Government

"There was no mandate for the repeal of health care in this election, with Democrats who voted against the bill and for the bill equally joined in defeat, but that won't stop Republicans for claiming one. The Republicans will do all they can to terminate the biggest expansion of the social compact in decades, understanding that if health care reform is implemented, it will prove to Americans that government can actually work for them."

- Richard Kirsch, Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow and formerly National Campaign Manager of Health Care for America Now

"Barack Obama did not do what it took to pull the economy out of the doldrums. This is true for the fiscal stimulus, which was too small, too preoccupied with returning to a surplus as fast as possible, and contained too much lag. His banking bailout policies continued the Bush/Paulson approach and effectively reinforced the notion of government as an instrument of predatory capitalism, rather than an entity mobilizing resources for a broader public purpose. Obama didn't give us 'change we could believe in.' He instead used trillions of dollars in financial guarantees to sustain Wall Street (much more money than was spent on the stimulus) and consequently presided over one of the most regressive wealth transfers in American history. At a time when most Americans were experiencing stagnant or absolute declines in total wages, and Wall Street Robber Barons paid themselves even higher bonuses than before, the President was totally insensitive. He appeared to take pains to put down or ignore the aspirations of every single part of his base. And he wonders why there was an 'enthusiasm gap.'"

- Marshall Auerback, Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow

"The most striking thing about the post-election landscape is the utter route of centrists Democrats. In the aftermath, as Chris Bowers notes, the Progressive Caucus is larger than the Blue Dog and the New Dems combined. Analysts will continue to go through the numbers, but right now there's nothing to suggest that 'liberal overreach' or a lack of centrist views was a factor. The truth is much worse: the ugly process of appeasing and buying off centrist Democrats on financial reform and health care turned what should have been landmark generational reform into a bitter, ugly view of corporate power and sleazy influence over our political system, the Senate and the political party that is supposed to defend the interests of working people."

- Mike Konczal, Roosevelt Institute Fellow

"Americans want bold ideas and a clear vision, not back-room deals and bank-centric policies. Until Democrats can offer these to voters, they will not succeed. For the next two years, those who would stand in the way of investing in jobs, schools, roads, bridges, and rebuilding the middle class will present even more obstacles to a prosperous future. But progressives are energized and see that the time for backing down and letting billionaires run the country is over. The fight for the future of ordinary Americans is on. Get the gloves off."

Truthdig - Apocalypse Again The Boom-and-Bust Cycle of Bipartisan Politics

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/apocalypse_again_the_boom-and-bust_bipartisan_political_cycle_20101102/

Posted on Nov 2, 2010

By Scott Tucker

Apocalypse is the big threat in every major election, and this forecast of doom proves useful to both corporate parties. Heaven or hell, it's a free country and it's your choice. Midterm elections are within spitting distance of Halloween, and the party started early with lawn signs portraying the other party's candidates as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, spreading plague and panic from sea to shining sea. Oh, your house has been foreclosed? No lawn signs for you, but you can wear tea bags from the brim of your camouflage helmet if you care to keep company with Rand Paul and Sarah Palin. We don't quite know from day to day whether the tea party movement is a real breakaway faction of "libertarians" and "independents," or just another front group for Republican CEOs.

Seriously, the Republican Party is scary. But there is this other creature in the living room we need to talk about, and it's a donkey, not an elephant. The Democratic Party has the bad habit of coming on to voters like the neighborhood mafia extortion team. The Democrats have the incurably bad breath of reliably broken promises. They collar and corner us with mobster charm, they pick our pockets while pretending to pick our brains. Then as the big election day draws near, they lean heavily upon us and whisper an almost romantic confession: "Sure, we spit in your faces and ask you to pretend it's rain. But the other guy is a real brute and would also break your arms."


If this does not seduce us, they try the next pickup line: "Politics is the art of the possible." If that gets old, they can still try this key to your heart: "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good." If all else fails, they try personal compliments: "Why would a nice boy or girl like you pick a date with some skanky Red or skeevy Green? You have such a beautiful mind, you can appreciate the finer things in life, you deserve a lifelong marriage with the Democratic Party." If you run screaming for the nearest exit, they will still chase you through the streets with this sweet love song: "We can light candles and burn incense in the inner sanctum, and no one else but you and me needs to see our lovely gilded idol of Franklin Roosevelt. Why can't that be our secret?"


Those deep romantic secrets finally count for nothing, since what counts in the realm of politics can only be public policy. The contents of Bill Clinton's heart, or Barack Obama's, or Nancy Pelosi's should remain as secret as the contents of their stomachs. What we really want to know is how they pick their friends and enemies in public life, and what battles they choose to fight before the whole world. I confess that I, too, was once a member of the Democratic Party. But like many other voters, I had to write that Dear John (or Dear Bill, or Dear Barack, or Dear Nancy) letter-you know, the one that spells out The End of Our Relationship: "I do not love you and I learned a lesson. Cheap dates get raw fucks."


Yes, I am free to go to the voting booth like a drunk to the local bar, and I can thank my lucky stars that the cheap gin is not actually arsenic. There's no accounting for taste? Oh, but there must be! The expensively groomed candidate of the Democratic Party must be a dry martini while the expensively groomed candidate of the Republican Party must be fermented cat piss.


Career politicians depend upon the biggest protection racket in this country, which is often called "our two-party system." Ours? Really? Certainly that system has no foundation whatsoever in the Constitution of the United States. Nor did we, the people, ever vote for a bipartisan lockdown of every major election.


We are assured by Ivy League economists that economic booms are chiefly the product of an elite group of entrepreneurs, while economic busts inevitably shed workers with yesterday's skills like dandruff. It's the best of all possible worlds, so do keep that in mind the next time you read an Op-Ed column telling you politics is the art of the possible. If you grow suspicious that the recurrent breakdowns of capitalism are not simply the Nature of Things, but rather the all too human result of human decisions, then you are well on your way to becoming a socialist. The boom-and-bust cycles of the corporate economy cannot be graphed directly upon the boom-and-bust cycles of corporate politics. That is asking for too much order and symmetry in the universe. But we also go too far if we pretend the regular breakdowns of this economic system bear only an accidental relation to the regular breakdowns of this political system.


Are we condemned to ping-pong matches between Fox News and MSNBC from now till kingdom come? It's easy to laugh at the blackboard lectures of Glenn Beck, who is busy making common nonsense of Thomas Paine and every other Founding Father. But if thinking youths get their politics from "The Rachel Maddow Show," they are not yet thinking. The introductory caption for Maddow on my cable system always advertises the fact that she holds a degree from Oxford, but what do we find when she then invites a Princeton professor on her show to talk politics? Lo and behold, we find that the political terrain is no bigger than the usual bipartisan sandbox and fits the television screen perfectly. Maddow is best when she reminds us of forgotten history, and worst when she reverts to the usual scorekeeping of spectator sports.


The sit-down comedians at Comedy Central, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, never lack for great punch lines because the daily news is surreal when it is not truly sad. Their humor, however, would rarely make any Democrat break a sweat, while they give regular acid baths to Republicans. Their scripts are funny but predictably partisan. A comedian taking a wide view of our political system would need an anarchist free spirit as well as a tragic sense of life.


Partisan politics in the United States is a perennial game of Capture the Flag between Team Red and Team Blue. Sometimes as harmless as summer camp, sometimes as lethal as imperial adventures. If our political system is one big binary code, then choosing either Democratic or Republican candidates on Election Day is like typing forever in either Column A or in Column B. You don't get to create the political script, but you get to choose Dishwater Dull over Batshit Crazy, or maybe Hipster Dude over Has-Been War Hero. The job of career politicians is to convince you that you have a perfectly free choice to hit yourself on the head with a brick or a baseball bat.

So what would an apocalyptic far-right government do if the Republicans gain the balance of power in the nearing midterm elections? Let's assume the worst, since this is always the terrible possibility conjured up by their Democratic opponents.


Here is the truly apocalyptic Republican program in one paragraph (and we will revisit these issues when we examine how Democrats deal with them): Any moves to tax the rich fairly would be scrapped as the social engineering of socialists. The recent health care reform, though deeply compromised, would be dismantled. The unemployed would remain abandoned, and courts would drop the hammer on immigrant workers. Aid to the poor and homeless would be slashed. Women would be disabused of the notion that they have the freedom to choose abortion. Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people would become political pariahs. Corporate overlords, imperial militarists and Christian fundamentalists would take power.


Why is this apocalypse so familiar? Because rage and fear from below were once married to calculated class politics from above. That was the reactionary coalition that swept to power in 1980, and we now call it the Reagan Revolution. Thirty years have passed, and what do we witness now? The same kind of class resentment from below, but all the more raw and volatile now because so many workers have no living memory of working-class power. Labor union local meetings are indispensable schools of class consciousness, but whole sectors of industry have been shipped offshore to cheaper labor markets.


The historical lesson here is that workers cannot rely on the hope of being shareholders in corporations when their share of capital was never great, much less their power in corporate offices. If workers are to become real stakeholders in the national economy, they will also need to create workplaces in open class conflict with the corporate state. This is still possible through direct action in some sectors of manufacture and of service industries. But even in cities and regions strip-mined and abandoned by capitalists in full flight across national borders, workers may still form new cells of mutual aid. Where two or three are gathered together, a new world comes into being.


Organized labor is not yet taking a truly independent path through this political wilderness. All too often the labor union leaders are simply arms of management, and tools of the corporate state. But all is not dark, all is not lost. The California Nurses Association proved to be a voice of reason against Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, and it went on to join the Massachusetts Nurses Association in founding National Nurses United. Here is real hope for the sick and medical workers alike. Anyone who has spent time in a hospital bed knows that patients often trust nurses more than doctors, because nurses visit more often and can be the real lifelines during a crisis.


Another example of union strength was the recent shutdown of the ports in the Bay Area by longshore workers in solidarity with the late Oscar Grant, an unarmed African-American young man shot in the back by a police officer on New Year's Day of 2009. Their common cause gives real meaning to that old, worn phrase the dignity of labor. For the cause here was not simply better wages and work conditions but a defense of all citizens against the armed power of the state. Any constitution is an empty contract unless we, the people, step up to public responsibilities. The longshore workers of ILWU Local 10 did so Oct. 23 and joined members of Grant's family in public protest. "An injury to one is an injury to all"-that is the motto of ILWU Local 10, and it should be the Golden Rule for any decent republic. Anyone who claims working people have no heart left for public life and struggle has just not been paying attention.


The ruling class remains fiercely class-conscious, and it commands the heights of political power. Whenever the Republicans claim that the Democrats are preaching class war, this is a classic case of political projection. Class divisions have deepened over the past 30 years, but only the most zealous Democrat would pretend that all blame lies with the Republicans. That is a "progressive" fiction that has regressive consequences in every major election, since it carries the hypnotic suggestion that voters can choose only between two corporate parties.


No one seriously claims that political parties alone determine economic surges and crashes. The causal order is rather the reverse: Objective economic forces bear down upon political systems, and then all kinds of ideological fractures come to the surface, and all kinds of ad hoc coalitions are formed across party lines. That means every election guarantees the relative stability of corporate rule, so long as the two big corporate parties maintain their lockdown on the electoral system. The very rich still remain much better represented in Congress than the working and middle classes.


What do we find on the ideological fever charts of this nation all through the previous century, and now into the first decade of the 21st as well? A perennial holy war not only against avowed red-blooded socialists, whether domestic or foreign, but also an attempt to paint the most panic-stricken liberals in shades of deepest pink. Republicans once crusaded against actually existing communism, whereas now they crusade against the utterly nonexistent "socialism" of the Democratic Party.


And how does the Democratic Party fight the charge of socialism?


The Democrats refuse to fight fair and square for a graduated income tax, proportionate to real wages and our actually existing class system. They maintain the pretense of defending "the middle class," an ideological middle ground in which labor unions are strictly for losers and philanthropy is the hobby of the rich.


The Democrats bungled health care reform very badly under the Clinton administration, and still worse under the Obama administration. None of the necessary lessons were learned the second time around, and indeed the insurance companies are already busy gaming the new system. This was predicted by the good doctors who founded Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP). Home foreclosures are still a high-profile story; but the health care bills that are not covered by private insurance plans are what really force so many people into bankruptcy.


The Democrats have not given comprehensive aid to the unemployed, which would indeed require social democratic public programs. A public works program would do much good in repairing roads, tunnels and bridges, but the Democrats have their own interests in privatizing public services and public infrastructure.

The party line on abortion under the Clinton administration was that abortion should be "safe, legal and rare," but that ideal can be secured only through real social democracy in health care, housing and education-namely, in all the public goods that advance the material and social well-being of women. The same administration, however, advanced a punitive program of "welfare reform," dismantling some remnants of the New Deal welfare state that gave shelter to the most exposed women and children.


Two of the signal concessions President Clinton made to the far right concerned the rights of gay people, namely, signing the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and "don't ask, don't tell" (DADT) into federal law. Both laws have thrown long shadows over the political landscape at the state and local levels. Obama campaigned on a vague program of hope and change, and promised whatever he thought was necessary to any group of likely voters, including gay people. As a self-proclaimed "community organizer," he might have drafted genuine organizers from all the communities hoping for change. Instead, he hired Wall Street insiders and the usual partisan hacks of all races, religions and sexual persuasions.


Clinton had once been described as "the first black president," itself a projection of hope upon a Southern white career politician. An honest wish to transcend racist history is just not good enough. But Obama was, in fact, the first black president, and the same wishes and projections are shipwrecked once again on the rocks and reefs of class politics. The very idea of economic class is a poor abstraction unless it is grounded in social relations that are also racial, sexual and cultural. How does a class-divided culture really come to light? Only through the very social system that is saturated with the ruling ideas of a ruling class. The manifold reality of class is tested and proved in real time, and in searing events such as wars and epidemics. Before there is enlightenment there is heartbreak.


The epidemic of AIDS tracked heavily, though not exclusively, along lines of race, sex and class. Clinton discovered AIDS in earnest only when he left public office and began campaigning for the Nobel Prize. Nowadays Clinton would much rather deal with AIDS in Haiti (certainly a worthy cause) than with the class system that still burdens so many African-Americans with chronic illnesses, including AIDS.


Irony? But there can be no irony if we do not even remember history. Each president graduates from the White House into a kind of Ivy League of philanthropy, and into an alternate universe in which buildings, libraries and foundations bear their names. Besides being tasteless, such people have no sense of shame. There is an inconvenient truth buried in the foundation of all their well-publicized philanthropy. In the words of William Blake: "Pity would be no more / If we did not make somebody poor, / And Mercy no more could be / If all were as happy as we."


Likewise, the only lesson Clinton learned from the economic counterrevolution led by Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher was to make a hard-right U-turn toward deregulation, a kind of Keynesianism in reverse. In this realm, too, certain New Deal restraints on banks and the "free market" were abandoned. (I recommend a 1998 book by the economist Michael Meeropol, "Surrender: How the Clinton Administration Completed the Reagan Revolution," and the recently published "The Great American Stickup: How Reagan Republicans and Clinton Democrats Enriched Wall Street While Mugging Main Street," by Robert Scheer.)


In Pennsylvania, the Democratic Party has used the courts as blunt instruments against the candidates of the Green Party. Using the "independent judiciary" as partisan brass knuckles may seem thuggish, but the bipartisan lockdown of elections can also be achieved by selling voters a false bargain. This is what happened when Proposition 14 was sold to Californians as a great electoral reform. It was nothing of the kind; it was designed to bump independent and insurgent parties off the ballot, and it may yet succeed. Recently, the Green gubernatorial candidate in California, Laura Wells, was denied the chance to debate the two corporate candidates at a public forum. When she tried to attend the event as a member of the audience, she was arrested. That story was then broadcast online and went over, under and around much of the traditional news media. Every such attack on basic democracy also speeds the day when career politicians hang themselves with their own rope.


War is more truly our national religion than the Ten Commandments or the Sermon on the Mount, so making a class-conscious case for peace is rank heresy in many houses of worship and in both houses of Congress. Protestantism has largely devolved into the gospel of prosperity, and God has become the gatekeeper of a gated community- for in my Father's house there are many mansions.


The First Amendment to our Constitution forbids the establishment of any state religion, but the deism of Jefferson and other Founding Fathers is no better than atheism to Christian crusaders. For that matter, if the Bill of Rights can be neatly reduced to the right to own guns and form far-right militias, then the rest of the text is a damn nuisance. Much of our national history has not even been forgotten, since it was never learned or taught in the first place. This is why right-wing candidates for public office can invent any original intent they please for the Founding Fathers and not have any idea of the original text of our country's Constitution. The First Amendment was breaking news to Christine O'Donnell, a conservative Christian and a Republican candidate from Delaware for the U.S. Senate, during an Oct. 19 televised debate with her Democratic opponent .


If Abraham Lincoln were to rise from the grave and talk as plainly about labor and capital as he once did in Congress, many Democrats and Republicans would think he sounded like a socialist. That's not far wrong, since Lincoln was (within the limits of his time and place) a social democrat within the republican tradition. In other words, our devolved Democrats have long since abandoned plain talk about social democracy, even as our devolved Republicans have abandoned the constitutional ground of the republic.


Congress has become the front office of the ruling class, but the corporate-funded big media broadcast the official faction fights with all the frenzy of gladiatorial combat in the Colosseum. Those who truly fight and die do so in wars beyond our borders; but the American empire is justified as a horn of plenty, pouring forth democracy and all good things upon the world. If we happen to build our military bases near oil and mineral deposits, then any question raised about American morals and motives must be an outright slander against the soldiers who sacrifice limbs and lives. Career politicians do not just wrap themselves in the flag; they wrap themselves in the flags draped on the coffins of dead soldiers. For every John McCain or John Kerry who showed real courage in battle, however misguided the war, there are scores of politicians who never served in uniform and yet campaign for votes as professional militarists.


The bloody sacrifice of the young is enshrined in national rites and monuments, so the roots of the next war always extend far back into our immense military cemeteries; and the bloody fruits of empire seem always within reach. The partisan spectacle is a fact of public life, but just as surely a grand distraction. Once in a while the news breaks that criminals exist in executive offices; but the systematic criminality of the corporate state is a subject that never needs to be censored since it would never be raised in a bipartisan debate.


In the 1980s, the triumph of reaction was blamed not only on the Republican Party but also on feminists, gay people and anti-racist activists-namely, on people who were often fighting for our lives and for basic democracy. A whole crew of straight white men cranked out columns deriding "wedge issues" and "identity politics." Their common complaint was spelled out at greater length in books such as "The Twilight of Common Dreams" by Todd Gitlin and Michael Tomasky's "Left for Dead: The Life, Death and Possible Resurrection of Progressive Politics in America." Even Christopher Hitchens (who had not yet become a fellow traveler of the imperial right) was quoted in the February 1997 issue of The Progressive as saying, "I remember the first time I heard the slogan 'the personal is political.' I felt a deep, immediate sense of impending doom."


In "The Queer Question: Essays on Desire and Democracy" (South End Press, 1997) I suggested those writers were defending their own brand of identity politics. The danger of playing any identity as a trump card in a political poker game is real, but any claim to represent "the universal left" must also remain open to question. For the sake of brevity, I will summarize the case for a social democracy founded on social pluralism with a quote from Sartre's "Anti-Semite and Jew," written just after World War II:


"What we propose is a concrete liberalism. By that we mean that all persons who through their work collaborate toward the greatness of a country have the full rights of citizens of that country. What gives them this right is not the possession of a problematical and abstract 'human nature,' but their active participation in the life of the society. This means, then, that the Jews-and likewise the Arabs and the Negroes-from the moment that they are participants in the national enterprise, have a right to that enterprise; they are citizens. But they have these rights as Jews, Negroes, or Arabs-that is, as concrete persons."


If we are serious about the human dignity of "concrete persons," we must defend fair wages and all due legal protection for immigrant workers in our country today. There is an abysmal contradiction between exploiting the labor of immigrant workers and putting targets on their backs as alien invaders. But this contradiction also serves the interests of many employers, since a work force that must pass through barbed wire fences and police dogs will have a tougher time forming a labor union. In this way bosses can have their cake and take bread from workers, too.


True, a police raid on a restaurant kitchen or a tomato farm may be a problem for an employer on that very day. But this kind of random social terrorism is also money in the bank, since the long-term suppression of wages and labor organizing is not an accidental side effect. The lords of agribusiness have a working coalition with the local police chiefs. Otherwise we must explain why fruit and vegetables keep appearing so magically in supermarkets and on dinner plates. Or why so many front lawns and golf courses remain so well tended by landscape workers from Mexico or Guatemala. Or why so many hotels, hospitals and office buildings are cleaned by people who do not earn a living wage.


Here in the southwest region of the United States, this contradiction is a Grand Canyon between liberal ideals and actual ruling-class power. In reality, the number of undocumented workers crossing over our southern border has gone down. That is not surprising, given the deep recession and the recent political campaign to give police in Arizona the power to demand identity papers at will. Even so, the fantasy of a bunker state with an Iron Wall is a convenient exit from reality, since capitalism is an essentially porous and diffuse system of profit. Corporations (and politicians of both corporate parties) placed the mobility of capital above all other considerations.

Let's recall that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), pushed by President Clinton and implemented with bipartisan support in 1994, was a bill of rights for big business, but it was a hemispheric hurricane for the working class. Workers in the United States lost high-paying jobs in skilled manufacturing; Mexican workers swiftly lost wages before losing jobs entirely; and the culture of social democracy in Canada was deeply eroded. As Robert E. Scott wrote in his 2003 article "The high price of 'free' trade" on the Economic Policy Institute website:


"Further study of NAFTA by researchers in Canada and Mexico has shown that workers in all three countries have been hurt, but for different reasons (Faux et al. 2001). In Mexico, real wages have fallen sharply and there has been a steep decline in the number of people holding regular jobs in paid positions. Many workers have been shifted into subsistence-level work in the 'informal sector,' frequently unpaid work in family retail trade or restaurant businesses. Additionally, a flood of subsidized, low-priced corn from the United States has decimated farmers and rural economics. In Canada, a decade of heightened competition with the United States is eroding social investment in public spending on education, health care, unemployment compensation, and a wide range of other public services."


NAFTA was followed by the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) in 2005, which extended "the logic of the market" to five Central American nations and to the Dominican Republic. Jimmy Carter was an enthusiastic promoter of CAFTA, and if a more extensive South American Free Trade Agreement had been possible he would have supported that as well. But Carter did have the decency to state that the Venezuelan people had voted fair and square for an economic populist, Hugo Chavez. The working classes in Mexico, Central America and South America have often defied capitalist and outright fascist rulers in mass protests, but they have also suffered heavy losses through the jailing and killing of their bravest militants and labor leaders. To this day, workers from Juarez to Tierra del Fuego have long memories of political betrayals and outright repression. Generally, they do their best to settle accounts with ballots and not bullets. Anyone who argues that workers have no right to wage the class struggle beyond election days, however, is simply wishing that the working class would reduce itself to a passive production line on every other day of the year.


This is the ground of struggle, and this is the ground of solidarity. If socialists are not internationalists, we might as well join phony populists in the existing big corporate parties. The only internationalism recognized by demagogues such as Lou Dobbs and Bill O'Reilly is the unrestricted mobility of capital over the whole planet. The price of this "free market" is the near feudal servitude of many millions of workers, and the imperial wars in which they die so young.


Patriotism of that kind is the false gospel of the ruling class. The sooner we break those mental chains, the better we are able to love our homeland. And what is any homeland but a wide sense of our neighborhood? If we do not want our streets filled with the tanks of a foreign power or our skies filled with deadly drones, then by what divine right do we inflict them on the people of Iraq and Afghanistan? These wars have long been an exercise of ruling-class power, waged in the domestic political realm by two political parties that serve the same corporate interests even as they play musical chairs in Congress.


"Our two-party system" is an ideological fiction, but this fiction has real political power. On the eve of the midterm elections, the Democratic Party is struggling to hold together the usual unstable coalition of Blue Dog Democrats, labor unions and corporate managers.


Whether the tea party movement is an appendage of the Republican Party or a mutant force that may break party ranks, we cannot yet predict. Tea party activists cover a spectrum of far-right causes, but at present the central and controlling idea seems to be free-market fundamentalism. In its purest form, this ideology is pure nonsense, since the irreducible price of every "free" market is the actual labor of human beings.


Granting "personhood" to corporations was a piece of godlike presumption on the part of Supreme Court justices in 1886, when they ruled in Santa Clara v. Southern Pacific Railroad that the Bill of Rights and the 14th Amendment made any corporation a natural person under the U.S. Constitution. As Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas wrote 60 years later, "There was no history, logic, or reason to support that view."


That legal precedent of corporate personhood undermined our public life, yet it is consistent with the Supreme Court ruling in the Citizens United case early this year (though it remains indefensible). The latter decision gives corporations a right to make unlimited campaign donations, and Congress has failed to impose disclosure requirements. Obama's noblest public moment came in his last State of the Union speech when he made a direct criticism of this Supreme Court ruling. But this president does not simply serve at the will of the people; he also serves at the will of the ruling class, and remains a member of that class in good standing so long as he presides loyally over a corporate state and imperial wars.


If every government depends on the consent of the governed, then every neighborhood and workplace is potentially a small republic of persons who are willing to say, "We do not consent." Do the capitalist parties depend upon your votes and donations? Deprive those parties of your moral and material support. Vote against the parties of war and empire every chance you get, and cast your vote for the parties of peace, economic democracy and ecological sanity. In this election, the Green Party of the United States represents not only our best hope of social democracy, but also our best chance to bring ecological common sense to our global economy.

[Nov 04, 2010] "Rules of Our Society Should Not Be Bought and Sold": Roosevelt Election Roundup

Round-up of verdicts on the US elections by the New Deal 2.0 team, assembled by Lynn Parramore, Editor of New Deal 2.0 and Media Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute

In the wake of a Democratic loss not seen in the House since 1938, upended Senate seats, and Republican gubernatorial wins, Roosevelt Institute Fellows weigh in. Was the vote a referendum on Democrats? What will it mean moving forward?

"The American people are voting against the political system. They are given the choice between the marketed vision of false hope and the vision of everyman financed by those who are attempting to take away vital services. Anger at the financial bailouts is understandable and a vote to cut off government from using our future tax burden to fortify the powerful is also quite sensible. The problem is that in the era of money politics, no coalition from either party can make good on the mirage of their marketed vision.

That both Alan Grayson and Russ Feingold were defeated after being ardent critics of the bailouts and the industry friendly financial regulatory reform is a clear warning that the money system can defeat the politician who represents the people's interest against powerful vested interests.

In an appearance on MSNBC and an interview with Salon.com, Grayson argued that the "enthusiasm gap" that prompted millions of liberal voters to stay home Tuesday happened because the Obama administration and congressional Democrats did not fight hard enough for progressive values.

"Our strategy for two years has been appeasement, and look where it got us," Grayson told MSNBC. "I think Democrats want to see a fighting leadership, they want to see a fighting president - somebody who actually accomplishes good things for constituents."

All of this points to the fundamental need for reform of government incentives in order to restore the power of votes relative to the power of money. And to the fact that reform is the precursor to limiting the domination of our state by concentrated money interests, both corporate and by wealthy individuals. The rules of our society should not be bought and sold."

-Robert Johnson, Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow and Director of the Project on Global Finance; Executive Director of the Institute for New Economic Thinking

"High unemployment and a housing market that's right out of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea would wreck any regime's reelection prospects. This was no communication failure: The administration had nothing to offer ordinary people. Facing a wave of secret money, you can't win elections by just saving banks."

- Tom Ferguson, Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow; Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts, Boston

"In my view, President Obama had one key mission: to prove the value of government. He and his defenders argue that he has achieved much. In particular, they cite health care reform, financial re-regulation, the Recovery Act of 2009, and some even claim he has a workable strategy in Afghanistan. All these were agenda items that needed addressing. Obama has been able to convince too few Americans that any of them were adequately addressed. In fact, they were not, and he never seemed to come to terms with that central fact. To the contrary, he seemed to bury his head in the sand. His claim was that we got so much done but no one really knew about it. This was not bad public relations. It was not failure of government. It was inadequate policy and the failure to own up to it. Obama said a few times he got seventy percent of his agenda done. He got something done, sure, but in no case did it solve the pressing problems they were addressing. This is a man who willfully has averted his eyes from reality, I fear, and the public knew it. And the stunning electoral losses - made a little more tolerable by the constant lowering of expectations - don't look like they will shake him up. Equanimity is his constant goal, even in the face of such adversity."

-Jeff Madrick, Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow and author of The Case for Big Government

"There was no mandate for the repeal of health care in this election, with Democrats who voted against the bill and for the bill equally joined in defeat, but that won't stop Republicans for claiming one. The Republicans will do all they can to terminate the biggest expansion of the social compact in decades, understanding that if health care reform is implemented, it will prove to Americans that government can actually work for them."

- Richard Kirsch, Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow and formerly National Campaign Manager of Health Care for America Now

"Barack Obama did not do what it took to pull the economy out of the doldrums. This is true for the fiscal stimulus, which was too small, too preoccupied with returning to a surplus as fast as possible, and contained too much lag. His banking bailout policies continued the Bush/Paulson approach and effectively reinforced the notion of government as an instrument of predatory capitalism, rather than an entity mobilizing resources for a broader public purpose. Obama didn't give us 'change we could believe in.' He instead used trillions of dollars in financial guarantees to sustain Wall Street (much more money than was spent on the stimulus) and consequently presided over one of the most regressive wealth transfers in American history. At a time when most Americans were experiencing stagnant or absolute declines in total wages, and Wall Street Robber Barons paid themselves even higher bonuses than before, the President was totally insensitive. He appeared to take pains to put down or ignore the aspirations of every single part of his base. And he wonders why there was an 'enthusiasm gap.'"

- Marshall Auerback, Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow

"The most striking thing about the post-election landscape is the utter route of centrists Democrats. In the aftermath, as Chris Bowers notes, the Progressive Caucus is larger than the Blue Dog and the New Dems combined. Analysts will continue to go through the numbers, but right now there's nothing to suggest that 'liberal overreach' or a lack of centrist views was a factor. The truth is much worse: the ugly process of appeasing and buying off centrist Democrats on financial reform and health care turned what should have been landmark generational reform into a bitter, ugly view of corporate power and sleazy influence over our political system, the Senate and the political party that is supposed to defend the interests of working people."

- Mike Konczal, Roosevelt Institute Fellow

"Americans want bold ideas and a clear vision, not back-room deals and bank-centric policies. Until Democrats can offer these to voters, they will not succeed. For the next two years, those who would stand in the way of investing in jobs, schools, roads, bridges, and rebuilding the middle class will present even more obstacles to a prosperous future. But progressives are energized and see that the time for backing down and letting billionaires run the country is over. The fight for the future of ordinary Americans is on. Get the gloves off."

Truthdig - Apocalypse Again The Boom-and-Bust Cycle of Bipartisan Politics

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/apocalypse_again_the_boom-and-bust_bipartisan_political_cycle_20101102/

Posted on Nov 2, 2010

By Scott Tucker

Apocalypse is the big threat in every major election, and this forecast of doom proves useful to both corporate parties. Heaven or hell, it's a free country and it's your choice. Midterm elections are within spitting distance of Halloween, and the party started early with lawn signs portraying the other party's candidates as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, spreading plague and panic from sea to shining sea. Oh, your house has been foreclosed? No lawn signs for you, but you can wear tea bags from the brim of your camouflage helmet if you care to keep company with Rand Paul and Sarah Palin. We don't quite know from day to day whether the tea party movement is a real breakaway faction of "libertarians" and "independents," or just another front group for Republican CEOs.

Seriously, the Republican Party is scary. But there is this other creature in the living room we need to talk about, and it's a donkey, not an elephant. The Democratic Party has the bad habit of coming on to voters like the neighborhood mafia extortion team. The Democrats have the incurably bad breath of reliably broken promises. They collar and corner us with mobster charm, they pick our pockets while pretending to pick our brains. Then as the big election day draws near, they lean heavily upon us and whisper an almost romantic confession: "Sure, we spit in your faces and ask you to pretend it's rain. But the other guy is a real brute and would also break your arms."


If this does not seduce us, they try the next pickup line: "Politics is the art of the possible." If that gets old, they can still try this key to your heart: "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good." If all else fails, they try personal compliments: "Why would a nice boy or girl like you pick a date with some skanky Red or skeevy Green? You have such a beautiful mind, you can appreciate the finer things in life, you deserve a lifelong marriage with the Democratic Party." If you run screaming for the nearest exit, they will still chase you through the streets with this sweet love song: "We can light candles and burn incense in the inner sanctum, and no one else but you and me needs to see our lovely gilded idol of Franklin Roosevelt. Why can't that be our secret?"


Those deep romantic secrets finally count for nothing, since what counts in the realm of politics can only be public policy. The contents of Bill Clinton's heart, or Barack Obama's, or Nancy Pelosi's should remain as secret as the contents of their stomachs. What we really want to know is how they pick their friends and enemies in public life, and what battles they choose to fight before the whole world. I confess that I, too, was once a member of the Democratic Party. But like many other voters, I had to write that Dear John (or Dear Bill, or Dear Barack, or Dear Nancy) letter-you know, the one that spells out The End of Our Relationship: "I do not love you and I learned a lesson. Cheap dates get raw fucks."


Yes, I am free to go to the voting booth like a drunk to the local bar, and I can thank my lucky stars that the cheap gin is not actually arsenic. There's no accounting for taste? Oh, but there must be! The expensively groomed candidate of the Democratic Party must be a dry martini while the expensively groomed candidate of the Republican Party must be fermented cat piss.


Career politicians depend upon the biggest protection racket in this country, which is often called "our two-party system." Ours? Really? Certainly that system has no foundation whatsoever in the Constitution of the United States. Nor did we, the people, ever vote for a bipartisan lockdown of every major election.


We are assured by Ivy League economists that economic booms are chiefly the product of an elite group of entrepreneurs, while economic busts inevitably shed workers with yesterday's skills like dandruff. It's the best of all possible worlds, so do keep that in mind the next time you read an Op-Ed column telling you politics is the art of the possible. If you grow suspicious that the recurrent breakdowns of capitalism are not simply the Nature of Things, but rather the all too human result of human decisions, then you are well on your way to becoming a socialist. The boom-and-bust cycles of the corporate economy cannot be graphed directly upon the boom-and-bust cycles of corporate politics. That is asking for too much order and symmetry in the universe. But we also go too far if we pretend the regular breakdowns of this economic system bear only an accidental relation to the regular breakdowns of this political system.


Are we condemned to ping-pong matches between Fox News and MSNBC from now till kingdom come? It's easy to laugh at the blackboard lectures of Glenn Beck, who is busy making common nonsense of Thomas Paine and every other Founding Father. But if thinking youths get their politics from "The Rachel Maddow Show," they are not yet thinking. The introductory caption for Maddow on my cable system always advertises the fact that she holds a degree from Oxford, but what do we find when she then invites a Princeton professor on her show to talk politics? Lo and behold, we find that the political terrain is no bigger than the usual bipartisan sandbox and fits the television screen perfectly. Maddow is best when she reminds us of forgotten history, and worst when she reverts to the usual scorekeeping of spectator sports.


The sit-down comedians at Comedy Central, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, never lack for great punch lines because the daily news is surreal when it is not truly sad. Their humor, however, would rarely make any Democrat break a sweat, while they give regular acid baths to Republicans. Their scripts are funny but predictably partisan. A comedian taking a wide view of our political system would need an anarchist free spirit as well as a tragic sense of life.


Partisan politics in the United States is a perennial game of Capture the Flag between Team Red and Team Blue. Sometimes as harmless as summer camp, sometimes as lethal as imperial adventures. If our political system is one big binary code, then choosing either Democratic or Republican candidates on Election Day is like typing forever in either Column A or in Column B. You don't get to create the political script, but you get to choose Dishwater Dull over Batshit Crazy, or maybe Hipster Dude over Has-Been War Hero. The job of career politicians is to convince you that you have a perfectly free choice to hit yourself on the head with a brick or a baseball bat.

So what would an apocalyptic far-right government do if the Republicans gain the balance of power in the nearing midterm elections? Let's assume the worst, since this is always the terrible possibility conjured up by their Democratic opponents.


Here is the truly apocalyptic Republican program in one paragraph (and we will revisit these issues when we examine how Democrats deal with them): Any moves to tax the rich fairly would be scrapped as the social engineering of socialists. The recent health care reform, though deeply compromised, would be dismantled. The unemployed would remain abandoned, and courts would drop the hammer on immigrant workers. Aid to the poor and homeless would be slashed. Women would be disabused of the notion that they have the freedom to choose abortion. Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people would become political pariahs. Corporate overlords, imperial militarists and Christian fundamentalists would take power.


Why is this apocalypse so familiar? Because rage and fear from below were once married to calculated class politics from above. That was the reactionary coalition that swept to power in 1980, and we now call it the Reagan Revolution. Thirty years have passed, and what do we witness now? The same kind of class resentment from below, but all the more raw and volatile now because so many workers have no living memory of working-class power. Labor union local meetings are indispensable schools of class consciousness, but whole sectors of industry have been shipped offshore to cheaper labor markets.


The historical lesson here is that workers cannot rely on the hope of being shareholders in corporations when their share of capital was never great, much less their power in corporate offices. If workers are to become real stakeholders in the national economy, they will also need to create workplaces in open class conflict with the corporate state. This is still possible through direct action in some sectors of manufacture and of service industries. But even in cities and regions strip-mined and abandoned by capitalists in full flight across national borders, workers may still form new cells of mutual aid. Where two or three are gathered together, a new world comes into being.


Organized labor is not yet taking a truly independent path through this political wilderness. All too often the labor union leaders are simply arms of management, and tools of the corporate state. But all is not dark, all is not lost. The California Nurses Association proved to be a voice of reason against Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, and it went on to join the Massachusetts Nurses Association in founding National Nurses United. Here is real hope for the sick and medical workers alike. Anyone who has spent time in a hospital bed knows that patients often trust nurses more than doctors, because nurses visit more often and can be the real lifelines during a crisis.


Another example of union strength was the recent shutdown of the ports in the Bay Area by longshore workers in solidarity with the late Oscar Grant, an unarmed African-American young man shot in the back by a police officer on New Year's Day of 2009. Their common cause gives real meaning to that old, worn phrase the dignity of labor. For the cause here was not simply better wages and work conditions but a defense of all citizens against the armed power of the state. Any constitution is an empty contract unless we, the people, step up to public responsibilities. The longshore workers of ILWU Local 10 did so Oct. 23 and joined members of Grant's family in public protest. "An injury to one is an injury to all"-that is the motto of ILWU Local 10, and it should be the Golden Rule for any decent republic. Anyone who claims working people have no heart left for public life and struggle has just not been paying attention.


The ruling class remains fiercely class-conscious, and it commands the heights of political power. Whenever the Republicans claim that the Democrats are preaching class war, this is a classic case of political projection. Class divisions have deepened over the past 30 years, but only the most zealous Democrat would pretend that all blame lies with the Republicans. That is a "progressive" fiction that has regressive consequences in every major election, since it carries the hypnotic suggestion that voters can choose only between two corporate parties.


No one seriously claims that political parties alone determine economic surges and crashes. The causal order is rather the reverse: Objective economic forces bear down upon political systems, and then all kinds of ideological fractures come to the surface, and all kinds of ad hoc coalitions are formed across party lines. That means every election guarantees the relative stability of corporate rule, so long as the two big corporate parties maintain their lockdown on the electoral system. The very rich still remain much better represented in Congress than the working and middle classes.


What do we find on the ideological fever charts of this nation all through the previous century, and now into the first decade of the 21st as well? A perennial holy war not only against avowed red-blooded socialists, whether domestic or foreign, but also an attempt to paint the most panic-stricken liberals in shades of deepest pink. Republicans once crusaded against actually existing communism, whereas now they crusade against the utterly nonexistent "socialism" of the Democratic Party.


And how does the Democratic Party fight the charge of socialism?


The Democrats refuse to fight fair and square for a graduated income tax, proportionate to real wages and our actually existing class system. They maintain the pretense of defending "the middle class," an ideological middle ground in which labor unions are strictly for losers and philanthropy is the hobby of the rich.


The Democrats bungled health care reform very badly under the Clinton administration, and still worse under the Obama administration. None of the necessary lessons were learned the second time around, and indeed the insurance companies are already busy gaming the new system. This was predicted by the good doctors who founded Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP). Home foreclosures are still a high-profile story; but the health care bills that are not covered by private insurance plans are what really force so many people into bankruptcy.


The Democrats have not given comprehensive aid to the unemployed, which would indeed require social democratic public programs. A public works program would do much good in repairing roads, tunnels and bridges, but the Democrats have their own interests in privatizing public services and public infrastructure.

The party line on abortion under the Clinton administration was that abortion should be "safe, legal and rare," but that ideal can be secured only through real social democracy in health care, housing and education-namely, in all the public goods that advance the material and social well-being of women. The same administration, however, advanced a punitive program of "welfare reform," dismantling some remnants of the New Deal welfare state that gave shelter to the most exposed women and children.


Two of the signal concessions President Clinton made to the far right concerned the rights of gay people, namely, signing the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and "don't ask, don't tell" (DADT) into federal law. Both laws have thrown long shadows over the political landscape at the state and local levels. Obama campaigned on a vague program of hope and change, and promised whatever he thought was necessary to any group of likely voters, including gay people. As a self-proclaimed "community organizer," he might have drafted genuine organizers from all the communities hoping for change. Instead, he hired Wall Street insiders and the usual partisan hacks of all races, religions and sexual persuasions.


Clinton had once been described as "the first black president," itself a projection of hope upon a Southern white career politician. An honest wish to transcend racist history is just not good enough. But Obama was, in fact, the first black president, and the same wishes and projections are shipwrecked once again on the rocks and reefs of class politics. The very idea of economic class is a poor abstraction unless it is grounded in social relations that are also racial, sexual and cultural. How does a class-divided culture really come to light? Only through the very social system that is saturated with the ruling ideas of a ruling class. The manifold reality of class is tested and proved in real time, and in searing events such as wars and epidemics. Before there is enlightenment there is heartbreak.


The epidemic of AIDS tracked heavily, though not exclusively, along lines of race, sex and class. Clinton discovered AIDS in earnest only when he left public office and began campaigning for the Nobel Prize. Nowadays Clinton would much rather deal with AIDS in Haiti (certainly a worthy cause) than with the class system that still burdens so many African-Americans with chronic illnesses, including AIDS.


Irony? But there can be no irony if we do not even remember history. Each president graduates from the White House into a kind of Ivy League of philanthropy, and into an alternate universe in which buildings, libraries and foundations bear their names. Besides being tasteless, such people have no sense of shame. There is an inconvenient truth buried in the foundation of all their well-publicized philanthropy. In the words of William Blake: "Pity would be no more / If we did not make somebody poor, / And Mercy no more could be / If all were as happy as we."


Likewise, the only lesson Clinton learned from the economic counterrevolution led by Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher was to make a hard-right U-turn toward deregulation, a kind of Keynesianism in reverse. In this realm, too, certain New Deal restraints on banks and the "free market" were abandoned. (I recommend a 1998 book by the economist Michael Meeropol, "Surrender: How the Clinton Administration Completed the Reagan Revolution," and the recently published "The Great American Stickup: How Reagan Republicans and Clinton Democrats Enriched Wall Street While Mugging Main Street," by Robert Scheer.)


In Pennsylvania, the Democratic Party has used the courts as blunt instruments against the candidates of the Green Party. Using the "independent judiciary" as partisan brass knuckles may seem thuggish, but the bipartisan lockdown of elections can also be achieved by selling voters a false bargain. This is what happened when Proposition 14 was sold to Californians as a great electoral reform. It was nothing of the kind; it was designed to bump independent and insurgent parties off the ballot, and it may yet succeed. Recently, the Green gubernatorial candidate in California, Laura Wells, was denied the chance to debate the two corporate candidates at a public forum. When she tried to attend the event as a member of the audience, she was arrested. That story was then broadcast online and went over, under and around much of the traditional news media. Every such attack on basic democracy also speeds the day when career politicians hang themselves with their own rope.


War is more truly our national religion than the Ten Commandments or the Sermon on the Mount, so making a class-conscious case for peace is rank heresy in many houses of worship and in both houses of Congress. Protestantism has largely devolved into the gospel of prosperity, and God has become the gatekeeper of a gated community- for in my Father's house there are many mansions.


The First Amendment to our Constitution forbids the establishment of any state religion, but the deism of Jefferson and other Founding Fathers is no better than atheism to Christian crusaders. For that matter, if the Bill of Rights can be neatly reduced to the right to own guns and form far-right militias, then the rest of the text is a damn nuisance. Much of our national history has not even been forgotten, since it was never learned or taught in the first place. This is why right-wing candidates for public office can invent any original intent they please for the Founding Fathers and not have any idea of the original text of our country's Constitution. The First Amendment was breaking news to Christine O'Donnell, a conservative Christian and a Republican candidate from Delaware for the U.S. Senate, during an Oct. 19 televised debate with her Democratic opponent .


If Abraham Lincoln were to rise from the grave and talk as plainly about labor and capital as he once did in Congress, many Democrats and Republicans would think he sounded like a socialist. That's not far wrong, since Lincoln was (within the limits of his time and place) a social democrat within the republican tradition. In other words, our devolved Democrats have long since abandoned plain talk about social democracy, even as our devolved Republicans have abandoned the constitutional ground of the republic.


Congress has become the front office of the ruling class, but the corporate-funded big media broadcast the official faction fights with all the frenzy of gladiatorial combat in the Colosseum. Those who truly fight and die do so in wars beyond our borders; but the American empire is justified as a horn of plenty, pouring forth democracy and all good things upon the world. If we happen to build our military bases near oil and mineral deposits, then any question raised about American morals and motives must be an outright slander against the soldiers who sacrifice limbs and lives. Career politicians do not just wrap themselves in the flag; they wrap themselves in the flags draped on the coffins of dead soldiers. For every John McCain or John Kerry who showed real courage in battle, however misguided the war, there are scores of politicians who never served in uniform and yet campaign for votes as professional militarists.


The bloody sacrifice of the young is enshrined in national rites and monuments, so the roots of the next war always extend far back into our immense military cemeteries; and the bloody fruits of empire seem always within reach. The partisan spectacle is a fact of public life, but just as surely a grand distraction. Once in a while the news breaks that criminals exist in executive offices; but the systematic criminality of the corporate state is a subject that never needs to be censored since it would never be raised in a bipartisan debate.


In the 1980s, the triumph of reaction was blamed not only on the Republican Party but also on feminists, gay people and anti-racist activists-namely, on people who were often fighting for our lives and for basic democracy. A whole crew of straight white men cranked out columns deriding "wedge issues" and "identity politics." Their common complaint was spelled out at greater length in books such as "The Twilight of Common Dreams" by Todd Gitlin and Michael Tomasky's "Left for Dead: The Life, Death and Possible Resurrection of Progressive Politics in America." Even Christopher Hitchens (who had not yet become a fellow traveler of the imperial right) was quoted in the February 1997 issue of The Progressive as saying, "I remember the first time I heard the slogan 'the personal is political.' I felt a deep, immediate sense of impending doom."


In "The Queer Question: Essays on Desire and Democracy" (South End Press, 1997) I suggested those writers were defending their own brand of identity politics. The danger of playing any identity as a trump card in a political poker game is real, but any claim to represent "the universal left" must also remain open to question. For the sake of brevity, I will summarize the case for a social democracy founded on social pluralism with a quote from Sartre's "Anti-Semite and Jew," written just after World War II:


"What we propose is a concrete liberalism. By that we mean that all persons who through their work collaborate toward the greatness of a country have the full rights of citizens of that country. What gives them this right is not the possession of a problematical and abstract 'human nature,' but their active participation in the life of the society. This means, then, that the Jews-and likewise the Arabs and the Negroes-from the moment that they are participants in the national enterprise, have a right to that enterprise; they are citizens. But they have these rights as Jews, Negroes, or Arabs-that is, as concrete persons."


If we are serious about the human dignity of "concrete persons," we must defend fair wages and all due legal protection for immigrant workers in our country today. There is an abysmal contradiction between exploiting the labor of immigrant workers and putting targets on their backs as alien invaders. But this contradiction also serves the interests of many employers, since a work force that must pass through barbed wire fences and police dogs will have a tougher time forming a labor union. In this way bosses can have their cake and take bread from workers, too.


True, a police raid on a restaurant kitchen or a tomato farm may be a problem for an employer on that very day. But this kind of random social terrorism is also money in the bank, since the long-term suppression of wages and labor organizing is not an accidental side effect. The lords of agribusiness have a working coalition with the local police chiefs. Otherwise we must explain why fruit and vegetables keep appearing so magically in supermarkets and on dinner plates. Or why so many front lawns and golf courses remain so well tended by landscape workers from Mexico or Guatemala. Or why so many hotels, hospitals and office buildings are cleaned by people who do not earn a living wage.


Here in the southwest region of the United States, this contradiction is a Grand Canyon between liberal ideals and actual ruling-class power. In reality, the number of undocumented workers crossing over our southern border has gone down. That is not surprising, given the deep recession and the recent political campaign to give police in Arizona the power to demand identity papers at will. Even so, the fantasy of a bunker state with an Iron Wall is a convenient exit from reality, since capitalism is an essentially porous and diffuse system of profit. Corporations (and politicians of both corporate parties) placed the mobility of capital above all other considerations.

Let's recall that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), pushed by President Clinton and implemented with bipartisan support in 1994, was a bill of rights for big business, but it was a hemispheric hurricane for the working class. Workers in the United States lost high-paying jobs in skilled manufacturing; Mexican workers swiftly lost wages before losing jobs entirely; and the culture of social democracy in Canada was deeply eroded. As Robert E. Scott wrote in his 2003 article "The high price of 'free' trade" on the Economic Policy Institute website:


"Further study of NAFTA by researchers in Canada and Mexico has shown that workers in all three countries have been hurt, but for different reasons (Faux et al. 2001). In Mexico, real wages have fallen sharply and there has been a steep decline in the number of people holding regular jobs in paid positions. Many workers have been shifted into subsistence-level work in the 'informal sector,' frequently unpaid work in family retail trade or restaurant businesses. Additionally, a flood of subsidized, low-priced corn from the United States has decimated farmers and rural economics. In Canada, a decade of heightened competition with the United States is eroding social investment in public spending on education, health care, unemployment compensation, and a wide range of other public services."


NAFTA was followed by the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) in 2005, which extended "the logic of the market" to five Central American nations and to the Dominican Republic. Jimmy Carter was an enthusiastic promoter of CAFTA, and if a more extensive South American Free Trade Agreement had been possible he would have supported that as well. But Carter did have the decency to state that the Venezuelan people had voted fair and square for an economic populist, Hugo Chavez. The working classes in Mexico, Central America and South America have often defied capitalist and outright fascist rulers in mass protests, but they have also suffered heavy losses through the jailing and killing of their bravest militants and labor leaders. To this day, workers from Juarez to Tierra del Fuego have long memories of political betrayals and outright repression. Generally, they do their best to settle accounts with ballots and not bullets. Anyone who argues that workers have no right to wage the class struggle beyond election days, however, is simply wishing that the working class would reduce itself to a passive production line on every other day of the year.


This is the ground of struggle, and this is the ground of solidarity. If socialists are not internationalists, we might as well join phony populists in the existing big corporate parties. The only internationalism recognized by demagogues such as Lou Dobbs and Bill O'Reilly is the unrestricted mobility of capital over the whole planet. The price of this "free market" is the near feudal servitude of many millions of workers, and the imperial wars in which they die so young.


Patriotism of that kind is the false gospel of the ruling class. The sooner we break those mental chains, the better we are able to love our homeland. And what is any homeland but a wide sense of our neighborhood? If we do not want our streets filled with the tanks of a foreign power or our skies filled with deadly drones, then by what divine right do we inflict them on the people of Iraq and Afghanistan? These wars have long been an exercise of ruling-class power, waged in the domestic political realm by two political parties that serve the same corporate interests even as they play musical chairs in Congress.


"Our two-party system" is an ideological fiction, but this fiction has real political power. On the eve of the midterm elections, the Democratic Party is struggling to hold together the usual unstable coalition of Blue Dog Democrats, labor unions and corporate managers.


Whether the tea party movement is an appendage of the Republican Party or a mutant force that may break party ranks, we cannot yet predict. Tea party activists cover a spectrum of far-right causes, but at present the central and controlling idea seems to be free-market fundamentalism. In its purest form, this ideology is pure nonsense, since the irreducible price of every "free" market is the actual labor of human beings.


Granting "personhood" to corporations was a piece of godlike presumption on the part of Supreme Court justices in 1886, when they ruled in Santa Clara v. Southern Pacific Railroad that the Bill of Rights and the 14th Amendment made any corporation a natural person under the U.S. Constitution. As Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas wrote 60 years later, "There was no history, logic, or reason to support that view."


That legal precedent of corporate personhood undermined our public life, yet it is consistent with the Supreme Court ruling in the Citizens United case early this year (though it remains indefensible). The latter decision gives corporations a right to make unlimited campaign donations, and Congress has failed to impose disclosure requirements. Obama's noblest public moment came in his last State of the Union speech when he made a direct criticism of this Supreme Court ruling. But this president does not simply serve at the will of the people; he also serves at the will of the ruling class, and remains a member of that class in good standing so long as he presides loyally over a corporate state and imperial wars.


If every government depends on the consent of the governed, then every neighborhood and workplace is potentially a small republic of persons who are willing to say, "We do not consent." Do the capitalist parties depend upon your votes and donations? Deprive those parties of your moral and material support. Vote against the parties of war and empire every chance you get, and cast your vote for the parties of peace, economic democracy and ecological sanity. In this election, the Green Party of the United States represents not only our best hope of social democracy, but also our best chance to bring ecological common sense to our global economy.

[Nov 03, 2010] The Impotence of Elections by Paul Craig Roberts

Growing Anger

In his historical novel, The Leopard, Giuseppe di Lampedusa writes that things have to change in order to remain the same. That is what happened in the US congressional elections on November 2.

Jobs offshoring, which began on a large scale with the collapse of the Soviet Union, has merged the Democrats and Republicans into one party with two names. The Soviet collapse changed attitudes in socialist India and communist China and opened those countries, with their large excess supplies of labor, to Western capital.

Pushed by Wall Street and Wal-Mart, American manufacturers moved production for US markets offshore to boost profits and shareholder earnings by utilizing cheap labor. The decline of the US manufacturing work force reduced the political power of unions and the ability of unions to finance the Democratic Party. The end result was to make the Democrats dependent on the same sources of financing as Republicans.

Prior to this development, the two parties, despite their similarities, represented different interests and served as a check on one another. The Democrats represented labor and focused on providing a social safety net. Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, unemployment insurance, housing subsidies, education, and civil rights were Democratic issues. Democrats were committed to a full employment policy and would accept some inflation to secure more employment.

The Republicans represented business. The Republicans focused on curtailing big government in all its manifestations from social welfare spending to regulation. The Republicans' economic policy consisted of opposing federal budget deficits.

These differences resulted in political competition.

Today both parties are dependent for campaign finance on Wall Street, the military/security complex, AIPAC, the oil industry, agri-business, pharmaceuticals, and the insurance industry. Campaigns no longer consist of debates over issues. They are mud-slinging contests.

Angry voters take their anger out on incumbents, and that is what we saw in the election. Tea Party candidates defeated Republican incumbents in primaries, and Republicans defeated Democrats in the congressional elections.

Policies, however, will not change qualitatively. Quantitatively, Republicans will be more inclined to more rapidly dismantle more of the social safety net than Democrats and more inclined to finish off the remnants of civil liberties. But the powerful private oligarchs will continue to write the legislation that Congress passes and the President signs. New members of Congress will quickly discover that achieving re-election requires bending to the oligarchs' will.

This might sound harsh and pessimistic. But look at the factual record. In his campaign for the presidency, George W. Bush criticized President Clinton's foreign adventures and vowed to curtail America's role as the policeman of the world. Once in office, Bush pursued the neoconservatives' policy of US world hegemony via military means, occupation of countries, setting up puppet governments, and financial intervention in other countries' elections.

Obama promised change. He vowed to close Guantanamo prison and to bring the troops home. Instead, he restarted the war in Afghanistan and started new wars in Pakistan and Yemen, while continuing Bush's policy of threatening Iran and encircling Russia with military bases.

Americans out of work, out of income, out of homes and prospects, and out of hope for their children's careers are angry. But the political system offers them no way of bringing about change. They can change the elected servants of the oligarchs, but they cannot change the policies or the oligarchs.

The American situation is dire. As a result of the high speed Internet, the loss of manufacturing jobs was followed by the loss of professional service jobs, such as software engineering, that were career ladders for American university graduates. The middle class has no prospects. Already, the American labor force and income distribution mimics that of a third world country, with income and wealth concentrated in a few hands at the top and most of the rest of the population employed in domestic services jobs. In recent years net new job creation has been concentrated in lowly paid occupations, such as waitresses and bartenders, ambulatory health care services, and retail clerks. The population and new entrants into the work force continue to grow more rapidly than job opportunities.

Turning this around would require more realization than exists among policymakers and a deeper crisis. Possibly it could be done by using taxation to encourage US corporations to manufacture domestically the goods and services that they sell in US markets. However, the global corporations and Wall Street would oppose this change.

The tax revenue loss from job losses, bank bailouts, stimulus programs, and the wars have caused a three-to-four-fold jump in the US budget deficit. The deficit is now too large to be financed by the trade surpluses of China, Japan, and OPEC. Consequently, the Federal Reserve is making massive purchases of Treasury and other debt. The continuation of these purchases threatens the dollar's value and its role as reserve currency. If the dollar is perceived as losing that role, flight from dollars will devastate the remnants of Americans' retirement incomes and the ability of the US government to finance itself.

Yet, the destructive policies continue. There is no re-regulation of the financial industry, because the financial industry will not allow it. The unaffordable wars continue, because they serve the profits of the military/security complex and promote military officers into higher ranks with more retirement pay. Elements within the government want to send US troops into Pakistan and into Yemen. War with Iran is still on the table. And China is being demonized as the cause of US economic difficulties.

Whistleblowers and critics are being suppressed. Military personnel who leak evidence of military crimes are arrested. Congressmen call for their execution. Wikileaks' founder is in hiding, and neoconservatives write articles calling for his elimination by CIA assassination teams. Media outlets that report the leaks apparently have been threatened by Pentagon chief Robert Gates. According to Antiwar.com, on July 29 Gates "insisted that he would not rule out targeting Wikileaks founder Julian Assange or any of the myriad media outlets which reported on the leaks."

The control of the oligarchs extends to the media. The Clinton administration permitted a small number of mega-corporations to concentrate the US media in a few hands. Corporate advertising executives, not journalists, control the new American media, and the value of the mega-companies depends on government broadcast licenses. The media's interest is now united with that of the government and the oligarchs.

On top of all the other factors that have made American elections meaningless, voters cannot even get correct information from the media about the problems that they and the country face.

As the economic situation is likely to continue deteriorating, the anger will grow. But the oligarchs will direct the anger away from themselves and toward the vulnerable elements of the domestic population and "foreign enemies."

Paul Craig Roberts was an editor of the Wall Street Journal and an Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury. His latest book, HOW THE ECONOMY WAS LOST, has just been published by CounterPunch/AK Press. He can be reached at: PaulCraigRoberts@yahoo.com

[Nov 03, 2010] Giving the Keys Back to the Folks Who Crashed the Car by Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson

Authors of the book, Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer-And Turned Its Back on the Middle Class

After Tuesday's drubbing, Democrats will search for the hidden message of the election. But the message isn't hidden: The decisive blocs of voters that switched from Democrats in 2008 to Republicans in 2010 were angry and disillusioned -- with the economy, with a political system they see as helping banks and CEOs, not ordinary working families, and with both parties, Republicans (exit-poll favorability rating: 41 percent) an economic recovery package that included major tax cuts, to expanded health insurance and medical cost control, and to extension of the 2001 tax cuts for the middle class; the party that shamelessly courted lobbyists and corporate donors while claiming they were only against reform because it represented a "bailout" of these very same interests.

In exit polls, voters were asked who they blamed for the state of the economy. In order, they blamed banks, then the Bush administration, and only then the current administration. Yet those who blamed banks gave their votes by a wide margin to the GOP. Their votes have made Speaker-to-be John Boehner the second most powerful person in Washington only months after he staged an open rally for bank lobbyists, urging them to block Democrats and their "punk staffers." The rally worked: Wall Street swung toward the Republicans, joining health insurers, big business groups, energy companies, and the rest of the GOP's new money trust.

Midterm election losses are a virtual inevitability for the party of the president. A terrible economy makes them more certain -- and larger. The only thing that would have saved Democrats from big losses this time around was a huge organizational and fundraising edge. Thanks to the Tea Party and billions in outside campaign spending that favored the GOP, the edge was Republicans'.

If there is a hidden message in the election, it's one that we, in our recent book, Winner-Take-All Politics, call the "dirty little secret" of political science: most voters pay little attention to what happens in Washington and have only the vaguest sense of what is happening there. Most are completely unaware of how the filibuster has been used relentlessly to block action on the economy, and a majority mistakenly believes that the astonishingly unpopular TARP legislation passed under Obama, when in fact in was signed by George W. Bush.

We are taught to believe that voters call the shots. And they often do. Yet the vote is a blunt, heavy weapon -- one that voters barraged with negative ads and misleading messages, without strong guidance from grassroots organizations, often wield with little awareness of or regard for the collateral damage that will result. In this case, the damage is likely to be the crippling of goals and policies that most Americans continue to support.

One salient example sums up the whole: Republicans' big gains came with older voters -- in part because they were frightened by GOP attacks on the health care bill. Yet Republican budget blueprints -- from Paul Ryan's "Roadmap for America's Future" to the GOP "Pledge to America" -- mean even bigger cuts in Medicare and the revival of the GOP's mothballed plans for partial privatization of Social Security and Medicare. Ask older Americans whether they would like to trash their cherished programs in return for massive new tax cuts for the richest of the rich, and the answer will be a resounding no. Only on election day, a strong majority of older Americans, in effect, said yes.

In John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath, perhaps the most memorable line was uttered by an angry farmer about to lose his home (sound familiar?). Enraged and despairing but unable to pinpoint blame for his terrible loss, he asks, "Who can we shoot?" That's what voters were asking in 2010, and most had no clearer idea than the farmer of where responsibility for their plight lay.

The 2010 election was the political equivalent of the perfect crime: The GOP vigorously took on all reforms designed to rebalance the economy for the long term, tying Washington up in contorted knots, then were rewarded at the polls by voters dissatisfied with an ugly D.C. culture unable to produce economic renewal.

Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson are the authors of Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer--And Turned Its Back on the Middle Class

[Nov 03, 2010] Republican Party Time By MAUREEN DOWD

Barack Obama deserved what he got but Republicans managed to fool rednecks again and again, providing the key finding of "What matters with Kansas": you can fool many people indefinitely and on this people repugs should concentrate.
NYTimes.com

At a Republican victory party suffused with vengeful glee, the man who body-surfed the anti-establishment wave to become the next Speaker of the House was looking very establishment.

Even though it was predicted, it was still a shock to see voters humiliate a brilliant and spellbinding young president, who'd had such a Kennedy-like beginning, while electing a lot of conservative nuts and promoting this central-casting congressman as the face of the future: a Republican who had vowed in a written pledge to restore America to old-fashioned values, returning to a gauzy "Leave It to Beaver" image that never existed even on the set of "Leave It to Beaver."

Republicans outcommunicated a silver-tongued president who was supposed to be Ronald Reagan's heir in the communications department.

They were able to persuade a lot of Americans that the couple in the White House was not American enough, not quite "normal," too Communist, too radical, too Great Society. All that Ivy League schooling had made them think they knew better than average American folks, not to mention the founding fathers.

The Speaker-in-waiting sounded the alarm: the elites in the White House were snuffing out the America he grew up in. It only took two years to realize that their direction for the country was simply, as he put it, "a contradiction with the vast majority of Americans."

No one gets to take America away from Americans - not even the American president!

"What the American people were saying is 'Enough!' " the Speaker-to-be told me, as he savored his own win and his party's landslide, which he said was "a historical tide, not just a partisan election."

Washington had not been listening. Washington had been scorning the deepest beliefs of Americans. And now that would have to change.

"American people are clearly fed up with what they see as the decay of American society," he declared.

The new leader of the House took a more black-and-white approach than the nuanced president. It's enshrined in the Declaration of Independence that you need the consent of the governed and the governed did not consent.

Ascending to third in the line of succession for the presidency: a working-class kid who rose in the House as a rabble-rouser willing to throw bombs to score points against powerful Democrats.

Now he'd be helping to run the country, saving it from what he regarded as an arrogant and out-of-touch clique of elites.

In the revolutionary flush of the electoral map glowing red, he was floating, working hard to avoid gloating (even though Sean Hannity was around, gloating about the pain about to befall the Democratic president).

But he could not resist taking a few jabs at the "liberal media elite" distorting things, and a few more at a puffed-up White House that got punished for not paying enough attention to people's anxieties.

"They had an enormous opportunity to bring about change and they failed, and I don't say that harshly," he said, adding: "They really are left-wing elitists and they really thought the country didn't get it, and, therefore, it was their job to give the country the government that they thought the country needed, even if they didn't want it. That's the whole history of the health plan."

There was a lot of talk, as in the campaign, about the misbegotten health care plan, about balancing the budget, about lowering the deficit and taxes, about doing something on abortion and bloated government. Meanwhile, bloated fat-cat lobbyists were dancing down K Street.

The next Speaker felt that the humbled president should take the election as a cue to be conciliatory, and he proposed they talk in the next few days. He offered to reach out to Democrats who wanted to work with his side, but also noted that the president would not be wise to stand in the way of the conservative agenda.

"I prefer to believe that this president, who is clearly very smart, is quite capable of thinking clearly about a message sent by the American people," he said.

He said that, contrary to what the media elite had been jabbering about, he would not use his subpoena power to rain down a series of investigations on the Democratic administration.

No "witch hunts," he said. Only "legitimate" investigations.

Yeah, that all worked out for Newt Gingrich. He really came through. The quotes above came from Gingrich, when I covered his heady victory in Marietta, Ga., in the 1994 Republican landslide that made him Speaker.

And, obviously, the Republican House only pursued "legitimate" investigations of Bill Clinton. Sixteen years later, as a weeping John Boehner extolled the American values he learned at his father's bar - in the moment he dethroned Nancy Pelosi - the new crop of anarchic conservatives are saying all the same things.

God help the Republic. And, Mr. Speaker, in the immortal words of Sharron Angle, man up!

[Nov 03, 2010] The Tragedy of the Obama Administration

The Big Picture

The first item damned him to a mediocre economic team, one that failed to respond strongly to the banks that created the crisis. The second error earned him the enmity of the opposing party. The third error was political, and likely cost him the House, and possibly the Senate.

The great irony is that the man who ran on the campaign slogan of Change failed to deliver it in any meaningful way - at least, where the public wanted it - in getting the reckless runaway banks under control, and in stimulating the moribund, post-credit crisis economy.

I hasten to add, that from a political perspective, the President was a wimp. Had Al Gore been President from 2000-08 (and controlled Congress), the next GOP President would have flailed him for the recession and crisis bank relentlessly. Hell, the GOP still beats Jimmy Carter like a piñata. Once Obama took office, that was pretty much the last we heard of the Bush recession. The public actually forget who authorized TARP, who bailed out Citibank, BofA, AIG, Fannie Mae, Bear Stearns, etc.

This amounted to political suicide.

Critics have debated Obama's hands off approach to passing National Romney-Care, his giving up (?!) the winning issue of partial Bush tax cut extensions. I am perplexed as to why he would not force a full confirmation battle over the charming midwestern Elizabeth Warren as new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau chair - Bnaks versus your grandma.

But as far as I am concerned, those are secondary political issues. To me, his presidency began its fatal downward spiral once he allowed Robert Rubin to determine his initial financial appointments. By passing over more pragmatic candidates not tied to banks and Wall Street, the president missed his opportunity to rise to greatness.

The opportunity existed to get the renegade banks under control - to reduce their leverage, their recklessness, and to get their hands out of the taxpayers pockets.

That opportunity was squandered, and Obama ended up as a defender of the banking status quo. It is where his presidency could have achieved lasting greatness, and instead was turned into just another elected official, who over promised and under delivered . . .

TakBak04:

It is a Tragedy. So much time wasted..with so much that needed to be done. With his huge staff it shouldn't have been "impossible." Yet it seemed from the beginning that those who would serve in his Administration had been "hand picked by someone" from the get go for a "smooth, seamless transition."

I don't know if he was "suckered" or was "willing." I guess the Historians will parse that one out…long after those who suffer from the deregulation since Reagan are gone. Who will be left to read? We have to hope the folks who "BROUGHT THE CHANGE" will be left.

Hope….. Man…so much work to be done. But, at least we now see how it all works and so much has been revealed that perhaps we aren't still living and accepting "Smoke and Mirrors."

Roll up our shirt sleeves and let's get AT IT!

trainreq:

A proper epitaph for this administration.

drey:

Good analysis, Barry.

Unlike some who would ascribe sinister or conspiratorial motives to Obama's failings, I chalk them up to inexperience, ineptitude, and naivete. Good campaigners do not necessarily make good leaders. We've seen it time and time again. It's a different skill set entirely.

Start dealing in reality, BO – the Republicans do not LIKE you and never will. Nor will they work with you toward goals which will ultimately be seen as your accomplishments, not theirs. Get over it and start to govern. You may refer to the Clinton playbook….

cpd:

Very good summary. It also shows the tremendous hold special interests have on the politicians. So much private money flowing through DC has completely corrupted politics. Take private money out of politics, have publicly financed elections and institute across the board term limits and then there is half a chance of getting elected representatives that will do the right thing.

By the way, don't forget Obama reappointed Bernanke. That was unforgivable. It's time to put a non-economist in charge of the Fed (or better yet, just get rid of it).

Heretic:

Sadly, I have to agree with most of this. But if Mr. Obama was going to get any kind of health care legislation, could he wait? The watered down thing we got just barely made it with Democratic majorities in both houses – and losing the house seemed likely even in Jan 2009. But to do health care you have to do the big parts all at once: Everyone has to be insured, no one can be denied coverage, and subsidies for those who can't afford coverage. This may have been Obama's only chance to get that sort of a bill through.

Mannwich:

@Heretic: That's a fair point if he had thrown more weight into the economy and jobs situation it might have given him more political capital to then tackle the health care issue. Instead he used up his political capital on a health care bill that nobody seemed happy with or truly understood (which made people even unhappier). He got his priorities all mixed up.

beaufou:

He had a great opportunity, he could have pushed the Republicans into a corner and kept at them relentlessly; but it was all "anger accomplishes nothing" "I get it"…no, you didn't get it Barrack.

RW:

I agree that going for national Romneycare was probably a mistake - it should have been a straight-up call for Medicare-for-everyone and damn the torpedoes - but the notion that passing health care reform was a serious tactical error is simply ill-informed: As Krugman notes here at http://tinyurl.com/39vaefj those who make this claim cannot name a single significant economic policy initiative that Obama could have successfully pursued otherwise. In fact those making this argument appear to think that economic policy is more a matter of 'focus' - AKA a matter of PR and superficial expressions of 'caring' (bleh!) - than it is a matter of actually doing something.

But that fundamental error probably better describes the dysfunctional and declining state of our democracy than anything else: Appearance appears to be trumping actual form virtually everywhere as Reality-TV substitutes for reality and our nation dies the death of a thousand cuts in the process.

Panem et circenses (Juvenal, Satire 10.77–81), "Bread and circuses:" There are too few citizens devoted to civic duty and too many devoted to being fed and entertained. That is the problem.

Chief Tomahawk:

Where's the blame for the media?!?

They've reported this as the most expensive election at $4 billion, yet little has been examined about where the money is coming from and what the donors are hoping to get in return. Yet despite the enormous expense, candidates are still lining up to shell out the dough. There's only one reason they'd do it voluntarily and that's if there's a bigger expected payday to come by selling votes down the road. So, dear media,

How much are votes being sold for???

Mannwich:

@Chief: The whores in the MSM are on that very money meat wagon as well. Hence, the obvious reasons to not mention it.

druce:

Fatally cautious…one can understand keeping Geithner in the thick of the crisis, but not why he's still there.

But I have difficult believing enmity of the right would not have been the far worse if he had truly reformed Wall Street, washed out the zombie bank shareholders, put the sundry crooks in jail, enforced transparency, limited leverage, put in investor and borrower protection with teeth, etc., etc.

jcmcn5:

I agree with most of what you wrote except the part about not flailing the previous admin. Are you kidding? Hardly a week went by without Obama saying something to the effect that he'd inherited a mess. It's true, he did. But let's not pretend he didn't use that to his advantage when he could.

The fatal error was not focusing on job creation immediately, instead of wasting time and capital ramming a HCare bill down the throats of everyone and using bribery and pork to get it done. If he'd focused on creating jobs - immediate, private sector jobs (not teachers, not gov't heathcare workers) he'd have coasted through this election with an even larger majority. With that blunder, he revealed himself as the liberal idealogue he pretended not to be throughout the whole campaign of 2008.

As for his lack of execution - Maybe next time the Dems will hold out as savior someone who has done a little more with his life than be a community organizer. Really! What on earth did you expect from this guy? This is not about McCain or even Republicans. This is about about acting like a bunch of high school girls when some hot guy walks by, even though the hot guy is a shallow narcissist.

Hell, Hilary would have been a better choice. At least she had balls.

Robespierre:

A good read of "The Prince" could have saved him but nobody reads history anymore.

lalaland:

I think your view is myopic.

A: Government intervention in business is the 3rd rail in America for a very good reason – you don't want it to happen because it's too prone to corruption, pure and simple. I think you fail to appreciate the justified cautiousness of his approach. We stepped in and took over several companies, and threatened the livelihoods of many more. I think the calls for more action on the administration's part should consider how that sets precedent, and how that precedent could be abused in the future. He's already called a socialist just for completing what Bush began (gm and chrysler, aig, fannie and freddie, etc.)

B: They didn't have the votes. Kennedy died. Byrd died. You fail to appreciate the opposition. Democrats simply could not steamroll Republican opposition, pure and simple. Mitch McConnell has been vindicated as a tactician this very evening.

Did we have a substantive debate on financial regulations? No. Did we have a substantive debate on Health Care Reform? No. Was this because Obama didn't want a conversation, to find the best ideas? I don't believe that for a minute. If you are upset with what you got from Finreg, blame the opposition. If you are pissed at the healthcare bill you got, blame your representative who cast it as an 'all or nothing' proposition instead of a process they are supposed to engage in. We'll see how these republican victories stick when after 2 years they have nothing to show for it. After all, they didn't run on doing anything so I doubt they will disappoint.

Mannwich:

RW: So he couldn't have pursued a more robust (and effective) fiscal stimulus and attention to the economy and the creation of actual jobs? There were plenty of areas here (hello decaying, embarrassing infrastructure everywhere?) where he could have been much bolder. Instead he focused on ramming through a bad health care bill. That's been his hallmark from Day 1, confusing activity with accomplishment. His style of leadership might have worked fine in the '90′s, but not in a time of crisis where bold leadership is required.

Mbuna:

How much of a deal with the devil did Obama make to get elected in the first place hmm? Was it in fact the big corporations that put him over the top, despite what common knowledge dictated back then? Maybe he was already captured by the banks before he even got elected. Perhaps the electorate is already irrelevant, passe, because the candidates of both major parties are already captured by their corporate masters before they get elected. The electorate loses no matter who wins.

huxrules:

There was a good story on All Things Considered today about how Clinton didn't come into his presidency till he lost the congress in '94. We will see what Obama does tomorrow. I hope he finally comes out swinging.

paull:

Unfair and hyperbolic. Obama is working within the realm of the possible and has done good things; at a minimum, he hasn't done disastrous things, like his predecessor. It's the senate's rules that need to be changed.

jcmcn5:

huxrules - Barack Obama is no Bill Clinton. Clinton may have been a scoundrel and sexual predator, but he was a master politician who had already tasted political defeat twice before. Obama has never faced any such test. He will wilt.

But take heart. He may very well be saved by the incompetence of his political opponents.

limaur:

A muslim disguised as a christian, a communist pretending to be a liberal, a democrat hoping for bipartisan cooperation to get the country moving again. You , the people of the U.S., wanted the man to solve all your economic problems ,and with dispatch,while everybody bitched and complained and obstructed his every step. I do most sincerely hope that your U.S. will go to hell, for its arrogance, for its stupidity , for its bigotry and for being .. oh.. so fatuous.

Jackrabbit:

Don't forget renominating "Subprime is contained" Bernanke.

And any notion that Obama will change in any REAL way (he might make some show of it) should be dispelled by his performance on the Daily Show where he praised Summers for a "heck of a job" and tried to minimize the costs of bailing out the banks.

I have been skeptical of the line that Obama is owned by the banks but his Daily Show performance may have finally convinced me.

Mannwich:

LOL limaur. Halloween was Sunday night.

gregh:

Presidents are figureheads not experts. Most politicians don't know economics or finance, apparently most economists and finance people obviously don't know economics.

If you were president and were suddenly handed some war – 9/11 – in addition to hundreds of other major non-financial you'd probably be equally lost and having to put your trust into someone elses hands. He chose wrongly, but did he have time to study intracies and seriously vet those he'd trust to vet his potential choices? Would you have the time the study war, nation-building, anti-terrorism, etc in order to make what you felt to be the perfect decision while juggling 100 other balls? You'd probably have to trust the word of close folks on the hill… who would all make the same bad decisions. Barry you would have made great decisions regarding our financial troubles but you'd probably make blind ones regarding some very different crisis that isn't your regular schtick.

Mannwich:

I think most of us simply wanted plain old-fashioned bold, principled leadership. Is that too much to ask? Apparently it is now.

RW:

No argument Mannwich but that's not the game the (feckless and useless) pundits have been playing: The cry that Obama should have been doing X or Y is not accompanied by a concrete example of am economic policy he could have actually proposed, passed through the Republican blockade, and successfully pursued.

The victory of Republican candidates today is more a message of voter confusion and despair than a message of actual policy direction.

The real "tragedy of the Obama administration" is less in its policies than in its message: But you already knew that didn't you.

FrankInTheFalls:

Very good analysis. But I cannot disagree more with this: "Once Obama took office, that was pretty much the last we heard of the Bush recession"

You have got to be kidding me. All we have heard for the past ten months is, "we were handed this economy, it will take a long time to undo the past eight years, blah blah blah" It even went on during Obama's recent stumping trip.

Yeah, we KNOW you were handed a pile of garbage, so tell us when you will do something to clean it up.

call me ahab:

Clinton didn't come into his presidency till he lost the congress in '94. We will see what Obama does tomorrow. I hope he finally comes out swinging.

not that you're a dumb ass - but Clinton in 1994 - moved to the right (and therefore did not come out swinging) - and worked with the Republican's on Republican initiatives after the congressional defeat-

but let's hope Obama comes out swinging- whatever that means

Mannwich:

Agreed RW. People on Main Street are failing desperately in this country. Looking for an answer. Any answer. The next two years should be interesting to say the least. Pull up a chair, get some popcorn. The circus is not only in town, it just doubled.

call me ahab:

I do most sincerely hope that your U.S. will go to hell, for its arrogance, for its stupidity , for its bigotry and for being .. oh.. so fatuous.

blow me douche bag

Mannwich:

@ahab: This GOP to date has had NO interest whatsoever in "working with Obama". Absolutely none. Their only interest has been "making him a one-term president", no matter the consequences to the country. The poetic justice now is they'll either be totally exposed (assuming anyone is paying attention, of course) or will have to work with him now.

DM RTA:

RW: "As Krugman notes here at http://tinyurl.com/39vaefj those who make this claim cannot name a single significant economic policy initiative that Obama could have successfully pursued otherwise. In fact those making this argument appear to think that economic policy is more a matter of 'focus' - AKA a matter of PR and superficial expressions of 'caring' (bleh!) - than it is a matter of actually doing something."

How about if the President had taken the back half of the stimulus bill spending and worked it tirelessly to make sure that there was more than 1100 pages of bill left over when it was spent? How about if instead of making comments like there are no shelf ready infrastructure projects making sure that the most stimulative ideas were being readied. How about glorifying the details and making them look like they were worked on by the people who know better than anyone else?…and then selling it as being worth it.

call me ahab:

manny-

Clinton went to the GOP after the congressional defeat-

not the other way around-

also- glad to see everyone on this blog lay down like a bunch of little bitches after the 10:11 comment above-

I guess I'll see you in hell manny

Matt P.:

All Presidents are not dealt the same hand. Obama was set up perfectly and has so far failed miserably. He came in with tremendous good will and with a HUGE advantage in Congress. They had more votes than any GOP President in the last 90 years or so. Crazy advantage for getting your legislation done with hardly a GOP vote required. Also, he came in after the blow up of the economy. No one blames him for the economy, they blame him for setting the wrong expectations on the recovery.

maximo:

It's sad to admit but you're absolutely right, Barry. Boy, this is a Fukuyama moment for America and the joke is on us.

JimRino:

"But I have difficult believing enmity of the right would not have been the far worse if he had truly reformed Wall Street, washed out the zombie bank shareholders, put the sundry crooks in jail, enforced transparency, limited leverage, put in investor and borrower protection with teeth, etc., etc."

Agreed. To do any of these, he'd have to find an effective means of dealing with the right wing Fox Professional Liars. As long as you have One Network Lying and Smearing Every Single Day you won't get anywhere near optimal policy passed. I guess I'm surprised just how deep racist feelings run on the right. They don't give a Damn about this Country as long as they can Smear a President.

Lariat1:

I'm disappointed in Obama and ashamed of the Republican strategy of just NO to everything. Statesmanship is dead and it is only going to get worse. I just came back from 5:15 am to 9:40 pm election working. It was sad, all the people coming in literally talking about the Revolution with the Tea Party and how everything will be fixed now. This was seriously felt and voiced by a lot of people. My God what is happening to this country.

JimRino:

I now think the ONLY way you can deal with Wall Street is to elect 100 Liberals to the Senate. The only way the Republican party could do more rear kissing of Wall Street would be to become gay.

JasRas:

The best opportunity wasted by a failure to grasp the situation and properly adjust… And now we will all pay regardless of party, place, demographic… Good luck to all.

Mannwich:

@Jim: But who cares if the "right would have been far worse". "W", whom I disagreed with on mostly everything was able to ram through nearly his entire agenda (except privatizing SS) with a far slimmer majority because he didn't give a rat's ass what the Dems or Dem voters thought. Use the bully pulpit and lead with conviction and principle, and the people will usually follow. If that doesn't work, then so be it. Losing while being conviction-less and unprincipled is much worse. The public, rightly or wrongly, admires bold leadership and people who lead with conviction and principle. The O man, and his constant giving away the house at every turn to an enemy that wanted nothing more than to destroy him and his presidency, showed neither throughout the last two years.

jeg3:

Great post BR, on the mark.

Obama is not a liberal ideologue, he is exactly like Bush II, A Neoliberal Corporatist. Obama followed the same failed Bush II policies and started his own with corporatized healthcare. Mainstreet America elects Austerians into office expecting the opposite, and BR is right in that the best you can do is to figure out how to use it to your advantage (and/or not to your disadvantage).

Godspeed America

dss:

"confusing activity with accomplishment."

Well said, Manny. With the ridiculous health care bill that was allowed to pass (2014 if you can stay alive that long) he needed to go down swinging, fighting for what was right rather than what the insurance companies bought. At least while the citizenry was being screwed they could say that someone fought for the right to have health care rather than the privilege that it is today.

Just like allowing the banksters to carry on with their ill gotten gains, the insurance and drug companies are very pleased to have Obama as president.

These times called for a fighter, the change agent he promised instead of this sad excuse for a leader. Oh sure, his administration points to the bills that were "allowed" to pass, the ones that would have passed with any Democratic president, as proof of his efficacy, they were bills he didn't fight very hard to get passed.

Now two more years of gridlock. two more years of pretending that Republican policies were not what drove this economy off the cliff. 2012? Who cares.

People are angry because they are tired of being sold down the river by both all political parties.

Stranded_in_CA:

If any president had economic advisers like Rubin (whom Obama had since he was senator), they too would have made the same rotten decisions in regards to Wall Street. Heck his entire roster of economic advisers read like a list of Wall Street insiders and tools.

You won't get intelligent nor honest information from such a sorry lot period.

FrancoisT:

Now that the House will be controlled by the Reichpubliscums, thou shall look at the last two years as a model of political civility and good manners.

It'll be unbelievably ugly in Washington DC until November 2012. Just take a look at the crop of Tea Partiers, mobster-tied ex-attorneys, total fuckheads, anti-science, worshipers of the folksy ignorance drinking at the fountain of power, ready to paralyze the country if their "requirements" are not met.

It's gonna hurt; BTW, pray we don't get a REAL crisis until the next election.

Mannwich:

I have to say, I'm embarrassed to have voted all these years for such a spineless, wimpy party. Enough already with the "other party is mean" meme. When you get the kind of majorities the Dems had, that shit just doesn't fly. LEAD, please.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/paul-begala/a-centrist-democratic-age_b_777955.html

call me ahab:

It'll be unbelievably ugly in Washington DC until November 2012.

so what's going to happen then that's so fan-fucking-tastic? Obviously you know the future- and I guess fuckheads and folksy people are going to get what's coming to them

JT23456:

Hey, it's all well & good to have 20-20 hindsight and skewer the invalids – let's face it – I should have been a lot smarter when I retired in 2001 and moved my money as well as our bodies offshore. Smart me would have been 2x as smart to move the $ to CH as we built a house in MX and moved here. At least we have the 50′ sailboat and the rum and we can go and spend 3-4 months in Tahiti while the corporate "avatars" duke it out over the bones and skin and the scabs that are left of the US corpse. Politicians are avatars – trust me.

JimRino:

plantseeds, What do you expect the "Republicans" are going to do? They're going to bankrupt you and your assets, take away your healthcare, ship your job overseas, and stick a flag up your ???. Then what are you going to do?

But, you're taxes will be lower. You just gave the country away to the Wall Street Mafia.

Jojo:

What a flame out! So much hope wasted and squandered.

Obama seemed to have so much poise and self-confidence coming into office. He was on the crest of a wave. He had a beautiful wife and two cute children. Thoughts of JFK and Camelot were in the minds of many.

But Obama stumbled from the beginning, failing to show any real sense of urgency. Everything he did was slow and methodical, one step at a time. He seems unable to express real empathy or understanding in any situation due to his inability to emote effectively. He is always cool and collected. And yes, he does come across as a wimp, afraid to or emotionally unable to stand up to and confront the Republican opposition front and center.

In these troubled times, we wanted and needed BOLD leadership. But Obama was and has been unable to rise to any opportunity. He simply does not have the personality or experience to be a real leader.

You can't change the color of the stripes on a zebra. The Dems should be searching for a new presidential candidate for 2012. Obama should not run for a 2nd term.

AGORACOM:

Americans haven't been happy with the health care system for decades.

BUT they were really mad about Wall Street / Bank fleecing right now.

He should have tackled Wall St first and hard.

It would have inspired citizens that desperately needed a hero.

He could have then ridden that wave into any reasonable legislation he wanted.

Obama blew it. I didn't want him to. I'm a Conservative from Canada – but hoped that someone would stop the Wall Street train wreck.

It would have been nice to watch a President act Presidential.

Le Sigh.

George … The Greek … From Canada

plantseeds:

JimRino – you're dizzy from the political tail chase. there is no difference between the two. you are a victim of the biggest scam in the history of the USA. they all belong to the same country clubs and stay on the same floor of the hotel. they all fly the private jet. republicans and democrats are one in the same. i don't rely on them and I am in charge of my own health and therefore health care. they can't take my job…I 'll leave the flag comment alone. the lower my taxes the better. the government is not the solution to anything. the sooner you learn that the better. keep playing the blame game if you choose but I am not so easily distracted.

call me ahab:

They're going to bankrupt you and your assets, take away your healthcare, ship your job overseas, and stick a flag up your ???. Then what are you going to do?

take away my healthcare that I pay for myself?

damn Republicans

Mannwich:

Hey plantseeds – what about those with a pre-existing condition through no fault of their own, except maybe faulty DNA? Should the plan be either "our own healthcare" or food and shelter? And that's assuming anyone would even cover you with a pre-existing condition. What say ye?

covel:

Why do we Americans continually have hope that a government filled with losers can do anything? Right or left, the people that go there are not our best or brightest. They are the ones who groove living at Hollywood for ugly people. Power and fame are their motives. Their skills? Their abilities? Come on.

wunsacon:

Ahab,

I'd be *happy* if I thought there were enough Karl Denninger remnants in the "tea party" that something might actually happen on the finance front. But, I see *mostly* neocon retreads. I don't see why you would take such offense to Francois's comment…

Mannwich:

@wunsy: Retards or retreads? LOL. Sorry…..

Darkness:

So, this should be interesting. BoA goes bankrupt and then what? The house is no way bailing them out. Has the populace become inured enough to avoid a generalized bank run?

The republicans sure are acting like teens being given a car with a full tank of gas. Surprise…

Greg0658:

I'll catch up on the 1/2 remaining coments later .. from my FB earlier to a J6P friend

1. like the puppet in the WH can break from the strings and grab his bazooka and go to town & country busting ___ umm .. I'm at a loss for …. Right Now by Chris Gaines aka Garth Brooks http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I7fM_jAmpWw

2. Greg!--WHAT?

3. :-) what :-| ok I'll write a book .. the White House is one office building in the USA (thats United States of America) he has control of the military as long as they don't do a coupdetta on him .. we have elections for that .. so thats the .. power of government .. plus much more like redistribution of taxes on stuff of each side R or D sees as the focus … the other part of all that is USA .. is the USA its people ? or its business ? .. and business really does control it all doesn't it .. and can pull a coupdetta on its puppet president if it wishes

new & now here on TBP … best wishes all .. to our newly elected controllers / same … voters don't be surprised if the elected go for the gusto while they can .. for I expect you would in their position .. ie: knowing they be gone in in 4 to 6

call me ahab:

Covel nails it!

Wunsacon-

it was a partisan comment through and through-

but if you agree with the sentiments- then I guess it is hard to see it as what it is

plantseeds:

November 3rd, 2010 at 12:13 am my response was to taking away MY healthcare which those dastardly republicans are going to try and do so says jimrino. don't get me wrong, i'm for social programs too whatever the case. i think it starts and ends at the community level though. disabled, dependent on others, down on your luck, etc. i've needed help and i lend a hand when i can too. mr. rino isn't talking about that though. he's all about the fight. it's like a sox fan and a yankees fan fighting it out in the parking lot when the athletes are watching from the top floor of the hotel laughing and drinking Cristal. i don't agree with him so i'm a republican, he even knows how i voted.

wunsacon:

Ahab,

Tom Delay, Phil Gramm, Bush/Cheney, Rumsfeld, Hank Paulson, Terri Schaivo, and pro-organized-religion legislation from DC are not distant memories. Obama never stopped digging the hole we're in. But, he did slow down some. I *do* think the "pace of shoveling" increases again. ;-)

[Nov 03, 2010] The Impotence of Elections by Paul Craig Roberts

Growing Anger

In his historical novel, The Leopard, Giuseppe di Lampedusa writes that things have to change in order to remain the same. That is what happened in the US congressional elections on November 2.

Jobs offshoring, which began on a large scale with the collapse of the Soviet Union, has merged the Democrats and Republicans into one party with two names. The Soviet collapse changed attitudes in socialist India and communist China and opened those countries, with their large excess supplies of labor, to Western capital.

Pushed by Wall Street and Wal-Mart, American manufacturers moved production for US markets offshore to boost profits and shareholder earnings by utilizing cheap labor. The decline of the US manufacturing work force reduced the political power of unions and the ability of unions to finance the Democratic Party. The end result was to make the Democrats dependent on the same sources of financing as Republicans.

Prior to this development, the two parties, despite their similarities, represented different interests and served as a check on one another. The Democrats represented labor and focused on providing a social safety net. Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, unemployment insurance, housing subsidies, education, and civil rights were Democratic issues. Democrats were committed to a full employment policy and would accept some inflation to secure more employment.

The Republicans represented business. The Republicans focused on curtailing big government in all its manifestations from social welfare spending to regulation. The Republicans' economic policy consisted of opposing federal budget deficits.

These differences resulted in political competition.

Today both parties are dependent for campaign finance on Wall Street, the military/security complex, AIPAC, the oil industry, agri-business, pharmaceuticals, and the insurance industry. Campaigns no longer consist of debates over issues. They are mud-slinging contests.

Angry voters take their anger out on incumbents, and that is what we saw in the election. Tea Party candidates defeated Republican incumbents in primaries, and Republicans defeated Democrats in the congressional elections.

Policies, however, will not change qualitatively. Quantitatively, Republicans will be more inclined to more rapidly dismantle more of the social safety net than Democrats and more inclined to finish off the remnants of civil liberties. But the powerful private oligarchs will continue to write the legislation that Congress passes and the President signs. New members of Congress will quickly discover that achieving re-election requires bending to the oligarchs' will.

This might sound harsh and pessimistic. But look at the factual record. In his campaign for the presidency, George W. Bush criticized President Clinton's foreign adventures and vowed to curtail America's role as the policeman of the world. Once in office, Bush pursued the neoconservatives' policy of US world hegemony via military means, occupation of countries, setting up puppet governments, and financial intervention in other countries' elections.

Obama promised change. He vowed to close Guantanamo prison and to bring the troops home. Instead, he restarted the war in Afghanistan and started new wars in Pakistan and Yemen, while continuing Bush's policy of threatening Iran and encircling Russia with military bases.

Americans out of work, out of income, out of homes and prospects, and out of hope for their children's careers are angry. But the political system offers them no way of bringing about change. They can change the elected servants of the oligarchs, but they cannot change the policies or the oligarchs.

The American situation is dire. As a result of the high speed Internet, the loss of manufacturing jobs was followed by the loss of professional service jobs, such as software engineering, that were career ladders for American university graduates. The middle class has no prospects. Already, the American labor force and income distribution mimics that of a third world country, with income and wealth concentrated in a few hands at the top and most of the rest of the population employed in domestic services jobs. In recent years net new job creation has been concentrated in lowly paid occupations, such as waitresses and bartenders, ambulatory health care services, and retail clerks. The population and new entrants into the work force continue to grow more rapidly than job opportunities.

Turning this around would require more realization than exists among policymakers and a deeper crisis. Possibly it could be done by using taxation to encourage US corporations to manufacture domestically the goods and services that they sell in US markets. However, the global corporations and Wall Street would oppose this change.

The tax revenue loss from job losses, bank bailouts, stimulus programs, and the wars have caused a three-to-four-fold jump in the US budget deficit. The deficit is now too large to be financed by the trade surpluses of China, Japan, and OPEC. Consequently, the Federal Reserve is making massive purchases of Treasury and other debt. The continuation of these purchases threatens the dollar's value and its role as reserve currency. If the dollar is perceived as losing that role, flight from dollars will devastate the remnants of Americans' retirement incomes and the ability of the US government to finance itself.

Yet, the destructive policies continue. There is no re-regulation of the financial industry, because the financial industry will not allow it. The unaffordable wars continue, because they serve the profits of the military/security complex and promote military officers into higher ranks with more retirement pay. Elements within the government want to send US troops into Pakistan and into Yemen. War with Iran is still on the table. And China is being demonized as the cause of US economic difficulties.

Whistleblowers and critics are being suppressed. Military personnel who leak evidence of military crimes are arrested. Congressmen call for their execution. Wikileaks' founder is in hiding, and neoconservatives write articles calling for his elimination by CIA assassination teams. Media outlets that report the leaks apparently have been threatened by Pentagon chief Robert Gates. According to Antiwar.com, on July 29 Gates "insisted that he would not rule out targeting Wikileaks founder Julian Assange or any of the myriad media outlets which reported on the leaks."

The control of the oligarchs extends to the media. The Clinton administration permitted a small number of mega-corporations to concentrate the US media in a few hands. Corporate advertising executives, not journalists, control the new American media, and the value of the mega-companies depends on government broadcast licenses. The media's interest is now united with that of the government and the oligarchs.

On top of all the other factors that have made American elections meaningless, voters cannot even get correct information from the media about the problems that they and the country face.

As the economic situation is likely to continue deteriorating, the anger will grow. But the oligarchs will direct the anger away from themselves and toward the vulnerable elements of the domestic population and "foreign enemies."

Paul Craig Roberts was an editor of the Wall Street Journal and an Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury. His latest book, HOW THE ECONOMY WAS LOST, has just been published by CounterPunch/AK Press. He can be reached at: PaulCraigRoberts@yahoo.com

[Nov 03, 2010] Giving the Keys Back to the Folks Who Crashed the Car by Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson

Authors of the book, Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer-And Turned Its Back on the Middle Class

After Tuesday's drubbing, Democrats will search for the hidden message of the election. But the message isn't hidden: The decisive blocs of voters that switched from Democrats in 2008 to Republicans in 2010 were angry and disillusioned -- with the economy, with a political system they see as helping banks and CEOs, not ordinary working families, and with both parties, Republicans (exit-poll favorability rating: 41 percent) an economic recovery package that included major tax cuts, to expanded health insurance and medical cost control, and to extension of the 2001 tax cuts for the middle class; the party that shamelessly courted lobbyists and corporate donors while claiming they were only against reform because it represented a "bailout" of these very same interests.

In exit polls, voters were asked who they blamed for the state of the economy. In order, they blamed banks, then the Bush administration, and only then the current administration. Yet those who blamed banks gave their votes by a wide margin to the GOP. Their votes have made Speaker-to-be John Boehner the second most powerful person in Washington only months after he staged an open rally for bank lobbyists, urging them to block Democrats and their "punk staffers." The rally worked: Wall Street swung toward the Republicans, joining health insurers, big business groups, energy companies, and the rest of the GOP's new money trust.

Midterm election losses are a virtual inevitability for the party of the president. A terrible economy makes them more certain -- and larger. The only thing that would have saved Democrats from big losses this time around was a huge organizational and fundraising edge. Thanks to the Tea Party and billions in outside campaign spending that favored the GOP, the edge was Republicans'.

If there is a hidden message in the election, it's one that we, in our recent book, Winner-Take-All Politics, call the "dirty little secret" of political science: most voters pay little attention to what happens in Washington and have only the vaguest sense of what is happening there. Most are completely unaware of how the filibuster has been used relentlessly to block action on the economy, and a majority mistakenly believes that the astonishingly unpopular TARP legislation passed under Obama, when in fact in was signed by George W. Bush.

We are taught to believe that voters call the shots. And they often do. Yet the vote is a blunt, heavy weapon -- one that voters barraged with negative ads and misleading messages, without strong guidance from grassroots organizations, often wield with little awareness of or regard for the collateral damage that will result. In this case, the damage is likely to be the crippling of goals and policies that most Americans continue to support.

One salient example sums up the whole: Republicans' big gains came with older voters -- in part because they were frightened by GOP attacks on the health care bill. Yet Republican budget blueprints -- from Paul Ryan's "Roadmap for America's Future" to the GOP "Pledge to America" -- mean even bigger cuts in Medicare and the revival of the GOP's mothballed plans for partial privatization of Social Security and Medicare. Ask older Americans whether they would like to trash their cherished programs in return for massive new tax cuts for the richest of the rich, and the answer will be a resounding no. Only on election day, a strong majority of older Americans, in effect, said yes.

In John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath, perhaps the most memorable line was uttered by an angry farmer about to lose his home (sound familiar?). Enraged and despairing but unable to pinpoint blame for his terrible loss, he asks, "Who can we shoot?" That's what voters were asking in 2010, and most had no clearer idea than the farmer of where responsibility for their plight lay.

The 2010 election was the political equivalent of the perfect crime: The GOP vigorously took on all reforms designed to rebalance the economy for the long term, tying Washington up in contorted knots, then were rewarded at the polls by voters dissatisfied with an ugly D.C. culture unable to produce economic renewal.

Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson are the authors of Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer--And Turned Its Back on the Middle Class

[Nov 03, 2010] Republican Party Time By MAUREEN DOWD

Barack Obama deserved what he got but Republicans managed to fool rednecks again and again, providing the key finding of "What matters with Kansas": you can fool many people indefinitely and on this people repugs should concentrate.
NYTimes.com

At a Republican victory party suffused with vengeful glee, the man who body-surfed the anti-establishment wave to become the next Speaker of the House was looking very establishment.

Even though it was predicted, it was still a shock to see voters humiliate a brilliant and spellbinding young president, who'd had such a Kennedy-like beginning, while electing a lot of conservative nuts and promoting this central-casting congressman as the face of the future: a Republican who had vowed in a written pledge to restore America to old-fashioned values, returning to a gauzy "Leave It to Beaver" image that never existed even on the set of "Leave It to Beaver."

Republicans outcommunicated a silver-tongued president who was supposed to be Ronald Reagan's heir in the communications department.

They were able to persuade a lot of Americans that the couple in the White House was not American enough, not quite "normal," too Communist, too radical, too Great Society. All that Ivy League schooling had made them think they knew better than average American folks, not to mention the founding fathers.

The Speaker-in-waiting sounded the alarm: the elites in the White House were snuffing out the America he grew up in. It only took two years to realize that their direction for the country was simply, as he put it, "a contradiction with the vast majority of Americans."

No one gets to take America away from Americans - not even the American president!

"What the American people were saying is 'Enough!' " the Speaker-to-be told me, as he savored his own win and his party's landslide, which he said was "a historical tide, not just a partisan election."

Washington had not been listening. Washington had been scorning the deepest beliefs of Americans. And now that would have to change.

"American people are clearly fed up with what they see as the decay of American society," he declared.

The new leader of the House took a more black-and-white approach than the nuanced president. It's enshrined in the Declaration of Independence that you need the consent of the governed and the governed did not consent.

Ascending to third in the line of succession for the presidency: a working-class kid who rose in the House as a rabble-rouser willing to throw bombs to score points against powerful Democrats.

Now he'd be helping to run the country, saving it from what he regarded as an arrogant and out-of-touch clique of elites.

In the revolutionary flush of the electoral map glowing red, he was floating, working hard to avoid gloating (even though Sean Hannity was around, gloating about the pain about to befall the Democratic president).

But he could not resist taking a few jabs at the "liberal media elite" distorting things, and a few more at a puffed-up White House that got punished for not paying enough attention to people's anxieties.

"They had an enormous opportunity to bring about change and they failed, and I don't say that harshly," he said, adding: "They really are left-wing elitists and they really thought the country didn't get it, and, therefore, it was their job to give the country the government that they thought the country needed, even if they didn't want it. That's the whole history of the health plan."

There was a lot of talk, as in the campaign, about the misbegotten health care plan, about balancing the budget, about lowering the deficit and taxes, about doing something on abortion and bloated government. Meanwhile, bloated fat-cat lobbyists were dancing down K Street.

The next Speaker felt that the humbled president should take the election as a cue to be conciliatory, and he proposed they talk in the next few days. He offered to reach out to Democrats who wanted to work with his side, but also noted that the president would not be wise to stand in the way of the conservative agenda.

"I prefer to believe that this president, who is clearly very smart, is quite capable of thinking clearly about a message sent by the American people," he said.

He said that, contrary to what the media elite had been jabbering about, he would not use his subpoena power to rain down a series of investigations on the Democratic administration.

No "witch hunts," he said. Only "legitimate" investigations.

Yeah, that all worked out for Newt Gingrich. He really came through. The quotes above came from Gingrich, when I covered his heady victory in Marietta, Ga., in the 1994 Republican landslide that made him Speaker.

And, obviously, the Republican House only pursued "legitimate" investigations of Bill Clinton. Sixteen years later, as a weeping John Boehner extolled the American values he learned at his father's bar - in the moment he dethroned Nancy Pelosi - the new crop of anarchic conservatives are saying all the same things.

God help the Republic. And, Mr. Speaker, in the immortal words of Sharron Angle, man up!

[Nov 03, 2010] The Tragedy of the Obama Administration

The Big Picture

The first item damned him to a mediocre economic team, one that failed to respond strongly to the banks that created the crisis. The second error earned him the enmity of the opposing party. The third error was political, and likely cost him the House, and possibly the Senate.

The great irony is that the man who ran on the campaign slogan of Change failed to deliver it in any meaningful way - at least, where the public wanted it - in getting the reckless runaway banks under control, and in stimulating the moribund, post-credit crisis economy.

I hasten to add, that from a political perspective, the President was a wimp. Had Al Gore been President from 2000-08 (and controlled Congress), the next GOP President would have flailed him for the recession and crisis bank relentlessly. Hell, the GOP still beats Jimmy Carter like a piñata. Once Obama took office, that was pretty much the last we heard of the Bush recession. The public actually forget who authorized TARP, who bailed out Citibank, BofA, AIG, Fannie Mae, Bear Stearns, etc.

This amounted to political suicide.

Critics have debated Obama's hands off approach to passing National Romney-Care, his giving up (?!) the winning issue of partial Bush tax cut extensions. I am perplexed as to why he would not force a full confirmation battle over the charming midwestern Elizabeth Warren as new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau chair - Bnaks versus your grandma.

But as far as I am concerned, those are secondary political issues. To me, his presidency began its fatal downward spiral once he allowed Robert Rubin to determine his initial financial appointments. By passing over more pragmatic candidates not tied to banks and Wall Street, the president missed his opportunity to rise to greatness.

The opportunity existed to get the renegade banks under control - to reduce their leverage, their recklessness, and to get their hands out of the taxpayers pockets.

That opportunity was squandered, and Obama ended up as a defender of the banking status quo. It is where his presidency could have achieved lasting greatness, and instead was turned into just another elected official, who over promised and under delivered . . .

TakBak04:

It is a Tragedy. So much time wasted..with so much that needed to be done. With his huge staff it shouldn't have been "impossible." Yet it seemed from the beginning that those who would serve in his Administration had been "hand picked by someone" from the get go for a "smooth, seamless transition."

I don't know if he was "suckered" or was "willing." I guess the Historians will parse that one out…long after those who suffer from the deregulation since Reagan are gone. Who will be left to read? We have to hope the folks who "BROUGHT THE CHANGE" will be left.

Hope….. Man…so much work to be done. But, at least we now see how it all works and so much has been revealed that perhaps we aren't still living and accepting "Smoke and Mirrors."

Roll up our shirt sleeves and let's get AT IT!

trainreq:

A proper epitaph for this administration.

drey:

Good analysis, Barry.

Unlike some who would ascribe sinister or conspiratorial motives to Obama's failings, I chalk them up to inexperience, ineptitude, and naivete. Good campaigners do not necessarily make good leaders. We've seen it time and time again. It's a different skill set entirely.

Start dealing in reality, BO – the Republicans do not LIKE you and never will. Nor will they work with you toward goals which will ultimately be seen as your accomplishments, not theirs. Get over it and start to govern. You may refer to the Clinton playbook….

cpd:

Very good summary. It also shows the tremendous hold special interests have on the politicians. So much private money flowing through DC has completely corrupted politics. Take private money out of politics, have publicly financed elections and institute across the board term limits and then there is half a chance of getting elected representatives that will do the right thing.

By the way, don't forget Obama reappointed Bernanke. That was unforgivable. It's time to put a non-economist in charge of the Fed (or better yet, just get rid of it).

Heretic:

Sadly, I have to agree with most of this. But if Mr. Obama was going to get any kind of health care legislation, could he wait? The watered down thing we got just barely made it with Democratic majorities in both houses – and losing the house seemed likely even in Jan 2009. But to do health care you have to do the big parts all at once: Everyone has to be insured, no one can be denied coverage, and subsidies for those who can't afford coverage. This may have been Obama's only chance to get that sort of a bill through.

Mannwich:

@Heretic: That's a fair point if he had thrown more weight into the economy and jobs situation it might have given him more political capital to then tackle the health care issue. Instead he used up his political capital on a health care bill that nobody seemed happy with or truly understood (which made people even unhappier). He got his priorities all mixed up.

beaufou:

He had a great opportunity, he could have pushed the Republicans into a corner and kept at them relentlessly; but it was all "anger accomplishes nothing" "I get it"…no, you didn't get it Barrack.

RW:

I agree that going for national Romneycare was probably a mistake - it should have been a straight-up call for Medicare-for-everyone and damn the torpedoes - but the notion that passing health care reform was a serious tactical error is simply ill-informed: As Krugman notes here at http://tinyurl.com/39vaefj those who make this claim cannot name a single significant economic policy initiative that Obama could have successfully pursued otherwise. In fact those making this argument appear to think that economic policy is more a matter of 'focus' - AKA a matter of PR and superficial expressions of 'caring' (bleh!) - than it is a matter of actually doing something.

But that fundamental error probably better describes the dysfunctional and declining state of our democracy than anything else: Appearance appears to be trumping actual form virtually everywhere as Reality-TV substitutes for reality and our nation dies the death of a thousand cuts in the process.

Panem et circenses (Juvenal, Satire 10.77–81), "Bread and circuses:" There are too few citizens devoted to civic duty and too many devoted to being fed and entertained. That is the problem.

Chief Tomahawk:

Where's the blame for the media?!?

They've reported this as the most expensive election at $4 billion, yet little has been examined about where the money is coming from and what the donors are hoping to get in return. Yet despite the enormous expense, candidates are still lining up to shell out the dough. There's only one reason they'd do it voluntarily and that's if there's a bigger expected payday to come by selling votes down the road. So, dear media,

How much are votes being sold for???

Mannwich:

@Chief: The whores in the MSM are on that very money meat wagon as well. Hence, the obvious reasons to not mention it.

druce:

Fatally cautious…one can understand keeping Geithner in the thick of the crisis, but not why he's still there.

But I have difficult believing enmity of the right would not have been the far worse if he had truly reformed Wall Street, washed out the zombie bank shareholders, put the sundry crooks in jail, enforced transparency, limited leverage, put in investor and borrower protection with teeth, etc., etc.

jcmcn5:

I agree with most of what you wrote except the part about not flailing the previous admin. Are you kidding? Hardly a week went by without Obama saying something to the effect that he'd inherited a mess. It's true, he did. But let's not pretend he didn't use that to his advantage when he could.

The fatal error was not focusing on job creation immediately, instead of wasting time and capital ramming a HCare bill down the throats of everyone and using bribery and pork to get it done. If he'd focused on creating jobs - immediate, private sector jobs (not teachers, not gov't heathcare workers) he'd have coasted through this election with an even larger majority. With that blunder, he revealed himself as the liberal idealogue he pretended not to be throughout the whole campaign of 2008.

As for his lack of execution - Maybe next time the Dems will hold out as savior someone who has done a little more with his life than be a community organizer. Really! What on earth did you expect from this guy? This is not about McCain or even Republicans. This is about about acting like a bunch of high school girls when some hot guy walks by, even though the hot guy is a shallow narcissist.

Hell, Hilary would have been a better choice. At least she had balls.

Robespierre:

A good read of "The Prince" could have saved him but nobody reads history anymore.

lalaland:

I think your view is myopic.

A: Government intervention in business is the 3rd rail in America for a very good reason – you don't want it to happen because it's too prone to corruption, pure and simple. I think you fail to appreciate the justified cautiousness of his approach. We stepped in and took over several companies, and threatened the livelihoods of many more. I think the calls for more action on the administration's part should consider how that sets precedent, and how that precedent could be abused in the future. He's already called a socialist just for completing what Bush began (gm and chrysler, aig, fannie and freddie, etc.)

B: They didn't have the votes. Kennedy died. Byrd died. You fail to appreciate the opposition. Democrats simply could not steamroll Republican opposition, pure and simple. Mitch McConnell has been vindicated as a tactician this very evening.

Did we have a substantive debate on financial regulations? No. Did we have a substantive debate on Health Care Reform? No. Was this because Obama didn't want a conversation, to find the best ideas? I don't believe that for a minute. If you are upset with what you got from Finreg, blame the opposition. If you are pissed at the healthcare bill you got, blame your representative who cast it as an 'all or nothing' proposition instead of a process they are supposed to engage in. We'll see how these republican victories stick when after 2 years they have nothing to show for it. After all, they didn't run on doing anything so I doubt they will disappoint.

Mannwich:

RW: So he couldn't have pursued a more robust (and effective) fiscal stimulus and attention to the economy and the creation of actual jobs? There were plenty of areas here (hello decaying, embarrassing infrastructure everywhere?) where he could have been much bolder. Instead he focused on ramming through a bad health care bill. That's been his hallmark from Day 1, confusing activity with accomplishment. His style of leadership might have worked fine in the '90′s, but not in a time of crisis where bold leadership is required.

Mbuna:

How much of a deal with the devil did Obama make to get elected in the first place hmm? Was it in fact the big corporations that put him over the top, despite what common knowledge dictated back then? Maybe he was already captured by the banks before he even got elected. Perhaps the electorate is already irrelevant, passe, because the candidates of both major parties are already captured by their corporate masters before they get elected. The electorate loses no matter who wins.

huxrules:

There was a good story on All Things Considered today about how Clinton didn't come into his presidency till he lost the congress in '94. We will see what Obama does tomorrow. I hope he finally comes out swinging.

paull:

Unfair and hyperbolic. Obama is working within the realm of the possible and has done good things; at a minimum, he hasn't done disastrous things, like his predecessor. It's the senate's rules that need to be changed.

jcmcn5:

huxrules - Barack Obama is no Bill Clinton. Clinton may have been a scoundrel and sexual predator, but he was a master politician who had already tasted political defeat twice before. Obama has never faced any such test. He will wilt.

But take heart. He may very well be saved by the incompetence of his political opponents.

limaur:

A muslim disguised as a christian, a communist pretending to be a liberal, a democrat hoping for bipartisan cooperation to get the country moving again. You , the people of the U.S., wanted the man to solve all your economic problems ,and with dispatch,while everybody bitched and complained and obstructed his every step. I do most sincerely hope that your U.S. will go to hell, for its arrogance, for its stupidity , for its bigotry and for being .. oh.. so fatuous.

Jackrabbit:

Don't forget renominating "Subprime is contained" Bernanke.

And any notion that Obama will change in any REAL way (he might make some show of it) should be dispelled by his performance on the Daily Show where he praised Summers for a "heck of a job" and tried to minimize the costs of bailing out the banks.

I have been skeptical of the line that Obama is owned by the banks but his Daily Show performance may have finally convinced me.

Mannwich:

LOL limaur. Halloween was Sunday night.

gregh:

Presidents are figureheads not experts. Most politicians don't know economics or finance, apparently most economists and finance people obviously don't know economics.

If you were president and were suddenly handed some war – 9/11 – in addition to hundreds of other major non-financial you'd probably be equally lost and having to put your trust into someone elses hands. He chose wrongly, but did he have time to study intracies and seriously vet those he'd trust to vet his potential choices? Would you have the time the study war, nation-building, anti-terrorism, etc in order to make what you felt to be the perfect decision while juggling 100 other balls? You'd probably have to trust the word of close folks on the hill… who would all make the same bad decisions. Barry you would have made great decisions regarding our financial troubles but you'd probably make blind ones regarding some very different crisis that isn't your regular schtick.

Mannwich:

I think most of us simply wanted plain old-fashioned bold, principled leadership. Is that too much to ask? Apparently it is now.

RW:

No argument Mannwich but that's not the game the (feckless and useless) pundits have been playing: The cry that Obama should have been doing X or Y is not accompanied by a concrete example of am economic policy he could have actually proposed, passed through the Republican blockade, and successfully pursued.

The victory of Republican candidates today is more a message of voter confusion and despair than a message of actual policy direction.

The real "tragedy of the Obama administration" is less in its policies than in its message: But you already knew that didn't you.

FrankInTheFalls:

Very good analysis. But I cannot disagree more with this: "Once Obama took office, that was pretty much the last we heard of the Bush recession"

You have got to be kidding me. All we have heard for the past ten months is, "we were handed this economy, it will take a long time to undo the past eight years, blah blah blah" It even went on during Obama's recent stumping trip.

Yeah, we KNOW you were handed a pile of garbage, so tell us when you will do something to clean it up.

call me ahab:

Clinton didn't come into his presidency till he lost the congress in '94. We will see what Obama does tomorrow. I hope he finally comes out swinging.

not that you're a dumb ass - but Clinton in 1994 - moved to the right (and therefore did not come out swinging) - and worked with the Republican's on Republican initiatives after the congressional defeat-

but let's hope Obama comes out swinging- whatever that means

Mannwich:

Agreed RW. People on Main Street are failing desperately in this country. Looking for an answer. Any answer. The next two years should be interesting to say the least. Pull up a chair, get some popcorn. The circus is not only in town, it just doubled.

call me ahab:

I do most sincerely hope that your U.S. will go to hell, for its arrogance, for its stupidity , for its bigotry and for being .. oh.. so fatuous.

blow me douche bag

Mannwich:

@ahab: This GOP to date has had NO interest whatsoever in "working with Obama". Absolutely none. Their only interest has been "making him a one-term president", no matter the consequences to the country. The poetic justice now is they'll either be totally exposed (assuming anyone is paying attention, of course) or will have to work with him now.

DM RTA:

RW: "As Krugman notes here at http://tinyurl.com/39vaefj those who make this claim cannot name a single significant economic policy initiative that Obama could have successfully pursued otherwise. In fact those making this argument appear to think that economic policy is more a matter of 'focus' - AKA a matter of PR and superficial expressions of 'caring' (bleh!) - than it is a matter of actually doing something."

How about if the President had taken the back half of the stimulus bill spending and worked it tirelessly to make sure that there was more than 1100 pages of bill left over when it was spent? How about if instead of making comments like there are no shelf ready infrastructure projects making sure that the most stimulative ideas were being readied. How about glorifying the details and making them look like they were worked on by the people who know better than anyone else?…and then selling it as being worth it.

call me ahab:

manny-

Clinton went to the GOP after the congressional defeat-

not the other way around-

also- glad to see everyone on this blog lay down like a bunch of little bitches after the 10:11 comment above-

I guess I'll see you in hell manny

Matt P.:

All Presidents are not dealt the same hand. Obama was set up perfectly and has so far failed miserably. He came in with tremendous good will and with a HUGE advantage in Congress. They had more votes than any GOP President in the last 90 years or so. Crazy advantage for getting your legislation done with hardly a GOP vote required. Also, he came in after the blow up of the economy. No one blames him for the economy, they blame him for setting the wrong expectations on the recovery.

maximo:

It's sad to admit but you're absolutely right, Barry. Boy, this is a Fukuyama moment for America and the joke is on us.

JimRino:

"But I have difficult believing enmity of the right would not have been the far worse if he had truly reformed Wall Street, washed out the zombie bank shareholders, put the sundry crooks in jail, enforced transparency, limited leverage, put in investor and borrower protection with teeth, etc., etc."

Agreed. To do any of these, he'd have to find an effective means of dealing with the right wing Fox Professional Liars. As long as you have One Network Lying and Smearing Every Single Day you won't get anywhere near optimal policy passed. I guess I'm surprised just how deep racist feelings run on the right. They don't give a Damn about this Country as long as they can Smear a President.

Lariat1:

I'm disappointed in Obama and ashamed of the Republican strategy of just NO to everything. Statesmanship is dead and it is only going to get worse. I just came back from 5:15 am to 9:40 pm election working. It was sad, all the people coming in literally talking about the Revolution with the Tea Party and how everything will be fixed now. This was seriously felt and voiced by a lot of people. My God what is happening to this country.

JimRino:

I now think the ONLY way you can deal with Wall Street is to elect 100 Liberals to the Senate. The only way the Republican party could do more rear kissing of Wall Street would be to become gay.

JasRas:

The best opportunity wasted by a failure to grasp the situation and properly adjust… And now we will all pay regardless of party, place, demographic… Good luck to all.

Mannwich:

@Jim: But who cares if the "right would have been far worse". "W", whom I disagreed with on mostly everything was able to ram through nearly his entire agenda (except privatizing SS) with a far slimmer majority because he didn't give a rat's ass what the Dems or Dem voters thought. Use the bully pulpit and lead with conviction and principle, and the people will usually follow. If that doesn't work, then so be it. Losing while being conviction-less and unprincipled is much worse. The public, rightly or wrongly, admires bold leadership and people who lead with conviction and principle. The O man, and his constant giving away the house at every turn to an enemy that wanted nothing more than to destroy him and his presidency, showed neither throughout the last two years.

jeg3:

Great post BR, on the mark.

Obama is not a liberal ideologue, he is exactly like Bush II, A Neoliberal Corporatist. Obama followed the same failed Bush II policies and started his own with corporatized healthcare. Mainstreet America elects Austerians into office expecting the opposite, and BR is right in that the best you can do is to figure out how to use it to your advantage (and/or not to your disadvantage).

Godspeed America

dss:

"confusing activity with accomplishment."

Well said, Manny. With the ridiculous health care bill that was allowed to pass (2014 if you can stay alive that long) he needed to go down swinging, fighting for what was right rather than what the insurance companies bought. At least while the citizenry was being screwed they could say that someone fought for the right to have health care rather than the privilege that it is today.

Just like allowing the banksters to carry on with their ill gotten gains, the insurance and drug companies are very pleased to have Obama as president.

These times called for a fighter, the change agent he promised instead of this sad excuse for a leader. Oh sure, his administration points to the bills that were "allowed" to pass, the ones that would have passed with any Democratic president, as proof of his efficacy, they were bills he didn't fight very hard to get passed.

Now two more years of gridlock. two more years of pretending that Republican policies were not what drove this economy off the cliff. 2012? Who cares.

People are angry because they are tired of being sold down the river by both all political parties.

Stranded_in_CA:

If any president had economic advisers like Rubin (whom Obama had since he was senator), they too would have made the same rotten decisions in regards to Wall Street. Heck his entire roster of economic advisers read like a list of Wall Street insiders and tools.

You won't get intelligent nor honest information from such a sorry lot period.

FrancoisT:

Now that the House will be controlled by the Reichpubliscums, thou shall look at the last two years as a model of political civility and good manners.

It'll be unbelievably ugly in Washington DC until November 2012. Just take a look at the crop of Tea Partiers, mobster-tied ex-attorneys, total fuckheads, anti-science, worshipers of the folksy ignorance drinking at the fountain of power, ready to paralyze the country if their "requirements" are not met.

It's gonna hurt; BTW, pray we don't get a REAL crisis until the next election.

Mannwich:

I have to say, I'm embarrassed to have voted all these years for such a spineless, wimpy party. Enough already with the "other party is mean" meme. When you get the kind of majorities the Dems had, that shit just doesn't fly. LEAD, please.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/paul-begala/a-centrist-democratic-age_b_777955.html

call me ahab:

It'll be unbelievably ugly in Washington DC until November 2012.

so what's going to happen then that's so fan-fucking-tastic? Obviously you know the future- and I guess fuckheads and folksy people are going to get what's coming to them

JT23456:

Hey, it's all well & good to have 20-20 hindsight and skewer the invalids – let's face it – I should have been a lot smarter when I retired in 2001 and moved my money as well as our bodies offshore. Smart me would have been 2x as smart to move the $ to CH as we built a house in MX and moved here. At least we have the 50′ sailboat and the rum and we can go and spend 3-4 months in Tahiti while the corporate "avatars" duke it out over the bones and skin and the scabs that are left of the US corpse. Politicians are avatars – trust me.

JimRino:

plantseeds, What do you expect the "Republicans" are going to do? They're going to bankrupt you and your assets, take away your healthcare, ship your job overseas, and stick a flag up your ???. Then what are you going to do?

But, you're taxes will be lower. You just gave the country away to the Wall Street Mafia.

Jojo:

What a flame out! So much hope wasted and squandered.

Obama seemed to have so much poise and self-confidence coming into office. He was on the crest of a wave. He had a beautiful wife and two cute children. Thoughts of JFK and Camelot were in the minds of many.

But Obama stumbled from the beginning, failing to show any real sense of urgency. Everything he did was slow and methodical, one step at a time. He seems unable to express real empathy or understanding in any situation due to his inability to emote effectively. He is always cool and collected. And yes, he does come across as a wimp, afraid to or emotionally unable to stand up to and confront the Republican opposition front and center.

In these troubled times, we wanted and needed BOLD leadership. But Obama was and has been unable to rise to any opportunity. He simply does not have the personality or experience to be a real leader.

You can't change the color of the stripes on a zebra. The Dems should be searching for a new presidential candidate for 2012. Obama should not run for a 2nd term.

AGORACOM:

Americans haven't been happy with the health care system for decades.

BUT they were really mad about Wall Street / Bank fleecing right now.

He should have tackled Wall St first and hard.

It would have inspired citizens that desperately needed a hero.

He could have then ridden that wave into any reasonable legislation he wanted.

Obama blew it. I didn't want him to. I'm a Conservative from Canada – but hoped that someone would stop the Wall Street train wreck.

It would have been nice to watch a President act Presidential.

Le Sigh.

George … The Greek … From Canada

plantseeds:

JimRino – you're dizzy from the political tail chase. there is no difference between the two. you are a victim of the biggest scam in the history of the USA. they all belong to the same country clubs and stay on the same floor of the hotel. they all fly the private jet. republicans and democrats are one in the same. i don't rely on them and I am in charge of my own health and therefore health care. they can't take my job…I 'll leave the flag comment alone. the lower my taxes the better. the government is not the solution to anything. the sooner you learn that the better. keep playing the blame game if you choose but I am not so easily distracted.

call me ahab:

They're going to bankrupt you and your assets, take away your healthcare, ship your job overseas, and stick a flag up your ???. Then what are you going to do?

take away my healthcare that I pay for myself?

damn Republicans

Mannwich:

Hey plantseeds – what about those with a pre-existing condition through no fault of their own, except maybe faulty DNA? Should the plan be either "our own healthcare" or food and shelter? And that's assuming anyone would even cover you with a pre-existing condition. What say ye?

covel:

Why do we Americans continually have hope that a government filled with losers can do anything? Right or left, the people that go there are not our best or brightest. They are the ones who groove living at Hollywood for ugly people. Power and fame are their motives. Their skills? Their abilities? Come on.

wunsacon:

Ahab,

I'd be *happy* if I thought there were enough Karl Denninger remnants in the "tea party" that something might actually happen on the finance front. But, I see *mostly* neocon retreads. I don't see why you would take such offense to Francois's comment…

Mannwich:

@wunsy: Retards or retreads? LOL. Sorry…..

Darkness:

So, this should be interesting. BoA goes bankrupt and then what? The house is no way bailing them out. Has the populace become inured enough to avoid a generalized bank run?

The republicans sure are acting like teens being given a car with a full tank of gas. Surprise…

Greg0658:

I'll catch up on the 1/2 remaining coments later .. from my FB earlier to a J6P friend

1. like the puppet in the WH can break from the strings and grab his bazooka and go to town & country busting ___ umm .. I'm at a loss for …. Right Now by Chris Gaines aka Garth Brooks http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I7fM_jAmpWw

2. Greg!--WHAT?

3. :-) what :-| ok I'll write a book .. the White House is one office building in the USA (thats United States of America) he has control of the military as long as they don't do a coupdetta on him .. we have elections for that .. so thats the .. power of government .. plus much more like redistribution of taxes on stuff of each side R or D sees as the focus … the other part of all that is USA .. is the USA its people ? or its business ? .. and business really does control it all doesn't it .. and can pull a coupdetta on its puppet president if it wishes

new & now here on TBP … best wishes all .. to our newly elected controllers / same … voters don't be surprised if the elected go for the gusto while they can .. for I expect you would in their position .. ie: knowing they be gone in in 4 to 6

call me ahab:

Covel nails it!

Wunsacon-

it was a partisan comment through and through-

but if you agree with the sentiments- then I guess it is hard to see it as what it is

plantseeds:

November 3rd, 2010 at 12:13 am my response was to taking away MY healthcare which those dastardly republicans are going to try and do so says jimrino. don't get me wrong, i'm for social programs too whatever the case. i think it starts and ends at the community level though. disabled, dependent on others, down on your luck, etc. i've needed help and i lend a hand when i can too. mr. rino isn't talking about that though. he's all about the fight. it's like a sox fan and a yankees fan fighting it out in the parking lot when the athletes are watching from the top floor of the hotel laughing and drinking Cristal. i don't agree with him so i'm a republican, he even knows how i voted.

wunsacon:

Ahab,

Tom Delay, Phil Gramm, Bush/Cheney, Rumsfeld, Hank Paulson, Terri Schaivo, and pro-organized-religion legislation from DC are not distant memories. Obama never stopped digging the hole we're in. But, he did slow down some. I *do* think the "pace of shoveling" increases again. ;-)

[Nov 02, 2010] Chris Hedges The World Liberal Opportunists Made - Chris Hedges' Columns - Truthdig

Chris Hedges

The lunatic fringe of the Republican Party, which looks set to make sweeping gains in the midterm elections, is the direct result of a collapse of liberalism. It is the product of bankrupt liberal institutions, including the press, the church, universities, labor unions, the arts and the Democratic Party. The legitimate rage being expressed by disenfranchised workers toward the college-educated liberal elite, who abetted or did nothing to halt the corporate assault on the poor and the working class of the last 30 years, is not misplaced. The liberal class is guilty. The liberal class, which continues to speak in the prim and obsolete language of policies and issues, refused to act. It failed to defend traditional liberal values during the long night of corporate assault in exchange for its position of privilege and comfort in the corporate state. The virulent right-wing backlash we now experience is an expression of the liberal class' flagrant betrayal of the citizenry.

The liberal class, which once made piecemeal and incremental reform possible, functioned traditionally as a safety valve. During the Great Depression, with the collapse of capitalism, it made possible the New Deal. During the turmoil of the 1960s, it provided legitimate channels within the system to express the discontent of African-Americans and the anti-war movement. But the liberal class, in our age of neo-feudalism, is now powerless. It offers nothing but empty rhetoric. It refuses to concede that power has been wrested so efficiently from the hands of citizens by corporations that the Constitution and its guarantees of personal liberty are irrelevant. It does not act to mitigate the suffering of tens of millions of Americans who now make up a growing and desperate permanent underclass. And the disparity between the rhetoric of liberal values and the rapacious system of inverted totalitarianism the liberal class serves makes liberal elites, including Barack Obama, a legitimate source of public ridicule. The liberal class, whether in universities, the press or the Democratic Party, insists on clinging to its privileges and comforts even if this forces it to serve as an apologist for the expanding cruelty and exploitation carried out by the corporate state.

Populations will endure repression from tyrants as long as these rulers continue to effectively manage and wield power. But human history has amply demonstrated that once those in positions of power become redundant and impotent, yet retain the trappings and privileges of power, they are swiftly and brutally discarded. Tocqueville observed that the French, on the eve of their revolution, hated the aristocrats about to lose their power far more than they had ever hated them before. The increased hatred directed at the aristocratic class occurred because as the aristocracy lost real power there was no decline in their fortunes. As long as the liberal class had even limited influence, whether through the press or the legislative process, liberals were tolerated and even respected. But once the liberal class lost all influence it became a class of parasites. The liberal class, like the déclassé French aristocracy, has no real function within the power elite. And the rising right-wing populists, correctly, ask why liberals should be tolerated when their rhetoric bears no relation to reality and their presence has no influence on power.

The death of the liberal class, however, is catastrophic for our democracy. It means there is no longer any check to a corporate apparatus designed to further enrich the power elite. It means we cannot halt the plundering of the nation by Wall Street speculators and corporations. An ineffectual liberal class, in short, means there is no hope, however remote, of a correction or a reversal through the political system and electoral politics. The liberals' disintegration ensures that the frustration and anger among the working and the middle class will find expression in a rejection of traditional liberal institutions and the civilities of a liberal democracy. The very forces that co-opted the liberal class and are responsible for the impoverishment of the state will, ironically, reap benefits from the collapse. These corporate manipulators are busy channeling rage away from the corporate and military forces hollowing out the nation from the inside and are turning that anger toward the weak remnants of liberalism. It does not help our cause that liberals indeed turned their backs on the working and middle class.

The corporate state has failed to grasp the vital role the liberal class traditionally plays in sustaining a stable power system. The corporate state, by emasculating the liberal class, has opted for a closed system of polarization, gridlock and political theater in the name of governance. It has ensured a further destruction of state institutions so that government becomes even more ineffectual and despised. The collapse of the constitutional state, presaged by the death of the liberal class, has created a power vacuum that a new class of speculators, war profiteers, gangsters and killers, historically led by charismatic demagogues, will enthusiastically fill. It opens the door to overtly authoritarian and fascist movements. These movements rise to prominence by ridiculing and taunting the liberal class for its weakness, hypocrisy and uselessness. The promises of these proto-fascist movements are fantastic and unrealistic, but their critiques of the liberal class are grounded in truth.

The liberal class, despite becoming an object of public scorn, still prefers the choreographed charade. Liberals decry, for example, the refusal of the Democratic Party to restore habeas corpus or halt the looting of the U.S. Treasury on behalf of Wall Street speculators, but continue to support a president who cravenly serves the interests of the corporate state. As long as the charade of democratic participation is played, the liberal class does not have to act. It can maintain its privileged status. It can continue to live in a fictional world where democratic reform and responsible government exist. It can pretend it has a voice and influence in the corridors of power. But the uselessness of the liberal class is not lost on the tens of millions of Americans who suffer the awful indignities of the corporate state.

The death of the liberal class cuts citizens off from the mechanisms of power. Liberal institutions such as the church, the press, the university, the Democratic Party, the arts and labor unions once set the parameters for limited self-criticism and small, incremental reforms and offered hope for piecemeal justice and change. The liberal class could decry the excesses of the state, work to mitigate them and champion basic human rights. It posited itself as the conscience of the nation. It permitted the nation, through its appeal to public virtues and the public good, to define itself as being composed of a virtuous and even noble people. The liberal class was permitted a place within a capitalist democracy because it also vigorously discredited radicals within American society who openly defied the excesses of corporate capitalism and who denounced a political system run by and on behalf of corporations. The real enemy of the liberal class has never been Glenn Beck, but Noam Chomsky.

The purging and silencing of independent and radical thinkers as well as iconoclasts have robbed the liberal class of vitality. The liberal class has cut itself off from the roots of creative and bold thought, from those forces and thinkers who could have prevented the liberal class from merging completely with the power elite. Liberals exude a tepid idealism utterly divorced from daily life. And this is why every television clip of Barack Obama is so palpably pathetic.

Unions, organizations formerly steeped in the doctrine of class warfare and filled with those who sought broad social and political rights for the working class, have been transformed into domesticated junior partners of the capitalist class. Cars rolling out of the Ford and GM plants in Michigan were said to have been made by Ford-UAW. And where unions still exist, they have been reduced to simple bartering tools, if that. The social demands of unions early in the 20th century that gave the working class weekends off, the right to strike, the eight-hour workday and Social Security have been abandoned. Universities, especially in political science and economics departments, parrot the discredited ideology of unregulated capitalism and globalization. They have no new ideas. Artistic expression, along with most religious worship, is largely self-absorbed narcissism meant to entertain without offense. The Democratic Party and the press have become courtiers to the power elite and corporate servants.

Once the liberal class can no longer moderate the savage and greedy inclinations of the capitalist class, once, for example, labor unions are reduced to the role of bartering away wage increases and benefits, once public education is gutted and the press no longer gives a voice to the poor and the working class, liberals become as despised as the power elite they serve. The collapse of liberal institutions means those outside the circles of power are trapped, with no recourse, and this is why many Americans are turning in desperation toward idiotic right-wing populists who at least understand the power of hatred as a mobilizing force.

The liberal class no longer holds within its ranks those who have the moral autonomy or physical courage to defy the power elite. The rebels, from Chomsky to Sheldon Wolin to Ralph Nader, have been marginalized, shut out of the national debate and expelled from liberal institutions. The liberal class lacks members with the vision and fortitude to challenge dominant free market ideologies. It offers no ideological alternatives. It remains bound to a Democratic Party that has betrayed every basic liberal principle including universal healthcare, an end to our permanent war economy, a robust system of public education, a vigorous defense of civil liberties, job creation, the right to unionize and welfare for the poor.

"The left once dismissed the market as exploitative," Russell Jacoby writes. "It now honors the market as rational and humane. The left once disdained mass culture as exploitative; now it celebrates it as rebellious. The left once honored independent intellectuals as courageous; now it sneers at them as elitist. The left once rejected pluralism as superficial; now it worships it as profound. We are witnessing not simply a defeat of the left, but its conversion and perhaps inversion."

Capitalism, and especially corporate capitalism, was once viewed as a system to be fought. But capitalism is no longer challenged in public discourse. Capitalist bosses, men such as Warren Buffett, George Soros and Donald Trump, are treated bizarrely as sages and celebrities, as if greed and manipulation had become the highest moral good. As Wall Street steals billions of taxpayer dollars, as it perpetrates massive fraud to throw people out of their homes, as the ecosystem that sustains the planet is polluted and destroyed, we do not know what to do or say. We have been robbed of a vocabulary to describe reality. We decry the excesses of capitalism without demanding a dismantling of the corporate state. Our pathetic response is to be herded to political rallies by skillful publicists to shout inanities like "Yes we can!"

The liberal class is finished. Neither it nor its representatives will provide the leadership or resistance to halt our slide toward despotism. The liberal class prefers comfort and privilege to confrontation. It will not halt the corporate assault or thwart the ascendancy of the corporate state. It will remain intolerant within its ranks of those who do. The liberal class now honors an unwritten quid pro quo, one set in place by Bill Clinton, to cravenly serve corporate interests in exchange for money, access and admittance into the halls of power. The press, the universities, the labor movement, the arts, the church and the Democratic Party, fearful of irrelevance and desperate to retain their positions within the corporate state, will accelerate their purges of those who speak the unspeakable, those who name what cannot be named. It is the gutless and bankrupt liberal class, even more than the bizarre collection of moral and intellectual trolls now running for office, who are our most perfidious opponents.

[Nov 02, 2010] Chris Hedges The World Liberal Opportunists Made - Chris Hedges' Columns - Truthdig

Chris Hedges

The lunatic fringe of the Republican Party, which looks set to make sweeping gains in the midterm elections, is the direct result of a collapse of liberalism. It is the product of bankrupt liberal institutions, including the press, the church, universities, labor unions, the arts and the Democratic Party. The legitimate rage being expressed by disenfranchised workers toward the college-educated liberal elite, who abetted or did nothing to halt the corporate assault on the poor and the working class of the last 30 years, is not misplaced. The liberal class is guilty. The liberal class, which continues to speak in the prim and obsolete language of policies and issues, refused to act. It failed to defend traditional liberal values during the long night of corporate assault in exchange for its position of privilege and comfort in the corporate state. The virulent right-wing backlash we now experience is an expression of the liberal class' flagrant betrayal of the citizenry.

The liberal class, which once made piecemeal and incremental reform possible, functioned traditionally as a safety valve. During the Great Depression, with the collapse of capitalism, it made possible the New Deal. During the turmoil of the 1960s, it provided legitimate channels within the system to express the discontent of African-Americans and the anti-war movement. But the liberal class, in our age of neo-feudalism, is now powerless. It offers nothing but empty rhetoric. It refuses to concede that power has been wrested so efficiently from the hands of citizens by corporations that the Constitution and its guarantees of personal liberty are irrelevant. It does not act to mitigate the suffering of tens of millions of Americans who now make up a growing and desperate permanent underclass. And the disparity between the rhetoric of liberal values and the rapacious system of inverted totalitarianism the liberal class serves makes liberal elites, including Barack Obama, a legitimate source of public ridicule. The liberal class, whether in universities, the press or the Democratic Party, insists on clinging to its privileges and comforts even if this forces it to serve as an apologist for the expanding cruelty and exploitation carried out by the corporate state.

Populations will endure repression from tyrants as long as these rulers continue to effectively manage and wield power. But human history has amply demonstrated that once those in positions of power become redundant and impotent, yet retain the trappings and privileges of power, they are swiftly and brutally discarded. Tocqueville observed that the French, on the eve of their revolution, hated the aristocrats about to lose their power far more than they had ever hated them before. The increased hatred directed at the aristocratic class occurred because as the aristocracy lost real power there was no decline in their fortunes. As long as the liberal class had even limited influence, whether through the press or the legislative process, liberals were tolerated and even respected. But once the liberal class lost all influence it became a class of parasites. The liberal class, like the déclassé French aristocracy, has no real function within the power elite. And the rising right-wing populists, correctly, ask why liberals should be tolerated when their rhetoric bears no relation to reality and their presence has no influence on power.

The death of the liberal class, however, is catastrophic for our democracy. It means there is no longer any check to a corporate apparatus designed to further enrich the power elite. It means we cannot halt the plundering of the nation by Wall Street speculators and corporations. An ineffectual liberal class, in short, means there is no hope, however remote, of a correction or a reversal through the political system and electoral politics. The liberals' disintegration ensures that the frustration and anger among the working and the middle class will find expression in a rejection of traditional liberal institutions and the civilities of a liberal democracy. The very forces that co-opted the liberal class and are responsible for the impoverishment of the state will, ironically, reap benefits from the collapse. These corporate manipulators are busy channeling rage away from the corporate and military forces hollowing out the nation from the inside and are turning that anger toward the weak remnants of liberalism. It does not help our cause that liberals indeed turned their backs on the working and middle class.

The corporate state has failed to grasp the vital role the liberal class traditionally plays in sustaining a stable power system. The corporate state, by emasculating the liberal class, has opted for a closed system of polarization, gridlock and political theater in the name of governance. It has ensured a further destruction of state institutions so that government becomes even more ineffectual and despised. The collapse of the constitutional state, presaged by the death of the liberal class, has created a power vacuum that a new class of speculators, war profiteers, gangsters and killers, historically led by charismatic demagogues, will enthusiastically fill. It opens the door to overtly authoritarian and fascist movements. These movements rise to prominence by ridiculing and taunting the liberal class for its weakness, hypocrisy and uselessness. The promises of these proto-fascist movements are fantastic and unrealistic, but their critiques of the liberal class are grounded in truth.

The liberal class, despite becoming an object of public scorn, still prefers the choreographed charade. Liberals decry, for example, the refusal of the Democratic Party to restore habeas corpus or halt the looting of the U.S. Treasury on behalf of Wall Street speculators, but continue to support a president who cravenly serves the interests of the corporate state. As long as the charade of democratic participation is played, the liberal class does not have to act. It can maintain its privileged status. It can continue to live in a fictional world where democratic reform and responsible government exist. It can pretend it has a voice and influence in the corridors of power. But the uselessness of the liberal class is not lost on the tens of millions of Americans who suffer the awful indignities of the corporate state.

The death of the liberal class cuts citizens off from the mechanisms of power. Liberal institutions such as the church, the press, the university, the Democratic Party, the arts and labor unions once set the parameters for limited self-criticism and small, incremental reforms and offered hope for piecemeal justice and change. The liberal class could decry the excesses of the state, work to mitigate them and champion basic human rights. It posited itself as the conscience of the nation. It permitted the nation, through its appeal to public virtues and the public good, to define itself as being composed of a virtuous and even noble people. The liberal class was permitted a place within a capitalist democracy because it also vigorously discredited radicals within American society who openly defied the excesses of corporate capitalism and who denounced a political system run by and on behalf of corporations. The real enemy of the liberal class has never been Glenn Beck, but Noam Chomsky.

The purging and silencing of independent and radical thinkers as well as iconoclasts have robbed the liberal class of vitality. The liberal class has cut itself off from the roots of creative and bold thought, from those forces and thinkers who could have prevented the liberal class from merging completely with the power elite. Liberals exude a tepid idealism utterly divorced from daily life. And this is why every television clip of Barack Obama is so palpably pathetic.

Unions, organizations formerly steeped in the doctrine of class warfare and filled with those who sought broad social and political rights for the working class, have been transformed into domesticated junior partners of the capitalist class. Cars rolling out of the Ford and GM plants in Michigan were said to have been made by Ford-UAW. And where unions still exist, they have been reduced to simple bartering tools, if that. The social demands of unions early in the 20th century that gave the working class weekends off, the right to strike, the eight-hour workday and Social Security have been abandoned. Universities, especially in political science and economics departments, parrot the discredited ideology of unregulated capitalism and globalization. They have no new ideas. Artistic expression, along with most religious worship, is largely self-absorbed narcissism meant to entertain without offense. The Democratic Party and the press have become courtiers to the power elite and corporate servants.

Once the liberal class can no longer moderate the savage and greedy inclinations of the capitalist class, once, for example, labor unions are reduced to the role of bartering away wage increases and benefits, once public education is gutted and the press no longer gives a voice to the poor and the working class, liberals become as despised as the power elite they serve. The collapse of liberal institutions means those outside the circles of power are trapped, with no recourse, and this is why many Americans are turning in desperation toward idiotic right-wing populists who at least understand the power of hatred as a mobilizing force.

The liberal class no longer holds within its ranks those who have the moral autonomy or physical courage to defy the power elite. The rebels, from Chomsky to Sheldon Wolin to Ralph Nader, have been marginalized, shut out of the national debate and expelled from liberal institutions. The liberal class lacks members with the vision and fortitude to challenge dominant free market ideologies. It offers no ideological alternatives. It remains bound to a Democratic Party that has betrayed every basic liberal principle including universal healthcare, an end to our permanent war economy, a robust system of public education, a vigorous defense of civil liberties, job creation, the right to unionize and welfare for the poor.

"The left once dismissed the market as exploitative," Russell Jacoby writes. "It now honors the market as rational and humane. The left once disdained mass culture as exploitative; now it celebrates it as rebellious. The left once honored independent intellectuals as courageous; now it sneers at them as elitist. The left once rejected pluralism as superficial; now it worships it as profound. We are witnessing not simply a defeat of the left, but its conversion and perhaps inversion."

Capitalism, and especially corporate capitalism, was once viewed as a system to be fought. But capitalism is no longer challenged in public discourse. Capitalist bosses, men such as Warren Buffett, George Soros and Donald Trump, are treated bizarrely as sages and celebrities, as if greed and manipulation had become the highest moral good. As Wall Street steals billions of taxpayer dollars, as it perpetrates massive fraud to throw people out of their homes, as the ecosystem that sustains the planet is polluted and destroyed, we do not know what to do or say. We have been robbed of a vocabulary to describe reality. We decry the excesses of capitalism without demanding a dismantling of the corporate state. Our pathetic response is to be herded to political rallies by skillful publicists to shout inanities like "Yes we can!"

The liberal class is finished. Neither it nor its representatives will provide the leadership or resistance to halt our slide toward despotism. The liberal class prefers comfort and privilege to confrontation. It will not halt the corporate assault or thwart the ascendancy of the corporate state. It will remain intolerant within its ranks of those who do. The liberal class now honors an unwritten quid pro quo, one set in place by Bill Clinton, to cravenly serve corporate interests in exchange for money, access and admittance into the halls of power. The press, the universities, the labor movement, the arts, the church and the Democratic Party, fearful of irrelevance and desperate to retain their positions within the corporate state, will accelerate their purges of those who speak the unspeakable, those who name what cannot be named. It is the gutless and bankrupt liberal class, even more than the bizarre collection of moral and intellectual trolls now running for office, who are our most perfidious opponents.

[Oct 31, 2010] Social and Political Analysis Mexico Solidarity Network

The impact of neoliberalism and responses from below

At the dawn of the 21st century, neoliberalism is the predominant political and economic model in the world, impacting every level of society. While giving the appearance of dominance, the neoliberal model is built on increasingly shaky ground, including shrinking democratic spaces, unsuccessful attempts at cultural hegemony under the guise of "modernization," and a distorted distribution of wealth that has no historic precedent. The majority of the world's people are in a savage "race to the bottom" - poorer today than they were three decades ago - and no amount of propaganda can hide this stark reality.

For the past four decades, the US-Mexico relationship has been the most important laboratory for the neoliberal model, a sort of proving grounds for corporate-centered globalization. The implications of this experiment will be felt for generations to come, both North and South. The neoliberal era began four decades ago on the US-Mexico border with the Border Industrialization Program, a "free trade zone" that ushered in the era of maquiladoras. Factories that paid decent wages in the US moved south of the border, where wages are typically less than $1 an hour, labor laws are lax, and environmental standards are not enforced. The result is huge profits for transnational corporations, but declining standards of living for the Mexican and the US working classes, and an environmental disaster that affects both sides of the border. The maquiladora/free trade model is now the predominant economic development model throughout Latin America.

In 1981, under pressure from the Latin American debt crisis, Mexico signed the first IMF-sponsored Structural Adjustment Program (SAP) in exchange for bailout loans. Today, SAPs are standard fair throughout the South, forcing governments with progressive tendencies to adopt neoliberal economic policies (or providing more conservative elites with political cover to do the same).

The North America Free Trade Accord (NAFTA), signed on January 1, 1994, is defining future US economic relations with the rest of Latin America - free flows of capital and goods across international borders but strict control of people. NAFTA has meant a loss of democracy in Mexico and the US, and an economic disaster for workers on both sides of the border.

Neoliberal policies have had a dramatic impact in rural areas throughout Latin America, particularly in Mexico. Highly subsidized corn exports from the US destroyed the internal corn market, placing nearly one-quarter of the Mexican population in dire circumstances. The result is massive migration, either to urban centers in Mexico or as undocumented workers to the United States. Neoliberal policies are directly responsible for this historically unprecedented migration, yet they barely enter the discussion on immigration policy.

The neoliberal model represents a globalization of class alliances. The wealthiest 5 or 10% on both sides of the border, those who control the economies and political systems, have more in common with each other than they do with their fellow citizens, and the resulting neoliberal policies reflect their interests. The elites enjoy increasingly strong institutional links, while the rest of us are left with less democracy, fewer economic options, more repression, increased poverty and less sovereignty.

In a world of growing globalization, international grassroots alliances become increasingly important in the struggle for democracy, sovereignty, and economic and political justice. The US-Mexico relationship is central in defining the ties between elites, and it is also central in defining increasingly important grassroots connections within civil society on both sides of the border.

The Mexico Solidarity Network is a community-based organization dedicated to fundamental social change that challenges existing power relationships, builds horizontal relations in directly affected communities and promotes autonomous alternatives.

[Oct 31, 2010] The Stealth Coup D'Etat: U.S.A. 2008-2010

The Stealth Coup D'Etat in the U.S. (called "The Quiet Coup" by Simon Johnson) was begun long ago, but the takeover reached fruition in the 2008-2010 timeframe.

Please read these brief excerpts from the 1968 classic Coup d'État: A Practical Handbook (by Edward Luttwak) and see if they don't remind you of the United States, circa 2008-2010:

Insurrection, the classic vehicle of revolution, is obsolete. The security apparatus of the modern state, with its professional personnel, with its diversified means of transport and communications, and with its extensive sources of information, cannot be defeated by civilian agitation, however intense and prolonged.

(CHS note: Luttwak referred to the May 1968 general strike in France as an example; by coincidence, the failure of today's general strikes in France to change Central State policy offers a more current example from the same nation.

Any attempt on the part of civilians to to use direct violence with improvised means will always be neutralized by the efficiency of modern automatic weapons; a general strike, on the other hand, will temporarily swamp the system, but cannot permanently damage it, since in the modern economic setting, the civilians will run out of food and fuel well before the military, the police and allied organizations.

(CHS note: Napoleon famously dissipated a civilian uprising with "a whiff of grapeshot" long before modern automatic weaponry. Organized violence always has an advantage over informally organized violence.)

If a coup does not make use of the masses, or of warfare, what instrument of power will enable it to seize control of the state? The short answer is that the power will come from the state itself.

A coup consists of the infiltration of a small but critical segment of the state apparatus, which is then used to displace the government from its control of the remainder.

Luttwak's first point about the futility of direct insurrection informed my own Survival+ critique, which concludes that the only effective means to weaken the Financial Power Elites who have partnered with State Elites is to opt out and assemble voluntary non-privileged parallel structures which are independent of the Central State and its Power Elites.

As I have sharpened the Survival+ critique (with an eye on a future revision), I have come to see that the term coup d'etat is not cheap theatrics or an analogy for the capture of the Central State by Financial Power Elites, but the accurate description of a long, stealthy infiltration and dominance of the key ministries of the United States government.

In the popular view, a coup d'etat is a sudden event, over in a few hours or at most days, a drama played out in impoverished Third World nations. The stealth coup which has occurred in the U.S. is an entirely different kind of coup--one that has operated in stealth mode for the most part, a process of gradual infiltration and opportunistic grasping of key levers of dependence and control.

Simon Johnson, co-author of the recent book 13 Bankers: The Wall Street Takeover and the Next Financial Meltdown, also wrote the May 2009 article "The Quiet Coup". Here are a few key excerpts:

But these various policies--lightweight regulation, cheap money, the unwritten Chinese-American economic alliance, the promotion of homeownership -- had something in common. Even though some are traditionally associated with Democrats and some with Republicans, they all benefited the financial sector. Policy changes that might have forestalled the crisis but would have limited the financial sector's profits -- such as Brooksley Born's now-famous attempts to regulate credit-default swaps at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, in 1998 -- were ignored or swept aside.

The financial industry has not always enjoyed such favored treatment. But for the past 25 years or so, finance has boomed, becoming ever more powerful. The boom began with the Reagan years, and it only gained strength with the deregulatory policies of the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations. Several other factors helped fuel the financial industry's ascent.

Together, these developments vastly increased the profit opportunities in financial services. Not surprisingly, Wall Street ran with these opportunities. From 1973 to 1985, the financial sector never earned more than 16 percent of domestic corporate profits. In 1986, that figure reached 19 percent. In the 1990s, it oscillated between 21 percent and 30 percent, higher than it had ever been in the postwar period. This decade, it reached 41 percent.

The great wealth that the financial sector created and concentrated gave bankers enormous political weight-a weight not seen in the U.S. since the era of J.P. Morgan (the man). In that period, the banking panic of 1907 could be stopped only by coordination among private-sector bankers: no government entity was able to offer an effective response. But that first age of banking oligarchs came to an end with the passage of significant banking regulation in response to the Great Depression; the reemergence of an American financial oligarchy is quite recent.

Looking just at the financial crisis (and leaving aside some problems of the larger economy), we face at least two major, interrelated problems. The first is a desperately ill banking sector that threatens to choke off any incipient recovery that the fiscal stimulus might generate. The second is a political balance of power that gives the financial sector a veto over public policy, even as that sector loses popular support.

Though incisive, Johnson's critique fails to grasp several critical features of the Stealth Coup D'Etat:

1. Once you have control of the financial powers of the U.S. via the tiny Elites of the Congress, the Executive Branch, the Federal Reserve and the U.S. Treasury, then the rest of the government will follow.

To the degree that ownership of the Healthcare cartels is in the hands of the same Financial Power Elite, then the passage of the 2,300 page "Healthcare Reform Bill" in 2010 was simply another way for the Power Elite to expand its share of the national income.

The health of the citizenry or healthcare per se had essentially nothing to do with the passage of this monstrosity. The entire purpose was to increase the Elites' share of the national income by siphoning off an ever-greater share to the "healthcare" cartels.

2. This is how the Stealth Coup D'Etat works: the machinery of governance grinds through a simulacrum of democracy, but it's all for show; the theoretical structures are now completely different from the political realities. The citizens were against the bailout of Wall Street and the money-center banks 600-to-1; they were rightly ignored as inconsequential.

The citizenry replaced the political party leadership of Congress and the Presidency; absolutely nothing changed except the flavor of PR, spin and propaganda. The Power Elites and their Stealth Coup are apolitical. They don't care about the color of your uniform; whether you wear a blue shirt or a red shirt is inconsequential.

Some readers complain I over-use the descriptive word simulacrum, and I have tried to leaven this overuse with synonyms such as facsimile. But the key point to understand (and the goal here is always to reach an integrated understanding) is that there is a difference between formal structures such as democracy and free markets and their political and financial representations.

In other words, the "democracy" that was visible in passing healthcare reform (i.e. the diversion of more national income to a specific set of cartels) was a facsimile of democracy, a shadow of the real thing, a mere representation of true democracy.

This substitution of representation for reality is the key mechanism of the Stealth Coup D'Etat. In the financial fiasco now playing out, actual deeds to notes and property have been replaced with digital representations in a registry owned by the banks: MERS.

"Liberating" Iraq as a laudable goal of an enlightened State was merely a public relations facade for the occupation of a key geopolitical piece of a larger puzzle. The entire war has two components: the actual war on the ground, as revealed by 400,000 "liberated" documents, and the representation of the war in the Corporate Cartel Media and as presented by the Central State ministries.

3. The Stealth Coup can be traced by a simple dictum: follow the money. Once you control the money--the money supply, the manipulation of yields and bond sales, the budgeting and borrowing--then you control everything.

This is how a small Financial Power Elite dominates the vast, sprawling American Empire.

4. I use the term politics of experience in Survival+ (with a credit to its originator, R.D. Laing) to describe the manner in which the apparently depoliticized context of our daily media-saturated lives are shaped by political forces we rarely recognize.

In my critique, I invoke the term parallel shadow structures of privilege to describe the formalized but masked structures of power which operate behind the facades of democracy, free markets, and all the other PR bilge drummed into the minds of the the citizenry by a media cartel which itself has been financialized into a Corporatocracy.

Over time, Americans have come to believe that the current state of governance is "democracy" rather than a mere facsimile of democracy. They have come to believe (those still covered by insurance they don't directly pay for) that the U.S. "healthcare" system is "the finest in the world" when by some metrics it is the worst, most profligate, illness-inducing system imaginable. And so on.

Thus "homeownership" was elevated to quasi-religious status as a means of stripmining assets and income from a larger pool of debt-serfs. Earlier this year I asked a simple question: how much of your household's net income flows to cartels? That would include banking cartels (mortgages, second mortgages, credit cards, etc.), Central State-banking cartels (student loans), agribusiness cartels (fast foods, packaged foods, Monsanto, etc.), energy cartels, sickcare cartels (healthcare insurance, hospital chains, Big Pharma) and so on.

If we consider that much of rent payments flow to the same banking cartels (which is why the commercial real estate sector is imploding--too much debt, etc.), then most of us would find that the majority (or perhaps as much as 90%) of our money goes to a handful of cartels dominated by Financial Elites via the steady financialization of the U.S. economy.

How much of your taxes flow to the same cartels via their partnership/control of State fiefdoms?

If you think the term Stealth Coup D'Etat is overwrought, I invite you to ponder the headline quote from the Freedom Guerrilla weblog: None are so hopelessly enslaved as those who falsely believe they are free.

From the point of view of a deconstructed politics of experience, then the events of 2008-2010 are simply the culmination of a Stealth Coup D'Etat which began with the overt financialization of the U.S. economy and indeed of its entire culture.

halvord:

Where does the militarization of the domestic US, mostly during 2000-2008, fit into this critique?

Herd Redirection:

The militarization started when the US entered WWII. It continued with the Korean War, then the Cold War, then Vietnam, then Gulf War I... Make no mistake, the takeover was firmly under way when George Bush Sr came in as VP.

The US needed a period of fear and patriotism, after the Tech Crash, which had the ability to get people asking all kinds of questions about the capital markets and large financial players. "You're with us, or you're against us" is not exactly debate masterclass.

PsychoNews has a series on the Oligarchy going now, we are outing them one psycho at a time: http://psychonews.site90.net

DavidPierre:

The USSA Coup D'Etat is still very 'In Your Face'...

"Another Useful Crisis"

A secret "Shadow government" under the highly classified...

"Continuity of Operations Plan" was installed on September 11, 2001.

Both "the war on terrorism" as well as the domestic war on freedom are consistent, from the point of view of Nazi/Fascist military planners, with the logic of Operation Northwoods.

Civilian casualties are used as "a war pretext incident", to galvanize public support for a military intervention.

Mentioned time and again by DHS Secretary Tom Ridge, a "second 9/11 attack" is contemplated; Al Qaeda, we are told, is preparing

"...a large-scale attack in the United States in an effort to disrupt our democratic process."

What we are not told is that Al Qaeda is a creation of the CIA and that Al Qaeda remains a US sponsored "intelligence asset.

"The assumptions and rhetoric behind Homeland Security are nothing new. They echo an earlier statements by David Rockefeller to the United Nations Business Council in 1994:

"We are on the verge of global transformation. All we need is the right major crisis and the nations will accept the New World Order."

Similarly, in the words Zbigniew Brzezinski in his book, The Grand Chessboard:.

"…it may find it more difficult to fashion a consensus [in America] on foreign policy issues, except in the circumstances of a truly massive and widely perceived direct external threat."

http://www.globalresearch.ca/articles/CHO407B.html

rwe2late :

Maintaining the petrodollar extortion racket requires control over resources.

The military provides that control in the Mideast and elsewhere.

That would be explanation enough, but there is more.

Militarism provides additional opportunities for Shock Doctrine profiteering, and allows dissent to be stifled by fostering jingoism and enacting "war emergency" legislation.

Stifling dissent becomes increasingly necessary as the domestic economy is sacrificed to "globalism", employment to outsourcing, health and safety to "free trade" deregulation, Constitutional protections to endless wars, and the domestic government itself becomes subordinate to international corporations.

Barely noticed behind the flag-waving, the military also undergoes a transformation itself, no longer being a national institution protecting its citizens,... but instead becoming a global enterprise serving the members of a global crime syndicate.

In fact the globalised military not only serves that syndicate, but shares major goals of resource domination and expansion,

if not to maximize profit, then to maximize the parallel goal of maximizing "full-spectrum" military security.

tony bonn:

"Insurrection, the classic vehicle of revolution, is obsolete. The security apparatus of the modern state, with its professional personnel, with its diversified means of transport and communications, and with its extensive sources of information, cannot be defeated by civilian agitation, however intense and prolonged."

"Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?"

i used to read luttwak when i was a neocon toady but he fell out of the good graces of norman podhoretz when his incessant calls for numerous and cheap weapons over against high tech and expensive weaponry was thoroughly refuted by gulf 1.

although i will cavil with the author on a couple of points, this essay is superb in many respects....it is absolutely true that a small cabal of plutocrats control the money and power - and in the delicious words of the author - are strip mining america into poverty...they are transnational citizens of the world whose goal is ever more control under a new world order - hitler's famous words of the third reich reiterated by the murderer bush-41. read tarpley about the nexus with britain on this matter.

yet the plutocrats have more than money at their disposal. indeed money buys security which is precisely in the hands of the cia - an unregulated, unelected, and unaccountable cabal of murderers who slew john kennedy in broad daylight because they could for sport. the cia is the 5th branch of government.

as fletcher prouty made clear, the cia took over the government by the end of the 1950s....it is at that point that they could appoint and dismiss presidents.....kennedy it murdered....nixon it exiled.

none of this is tin foil....and even it were it does not diminish its truth...the iron corset on america is the military industrial complex of which eisenhower spoke....it is that unholy alliance anchored by the fed-cia - different sides of the same coin....the bush crime syndicate with the rockefellers, with the harrimans, bundys, soros',buffets, and whole slew of tyrannts control amerika and have done so for decades....

so of a truth the authors speaks of ersatz representations of the real thing....americans are deluded drunk with their own arrogance of democracy and impotence....they are but debt and consumer slaves to the great captains of lucre played like fools by their masters.

fuck the cia, fuck the fed, and fuck the plutocrats.

[Oct 31, 2010] Social and Political Analysis Mexico Solidarity Network

The impact of neoliberalism and responses from below

At the dawn of the 21st century, neoliberalism is the predominant political and economic model in the world, impacting every level of society. While giving the appearance of dominance, the neoliberal model is built on increasingly shaky ground, including shrinking democratic spaces, unsuccessful attempts at cultural hegemony under the guise of "modernization," and a distorted distribution of wealth that has no historic precedent. The majority of the world's people are in a savage "race to the bottom" - poorer today than they were three decades ago - and no amount of propaganda can hide this stark reality.

For the past four decades, the US-Mexico relationship has been the most important laboratory for the neoliberal model, a sort of proving grounds for corporate-centered globalization. The implications of this experiment will be felt for generations to come, both North and South. The neoliberal era began four decades ago on the US-Mexico border with the Border Industrialization Program, a "free trade zone" that ushered in the era of maquiladoras. Factories that paid decent wages in the US moved south of the border, where wages are typically less than $1 an hour, labor laws are lax, and environmental standards are not enforced. The result is huge profits for transnational corporations, but declining standards of living for the Mexican and the US working classes, and an environmental disaster that affects both sides of the border. The maquiladora/free trade model is now the predominant economic development model throughout Latin America.

In 1981, under pressure from the Latin American debt crisis, Mexico signed the first IMF-sponsored Structural Adjustment Program (SAP) in exchange for bailout loans. Today, SAPs are standard fair throughout the South, forcing governments with progressive tendencies to adopt neoliberal economic policies (or providing more conservative elites with political cover to do the same).

The North America Free Trade Accord (NAFTA), signed on January 1, 1994, is defining future US economic relations with the rest of Latin America - free flows of capital and goods across international borders but strict control of people. NAFTA has meant a loss of democracy in Mexico and the US, and an economic disaster for workers on both sides of the border.

Neoliberal policies have had a dramatic impact in rural areas throughout Latin America, particularly in Mexico. Highly subsidized corn exports from the US destroyed the internal corn market, placing nearly one-quarter of the Mexican population in dire circumstances. The result is massive migration, either to urban centers in Mexico or as undocumented workers to the United States. Neoliberal policies are directly responsible for this historically unprecedented migration, yet they barely enter the discussion on immigration policy.

The neoliberal model represents a globalization of class alliances. The wealthiest 5 or 10% on both sides of the border, those who control the economies and political systems, have more in common with each other than they do with their fellow citizens, and the resulting neoliberal policies reflect their interests. The elites enjoy increasingly strong institutional links, while the rest of us are left with less democracy, fewer economic options, more repression, increased poverty and less sovereignty.

In a world of growing globalization, international grassroots alliances become increasingly important in the struggle for democracy, sovereignty, and economic and political justice. The US-Mexico relationship is central in defining the ties between elites, and it is also central in defining increasingly important grassroots connections within civil society on both sides of the border.

The Mexico Solidarity Network is a community-based organization dedicated to fundamental social change that challenges existing power relationships, builds horizontal relations in directly affected communities and promotes autonomous alternatives.

[Oct 31, 2010] The Stealth Coup D'Etat: U.S.A. 2008-2010

The Stealth Coup D'Etat in the U.S. (called "The Quiet Coup" by Simon Johnson) was begun long ago, but the takeover reached fruition in the 2008-2010 timeframe.

Please read these brief excerpts from the 1968 classic Coup d'État: A Practical Handbook (by Edward Luttwak) and see if they don't remind you of the United States, circa 2008-2010:

Insurrection, the classic vehicle of revolution, is obsolete. The security apparatus of the modern state, with its professional personnel, with its diversified means of transport and communications, and with its extensive sources of information, cannot be defeated by civilian agitation, however intense and prolonged.

(CHS note: Luttwak referred to the May 1968 general strike in France as an example; by coincidence, the failure of today's general strikes in France to change Central State policy offers a more current example from the same nation.

Any attempt on the part of civilians to to use direct violence with improvised means will always be neutralized by the efficiency of modern automatic weapons; a general strike, on the other hand, will temporarily swamp the system, but cannot permanently damage it, since in the modern economic setting, the civilians will run out of food and fuel well before the military, the police and allied organizations.

(CHS note: Napoleon famously dissipated a civilian uprising with "a whiff of grapeshot" long before modern automatic weaponry. Organized violence always has an advantage over informally organized violence.)

If a coup does not make use of the masses, or of warfare, what instrument of power will enable it to seize control of the state? The short answer is that the power will come from the state itself.

A coup consists of the infiltration of a small but critical segment of the state apparatus, which is then used to displace the government from its control of the remainder.

Luttwak's first point about the futility of direct insurrection informed my own Survival+ critique, which concludes that the only effective means to weaken the Financial Power Elites who have partnered with State Elites is to opt out and assemble voluntary non-privileged parallel structures which are independent of the Central State and its Power Elites.

As I have sharpened the Survival+ critique (with an eye on a future revision), I have come to see that the term coup d'etat is not cheap theatrics or an analogy for the capture of the Central State by Financial Power Elites, but the accurate description of a long, stealthy infiltration and dominance of the key ministries of the United States government.

In the popular view, a coup d'etat is a sudden event, over in a few hours or at most days, a drama played out in impoverished Third World nations. The stealth coup which has occurred in the U.S. is an entirely different kind of coup--one that has operated in stealth mode for the most part, a process of gradual infiltration and opportunistic grasping of key levers of dependence and control.

Simon Johnson, co-author of the recent book 13 Bankers: The Wall Street Takeover and the Next Financial Meltdown, also wrote the May 2009 article "The Quiet Coup". Here are a few key excerpts:

But these various policies--lightweight regulation, cheap money, the unwritten Chinese-American economic alliance, the promotion of homeownership -- had something in common. Even though some are traditionally associated with Democrats and some with Republicans, they all benefited the financial sector. Policy changes that might have forestalled the crisis but would have limited the financial sector's profits -- such as Brooksley Born's now-famous attempts to regulate credit-default swaps at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, in 1998 -- were ignored or swept aside.

The financial industry has not always enjoyed such favored treatment. But for the past 25 years or so, finance has boomed, becoming ever more powerful. The boom began with the Reagan years, and it only gained strength with the deregulatory policies of the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations. Several other factors helped fuel the financial industry's ascent.

Together, these developments vastly increased the profit opportunities in financial services. Not surprisingly, Wall Street ran with these opportunities. From 1973 to 1985, the financial sector never earned more than 16 percent of domestic corporate profits. In 1986, that figure reached 19 percent. In the 1990s, it oscillated between 21 percent and 30 percent, higher than it had ever been in the postwar period. This decade, it reached 41 percent.

The great wealth that the financial sector created and concentrated gave bankers enormous political weight-a weight not seen in the U.S. since the era of J.P. Morgan (the man). In that period, the banking panic of 1907 could be stopped only by coordination among private-sector bankers: no government entity was able to offer an effective response. But that first age of banking oligarchs came to an end with the passage of significant banking regulation in response to the Great Depression; the reemergence of an American financial oligarchy is quite recent.

Looking just at the financial crisis (and leaving aside some problems of the larger economy), we face at least two major, interrelated problems. The first is a desperately ill banking sector that threatens to choke off any incipient recovery that the fiscal stimulus might generate. The second is a political balance of power that gives the financial sector a veto over public policy, even as that sector loses popular support.

Though incisive, Johnson's critique fails to grasp several critical features of the Stealth Coup D'Etat:

1. Once you have control of the financial powers of the U.S. via the tiny Elites of the Congress, the Executive Branch, the Federal Reserve and the U.S. Treasury, then the rest of the government will follow.

To the degree that ownership of the Healthcare cartels is in the hands of the same Financial Power Elite, then the passage of the 2,300 page "Healthcare Reform Bill" in 2010 was simply another way for the Power Elite to expand its share of the national income.

The health of the citizenry or healthcare per se had essentially nothing to do with the passage of this monstrosity. The entire purpose was to increase the Elites' share of the national income by siphoning off an ever-greater share to the "healthcare" cartels.

2. This is how the Stealth Coup D'Etat works: the machinery of governance grinds through a simulacrum of democracy, but it's all for show; the theoretical structures are now completely different from the political realities. The citizens were against the bailout of Wall Street and the money-center banks 600-to-1; they were rightly ignored as inconsequential.

The citizenry replaced the political party leadership of Congress and the Presidency; absolutely nothing changed except the flavor of PR, spin and propaganda. The Power Elites and their Stealth Coup are apolitical. They don't care about the color of your uniform; whether you wear a blue shirt or a red shirt is inconsequential.

Some readers complain I over-use the descriptive word simulacrum, and I have tried to leaven this overuse with synonyms such as facsimile. But the key point to understand (and the goal here is always to reach an integrated understanding) is that there is a difference between formal structures such as democracy and free markets and their political and financial representations.

In other words, the "democracy" that was visible in passing healthcare reform (i.e. the diversion of more national income to a specific set of cartels) was a facsimile of democracy, a shadow of the real thing, a mere representation of true democracy.

This substitution of representation for reality is the key mechanism of the Stealth Coup D'Etat. In the financial fiasco now playing out, actual deeds to notes and property have been replaced with digital representations in a registry owned by the banks: MERS.

"Liberating" Iraq as a laudable goal of an enlightened State was merely a public relations facade for the occupation of a key geopolitical piece of a larger puzzle. The entire war has two components: the actual war on the ground, as revealed by 400,000 "liberated" documents, and the representation of the war in the Corporate Cartel Media and as presented by the Central State ministries.

3. The Stealth Coup can be traced by a simple dictum: follow the money. Once you control the money--the money supply, the manipulation of yields and bond sales, the budgeting and borrowing--then you control everything.

This is how a small Financial Power Elite dominates the vast, sprawling American Empire.

4. I use the term politics of experience in Survival+ (with a credit to its originator, R.D. Laing) to describe the manner in which the apparently depoliticized context of our daily media-saturated lives are shaped by political forces we rarely recognize.

In my critique, I invoke the term parallel shadow structures of privilege to describe the formalized but masked structures of power which operate behind the facades of democracy, free markets, and all the other PR bilge drummed into the minds of the the citizenry by a media cartel which itself has been financialized into a Corporatocracy.

Over time, Americans have come to believe that the current state of governance is "democracy" rather than a mere facsimile of democracy. They have come to believe (those still covered by insurance they don't directly pay for) that the U.S. "healthcare" system is "the finest in the world" when by some metrics it is the worst, most profligate, illness-inducing system imaginable. And so on.

Thus "homeownership" was elevated to quasi-religious status as a means of stripmining assets and income from a larger pool of debt-serfs. Earlier this year I asked a simple question: how much of your household's net income flows to cartels? That would include banking cartels (mortgages, second mortgages, credit cards, etc.), Central State-banking cartels (student loans), agribusiness cartels (fast foods, packaged foods, Monsanto, etc.), energy cartels, sickcare cartels (healthcare insurance, hospital chains, Big Pharma) and so on.

If we consider that much of rent payments flow to the same banking cartels (which is why the commercial real estate sector is imploding--too much debt, etc.), then most of us would find that the majority (or perhaps as much as 90%) of our money goes to a handful of cartels dominated by Financial Elites via the steady financialization of the U.S. economy.

How much of your taxes flow to the same cartels via their partnership/control of State fiefdoms?

If you think the term Stealth Coup D'Etat is overwrought, I invite you to ponder the headline quote from the Freedom Guerrilla weblog: None are so hopelessly enslaved as those who falsely believe they are free.

From the point of view of a deconstructed politics of experience, then the events of 2008-2010 are simply the culmination of a Stealth Coup D'Etat which began with the overt financialization of the U.S. economy and indeed of its entire culture.

halvord:

Where does the militarization of the domestic US, mostly during 2000-2008, fit into this critique?

Herd Redirection:

The militarization started when the US entered WWII. It continued with the Korean War, then the Cold War, then Vietnam, then Gulf War I... Make no mistake, the takeover was firmly under way when George Bush Sr came in as VP.

The US needed a period of fear and patriotism, after the Tech Crash, which had the ability to get people asking all kinds of questions about the capital markets and large financial players. "You're with us, or you're against us" is not exactly debate masterclass.

PsychoNews has a series on the Oligarchy going now, we are outing them one psycho at a time: http://psychonews.site90.net

DavidPierre:

The USSA Coup D'Etat is still very 'In Your Face'...

"Another Useful Crisis"

A secret "Shadow government" under the highly classified...

"Continuity of Operations Plan" was installed on September 11, 2001.

Both "the war on terrorism" as well as the domestic war on freedom are consistent, from the point of view of Nazi/Fascist military planners, with the logic of Operation Northwoods.

Civilian casualties are used as "a war pretext incident", to galvanize public support for a military intervention.

Mentioned time and again by DHS Secretary Tom Ridge, a "second 9/11 attack" is contemplated; Al Qaeda, we are told, is preparing

"...a large-scale attack in the United States in an effort to disrupt our democratic process."

What we are not told is that Al Qaeda is a creation of the CIA and that Al Qaeda remains a US sponsored "intelligence asset.

"The assumptions and rhetoric behind Homeland Security are nothing new. They echo an earlier statements by David Rockefeller to the United Nations Business Council in 1994:

"We are on the verge of global transformation. All we need is the right major crisis and the nations will accept the New World Order."

Similarly, in the words Zbigniew Brzezinski in his book, The Grand Chessboard:.

"…it may find it more difficult to fashion a consensus [in America] on foreign policy issues, except in the circumstances of a truly massive and widely perceived direct external threat."

http://www.globalresearch.ca/articles/CHO407B.html

rwe2late :

Maintaining the petrodollar extortion racket requires control over resources.

The military provides that control in the Mideast and elsewhere.

That would be explanation enough, but there is more.

Militarism provides additional opportunities for Shock Doctrine profiteering, and allows dissent to be stifled by fostering jingoism and enacting "war emergency" legislation.

Stifling dissent becomes increasingly necessary as the domestic economy is sacrificed to "globalism", employment to outsourcing, health and safety to "free trade" deregulation, Constitutional protections to endless wars, and the domestic government itself becomes subordinate to international corporations.

Barely noticed behind the flag-waving, the military also undergoes a transformation itself, no longer being a national institution protecting its citizens,... but instead becoming a global enterprise serving the members of a global crime syndicate.

In fact the globalised military not only serves that syndicate, but shares major goals of resource domination and expansion,

if not to maximize profit, then to maximize the parallel goal of maximizing "full-spectrum" military security.

tony bonn:

"Insurrection, the classic vehicle of revolution, is obsolete. The security apparatus of the modern state, with its professional personnel, with its diversified means of transport and communications, and with its extensive sources of information, cannot be defeated by civilian agitation, however intense and prolonged."

"Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?"

i used to read luttwak when i was a neocon toady but he fell out of the good graces of norman podhoretz when his incessant calls for numerous and cheap weapons over against high tech and expensive weaponry was thoroughly refuted by gulf 1.

although i will cavil with the author on a couple of points, this essay is superb in many respects....it is absolutely true that a small cabal of plutocrats control the money and power - and in the delicious words of the author - are strip mining america into poverty...they are transnational citizens of the world whose goal is ever more control under a new world order - hitler's famous words of the third reich reiterated by the murderer bush-41. read tarpley about the nexus with britain on this matter.

yet the plutocrats have more than money at their disposal. indeed money buys security which is precisely in the hands of the cia - an unregulated, unelected, and unaccountable cabal of murderers who slew john kennedy in broad daylight because they could for sport. the cia is the 5th branch of government.

as fletcher prouty made clear, the cia took over the government by the end of the 1950s....it is at that point that they could appoint and dismiss presidents.....kennedy it murdered....nixon it exiled.

none of this is tin foil....and even it were it does not diminish its truth...the iron corset on america is the military industrial complex of which eisenhower spoke....it is that unholy alliance anchored by the fed-cia - different sides of the same coin....the bush crime syndicate with the rockefellers, with the harrimans, bundys, soros',buffets, and whole slew of tyrannts control amerika and have done so for decades....

so of a truth the authors speaks of ersatz representations of the real thing....americans are deluded drunk with their own arrogance of democracy and impotence....they are but debt and consumer slaves to the great captains of lucre played like fools by their masters.

fuck the cia, fuck the fed, and fuck the plutocrats.

[Oct 23, 2010] What's the Big Idea

Audacity of mediocricity
October 22, 2010 | Economist's View

I started this blog shortly after George Bush was reelected, and though many people assume that it was the presence of Republicans in power that was the primary motivation, that isn't the whole story. That was part of the motivation, no doubt, but there were two other factors that were more important. The first was how economic issues such as Social Security and tax cuts were being portrayed in the media, for example the false perceptions being generated about Social Security's long-run stability and the silly idea that tax cuts would pay for themselves that I heard so often.

But the biggest factor was that I felt Democrats were being misrepresented in the media. CNN in particular comes to mind. In the run-up to the election, it was the same people day after day representing Democrats in the media, and I did not feel they were doing a good job -- at all -- of representing the Party's views on economics or anything else. The voices I heard most often were far, far to the left of me, and, I thought, far too easy to dismiss. I wasn't persuaded by their arguments -- often wanting to tear my hair out when they didn't make the obvious rebuttal to crazy claims from the other side, and instead often sounded a bit crazy themselves -- so how could people on the fence be convinced that Democrats had better ideas? It was as though the TV shows would pick the most clueless, outlandish, easiest people to dismiss whenever they interviewed Democrats or pitted Democrats against Republicans. If only people knew who we really are, I would think, and what we actually stand for, certainly they would be persuaded. I never thought it would go anywhere, but starting the blog was part of the reaction to the feeling that Democrats in the silent majority needed to start speaking up and making their voices heard.

Now I'm frustrated again. Though I didn't always agree with it, prior to the Bush reelection at least there was a voice representing Democrats. Right now, there is no voice, at least not one I can hear. There are plenty of Democrats talking with loud voices, more than ever I'd guess, but there is no leadership to coordinate those voices and pull them into an harmonious whole with broad based appeal. We finally have control of the ship, and the captain is wandering aimlessly. What is Obama's vision? Where are we trying to go? What is the grander goal that is being served by the polices and strategies he is pursuing? Yes, he gives good speeches, but what is the single theme that runs through them all to coordinate and steer the party toward this larger vision? What is the big idea behind it all that is supposed to unite us? Without effective leadership, the unified vision the party needs to be successful will not emerge from the many strong voices seeking to provide the direction the party seems to lack.

The problem, however, is that I don't know if the centrist, bipartisan seeking, compromising Obama we have seen to date can actually embrace an encompassing vision. He seems afraid to be a Democrat, as though standing uncompromisingly for an idea will scare people away rather than attract them, and that needs to change.

Selected Comments
tjfxh:
No vision. No leadership.
don:
My take on the current situation, not directly related to your post.

Obama's biggest problems are the economy, for which he can't rightly be blamed, and his party's changes to medical insurance, which involve a transfer from current beneficiaries (retirees who as a class are heavy voters) to others.

Goldilocksisableachblonde:
The antidote for toxic Democratic leadership ?

Balls.

"Can I Call for Replacing the Milibands as the Heads of Britain's Labour Party with Ed Balls?"

http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2010/10/can-i-call-for-replacing-the-milibands-as-the-heads-of-britains-labour-party-with-ed-balls.html


"...But whatever our competing visions for the economy, growth and deficit reduction, there is also a wider and more fundamental issue at stake which could be easily forgotten or postponed as we focus on how best to protect the current status quo in terms of growth, jobs and living standards.

It is the fairness of our society....

David Cameron has a narrow view of the role of the state – that it stifles society and economic progress. I have a wider view of the role of state – a coming together of communities through democracy to support people, to intervene where markets fail, to promote economic prosperity and opportunity.

He has a narrow view of justice – you keep what you own and whatever you earn in a free market free for all. My vision of a just society is a wider view of social justice that goes beyond equal opportunities, makes the positive case for fair chances, recognises that widely unequal societies are unfair and divisive and relies on active government and a modern welfare state to deliver fair chances for all.

Far from thinking that electoral success is based on the shedding or hiding of values, I believe we now need to champion those values and the importance of a fairer Britain – to show we are on peoples' side after all.

Labour's next leader needs a much stronger, clearer vision of the fairer Britain we will fight for – very different from the unfairness and unemployment the Coalition's savage and immediate cuts will cause..."

hix:
Westminster system with Obama as Prime Minster?

Be carefull what you wish for.

mrrunangun:
It is not bipartisanship, but undue deference to congressional leadership and its priorities which have undone the president thus far. Their priorities are raising money and taking care of the donors so they can raise more money in the future. Those are not the priorities of the people. The priorities of the people have been ignored by the congress. It is the president's job to focus the congress on the peoples' problems. O has failed to do that so far and people see that clearly.

Chicago mayor (1954-75)Richard J. Daley used to say that good government is good politics. It still is, but good government takes determination and guts as well as vision, direction, and persistence. Think FDR or LBJ. Or even Jeff Davis. Altho I am hopeful that experience will improve his performance, the president is 0 for 5 so far on those characteristics. I've seen stronger leadership in little league dugouts.

Michael Pettengill said in to mrrunangun...

So, Clinton's strategy for passing health care reform was superior, but the problem was there were too many moderate Republicans and liberal Democrats in 1994, but today the Clinton strategy would have just forced the Republicans to fall in line because they are just more conservative and determined to obstruct Obama on every turn?

Or perhaps Carter's health reform strategy would have worked?

Or perhaps Nixon's strategy?

Oh, wait, I know, FDR's strategy failed because he had 70 Democratic Senators but would have worked with 56 Democrats in the first half of 2009.

Ken Schulz:
If I ever hear Democrats' voices united in a "harmonious whole", I'll start looking for a wormhole back to my own universe.

We got the biggest step toward universal health care ever, but you insist on 'vision', a 'grander goal', a 'single theme'. LBJ had the 'Great Society', but look where that went.

I'd be satisfied with good, thoughtful, principled decisions on Guantanamo, Afghanistan, and more, with or without the vision.

Winslow R. said in to Ken Schulz...

I prefer, "it's the economy, stupid"

Fix the economy and many things will fall into place.

To remove the partisan divide in economics would be a worthy goal of Mr. Thoma. I'm not talking concession, but a factual based dismantling of schools of erroneous thought.

The dismantling of schools that favor corporate interests over sound economics require a new funding model. Why should the Fed, a semi-private entity, be able to direct the spending of public funds on research. The Fed has 'researched' or spent public funds pushing fiscal policy out of economic models. Even our host seems to believe monetary policy works better than fiscal policy, when it comes to inflation.

Kind of funny that Fed directed fiscal policy (Fed funded research) was used to show fiscal policy doesn't work.

Too bad the funding model for politics provides no guide for proper funding of economics. Neither politics nor economics currently serve public purpose.

lambert strether said in to Ken Schulz...

How is forcing me to purchase junk insurance from a private company under penalty of IRS enforcement anything other than a bailout of the insurance companies?

They're now guaranteed a market, and if you don't think they'll game the regulations, I have a bridge I'd like to sell you. "Biggest step toward" my sweet Aunt Fanny.

kievite:
I think it's dangerous to consider Democratic party and Republican Party to be a different parties. Obama represents Republicans more then democrats in all major foreign policy issues and many domestic issues too. Such a George W. Obama. Dems and Repugs are more like left and right wings of the same neoliberal party. In a way, Obama's greatest service to the American people might be undermining two-party system illusion.

American two party system is a very interesting way to manipulate the public, very similar but much more smooth then one used in totalitarian societies or neo-theocratic societies such as the USSR (where the ruling party was simultaneously a religious cult).

The key element of this political invention is that it allows to divide the population into two camps by using peripheral issues like abortion or gay marriage and forcing them to compromise on the more important and economically vital issues. The beauty of Republican party is its magic ability to attract people who are essentially victims of this party policy. The beauty of Democratic party is its ability to sell neoliberal policies as progressive policies.

Still comparing Obama with a Mayberry Machiavellians such as war-mongering opportunist Sara Palin, it's easy to come to conclusion that Obama is not the worst choice even if he was a closet Trojan horse of financial oligarchy from the very beginning.

lambert strether said in to kievite...

klevite writes:

In a way Obama's greatest service to the American people might be undermining two-party system illusion.

I think it's also excellent that The Big O betrayed his youthful base, especially on DISemployment, and they'll never trust a D again. That can only be good, since they don't trust the Rs either. So much for the legacy parties.

http://www.correntewire.com/permanently_high_disemployment_screws_big_os_youthful_base_worst

Mark Field:
Great post. It's the failure of leadership which has been driving me crazy, even more than some of the policy decisions I disagree with. I can live with the latter when the driver of the car is heading in the right general direction. Not so when he's lost.
Mark Field:
After I wrote the above, I checked Brad DeLong's site and would encourage everyone to read this post: http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2010/10/can-i-call-for-replacing-the-milibands-as-the-heads-of-britains-labour-party-with-ed-balls.html#comment-6a00e551f080038834013488672973970c

For me, the key phrase was this, which I think ties in perfectly with what Prof. Thoma said: "it's not enough to be right if you don't win the argument."

Winslow R. said in to Mark Field...

"We do need a credible and medium-term plan to reduce the deficit and to reduce our level of national debt – a pre-announced plan for reducing the deficit based on a careful balance between employment, spending and taxation – but only once growth is fully secured and over a markedly longer period than the government is currently planning.... "

Alright. This is a debate that needs to happen but hasn't. Delong, once again, is fanning fears of deficits. He, once again, shoots himself in the foot pushing deficits while fear-mongering about deficits.

Is that the plan? Good luck,

Perhaps it would be helpful to quit fear-mongering about deficits and instead focus on what Delong is really worried about, which is future inflation.

Until Delong can get it straight in his head that it is inflation that concerns him and not deficits, he is not an economist to quote.

Observer:
Obama never really led anything before becoming President, but developed something of a reputation for voting "present". He ceded a lot of control to the Congress to set priorities and direction.

The House has people like Conyers (81 years old, 45 years in Congress), Rangel (80,39), Levin (79, 27), Stark (78,37), Johnson (74,17), Waters (72,19), Waxman (71,35), Pelosi (70,23), Frank (70,29), etc.

The leadership is old, arrogant, out of touch, largely from heavily gerrymandered districts, extremely partisan, and far too many see being in Congress as a lifetime career.

About 20% of the US population is progressive/left. The people don't really want the vision progressives are selling. What vision Obama has is far to the left of the American mainstream, and when he moved from "hope and change, I'm not Bush" campaign mode to actually governing, this became increasing recognized. In foreign affairs, he's largely trapped by reality - probably a rude awakening.

The odds for forging a common vision from that starting point, and bipartisan success, seem low.

sglover said in to Observer...

It's a real stretch to claim that Hope'n'Change is too far left. He's far to the right of Nixon.

With that out of the way, I appreciate your congressional age/tenure list (skewed as it is -- you gonna tell us that the Republicans don't have their share of lifetime-term geezers?). I think it really is significant that so many our "leaders" are so ossified. Reminds me of the days of Brezhnev and Andropov....

Observer said in to sglover...

No, I agree that the Republicans have the same "too old, too long in office" problem. I listed Democrats because they are in charge now, and have had the most impact on legislation under Obama.

Personally, I think its kind of pathetic for members of Congress in their 70's who have spent 20+ years in office to be running again. They don't seem to be able to envision any other life, and don't want to give up the power - and I think that's a bad sign.

I believe we'd all be much better off if they had a successful life before Congress, served a couple of terms as a painful civic responsibility, and went back home to private life.

Michael Pettengill said in to Observer...

"The odds for forging a common vision from that starting point, and bipartisan success, seem low."

Yet Obama succeeded.

or are you expecting Obama to accomplish in two years what it took FDR over four years to do?

Oh, wait FDR didn't get health care with much larger Democratic majorities.

Obama has made major strides in every one of his vision statements:
- health reform
- financial regulation
- education reform
- energy policy
- energy innovation
- infrastructure

Which president has accomplished more with such intransigent opposition?

(the energy bill didn't pass the Senate, but SCOTUS gave Obama the EPA to implement carbon pollution limits, plus the clean air and water regulation).

hapa said in to Michael Pettengill...

ok let's look at these.

yes the administration did many things, that the unlikely mccain admin would have done differently if at all, and i'm pleased that we got to the water's surface, but i don't see the actual rescue boat you're saying is implied by their productivity.

stunney:
Ah, the vision thing.

How about Newt Gingrich's head on a pike?

Including the ears.

sglover:
"Though I didn't always agree with it, prior to the Bush reelection at least there was a voice representing Democrats"

Whose? Saying what, exactly?

Oh sure, there are **always** Dem gasbags ready to spew gas for the cameras. But can you name ONE national-level Dem who did anything to retard (never mind reverse) Bush administration pathologies?

You want a representative Dem "voice"? Try this one: Nan "History-making" Pelosi, unilaterally declaring the CONSTITUTIONAL remedy of impeachment "off the table" immediately after the '06 Dem sweep. Because every sentient creature could see that the Republicans were in for a walloping in the election after that, and why should Dems risk their access to the trough over a quaint thing like "rule of law"?

Andrew Bacevich correctly fingers the Democratic Party as the most egregious example of our broken political system. National-level Dems **routinely** do the opposite of what they promise their coalition -- and their coalition routinely lets them get away with it.

Leftists need to leave the Democratic Party, and hasten its death. It's a long shot, but we need a genuine left party, and the Dems are a real obstacle.

Michael Pettengill said in to sglover...

I see you wanted to repeat the success of Newt Gingrich which really won he and Republicans lots of support for Republicans and really defeated Clinton.

And the Republicans couldn't impeach Clinton in 6 years and won nothing.

But I guess you look at the Republican approval rating with envy - if only Democrats could go lower than that would be success.

And you have had a genuine left party, you just need a younger Nader to lead it.

RS:
Given that a Democratic led federal government is not much distinguishable from a Republican led federal government, perhaps the left can get behind a states-rights movement so that the benefits of leftist policies can more easily be perceived in those states that adopt them?
wjd123:
I honestly do not know what Mark Thoma is talking about. It seems like double talk to me. Does he want a stronger Democratic party with a vision or does he want republican light politics. These musings by him are the definition of vagueness. Who is he talking about, what unifying program does he have in the back of his mind.

Paul Krugman offers a strong democratic platform. This patform is nailed down solidedly in his writings. When he appears on TV with other pundits he is terrible. He just doesn't have a TV presence.

sam:
I really don't want to call my own President names. Certainly Bush deserved every bit of profanity and hate I could spew on another human being. But it seems Obama has turned out to be a big p*ssy. He's scared of standing alone, he's scared of the banks, he's scared of blue dogs, scared of the tea party, and scared of good ideas. Needless to say, I'm done voting. The democrats are no longer democrats. And the republicans stopped being, well, human for a couple of decades now. What we need is a new party, something akin to the tea party except it won't be all angry white people and not funded by billionaires, not even Soros. What we need is a revolution. I know that word brings up historically bad memories and connotations, but if this country ever needed a revolution the time is now or face the steady decline of all great empires.

Michael Pettengill said in to sam...

Name any president who has accomplished as much in less than two years as Obama has.

And FDR didn't get much accomplished by Jan 1935.

Nixon, LBJ, Carter got a lot done, but not as much that early.

lambert strether said in to Michael Pettengill...

Yep. Normalizing 10% nominal (20% real) DISemployment as far as the eye can see is quite an achievement. And "early" too!

And in the same way that only Nixon can go to China, only Obama could throw the Democratic base under the bus.

Michael Pettengill:
Mark, the problem I have with your statement is

first, it offers no criticism of Obama's vision which was laid out in Audacity of Hope four years ago, and that he has made great progress on in less than two years; perhaps it is too hard for you to read, or perhaps too hard for you to remember his "lectures" during the campaign on the major points?

second, I can't get any sense of any vision from you even after reading your posts for a number of months.

I am frustrated by the failure of anyone to respond to conservatives with appropriate sound bite drivel that skewers them. If anything, Obama has been spinning his wheels on the leftist issues instead of responding directly to conservative disastrous policy statements.

Let's take a few examples:

"you never hike taxes with high unemployment"

Republicans say you never hike taxes when employment is above 9%, but President Reagan hiked taxes 3 times when unemployment was over 9%: in Oct 82 when over 10%, in Jan 83 when over 10%, in June the payroll tax was hiked when over 9% - job creation resumed after the tax hikes, ending the job losses that began with the 81 tax cuts.

"repeal and replace socialist Obamacare"

Republicans call the health reform Obamacare and a socialist government takeover, but I listened to Bob Dole and his 1993 plan for health care reform, just like Mitt Romney did when he was governor of Mass, and the successfully passed the plan called Romneycare. These Republican plans were the foundation of my plan, so if I am a socialist, then so are Bob Dole and Mitt Romney.

But let's be clear, for a dozen years the Republicans controlled Congress, and during that time, the cost of health care benefits more than doubled. But Republicans offered no plan.

"the Obama stimulus failed"

Well, the 2009 stimulus plan include tax cuts for worker that went into effect almost immediately, and included the continuation of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts. That the Republicans declare the 2009 tax cuts a failure, let's be honest and declare the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts a failure as well.

If the tax cut expiration is causing uncertainty, preventing job creation, then the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts were the original cause of the uncertainty as job creation since they passed was worse than during the 90s when taxes were higher.

Clearly the Republicans have argued for ending all the tax cuts are returning to the high employment and deficit reducing tax rates of the 90s.

lambert strether said in to Michael Pettengill...

Let's cut to the chase. Of course The Big O's stimpack "failed." 10% nominal (20% real) DISemployment is the very definition of FAIL (unless you're in the legacy party leadership, in which case it's the desired policy outcome that nobody wants to talk about in the open).

hapa:
it's strange to see an economist asking for more heart from a politician. maybe it shows a deterioration or specialization in the field, with a chilling influence on the public sphere.

hapa said in to hapa...

*"maybe it shows": by 'it' i meant the strangeness, not the appeal for vision

roger:
I think, Mark Thoma, that you should reflect a bit on this desire for the center. I think it is this desire, for instance, that was behind your support for re-instating Bernanke. And for TARP.

But outside of a discursive world in which there is a center, a left and a right, there is a social world in which one has to ask: who reaps the greatest benefit from political programs? And at what cost? If, indeed, one wants, a., to hold onto a democratic republic, and b., to maintain the quality of life of a 'middle class' of workers in that republic - then one should erase the impression of ideological location from one's mind, at least now and again, and ask how that can be done. The inverse method - to begin with the Left, center (whatever that is) and right - seems to me to be the true craziness. It is the craziness that masks itself as normal. And I am crazy enough to read 'normal' as - wanting to establish and extend the major traits that characterize today's economy. That is, a disempowered labor force, freezing the increase in the medium household's compensation, and allowing the wealthiest to garner a greater and greater percent of income and wealth. This is what the center - the normal - is about. It isn't some accident, for instance, that upward social mobility, in almost all developed countries, is at a standstill or declining. Centrism seems a code word for managing that decline gently.

If, on the other hand, by centrism you mean - trying to align political policy with realizing a prosperous and democratically-friendly political economy - then the center might veer very far left - or right.

But centrism/moderation has ceased to mean this. And as it has become the defender of the normal, it has not had a very good record over the past decade.

lambert strether:
I don't know why it's hard to understand what Obama's "big idea" is.

His "big idea" is to do what he's actually doing:

Concealing and legitimizing what Jamie Galbraith calls the largest swindle in world history. That, and normalizing permanently high disemployment in the US to bring wages down to world levels.

Why isn't action the best test of intention? Watch what they do, and don't listen to what they say!

2slugbaits:
Mark,

Don't nitwit voters deserve at least some of the blame here? It's fair enough to blame Obama for not initially proposing a larger fiscal stimulus package, but at the end of the day I doubt that anything much different would have passed. [Remember, Al Franken hadn't yet been seated and the Democrats only nominally had 59 seats if you include Lieberman.] People get the kind of government that they deserve, and if voters habitually tune into Fox News and turn their radio dials to Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck, then guess what? You'll get an army of nitwit voters. What can any responsible politician do when a large chunk of the electorate believes a degree from Glenn Beck University is worth more than a degree from the Univesity of Oregon? In too many people's minds the only difference is that Glenn Beck "U" doesn't have a #1 ranked football team...other than that they see no difference in scholarship. That's a problem that Obama cannot fix. At some point voters have to start holding themselves accountable.

And as long as we're BS'ing about big ideas, I think there are two big fault lines in American policics. The first is the widening cultural gap between the Old Confederacy and the rest of the country. I am a northerner but I travel to the deep South a lot and I've noticed that over the last couple of years the South today has become MUCH more culturally conservative than it ever was. By a long shot. Friends and family members who have moved to the South are barely recognizable today. The South has always been conservative, but today's South is almost a different country compared to the South of only a few years ago. The second big fault line is generational. The Tea Party is largely the party of old folks. Their interests are short term. They deny global warming because they don't want to be inconvenienced today for a problem that won't affect them tomorrow. They are all for reforming Social Security by making tomorrow's retirees work longer provided none of those "reforms" affect them. They talk about fiscal responsibility but want low taxes today and no cuts in Medicare (remember what happened when the Democrats suggested mild Medicare reforms during the healthcare debate?). They are quite comfortabe with the prospect of deflation because it protects their assets and fixed income securities, but yet they raise hell when they don't get a COLA increase for Social Security. If Tom Brokaw wrote a book about them it would be called "The Greediest Generation." This is the same generational fault line that afflicts Japan. And it means that every off-year election will lurch us to the right and every Presidential election will lurch us back to the center.

save_the_rustbelt:
Democrats - the party of circular firing squads. The last Democrat who could actually kick butts and manage the political process was LBJ, the evil Texan.

Perhaps nominating and electing a very junior Senator was not such a hot idea?

Obama may have already confirmed his legacy, compromising his way to a health care bill so complicated and convoluted that it can never be successfully implemented (having just spent a week with top health care experts and federal officials, just an opinion of course).

jamzo:
I recommend substituting the daily show, the colbert report and south park for TV news

you will feel better. The news narrative is and always has been the product of commercial interests and it can be quite depressing

i am happy that you decided to do this blog and hope that you continue to do so.

jamzo:
by the way i am also disappointed in obama's leadership style. i think many people are. i would prefer a mores assertive approach. if you claim audacity you encourage people to expect some audacity

[Oct 23, 2010] What's the Big Idea

Audacity of mediocricity
October 22, 2010 | Economist's View

I started this blog shortly after George Bush was reelected, and though many people assume that it was the presence of Republicans in power that was the primary motivation, that isn't the whole story. That was part of the motivation, no doubt, but there were two other factors that were more important. The first was how economic issues such as Social Security and tax cuts were being portrayed in the media, for example the false perceptions being generated about Social Security's long-run stability and the silly idea that tax cuts would pay for themselves that I heard so often.

But the biggest factor was that I felt Democrats were being misrepresented in the media. CNN in particular comes to mind. In the run-up to the election, it was the same people day after day representing Democrats in the media, and I did not feel they were doing a good job -- at all -- of representing the Party's views on economics or anything else. The voices I heard most often were far, far to the left of me, and, I thought, far too easy to dismiss. I wasn't persuaded by their arguments -- often wanting to tear my hair out when they didn't make the obvious rebuttal to crazy claims from the other side, and instead often sounded a bit crazy themselves -- so how could people on the fence be convinced that Democrats had better ideas? It was as though the TV shows would pick the most clueless, outlandish, easiest people to dismiss whenever they interviewed Democrats or pitted Democrats against Republicans. If only people knew who we really are, I would think, and what we actually stand for, certainly they would be persuaded. I never thought it would go anywhere, but starting the blog was part of the reaction to the feeling that Democrats in the silent majority needed to start speaking up and making their voices heard.

Now I'm frustrated again. Though I didn't always agree with it, prior to the Bush reelection at least there was a voice representing Democrats. Right now, there is no voice, at least not one I can hear. There are plenty of Democrats talking with loud voices, more than ever I'd guess, but there is no leadership to coordinate those voices and pull them into an harmonious whole with broad based appeal. We finally have control of the ship, and the captain is wandering aimlessly. What is Obama's vision? Where are we trying to go? What is the grander goal that is being served by the polices and strategies he is pursuing? Yes, he gives good speeches, but what is the single theme that runs through them all to coordinate and steer the party toward this larger vision? What is the big idea behind it all that is supposed to unite us? Without effective leadership, the unified vision the party needs to be successful will not emerge from the many strong voices seeking to provide the direction the party seems to lack.

The problem, however, is that I don't know if the centrist, bipartisan seeking, compromising Obama we have seen to date can actually embrace an encompassing vision. He seems afraid to be a Democrat, as though standing uncompromisingly for an idea will scare people away rather than attract them, and that needs to change.

Selected Comments
tjfxh:
No vision. No leadership.
don:
My take on the current situation, not directly related to your post.

Obama's biggest problems are the economy, for which he can't rightly be blamed, and his party's changes to medical insurance, which involve a transfer from current beneficiaries (retirees who as a class are heavy voters) to others.

Goldilocksisableachblonde:
The antidote for toxic Democratic leadership ?

Balls.

"Can I Call for Replacing the Milibands as the Heads of Britain's Labour Party with Ed Balls?"

http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2010/10/can-i-call-for-replacing-the-milibands-as-the-heads-of-britains-labour-party-with-ed-balls.html


"...But whatever our competing visions for the economy, growth and deficit reduction, there is also a wider and more fundamental issue at stake which could be easily forgotten or postponed as we focus on how best to protect the current status quo in terms of growth, jobs and living standards.

It is the fairness of our society....

David Cameron has a narrow view of the role of the state – that it stifles society and economic progress. I have a wider view of the role of state – a coming together of communities through democracy to support people, to intervene where markets fail, to promote economic prosperity and opportunity.

He has a narrow view of justice – you keep what you own and whatever you earn in a free market free for all. My vision of a just society is a wider view of social justice that goes beyond equal opportunities, makes the positive case for fair chances, recognises that widely unequal societies are unfair and divisive and relies on active government and a modern welfare state to deliver fair chances for all.

Far from thinking that electoral success is based on the shedding or hiding of values, I believe we now need to champion those values and the importance of a fairer Britain – to show we are on peoples' side after all.

Labour's next leader needs a much stronger, clearer vision of the fairer Britain we will fight for – very different from the unfairness and unemployment the Coalition's savage and immediate cuts will cause..."

hix:
Westminster system with Obama as Prime Minster?

Be carefull what you wish for.

mrrunangun:
It is not bipartisanship, but undue deference to congressional leadership and its priorities which have undone the president thus far. Their priorities are raising money and taking care of the donors so they can raise more money in the future. Those are not the priorities of the people. The priorities of the people have been ignored by the congress. It is the president's job to focus the congress on the peoples' problems. O has failed to do that so far and people see that clearly.

Chicago mayor (1954-75)Richard J. Daley used to say that good government is good politics. It still is, but good government takes determination and guts as well as vision, direction, and persistence. Think FDR or LBJ. Or even Jeff Davis. Altho I am hopeful that experience will improve his performance, the president is 0 for 5 so far on those characteristics. I've seen stronger leadership in little league dugouts.

Michael Pettengill said in reply to mrrunangun...

So, Clinton's strategy for passing health care reform was superior, but the problem was there were too many moderate Republicans and liberal Democrats in 1994, but today the Clinton strategy would have just forced the Republicans to fall in line because they are just more conservative and determined to obstruct Obama on every turn?

Or perhaps Carter's health reform strategy would have worked?

Or perhaps Nixon's strategy?

Oh, wait, I know, FDR's strategy failed because he had 70 Democratic Senators but would have worked with 56 Democrats in the first half of 2009.

Ken Schulz:
If I ever hear Democrats' voices united in a "harmonious whole", I'll start looking for a wormhole back to my own universe.

We got the biggest step toward universal health care ever, but you insist on 'vision', a 'grander goal', a 'single theme'. LBJ had the 'Great Society', but look where that went.

I'd be satisfied with good, thoughtful, principled decisions on Guantanamo, Afghanistan, and more, with or without the vision.

Winslow R. said in reply to Ken Schulz...

I prefer, "it's the economy, stupid"

Fix the economy and many things will fall into place.

To remove the partisan divide in economics would be a worthy goal of Mr. Thoma. I'm not talking concession, but a factual based dismantling of schools of erroneous thought.

The dismantling of schools that favor corporate interests over sound economics require a new funding model. Why should the Fed, a semi-private entity, be able to direct the spending of public funds on research. The Fed has 'researched' or spent public funds pushing fiscal policy out of economic models. Even our host seems to believe monetary policy works better than fiscal policy, when it comes to inflation.

Kind of funny that Fed directed fiscal policy (Fed funded research) was used to show fiscal policy doesn't work.

Too bad the funding model for politics provides no guide for proper funding of economics. Neither politics nor economics currently serve public purpose.

lambert strether said in reply to Ken Schulz...

How is forcing me to purchase junk insurance from a private company under penalty of IRS enforcement anything other than a bailout of the insurance companies?

They're now guaranteed a market, and if you don't think they'll game the regulations, I have a bridge I'd like to sell you. "Biggest step toward" my sweet Aunt Fanny.

kievite:
I think it's dangerous to consider Democratic party and Republican Party to be a different parties. Obama represents Republicans more then democrats in all major foreign policy issues and many domestic issues too. Such a George W. Obama. Dems and Repugs are more like left and right wings of the same neoliberal party. In a way, Obama's greatest service to the American people might be undermining two-party system illusion.

American two party system is a very interesting way to manipulate the public, very similar but much more smooth then one used in totalitarian societies or neo-theocratic societies such as the USSR (where the ruling party was simultaneously a religious cult).

The key element of this political invention is that it allows to divide the population into two camps by using peripheral issues like abortion or gay marriage and forcing them to compromise on the more important and economically vital issues. The beauty of Republican party is its magic ability to attract people who are essentially victims of this party policy. The beauty of Democratic party is its ability to sell neoliberal policies as progressive policies.

Still comparing Obama with a Mayberry Machiavellians such as war-mongering opportunist Sara Palin, it's easy to come to conclusion that Obama is not the worst choice even if he was a closet Trojan horse of financial oligarchy from the very beginning.

lambert strether said in reply to kievite...

klevite writes:

In a way Obama's greatest service to the American people might be undermining two-party system illusion.

I think it's also excellent that The Big O betrayed his youthful base, especially on DISemployment, and they'll never trust a D again. That can only be good, since they don't trust the Rs either. So much for the legacy parties.

http://www.correntewire.com/permanently_high_disemployment_screws_big_os_youthful_base_worst

Mark Field:
Great post. It's the failure of leadership which has been driving me crazy, even more than some of the policy decisions I disagree with. I can live with the latter when the driver of the car is heading in the right general direction. Not so when he's lost.
Mark Field:
After I wrote the above, I checked Brad DeLong's site and would encourage everyone to read this post: http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2010/10/can-i-call-for-replacing-the-milibands-as-the-heads-of-britains-labour-party-with-ed-balls.html#comment-6a00e551f080038834013488672973970c

For me, the key phrase was this, which I think ties in perfectly with what Prof. Thoma said: "it's not enough to be right if you don't win the argument."

Winslow R. said in reply to Mark Field...

"We do need a credible and medium-term plan to reduce the deficit and to reduce our level of national debt – a pre-announced plan for reducing the deficit based on a careful balance between employment, spending and taxation – but only once growth is fully secured and over a markedly longer period than the government is currently planning.... "

Alright. This is a debate that needs to happen but hasn't. Delong, once again, is fanning fears of deficits. He, once again, shoots himself in the foot pushing deficits while fear-mongering about deficits.

Is that the plan? Good luck,

Perhaps it would be helpful to quit fear-mongering about deficits and instead focus on what Delong is really worried about, which is future inflation.

Until Delong can get it straight in his head that it is inflation that concerns him and not deficits, he is not an economist to quote.

Observer:
Obama never really led anything before becoming President, but developed something of a reputation for voting "present". He ceded a lot of control to the Congress to set priorities and direction.

The House has people like Conyers (81 years old, 45 years in Congress), Rangel (80,39), Levin (79, 27), Stark (78,37), Johnson (74,17), Waters (72,19), Waxman (71,35), Pelosi (70,23), Frank (70,29), etc.

The leadership is old, arrogant, out of touch, largely from heavily gerrymandered districts, extremely partisan, and far too many see being in Congress as a lifetime career.

About 20% of the US population is progressive/left. The people don't really want the vision progressives are selling. What vision Obama has is far to the left of the American mainstream, and when he moved from "hope and change, I'm not Bush" campaign mode to actually governing, this became increasing recognized. In foreign affairs, he's largely trapped by reality - probably a rude awakening.

The odds for forging a common vision from that starting point, and bipartisan success, seem low.

sglover said in reply to Observer...

It's a real stretch to claim that Hope'n'Change is too far left. He's far to the right of Nixon.

With that out of the way, I appreciate your congressional age/tenure list (skewed as it is -- you gonna tell us that the Republicans don't have their share of lifetime-term geezers?). I think it really is significant that so many our "leaders" are so ossified. Reminds me of the days of Brezhnev and Andropov....

Observer said in reply to sglover...

No, I agree that the Republicans have the same "too old, too long in office" problem. I listed Democrats because they are in charge now, and have had the most impact on legislation under Obama.

Personally, I think its kind of pathetic for members of Congress in their 70's who have spent 20+ years in office to be running again. They don't seem to be able to envision any other life, and don't want to give up the power - and I think that's a bad sign.

I believe we'd all be much better off if they had a successful life before Congress, served a couple of terms as a painful civic responsibility, and went back home to private life.

Michael Pettengill said in reply to Observer...

"The odds for forging a common vision from that starting point, and bipartisan success, seem low."

Yet Obama succeeded.

or are you expecting Obama to accomplish in two years what it took FDR over four years to do?

Oh, wait FDR didn't get health care with much larger Democratic majorities.

Obama has made major strides in every one of his vision statements:
- health reform
- financial regulation
- education reform
- energy policy
- energy innovation
- infrastructure

Which president has accomplished more with such intransigent opposition?

(the energy bill didn't pass the Senate, but SCOTUS gave Obama the EPA to implement carbon pollution limits, plus the clean air and water regulation).

hapa said in reply to Michael Pettengill...

ok let's look at these.

yes the administration did many things, that the unlikely mccain admin would have done differently if at all, and i'm pleased that we got to the water's surface, but i don't see the actual rescue boat you're saying is implied by their productivity.

stunney:
Ah, the vision thing.

How about Newt Gingrich's head on a pike?

Including the ears.

sglover:
"Though I didn't always agree with it, prior to the Bush reelection at least there was a voice representing Democrats"

Whose? Saying what, exactly?

Oh sure, there are **always** Dem gasbags ready to spew gas for the cameras. But can you name ONE national-level Dem who did anything to retard (never mind reverse) Bush administration pathologies?

You want a representative Dem "voice"? Try this one: Nan "History-making" Pelosi, unilaterally declaring the CONSTITUTIONAL remedy of impeachment "off the table" immediately after the '06 Dem sweep. Because every sentient creature could see that the Republicans were in for a walloping in the election after that, and why should Dems risk their access to the trough over a quaint thing like "rule of law"?

Andrew Bacevich correctly fingers the Democratic Party as the most egregious example of our broken political system. National-level Dems **routinely** do the opposite of what they promise their coalition -- and their coalition routinely lets them get away with it.

Leftists need to leave the Democratic Party, and hasten its death. It's a long shot, but we need a genuine left party, and the Dems are a real obstacle.

Michael Pettengill said in reply to sglover...

I see you wanted to repeat the success of Newt Gingrich which really won he and Republicans lots of support for Republicans and really defeated Clinton.

And the Republicans couldn't impeach Clinton in 6 years and won nothing.

But I guess you look at the Republican approval rating with envy - if only Democrats could go lower than that would be success.

And you have had a genuine left party, you just need a younger Nader to lead it.

RS:
Given that a Democratic led federal government is not much distinguishable from a Republican led federal government, perhaps the left can get behind a states-rights movement so that the benefits of leftist policies can more easily be perceived in those states that adopt them?
wjd123:
I honestly do not know what Mark Thoma is talking about. It seems like double talk to me. Does he want a stronger Democratic party with a vision or does he want republican light politics. These musings by him are the definition of vagueness. Who is he talking about, what unifying program does he have in the back of his mind.

Paul Krugman offers a strong democratic platform. This patform is nailed down solidedly in his writings. When he appears on TV with other pundits he is terrible. He just doesn't have a TV presence.

sam:
I really don't want to call my own President names. Certainly Bush deserved every bit of profanity and hate I could spew on another human being. But it seems Obama has turned out to be a big p*ssy. He's scared of standing alone, he's scared of the banks, he's scared of blue dogs, scared of the tea party, and scared of good ideas. Needless to say, I'm done voting. The democrats are no longer democrats. And the republicans stopped being, well, human for a couple of decades now. What we need is a new party, something akin to the tea party except it won't be all angry white people and not funded by billionaires, not even Soros. What we need is a revolution. I know that word brings up historically bad memories and connotations, but if this country ever needed a revolution the time is now or face the steady decline of all great empires.

Michael Pettengill said in reply to sam...

Name any president who has accomplished as much in less than two years as Obama has.

And FDR didn't get much accomplished by Jan 1935.

Nixon, LBJ, Carter got a lot done, but not as much that early.

lambert strether said in reply to Michael Pettengill...

Yep. Normalizing 10% nominal (20% real) DISemployment as far as the eye can see is quite an achievement. And "early" too!

And in the same way that only Nixon can go to China, only Obama could throw the Democratic base under the bus.

Michael Pettengill:
Mark, the problem I have with your statement is

first, it offers no criticism of Obama's vision which was laid out in Audacity of Hope four years ago, and that he has made great progress on in less than two years; perhaps it is too hard for you to read, or perhaps too hard for you to remember his "lectures" during the campaign on the major points?

second, I can't get any sense of any vision from you even after reading your posts for a number of months.

I am frustrated by the failure of anyone to respond to conservatives with appropriate sound bite drivel that skewers them. If anything, Obama has been spinning his wheels on the leftist issues instead of responding directly to conservative disastrous policy statements.

Let's take a few examples:

"you never hike taxes with high unemployment"

Republicans say you never hike taxes when employment is above 9%, but President Reagan hiked taxes 3 times when unemployment was over 9%: in Oct 82 when over 10%, in Jan 83 when over 10%, in June the payroll tax was hiked when over 9% - job creation resumed after the tax hikes, ending the job losses that began with the 81 tax cuts.

"repeal and replace socialist Obamacare"

Republicans call the health reform Obamacare and a socialist government takeover, but I listened to Bob Dole and his 1993 plan for health care reform, just like Mitt Romney did when he was governor of Mass, and the successfully passed the plan called Romneycare. These Republican plans were the foundation of my plan, so if I am a socialist, then so are Bob Dole and Mitt Romney.

But let's be clear, for a dozen years the Republicans controlled Congress, and during that time, the cost of health care benefits more than doubled. But Republicans offered no plan.

"the Obama stimulus failed"

Well, the 2009 stimulus plan include tax cuts for worker that went into effect almost immediately, and included the continuation of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts. That the Republicans declare the 2009 tax cuts a failure, let's be honest and declare the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts a failure as well.

If the tax cut expiration is causing uncertainty, preventing job creation, then the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts were the original cause of the uncertainty as job creation since they passed was worse than during the 90s when taxes were higher.

Clearly the Republicans have argued for ending all the tax cuts are returning to the high employment and deficit reducing tax rates of the 90s.

lambert strether said in reply to Michael Pettengill...

Let's cut to the chase. Of course The Big O's stimpack "failed." 10% nominal (20% real) DISemployment is the very definition of FAIL (unless you're in the legacy party leadership, in which case it's the desired policy outcome that nobody wants to talk about in the open).

hapa:
it's strange to see an economist asking for more heart from a politician. maybe it shows a deterioration or specialization in the field, with a chilling influence on the public sphere.

hapa said in reply to hapa...

*"maybe it shows": by 'it' i meant the strangeness, not the appeal for vision

roger:
I think, Mark Thoma, that you should reflect a bit on this desire for the center. I think it is this desire, for instance, that was behind your support for re-instating Bernanke. And for TARP.

But outside of a discursive world in which there is a center, a left and a right, there is a social world in which one has to ask: who reaps the greatest benefit from political programs? And at what cost? If, indeed, one wants, a., to hold onto a democratic republic, and b., to maintain the quality of life of a 'middle class' of workers in that republic - then one should erase the impression of ideological location from one's mind, at least now and again, and ask how that can be done. The inverse method - to begin with the Left, center (whatever that is) and right - seems to me to be the true craziness. It is the craziness that masks itself as normal. And I am crazy enough to read 'normal' as - wanting to establish and extend the major traits that characterize today's economy. That is, a disempowered labor force, freezing the increase in the medium household's compensation, and allowing the wealthiest to garner a greater and greater percent of income and wealth. This is what the center - the normal - is about. It isn't some accident, for instance, that upward social mobility, in almost all developed countries, is at a standstill or declining. Centrism seems a code word for managing that decline gently.

If, on the other hand, by centrism you mean - trying to align political policy with realizing a prosperous and democratically-friendly political economy - then the center might veer very far left - or right.

But centrism/moderation has ceased to mean this. And as it has become the defender of the normal, it has not had a very good record over the past decade.

lambert strether:
I don't know why it's hard to understand what Obama's "big idea" is.

His "big idea" is to do what he's actually doing:

Concealing and legitimizing what Jamie Galbraith calls the largest swindle in world history. That, and normalizing permanently high disemployment in the US to bring wages down to world levels.

Why isn't action the best test of intention? Watch what they do, and don't listen to what they say!

2slugbaits:
Mark,

Don't nitwit voters deserve at least some of the blame here? It's fair enough to blame Obama for not initially proposing a larger fiscal stimulus package, but at the end of the day I doubt that anything much different would have passed. [Remember, Al Franken hadn't yet been seated and the Democrats only nominally had 59 seats if you include Lieberman.] People get the kind of government that they deserve, and if voters habitually tune into Fox News and turn their radio dials to Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck, then guess what? You'll get an army of nitwit voters. What can any responsible politician do when a large chunk of the electorate believes a degree from Glenn Beck University is worth more than a degree from the Univesity of Oregon? In too many people's minds the only difference is that Glenn Beck "U" doesn't have a #1 ranked football team...other than that they see no difference in scholarship. That's a problem that Obama cannot fix. At some point voters have to start holding themselves accountable.

And as long as we're BS'ing about big ideas, I think there are two big fault lines in American policics. The first is the widening cultural gap between the Old Confederacy and the rest of the country. I am a northerner but I travel to the deep South a lot and I've noticed that over the last couple of years the South today has become MUCH more culturally conservative than it ever was. By a long shot. Friends and family members who have moved to the South are barely recognizable today. The South has always been conservative, but today's South is almost a different country compared to the South of only a few years ago. The second big fault line is generational. The Tea Party is largely the party of old folks. Their interests are short term. They deny global warming because they don't want to be inconvenienced today for a problem that won't affect them tomorrow. They are all for reforming Social Security by making tomorrow's retirees work longer provided none of those "reforms" affect them. They talk about fiscal responsibility but want low taxes today and no cuts in Medicare (remember what happened when the Democrats suggested mild Medicare reforms during the healthcare debate?). They are quite comfortabe with the prospect of deflation because it protects their assets and fixed income securities, but yet they raise hell when they don't get a COLA increase for Social Security. If Tom Brokaw wrote a book about them it would be called "The Greediest Generation." This is the same generational fault line that afflicts Japan. And it means that every off-year election will lurch us to the right and every Presidential election will lurch us back to the center.

save_the_rustbelt:
Democrats - the party of circular firing squads. The last Democrat who could actually kick butts and manage the political process was LBJ, the evil Texan.

Perhaps nominating and electing a very junior Senator was not such a hot idea?

Obama may have already confirmed his legacy, compromising his way to a health care bill so complicated and convoluted that it can never be successfully implemented (having just spent a week with top health care experts and federal officials, just an opinion of course).

jamzo:
I recommend substituting the daily show, the colbert report and south park for TV news

you will feel better. The news narrative is and always has been the product of commercial interests and it can be quite depressing

i am happy that you decided to do this blog and hope that you continue to do so.

jamzo:
by the way i am also disappointed in obama's leadership style. i think many people are. i would prefer a mores assertive approach. if you claim audacity you encourage people to expect some audacity

[Oct 15, 2010] 'Operation Dark Heart' Author Alleges 9-11 Cover Up. Information Clearing House ICH

Fox News

Judge Napolitano's Ground-breaking interview with Lt. Col, Anthony Shaffer and Former CIA Intelligence officer, Michael Scheuer. -- Shaffer's book, "Operation Dark Heart" was essentially "censored" by the Pentagon in order that some classified details could be "redacted".

Operation Dark Heart exposes the good and bad of combat operations the U.S. Government does not want uncovered. Dark Heart highlights how a committed and innovative small group of experts can produce results despite operating in an often dysfunctional system. The account given by Tony Shaffer of how things worked in Afghanistan and in Washington give a whole new insight to the soldiers doing the fighting and a top heavy bureaucracy that impedes mission execution on the ground and consequently hinders overall mission effectiveness. More

Posted October 13, 2010

Selected Comments

Jay :

Okay now, put the last pieces together already. Inside Job!

evelyn burch:

fair enough that am interviewer with adjudicating experience could distill the brew down to the cover up. maybe these kinds of interviews will get the teaparty listeners to chew on the basics and get on with building the gallows.

Pull The Goalie:

I think that this is part of the disinformation strategy. Fox News is interviewing 911 "Truth Seakers" without yelling at them, cutting off their mikes and without bashing their character. That tells me that they want the sheeple to hear this information. That way they can manage the paradigm of 911 Truth. They know that the world is getting smart about what really happened and so they are trying to muddy the waters. In this example, they are going to be framing the concept that, yes, their were cover-ups on the 911 Commission. That way they can limit what the sheeple are going to believe. People are going to go down, and high level people. But they will just be patsies.

Christian Socialist :

What USA needs is a United Christian Socialist Front to combat the satanic powers of capitalism. Capitalism is satanic, and most US Christians should know that Christianity is socialism and communism of love and wealth. Americans should wake up from loving capitalism and should begin to reject, to fight, and to hate capitalism and all the oligarchic systems that Satan has used for the last 5000 years. Only socialism and after the socialist stage (state-less communism) can really bring on the Kingdom of God on earth, which will be the communism state-less stage (After the dictatorship of the proletariat) which Vladimir Lenin, Trotsky and Rosa Luxemburg wrote about. Thanks

My recent post REMEMBER THE PROMISE YOU MADE BY COCK ROBIN- A SONG TO REMIND YOU WHEN USA WAS A PARADISE OF WEALTH- EVEN WITH REAGAN WE WERE BETTER !!

L. N.:

This is disinformation -- he tells us something we already know ("inside job") while promoting a fictitious version of what is happening on the ground and in Washington -- a fictitious "disconnect" that does not really exist -- what is happening in the Middle East is *exactly* what the U.S. needs to have happen there. It is going like clockwork.

We had better get smarter about vetting our information sources.

Rey:

Anthony Shaffer was an Defense Intelligence Agency officer working under a secret program called "Able Danger" created in the late 90's, to monitor or (and) "infiltrate" Muslim terror cells, Shaffer bumped into Mohammed Atta's File and informed his superiors that something fishy was going on and that Atta was up to no good, If I understand he was ordered to "drop" the matter and was removed from the case...

Everything in the Intel business is compartmentalized so Shaffer was doing his job, in total honesty, which is to follow and collect information on "bad guys" However I believe that his superiors knew exactly what they were doing in removing him from the case: They did not want him to go any further and find out to much about what was in preparation : a "false flag attack" using Arabs useful idiots who were trained by private military contractors (with Mossad and ISI ) who train Arab mercenaries, to pose as terrorists in order to infiltrate "real" Terrorists groups for money (Atta received $ 100.000 from the ISI, Pakistani Intel General Ahmad) also trained to "hijack" planes not knowing that the aircrafts were going to be remote controlled and that they were set up....

When Shaffer found out, like the rest of the world what happened on 9/11 2001, he tried to go back to the Atta's network files., but most of these files were destroyed, he also lost his " clearance" at the DIA and his job, thanks to his superiors...

AMERICA, IT IS TIME TO DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH ON THE SUBJECT, YOU'VE BEEN DUPED ON THE 9/11.

The invasion of Afghanistan was planned a year before the 9/11, Bin Laden was a CIA asset , paid and trained by the CIA when the Russian invaded Afghanistan in the 70's 80's(see Charlie's War) and most likely died early 2002 of kidney failure ....

The "WAR ON TERROR" is Fake and mostly staged. The US UK Israel intelligence infiltrates Muslim Terror cells for decades and set them up... The "terror scare" is use to justify the "perpetual State of War" in the middle East, our NEW "COLD WAR" with the complicity of our mainstream media.

Peace. Because War is a racket.

neville:

All that needs to be said about 9/11 is that when a nation destroys all the evidence of a crime scene the only conclusion that we in the ''FREE WORLD'' can draw is, that it is just one hellava big cover up.

You cannot convict or even take to TRIAL OR CONVICT anyone on what flimsy evidence you have on the incident, which by facts coming to light look like George Bush and co know more than what there lives are worth to disclose.

Inhabitant:

9/11: The Unidentified Murder Weapons http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YT28hCyXsLs&fe...

David ISS:

This video is a combination of Three Card Monte and damage control. Keep people's attention elsewhere while moving the ball under another cup. Damage control as yes, there was a cover-up of a vacuous nature. The "Deep State" is guilty of course. Now carry on.

Neville: There is more than flimsy evidence of the crimes about 9/11. Military grade nanothermite was found at ground zero. Google Alan Sabrosky for the details. WTC7 is another and is a sore thumb for the global elites and social engineers. Go to BuildingWhat.org for more information on how a 47 story building came down in near fall speed with no plane hitting this building.

capt jim:

RED HERRING WARNING: Two unbelievable sources for truth, fox, and their partners CIA.

Neither is creditable. Please see inhabitants suggestion for real truth.

Also, notice how the red herring piece keeps OBL as the foil when in fact he was on the same payroll as these CIA liars and confusers of then real issue -- who had the ability to control NORAD, and set in place the thermite in the buildings?

[Oct 15, 2010] The Oil Drum Drumbeat October 14, 2010

October 14, 2010

tejanojim:

Re: Pentagon going green, because it has to

Anyone want to estimate the EROI of a tanker truck of fuel burned by insurgents in Pakistan?

Twilight:
The same or better than a truck load of fuel burned by the military. Neither accomplishes anything of value.
mos6507:
The locals who would like not to go back to the days of heads lopped off in soccer stadiums might disagree with that.
sldulin:
The timeless, comforting rationalizations for colonialism and imperialism. Not that the argument is fraudulent or advanced in poor faith, but it advances a profound thought and then neglects to answer the profound questions that follow. Which locals? Those who have aligned themselves most closely with their occupiers? Those vulnerable to having their heads lopped off? Those locals who could never hope to achieve political power under the old regime? Or perhaps you would appeal to a concept of a great 'silent majority' of Afghans who theoretically are opposed to the chopping off of heads in stadiums and welcome the arrival of Western 'justice' even if administered by their traditional enemies? Tricky business, empire, particularly when the center cannot hold and our own economy and culture are in shambles. The dishonesty is baked in the cake as we elevate our values and demonize our enemies. Americans would prefer to avoid the hard questions of who we are, of what justice is, of why we fight. Just stick to the script- invade, depose, hold elections, pat ourselves on the back, rinse lather repeat.
lengould:
Excellent! Exactly. mos6507, how would you, as an america I presume, appreciate having your nation bombed, your present leadership proscribed as criminals wanted dead or alive (dead preferrably) and your government system overthrown by, say, the Scandanavian countries, simply in the name of the victims of execution of prisoners convicted of murder? The parallels are perfect.

And the decisions of local peoples everywhere are all about "what it takes to get ahead". If getting ahead in one place amounts to supporting some less than perfectly rational Islam religious leader in order to get appointed to a post in city government, or earn a living in bureaucracy, how does that make them different from someone in the US who supports some less than perfectly rational Christain religious leader for all the same reasons?

eric blair:
And note - here I am agreeing with something Lengould said.

Perhaps Darwinian would like to say something agreeable on this topic eh?

jjhman:
I wish I'd said that. Absolutely poetic.
tejanojim:
Yeah, that's my take. The EROI is roughly equivalent to driving the tanker into Afghanistan and using it to refuel the drone aircraft we use to blow up villages and wedding parties. Either way - a colossal waste of time, effort and resources.
Oct:
The whole war is a political stunt. What security is obtained by all this?
Perk Earl :
The whole war is a political stunt. What security is obtained by all this?

None. I am still astounded that Obama decided to keep troops in Afghanistan, after he said of Iraq something to the effect of, "You can't win a political war with the military". But that's exactly what it is in Afghanistan, a political war of corruption and no military action will change that situation. Obama must have felt he couldn't get re-elected if he pulled the troops out. What a waste!

Oilman Sachs:
Oct: Maybe I can answer your question:

So basically it's all about containing Iran and Pakistan.

Not to mention the usual resource stuff: rare earth minerals, natural gas pipelines, etc.

I don't agree with any of this, by the way, I think it's a waste of time and money that will contribute to the collapse of America. But I call them like I see them.

sgage:
Exactly right, OMS. We simply can't afford this crap, and it's going to ruin us, if it hasn't already.
Merrill:
Bases in Afghanistan are no threat to either Afghanistan or Pakistan. They are too far from the coast to be securely supplied by sea. Our airlift capability is too thin and too expensive to support any sizable force for long. Only with the cooperation of Pakistan and Russia can they continue to operate in Afghanistan.

In the oriental game of Go, they would be what are known as "dead stones" -- stones on the board that lack freedom and connections not blocked by the opposing players stones.

eric blair:
What security is obtained by all this?

The job security of political leadership. I believe the historical quote was "you don't change horses in mid stream".

The security of a fat wallet of money. There has been a large transfer of cash involved. Odds are its not your wallet that is fatter now is all.

garyp:

For every 1 gallon of fuel used for warfighting purpose, 40 are used to get it there. A tanker along a supply route is probably only a percentage of the way through that ratio, but its still significant.

"The line between disorder and order lies in logistics..." Sun Tzu

[Oct 15, 2010] 'Operation Dark Heart' Author Alleges 9-11 Cover Up. Information Clearing House ICH

Fox News

Judge Napolitano's Ground-breaking interview with Lt. Col, Anthony Shaffer and Former CIA Intelligence officer, Michael Scheuer. -- Shaffer's book, "Operation Dark Heart" was essentially "censored" by the Pentagon in order that some classified details could be "redacted".

Operation Dark Heart exposes the good and bad of combat operations the U.S. Government does not want uncovered. Dark Heart highlights how a committed and innovative small group of experts can produce results despite operating in an often dysfunctional system. The account given by Tony Shaffer of how things worked in Afghanistan and in Washington give a whole new insight to the soldiers doing the fighting and a top heavy bureaucracy that impedes mission execution on the ground and consequently hinders overall mission effectiveness. More

Posted October 13, 2010

Selected Comments

Jay :

Okay now, put the last pieces together already. Inside Job!

evelyn burch:

fair enough that am interviewer with adjudicating experience could distill the brew down to the cover up. maybe these kinds of interviews will get the teaparty listeners to chew on the basics and get on with building the gallows.

Pull The Goalie:

I think that this is part of the disinformation strategy. Fox News is interviewing 911 "Truth Seakers" without yelling at them, cutting off their mikes and without bashing their character. That tells me that they want the sheeple to hear this information. That way they can manage the paradigm of 911 Truth. They know that the world is getting smart about what really happened and so they are trying to muddy the waters. In this example, they are going to be framing the concept that, yes, their were cover-ups on the 911 Commission. That way they can limit what the sheeple are going to believe. People are going to go down, and high level people. But they will just be patsies.

Christian Socialist :

What USA needs is a United Christian Socialist Front to combat the satanic powers of capitalism. Capitalism is satanic, and most US Christians should know that Christianity is socialism and communism of love and wealth. Americans should wake up from loving capitalism and should begin to reject, to fight, and to hate capitalism and all the oligarchic systems that Satan has used for the last 5000 years. Only socialism and after the socialist stage (state-less communism) can really bring on the Kingdom of God on earth, which will be the communism state-less stage (After the dictatorship of the proletariat) which Vladimir Lenin, Trotsky and Rosa Luxemburg wrote about. Thanks

My recent post REMEMBER THE PROMISE YOU MADE BY COCK ROBIN- A SONG TO REMIND YOU WHEN USA WAS A PARADISE OF WEALTH- EVEN WITH REAGAN WE WERE BETTER !!

L. N.:

This is disinformation -- he tells us something we already know ("inside job") while promoting a fictitious version of what is happening on the ground and in Washington -- a fictitious "disconnect" that does not really exist -- what is happening in the Middle East is *exactly* what the U.S. needs to have happen there. It is going like clockwork.

We had better get smarter about vetting our information sources.

Rey:

Anthony Shaffer was an Defense Intelligence Agency officer working under a secret program called "Able Danger" created in the late 90's, to monitor or (and) "infiltrate" Muslim terror cells, Shaffer bumped into Mohammed Atta's File and informed his superiors that something fishy was going on and that Atta was up to no good, If I understand he was ordered to "drop" the matter and was removed from the case...

Everything in the Intel business is compartmentalized so Shaffer was doing his job, in total honesty, which is to follow and collect information on "bad guys" However I believe that his superiors knew exactly what they were doing in removing him from the case: They did not want him to go any further and find out to much about what was in preparation : a "false flag attack" using Arabs useful idiots who were trained by private military contractors (with Mossad and ISI ) who train Arab mercenaries, to pose as terrorists in order to infiltrate "real" Terrorists groups for money (Atta received $ 100.000 from the ISI, Pakistani Intel General Ahmad) also trained to "hijack" planes not knowing that the aircrafts were going to be remote controlled and that they were set up....

When Shaffer found out, like the rest of the world what happened on 9/11 2001, he tried to go back to the Atta's network files., but most of these files were destroyed, he also lost his " clearance" at the DIA and his job, thanks to his superiors...

AMERICA, IT IS TIME TO DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH ON THE SUBJECT, YOU'VE BEEN DUPED ON THE 9/11.

The invasion of Afghanistan was planned a year before the 9/11, Bin Laden was a CIA asset , paid and trained by the CIA when the Russian invaded Afghanistan in the 70's 80's(see Charlie's War) and most likely died early 2002 of kidney failure ....

The "WAR ON TERROR" is Fake and mostly staged. The US UK Israel intelligence infiltrates Muslim Terror cells for decades and set them up... The "terror scare" is use to justify the "perpetual State of War" in the middle East, our NEW "COLD WAR" with the complicity of our mainstream media.

Peace. Because War is a racket.

neville:

All that needs to be said about 9/11 is that when a nation destroys all the evidence of a crime scene the only conclusion that we in the ''FREE WORLD'' can draw is, that it is just one hellava big cover up.

You cannot convict or even take to TRIAL OR CONVICT anyone on what flimsy evidence you have on the incident, which by facts coming to light look like George Bush and co know more than what there lives are worth to disclose.

Inhabitant:

9/11: The Unidentified Murder Weapons http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YT28hCyXsLs&fe...

David ISS:

This video is a combination of Three Card Monte and damage control. Keep people's attention elsewhere while moving the ball under another cup. Damage control as yes, there was a cover-up of a vacuous nature. The "Deep State" is guilty of course. Now carry on.

Neville: There is more than flimsy evidence of the crimes about 9/11. Military grade nanothermite was found at ground zero. Google Alan Sabrosky for the details. WTC7 is another and is a sore thumb for the global elites and social engineers. Go to BuildingWhat.org for more information on how a 47 story building came down in near fall speed with no plane hitting this building.

capt jim:

RED HERRING WARNING: Two unbelievable sources for truth, fox, and their partners CIA.

Neither is creditable. Please see inhabitants suggestion for real truth.

Also, notice how the red herring piece keeps OBL as the foil when in fact he was on the same payroll as these CIA liars and confusers of then real issue -- who had the ability to control NORAD, and set in place the thermite in the buildings?

[Oct 15, 2010] The Oil Drum Drumbeat October 14, 2010

October 14, 2010

tejanojim:

Re: Pentagon going green, because it has to

Anyone want to estimate the EROI of a tanker truck of fuel burned by insurgents in Pakistan?

Twilight:
The same or better than a truck load of fuel burned by the military. Neither accomplishes anything of value.
mos6507:
The locals who would like not to go back to the days of heads lopped off in soccer stadiums might disagree with that.
sldulin:
The timeless, comforting rationalizations for colonialism and imperialism. Not that the argument is fraudulent or advanced in poor faith, but it advances a profound thought and then neglects to answer the profound questions that follow. Which locals? Those who have aligned themselves most closely with their occupiers? Those vulnerable to having their heads lopped off? Those locals who could never hope to achieve political power under the old regime? Or perhaps you would appeal to a concept of a great 'silent majority' of Afghans who theoretically are opposed to the chopping off of heads in stadiums and welcome the arrival of Western 'justice' even if administered by their traditional enemies? Tricky business, empire, particularly when the center cannot hold and our own economy and culture are in shambles. The dishonesty is baked in the cake as we elevate our values and demonize our enemies. Americans would prefer to avoid the hard questions of who we are, of what justice is, of why we fight. Just stick to the script- invade, depose, hold elections, pat ourselves on the back, rinse lather repeat.
lengould:
Excellent! Exactly. mos6507, how would you, as an america I presume, appreciate having your nation bombed, your present leadership proscribed as criminals wanted dead or alive (dead preferrably) and your government system overthrown by, say, the Scandanavian countries, simply in the name of the victims of execution of prisoners convicted of murder? The parallels are perfect.

And the decisions of local peoples everywhere are all about "what it takes to get ahead". If getting ahead in one place amounts to supporting some less than perfectly rational Islam religious leader in order to get appointed to a post in city government, or earn a living in bureaucracy, how does that make them different from someone in the US who supports some less than perfectly rational Christain religious leader for all the same reasons?

eric blair:
And note - here I am agreeing with something Lengould said.

Perhaps Darwinian would like to say something agreeable on this topic eh?

jjhman:
I wish I'd said that. Absolutely poetic.
tejanojim:
Yeah, that's my take. The EROI is roughly equivalent to driving the tanker into Afghanistan and using it to refuel the drone aircraft we use to blow up villages and wedding parties. Either way - a colossal waste of time, effort and resources.
Oct:
The whole war is a political stunt. What security is obtained by all this?
Perk Earl :
The whole war is a political stunt. What security is obtained by all this?

None. I am still astounded that Obama decided to keep troops in Afghanistan, after he said of Iraq something to the effect of, "You can't win a political war with the military". But that's exactly what it is in Afghanistan, a political war of corruption and no military action will change that situation. Obama must have felt he couldn't get re-elected if he pulled the troops out. What a waste!

Oilman Sachs:
Oct: Maybe I can answer your question:

So basically it's all about containing Iran and Pakistan.

Not to mention the usual resource stuff: rare earth minerals, natural gas pipelines, etc.

I don't agree with any of this, by the way, I think it's a waste of time and money that will contribute to the collapse of America. But I call them like I see them.

sgage:
Exactly right, OMS. We simply can't afford this crap, and it's going to ruin us, if it hasn't already.
Merrill:
Bases in Afghanistan are no threat to either Afghanistan or Pakistan. They are too far from the coast to be securely supplied by sea. Our airlift capability is too thin and too expensive to support any sizable force for long. Only with the cooperation of Pakistan and Russia can they continue to operate in Afghanistan.

In the oriental game of Go, they would be what are known as "dead stones" -- stones on the board that lack freedom and connections not blocked by the opposing players stones.

eric blair:
What security is obtained by all this?

The job security of political leadership. I believe the historical quote was "you don't change horses in mid stream".

The security of a fat wallet of money. There has been a large transfer of cash involved. Odds are its not your wallet that is fatter now is all.

garyp:

For every 1 gallon of fuel used for warfighting purpose, 40 are used to get it there. A tanker along a supply route is probably only a percentage of the way through that ratio, but its still significant.

"The line between disorder and order lies in logistics..." Sun Tzu

[Oct 06, 2010] Public Option Duplicity Revisited -- Yet More Evidence of Obama Spinelessness

Proof that Obama's failings are ones of character and experience comes from an area that was the centerpiece of his election campaign, an area in which he professed to have considerable interest, namely health care reform.

One of the big disappointments of the health "reform", from the liberal perspective, was the abandonment of the public option. But Obama had never seem committed. Indeed, one of the truly bizarre features of the town hall debate fiasco was the failure of Team Obama to hit on the obvious argument to rebut the hysterical objection to it, that it would be "socialism": "We have a very successful and popular government funded health care program now. It's called Medicare. We want to build and expand on it."

Glenn Greenwald was pilloried for pointing out the at best limp wristed Obama support during tortuous horse trading on the bill. But as he discussed yesterday, more disclosures have proven what everyone suspected, that Team Obama was never serious about the public option, and always regarded it as a bargaining chip:

What Daschle said here - in his interview with Volsky and, apparently, in his new book - is crystal clear, and is consistent with what has long been clear: despite its stream of public statements to the contrary, the Obama White House made no efforts to have a public option in the bill because their secret, early agreement with "stakeholders" was that no public option (and thus no real mechanism of competition with private industry) would be created.

What I find surprising about the excitement about this "revelation" (see David Dayen for recap) is that it comes as news to many people in what purports to be the left in this country. I must confess to having been only a casual follower of the health care bill machinations, yet it was blindingly obvious that Obama wasn't committed to much of anything in the bill, but getting something, anything passed that looked enough different to be able to be dressed up as an accomplishment, at least in that never-never land in which Obama lives, where every policy shortcoming can and will be solved by propaganda.

There were plenty of indications that if Obama had put shoulder to wheel, he could have gotten more. From the far-from-Obama-friendly Wall Street Journal, when the public option was voted down in the Senate:

The two votes suggested that the "public option" is all but dead in the Senate, though it clings to life in the House, where Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said it will be included in a bill to be brought to the House floor. The idea could still revive if the White House weighs in strongly on its behalf. Another possibility is the "trigger" option, where the public plan takes effect only if other steps fail to expand coverage and lower costs.

Obama pointedly ignored Democrat efforts to revive the health care option during the reconciliation process via the use of Medicare. The public story was that Lieberman, who had supported the idea previously, had reneged. Yet Obama has tended to give Lieberman a free pass for various transgressions despite his having betrayed Obama in the last election. Is Lieberman somehow untouchable, or could a more complex game be operating?

Ironically, this little tempest in a teapot says more about the efforts Team Obama has devoted to neutralizing critics on the left, so that people who dare speak the unvarnished truth like Greenwald are rejected as heretics. A more confident President would go after worthier and more important targets, meaning opponents to his agenda, rather than make sure he has an echo chamber among his constituents.

rd

Obama had a major chance to dump Geithner before he brought him on board. TurboTax-Gate was the perfect excuse (if not a primary reason) to do that, especially since there were numerous people, including myself, e-mailing and calling Senators protesting his appointment to Treasury.

Obama REALLY wanted Geithner for Treasury, so I do find the argument that he is being led astray by people very disengenuous. There were plenty of other candidates who did not have their pawprints all over the financial crisis.

Similarly, he did not have to re-nominate Bernanke since there was a lot of opposition to his re-appointment. Once again, there were plenty of other potential candidates who did not have their pawprints on the financial crisis.

ella
As we pay more and more for health care, we have less to spend. Less spending is detrimental to the consumer economy. As health care costs continue to rise, more Americans will see the fraud of "bending the cost curve". Obama sold the public down the river for a promise of reduced cost by insurers, hospitals, and Pharma. Now, many will distrust the D's to manage health care.

Only a public option would have provided true competition. But of course Obama did not want competition, nor did Congress. What will happen when the health care industry implodes due to cost so high few will be able to pay? And what will become of the health of the public? As it declines and we are less and less productive who will support the economy, the tax base and the military. Have we truly forgotten what national security means?

For many Americans their health care costs are 20-30 of their gross income. And yet their wages are falling. The middle class depends on earning enough to pay for their cost of living. The cost of living has outstripped incomes for years. Many Americans depended on debt, which was a substitute for income. The debt hangover must not be paid for, as the debt is paid down demand for goods and services has fallen. New credit is harder and harder to obtain. As the cost of goods and services in the real economy (not the phony CPI) continue to rise, we will be forced to pay more and more for the basics. The GDP will likely fall as a result.

Reducing the cost of health care with a public option would have given us the ability to afford a middle class life style. That extra income would result in demand, demand would increase hiring and lower unemployment, and raise the GDP. We would be healthier and more secure in knowing that we would receive medical care at a reasonable cost. Health security is a component of national security.

Koshem Bos:
The nomination of Geithner was an apparent payoff to Wall Street as well as Obama's best indication that Wall Street is untouchable in his administration. It didn't take a genius to understand that from the early days of the administration. Therefore, the claim that Obama was led by his nose economically is nonsense.

Listening carefully and watching the events in the primaries in 2008 haven't left much hope that he'll make even a passable president. He was the weakest in the debates, he relied on brute force, i.e. huge gathering and cheating in caucuses, and pure racism, and he called Bill Clinton – the former "first black president" a racist.

Of course, he was better the McCain; that isn't much of consolation.

The last quote in the update to the post is a bombshell, but everyone knew that Obama had the habit of avoiding the tough votes.

I always believed the health care reform was intended to leave a personal mark in history rather than a real reform about which he could care less.

Z:
IMO, it's more deceitful than spineless to go against a campaign promise that 2/3rds of the people favored; even though he did it behind closed doors and tried to cover his tracks, it was pretty bold of him to even try to get away with it. And that's the scariest thing about obama: he thinks he can bullshit his way thru anything. He actually enjoys playing the populace; you can see it in the way that he struts around during his campaign speeches as he plays to the basest elements of the crowds. Most people, even our sociopathic politicians, would be smart enough to be cautious in selling out the people this brazenly, but not him. He thinks that he is so smart and so charming that he can fuck us over and get away with it. He's a nut in those regards and there exists no self-correction mechanism within him to change his corporate servile-common people sellout ways even when good sense should tell him otherwise.
Mad Hemingway
I voted early this week for November and most of my picks were Green Party.

My mom was born in the Depression and she's given up on the Democrats since Obama came in (Pelosi & Reid are also reasons).

So, the question is, who will primary Obama. Right now, there's no governor doing the kinds of things FDR when he was governor of NY. And nobody else for that matter that I'm aware of.

[Oct 06, 2010] Public Option Duplicity Revisited -- Yet More Evidence of Obama Spinelessness

Proof that Obama's failings are ones of character and experience comes from an area that was the centerpiece of his election campaign, an area in which he professed to have considerable interest, namely health care reform.

One of the big disappointments of the health "reform", from the liberal perspective, was the abandonment of the public option. But Obama had never seem committed. Indeed, one of the truly bizarre features of the town hall debate fiasco was the failure of Team Obama to hit on the obvious argument to rebut the hysterical objection to it, that it would be "socialism": "We have a very successful and popular government funded health care program now. It's called Medicare. We want to build and expand on it."

Glenn Greenwald was pilloried for pointing out the at best limp wristed Obama support during tortuous horse trading on the bill. But as he discussed yesterday, more disclosures have proven what everyone suspected, that Team Obama was never serious about the public option, and always regarded it as a bargaining chip:

What Daschle said here - in his interview with Volsky and, apparently, in his new book - is crystal clear, and is consistent with what has long been clear: despite its stream of public statements to the contrary, the Obama White House made no efforts to have a public option in the bill because their secret, early agreement with "stakeholders" was that no public option (and thus no real mechanism of competition with private industry) would be created.

What I find surprising about the excitement about this "revelation" (see David Dayen for recap) is that it comes as news to many people in what purports to be the left in this country. I must confess to having been only a casual follower of the health care bill machinations, yet it was blindingly obvious that Obama wasn't committed to much of anything in the bill, but getting something, anything passed that looked enough different to be able to be dressed up as an accomplishment, at least in that never-never land in which Obama lives, where every policy shortcoming can and will be solved by propaganda.

There were plenty of indications that if Obama had put shoulder to wheel, he could have gotten more. From the far-from-Obama-friendly Wall Street Journal, when the public option was voted down in the Senate:

The two votes suggested that the "public option" is all but dead in the Senate, though it clings to life in the House, where Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said it will be included in a bill to be brought to the House floor. The idea could still revive if the White House weighs in strongly on its behalf. Another possibility is the "trigger" option, where the public plan takes effect only if other steps fail to expand coverage and lower costs.

Obama pointedly ignored Democrat efforts to revive the health care option during the reconciliation process via the use of Medicare. The public story was that Lieberman, who had supported the idea previously, had reneged. Yet Obama has tended to give Lieberman a free pass for various transgressions despite his having betrayed Obama in the last election. Is Lieberman somehow untouchable, or could a more complex game be operating?

Ironically, this little tempest in a teapot says more about the efforts Team Obama has devoted to neutralizing critics on the left, so that people who dare speak the unvarnished truth like Greenwald are rejected as heretics. A more confident President would go after worthier and more important targets, meaning opponents to his agenda, rather than make sure he has an echo chamber among his constituents.

rd

Obama had a major chance to dump Geithner before he brought him on board. TurboTax-Gate was the perfect excuse (if not a primary reason) to do that, especially since there were numerous people, including myself, e-mailing and calling Senators protesting his appointment to Treasury.

Obama REALLY wanted Geithner for Treasury, so I do find the argument that he is being led astray by people very disengenuous. There were plenty of other candidates who did not have their pawprints all over the financial crisis.

Similarly, he did not have to re-nominate Bernanke since there was a lot of opposition to his re-appointment. Once again, there were plenty of other potential candidates who did not have their pawprints on the financial crisis.

ella
As we pay more and more for health care, we have less to spend. Less spending is detrimental to the consumer economy. As health care costs continue to rise, more Americans will see the fraud of "bending the cost curve". Obama sold the public down the river for a promise of reduced cost by insurers, hospitals, and Pharma. Now, many will distrust the D's to manage health care.

Only a public option would have provided true competition. But of course Obama did not want competition, nor did Congress. What will happen when the health care industry implodes due to cost so high few will be able to pay? And what will become of the health of the public? As it declines and we are less and less productive who will support the economy, the tax base and the military. Have we truly forgotten what national security means?

For many Americans their health care costs are 20-30 of their gross income. And yet their wages are falling. The middle class depends on earning enough to pay for their cost of living. The cost of living has outstripped incomes for years. Many Americans depended on debt, which was a substitute for income. The debt hangover must not be paid for, as the debt is paid down demand for goods and services has fallen. New credit is harder and harder to obtain. As the cost of goods and services in the real economy (not the phony CPI) continue to rise, we will be forced to pay more and more for the basics. The GDP will likely fall as a result.

Reducing the cost of health care with a public option would have given us the ability to afford a middle class life style. That extra income would result in demand, demand would increase hiring and lower unemployment, and raise the GDP. We would be healthier and more secure in knowing that we would receive medical care at a reasonable cost. Health security is a component of national security.

Koshem Bos:
The nomination of Geithner was an apparent payoff to Wall Street as well as Obama's best indication that Wall Street is untouchable in his administration. It didn't take a genius to understand that from the early days of the administration. Therefore, the claim that Obama was led by his nose economically is nonsense.

Listening carefully and watching the events in the primaries in 2008 haven't left much hope that he'll make even a passable president. He was the weakest in the debates, he relied on brute force, i.e. huge gathering and cheating in caucuses, and pure racism, and he called Bill Clinton – the former "first black president" a racist.

Of course, he was better the McCain; that isn't much of consolation.

The last quote in the update to the post is a bombshell, but everyone knew that Obama had the habit of avoiding the tough votes.

I always believed the health care reform was intended to leave a personal mark in history rather than a real reform about which he could care less.

Z:
IMO, it's more deceitful than spineless to go against a campaign promise that 2/3rds of the people favored; even though he did it behind closed doors and tried to cover his tracks, it was pretty bold of him to even try to get away with it. And that's the scariest thing about obama: he thinks he can bullshit his way thru anything. He actually enjoys playing the populace; you can see it in the way that he struts around during his campaign speeches as he plays to the basest elements of the crowds. Most people, even our sociopathic politicians, would be smart enough to be cautious in selling out the people this brazenly, but not him. He thinks that he is so smart and so charming that he can fuck us over and get away with it. He's a nut in those regards and there exists no self-correction mechanism within him to change his corporate servile-common people sellout ways even when good sense should tell him otherwise.
Mad Hemingway
I voted early this week for November and most of my picks were Green Party.

My mom was born in the Depression and she's given up on the Democrats since Obama came in (Pelosi & Reid are also reasons).

So, the question is, who will primary Obama. Right now, there's no governor doing the kinds of things FDR when he was governor of NY. And nobody else for that matter that I'm aware of.

[Oct 05, 2010] Tea & Crackers

Rolling Stone Politics

In the Tea Party narrative, victory at the polls means a new American revolution, one that will "take our country back" from everyone they disapprove of. But what they don't realize is, there's a catch: This is America, and we have an entrenched oligarchical system in place that insulates us all from any meaningful political change. The Tea Party today is being pitched in the media as this great threat to the GOP; in reality, the Tea Party is the GOP. What few elements of the movement aren't yet under the control of the Republican Party soon will be, and even if a few genuine Tea Party candidates sneak through, it's only a matter of time before the uprising as a whole gets castrated, just like every grass-roots movement does in this country. Its leaders will be bought off and sucked into the two-party bureaucracy, where its platform will be whittled down until the only things left are those that the GOP's campaign contributors want anyway: top-bracket tax breaks, free trade and financial deregulation.

The rest of it - the sweeping cuts to federal spending, the clampdown on bailouts, the rollback of Roe v. Wade - will die on the vine as one Tea Party leader after another gets seduced by the Republican Party and retrained for the revolutionary cause of voting down taxes for Goldman Sachs executives.

...Paul had a surprisingly good showing as a fringe candidate in 2008, and he may run again, but he'll never get any further than the million primary votes he got last time for one simple reason, which happens to be the same reason many campaign-trail reporters like me liked him: He's honest. An anti- war, pro-legalization Republican won't ever play in Peoria, which is why in 2008 Paul's supporters were literally outside the tent at most GOP events, their candidate pissed on by a party hierarchy that preferred Wall Street-friendly phonies like Mitt Romney and John McCain. Paul returned the favor, blasting both parties as indistinguishable "Republicrats" in his presciently titled book, The Revolution. The pre-Obama "Tea Parties" were therefore peopled by young anti-war types and libertarian intellectuals who were as turned off by George W. Bush and Karl Rove as they were by liberals and Democrats.

The failure of the Republican Party to invite the elder Paul into the tent of power did not mean, however, that it didn't see the utility of borrowing his insurgent rhetoric and parts of his platform for Tea Party 2.0. This second-generation Tea Party came into being a month after Barack Obama moved into the Oval Office, when CNBC windbag Rick Santelli went on the air to denounce one of Obama's bailout programs and called for "tea parties" to protest. The impetus for Santelli's rant wasn't the billions in taxpayer money being spent to prop up the bad mortgage debts and unsecured derivatives losses of irresponsible investors like Goldman Sachs and AIG - massive government bailouts supported, incidentally, by Sarah Palin and many other prominent Republicans. No, what had Santelli all worked up was Obama's "Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan," a $75 billion program less than a hundredth the size of all the bank bailouts. This was one of the few bailout programs designed to directly benefit individual victims of the financial crisis; the money went to homeowners, many of whom were minorities, who were close to foreclosure. While the big bank bailouts may have been incomprehensible to ordinary voters, here was something that Middle America had no problem grasping: The financial crisis was caused by those lazy minorities next door who bought houses they couldn't afford - and now the government was going to bail them out.

"How many of you people want to pay your neighbor's mortgage that has an extra bathroom and can't pay their bills? Raise your hand!" Santelli roared in a broadcast from the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade. Why, he later asked, doesn't America reward people who "carry the water instead of drink the water?"

Suddenly, tens of thousands of Republicans who had been conspicuously silent during George Bush's gargantuan spending on behalf of defense contractors and hedge-fund gazillionaires showed up at Tea Party rallies across the nation, declaring themselves fed up with wasteful government spending. From the outset, the events were organized and financed by the conservative wing of the Republican Party, which was quietly working to co-opt the new movement and deploy it to the GOP's advantage. Taking the lead was former House majority leader Dick Armey, who as chair of a group called FreedomWorks helped coordinate Tea Party rallies across the country. A succession of Republican Party insiders and money guys make up the guts of FreedomWorks: Its key members include billionaire turd Steve Forbes and former Republican National Committee senior economist Matt Kibbe.

Prior to the Tea Party phenomenon, FreedomWorks was basically just an AstroTurfing-lobbying outfit whose earlier work included taking money from Verizon to oppose telecommunications regulation. Now the organization's sights were set much higher: In the wake of a monstrous economic crash caused by grotesque abuses in unregulated areas of the financial-services industry, FreedomWorks - which took money from companies like mortgage lender MetLife - had the opportunity to persuade millions of ordinary Americans to take up arms against, among other things, Wall Street reform.

Joining them in the fight was another group, Americans for Prosperity, which was funded in part by the billionaire David Koch, whose Koch Industries is the second-largest privately held company in America. In addition to dealing in plastics, chemicals and petroleum, Koch has direct interests in commodities trading and financial services. He also has a major stake in pushing for deregulation, as his companies have been fined multiple times by the government, including a 1999 case in which Koch Industries was held to have stolen oil from federal lands, lying about oil purchases some 24,000 times.

So how does a group of billionaire businessmen and corporations get a bunch of broke Middle American white people to lobby for lower taxes for the rich and deregulation of Wall Street? That turns out to be easy. Beneath the surface, the Tea Party is little more than a weird and disorderly mob, a federation of distinct and often competing strains of conservatism that have been unable to coalesce around a leader of their own choosing. Its rallies include not only hardcore libertarians left over from the original Ron Paul "Tea Parties," but gun-rights advocates, fundamentalist Christians, pseudomilitia types like the Oath Keepers (a group of law- enforcement and military professionals who have vowed to disobey "unconstitutional" orders) and mainstream Republicans who have simply lost faith in their party. It's a mistake to cast the Tea Party as anything like a unified, cohesive movement - which makes them easy prey for the very people they should be aiming their pitchforks at. A loose definition of the Tea Party might be millions of pissed-off white people sent chasing after Mexicans on Medicaid by the handful of banks and investment firms who advertise on Fox and CNBC.

The individuals in the Tea Party may come from very different walks of life, but most of them have a few things in common. After nearly a year of talking with Tea Party members from Nevada to New Jersey, I can count on one hand the key elements I expect to hear in nearly every interview.

  1. Every single one of them was that exceptional Republican who did protest the spending in the Bush years, and not one of them is the hypocrite who only took to the streets when a black Democratic president launched an emergency stimulus program. ("Not me - I was protesting!" is a common exclamation.)
  2. Each and every one of them is the only person in America who has ever read the Constitution or watched Schoolhouse Rock. (Here they have guidance from Armey, who explains that the problem with "people who do not cherish America the way we do" is that "they did not read the Federalist Papers.")
  3. They are all furious at the implication that race is a factor in their political views - despite the fact that they blame the financial crisis on poor black homeowners, spend months on end engrossed by reports about how the New Black Panthers want to kill "cracker babies," support politicians who think the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was an overreach of government power, tried to enact South African-style immigration laws in Arizona and obsess over Charlie Rangel, ACORN and Barack Obama's birth certificate.
  4. In fact, some of their best friends are black! (Reporters in Kentucky invented a game called "White Male Liberty Patriot Bingo," checking off a box every time a Tea Partier mentions a black friend.) And five: Everyone who disagrees with them is a radical leftist who hates America.

It would be inaccurate to say the Tea Partiers are racists. What they are, in truth, are narcissists. They're completely blind to how offensive the very nature of their rhetoric is to the rest of the country. I'm an ordinary middle-aged guy who pays taxes and lives in the suburbs with his wife and dog - and I'm a radical communist? I don't love my country? I'm a redcoat? Fuck you! These are the kinds of thoughts that go through your head as you listen to Tea Partiers expound at awesome length upon their cultural victimhood, surrounded as they are by America-haters like you and me or, in the case of foreign-born president Barack Obama, people who are literally not Americans in the way they are.

It's not like the Tea Partiers hate black people. It's just that they're shockingly willing to believe the appalling horseshit fantasy about how white people in the age of Obama are some kind of oppressed minority. That may not be racism, but it is incredibly, earth-shatteringly stupid. I hear this theme over and over - as I do on a recent trip to northern Kentucky, where I decide to stick on a Rand Paul button and sit in on a Tea Party event at a local amusement park. Before long, a group of about a half-dozen Tea Partiers begin speculating about how Obamacare will force emergency-room doctors to consult "death panels" that will evaluate your worth as a human being before deciding to treat you.

"They're going to look at your age, your vocation in life, your health, your income. . . ." says a guy active in the Northern Kentucky Tea Party.

"Your race?" I ask.

"Probably," he says.

"White males need not apply," says another Tea Partier.

"Like everything else, the best thing you can do is be an illegal alien," says a third. "Then they won't ask you any questions."

An amazing number of Tea Partiers actually believe this stuff, and in the past year or so a host of little-known politicians have scored electoral upsets riding this kind of yahoo paranoia. Some are career Republican politicians like Sharron Angle, the former Nevada assemblywoman who seized on the Tea Party to win the GOP nomination to challenge Harry Reid this fall. Others are opportunistic incumbents like Jan Brewer, the Arizona governor who reversed a dip in the polls by greenlighting laws to allow police to stop anyone in a Cypress Hill T-shirt. And a few are newcomers like Joe Miller, the Alaska lawyer and Sarah Palin favorite who whipped Republican lifer Lisa Murkowski in the state's Senate primary. But the champion of champions has always been Rand Paul, who as the son of the movement's would-be ideological founder was poised to become the George W. Bush figure in the Tea Party narrative, the inheritor of the divine calling.

Since Paul won the GOP Primary in Kentucky, the Tea Party has entered a whole new phase of self-deception. Now that a few of these so-called "outsider" politicians have ridden voter anger to victories over entrenched incumbents, they are being courted and turned by the very party insiders they once campaigned against. It hasn't happened everywhere yet, and in some states it may not happen at all; a few rogue politicians, like Christine O'Donnell in Delaware, might still squeak into office over the protests of the Republican establishment. But in Kentucky, home of the Chosen One, the sellout came fast and hard.

Paul was transformed from insurgent outsider to establishment stooge in the space of almost exactly one year, making a journey that with eerie cinematic precision began and ended in the same place: The Rachel Maddow Show. When he first appeared on the air with the MSNBC leading lady and noted Bible Belt Antichrist to announce his Senate candidacy in May 2009, Paul came out blazing with an inclusive narrative that seemingly offered a realistic alternative for political malcontents on both sides of the aisle. He talked with pride about how his father's anti-war stance attracted young voters (mentioning one Paul supporter in New Hampshire who had "long hair and a lip ring"). Even the choice of Maddow as a forum was clearly intended to signal that his campaign was an anti-establishment, crossover effort. "Bringing our message to those who do not yet align themselves as Republicans is precisely how we grow as a party," Paul said, explaining the choice.

In the early days of his campaign, by virtually all accounts, Paul was the real thing - expansive, willing to talk openly to anyone and everyone, and totally unapologetic about his political views, which ranged from bold and nuanced to flat-out batshit crazy. But he wasn't going to change for anyone: For young Dr. Paul, as for his father, this was more about message than victory; actually winning wasn't even on his radar. "He used to talk about how he'd be lucky if he got 10 percent," recalls Josh Koch, a former campaign volunteer for Paul who has broken with the candidate.

Before he entered the campaign, Paul had an extensive record of loony comments, often made at his father's rallies, which, to put it generously, were a haven for people gifted at the art of mining the Internet for alternate theories of reality. In a faint echo of the racially charged anti-immigrant paranoia that has become a trademark of the Tea Party, both Paul and his father preached about the apocalyptic arrival of a "10-lane colossus" NAFTA superhighway between the U.S. and Mexico, which the elder Paul said would be the width of several football fields and come complete with fiber-optic cable, railroads, and oil and gas pipelines, all with the goal of forging a single American-Mexican state. Young Paul stood with Dad on that one - after all, he had seen Mexico's former president on YouTube talking about the Amero, a proposed North American currency. "I guarantee you," he warned, "it's one of their long-term goals to have one sort of borderless, mass continent." And Paul's anti-interventionist, anti-war stance was so far out, it made MoveOn look like a detachment of the Third Marines. "Our national security," he declared in 2007, "is not threatened by Iran having one nuclear weapon."

With views like these, Paul spent the early days of his campaign looking for publicity anywhere he could get it. One of his early appearances was on the online talk show of noted 9/11 Truth buffoon and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. The two men spent the broadcast exchanging lunatic fantasies about shadowy government forces, with Paul at one point insisting that should Obama's climate bill pass, "we will have an army of armed EPA agents - thousands of them" who would raid private homes to enforce energy-efficiency standards. Paul presented himself as an ally to Jones in the fringe crusade against establishment forces at the top of society, saying the leaders of the two parties "don't believe in anything" and "get pushed around by the New World Order types."

Unsurprisingly, the GOP froze Paul out, attempting to exclude him from key party gatherings in Kentucky like the Fayette County Republican Party Picnic and the Boone County Republican Party Christmas Gala. "We had the entire Republican establishment of the state and the nation against us," says David Adams, who mobilized the first Tea Party meetings in Kentucky before serving as Paul's campaign manager during the primaries.

The state's Republican establishment, it must be said, is among the most odious in the nation. Its two senators - party kingmaker and Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell and mentally disappearing ex-jock Jim Bunning - collectively represent everything that most sane people despise about the modern GOP. McConnell is the ultimate D.C. insider, the kind of Republican even Republicans should wonder about, a man who ranks among the top 10 senators when it comes to loading up on pork spending. With his needle nose, pursed lips and prim reading glasses, he's a proud wearer of the "I'm an intellectual, but I'm also a narrow-minded prick" look made famous by George Will; politically his great passion is whoring for Wall Street, his most recent triumph coming when he convinced Republican voters that a proposed $50 billion fund to be collected from big banks was actually a bailout of those same banks. Bunning, meanwhile, goes with the "dumb and unashamed" style; in more than a decade of service, his sole newsworthy accomplishment came when he said his Italian-American opponent looked like one of Saddam's sons.

Paul's animus toward the state's Republican overlords never seemed greater than in August 2009, when McConnell decided to throw a fancy fundraiser in Washington for the national GOP's preferred candidate, Trey Grayson. Attended by 17 Republican senators who voted for the TARP bailout, the event was dubbed the "Bailout Ball" by Paul's people. Paul went a step further, pledging not to accept contributions from any senator who voted to hand taxpayer money over to Wall Street. "A primary focus of my campaign is that we need Republicans in office who will have the courage to say no to federal bailouts of big business," he declared.

The anti-establishment rhetoric was a big hit. Excluded from local campaign events by the GOP, Paul took his act to the airwaves, doing national TV appearances that sent his campaign soaring with Tea Party voters. "We were being shut out of a lot of opportunities in the state, so you go with what is available to you," says Adams. "And what was available was television."

In the primary almost a year later, Paul stomped Grayson, sending shock waves through the national party. The Republican candidate backed by the party's Senate minority leader had just received an ass-whipping by a Tea Party kook, a man who tried to excuse BP's greed-crazed fuck-up in the Gulf on the grounds that "sometimes accidents happen." Paul celebrated his big win by going back to where he'd begun his campaign, The Rachel Maddow Show, where he made a big show of joyously tearing off his pseudolibertarian underpants for the whole world to see - and that's where everything changed for him.

In their first interview, Maddow had softballed Paul and played nice, treating him like what he was at the time - an interesting fringe candidate with the potential to put a burr in Mitch McConnell's ass. But now, Paul was a real threat to seize a seat in the U.S. Senate, so Maddow took the gloves off and forced him to explain some of his nuttier positions. Most memorably, she hounded him about his belief that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was an overreach of government power. The money exchange:

Paul was pilloried as a racist in the national press. Within a day he was completely reversing himself, telling CNN, "I think that there was an overriding problem in the South so big that it did require federal intervention in the Sixties." Meanwhile, he was sticking his foot in his mouth on other issues, blasting the Americans With Disabilities Act and denouncing Barack Obama's criticism of British disaster merchant BP as "un-American."

Paul's libertarian coming-out party was such a catastrophe - the three gaffes came within days of each other - that he immediately jumped into the protective arms of Mitch McConnell and the Republican Party. "I think he's said quite enough for the time being in terms of national press coverage," McConnell said, explaining why Paul had been prevailed upon by the party to cancel an appearance on Meet the Press. Some news outlets reported that Paul canceled the appearance after a call from Karl Rove to Adams, who concedes that he did speak with Rove around that time.

Soon after, McConnell threw yet another "Bailout Ball" fundraiser in Washington - only this time it was for Rand Paul. The candidate who just a year before had pledged not to accept money from TARP supporters was now romping in bed with those same politicians. When pressed for an explanation of Paul's about-face on the bailouts, Adams offers an incredibly frank admission. "When he said he would not take money from people who voted for the bank bailout, he also said, in the same breath, that our first phone call after the primary would be to Senator Mitch McConnell," says Adams. "Making fun of the Bailout Ball was just for the primary."

With all the "just for the primary" stuff out of the way, Paul's platform began to rapidly "evolve." Previously opposed to erecting a fence on the Mexican border, Paul suddenly came out in favor of one. He had been flatly opposed to all farm subsidies; faced with having to win a general election in a state that receives more than $265 million a year in subsidies, Paul reversed himself and explained that he was only against subsidies to "dead farmers" and those earning more than $2 million. Paul also went on the air with Fox News reptile Sean Hannity and insisted that he differed significantly from the Libertarian Party, now speaking more favorably about, among other things, judicious troop deployments overseas.

Beyond that, Paul just flat-out stopped talking about his views - particularly the ones that don't jibe with right-wing and Christian crowds, like curtailing the federal prohibition on drugs. Who knows if that had anything to do with hawkish Christian icon Sarah Palin agreeing to headline fundraisers for Paul, but a huge chunk of the candidate's libertarian ideals have taken a long vacation.

"When he was pulling no punches, when he was reciting his best stuff, I felt like I knew him," says Koch, the former campaign volunteer who now works with the Libertarian Party in Kentucky. "But now, with Mitch McConnell and Karl Rove calling the shots, I feel like I don't know him anymore."

Hardcore young libertarians like Koch - the kind of people who were outside the tent during the elder Paul's presidential run in 2008 - cared enough about the issues to jump off the younger Paul's bandwagon when he cozied up to the Republican Party establishment. But it isn't young intellectuals like Koch who will usher Paul into the U.S. Senate in the general election; it's those huge crowds of pissed-off old people who dig Sarah Palin and Fox News and call themselves Tea Partiers. And those people really don't pay attention to specifics too much. Like dogs, they listen to tone of voice and emotional attitude.

Outside the Palin rally in September, I ask an elderly Rand supporter named Blanche Phelps if she's concerned that her candidate is now sucking up to the same Republican Party hacks he once campaigned against. Is she bothered that he has changed his mind on bailouts and abortion and American interventionism and a host of other issues?

Blanche shrugs. "Maybe," she suggests helpfully, "he got saved."

Buried deep in the anus of the Bible Belt, in a little place called Petersburg, Kentucky, is one of the world's most extraordinary tourist attractions: the Creation Museum, a kind of natural-history museum for people who believe the Earth is 6,000 years old. When you visit this impressively massive monument to fundamentalist Christian thought, you get a mind-blowing glimpse into the modern conservative worldview. One exhibit depicts a half-naked Adam and Eve sitting in the bush, cheerfully keeping house next to dinosaurs - which, according to creationist myth, not only lived alongside humans but were peaceful vegetarians until Adam partook of the forbidden fruit. It's hard to imagine a more telling demonstration of this particular demographic's unmatched ability to believe just about anything.

Even more disturbing is an exhibit designed to show how the world has changed since the Scopes trial eradicated religion from popular culture. Visitors to the museum enter a darkened urban scene full of graffiti and garbage, and through a series of windows view video scenes of families in a state of collapse. A teenager, rolling a giant doobie as his God-fearing little brother looks on in horror, surfs porn on the Web instead of reading the Bible. ("A Wide World of Women!" the older brother chuckles.) A girl stares at her home pregnancy test and says into the telephone, "My parents are not going to know!" As you go farther into the exhibit, you find a wooden door, into which an eerie inscription has been carved: "The World's Not Safe Anymore."

Staff members tell me Rand Paul recently visited the museum after-hours. This means nothing in itself, of course, but it serves as an interesting metaphor to explain Paul's success in Kentucky. The Tea Party is many things at once, but one way or another, it almost always comes back to a campaign against that unsafe urban hellscape of godless liberalism we call our modern world. Paul's platform is ultimately about turning back the clock, returning America to the moment of her constitutional creation, when the federal bureaucracy was nonexistent and men were free to roam the Midwestern plains strip-mining coal and erecting office buildings without wheelchair access. Some people pick on Paul for his humorously extreme back-to-Hobbesian-nature platform (a Louisville teachers' union worker named Bill Allison follows Paul around in a "NeanderPaul" cave-man costume shouting things like "Abolish all laws!" and "BP just made mistakes!"), but it's clear when you talk to Paul supporters that what they dig most is his implicit promise to turn back time, an idea that in Kentucky has some fairly obvious implications.

At a Paul fundraiser in northern Kentucky, I strike up a conversation with one Lloyd Rogers, a retired judge in his 70s who is introducing the candidate at the event. The old man is dressed in a baseball cap and shirtsleeves. Personalitywise, he's what you might call a pistol; one of the first things he says to me is that people are always telling him to keep his mouth shut, but he just can't. I ask him what he thinks about Paul's position on the Civil Rights Act.

"Well, hell, if it's your restaurant, you're putting up the money, you should be able to do what you want," says Rogers. "I tell you, every time he says something like that, in Kentucky he goes up 20 points in the polls. With Kentucky voters, it's not a problem."

In Lexington, I pose the same question to Mica Sims, a local Tea Party organizer. "You as a private-property owner have the right to refuse service for whatever reason you feel will better your business," she says, comparing the Civil Rights Act to onerous anti-smoking laws. "If you're for small government, you're for small government."

You look into the eyes of these people when you talk to them and they genuinely don't see what the problem is. It's no use explaining that while nobody likes the idea of having to get the government to tell restaurant owners how to act, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was the tool Americans were forced to use to end a monstrous system of apartheid that for 100 years was the shame of the entire Western world. But all that history is not real to Tea Partiers; what's real to them is the implication in your question that they're racists, and to them that is the outrage, and it's an outrage that binds them together. They want desperately to believe in the one-size-fits-all, no-government theology of Rand Paul because it's so easy to understand. At times, their desire to withdraw from the brutally complex global economic system that is an irrevocable fact of our modern life and get back to a simpler world that no longer exists is so intense, it breaks your heart.

At a restaurant in Lexington, I sit down with a Tea Party activist named Frank Harris, with the aim of asking him what he thinks of Wall Street reform. Harris is a bit of an unusual Tea Partier; he's a pro-hemp, anti-war activist who supported Dennis Kucinich. Though he admits he doesn't know very much about the causes of the crash, he insists that financial reform isn't necessary because people like him can always choose not to use banks, take out mortgages, have pensions or even consume everyday products like gas and oil, whose prices are set by the market.

"Really?" I ask. "You can choose not to use gas and oil?" My awesomely fattening cheese-and-turkey dish called a "Hot Brown" is beginning to congeal.

"You can if you want to," Harris says. "And you don't have to take out loans. You can save money and pay for things in cash."

"So instead of regulating banks," I ask, "your solution is saving money in cash?"

He shrugs. "I'm trying to avoid banks at every turn."

My head is starting to hurt. Arguments with Tea Partiers always end up like football games in the year 1900 - everything on the ground, one yard at a time.

My problem, Frank explains, is that I think I can prevent crime by making things illegal. "You want a policeman standing over here so someone doesn't come in here and mug you?" he says. "Because you're going to have to pay for that policeman!"

"But," I say, confused, "we do pay for police."

"You're trying to make every situation 100 percent safe!" he shouts.

This, then, is the future of the Republican Party: Angry white voters hovering over their cash-stuffed mattresses with their kerosene lanterns, peering through the blinds at the oncoming hordes of suburban soccer moms they've mistaken for death-panel bureaucrats bent on exterminating anyone who isn't an illegal alien or a Kenyan anti-colonialist.

The world is changing all around the Tea Party. The country is becoming more black and more Hispanic by the day. The economy is becoming more and more complex, access to capital for ordinary individuals more and more remote, the ability to live simply and own a business without worrying about Chinese labor or the depreciating dollar vanished more or less for good. They want to pick up their ball and go home, but they can't; thus, the difficulties and the rancor with those of us who are resigned to life on this planet.

Of course, the fact that we're even sitting here two years after Bush talking about a GOP comeback is a profound testament to two things: One, the American voter's unmatched ability to forget what happened to him 10 seconds ago, and two, the Republican Party's incredible recuperative skill and bureaucratic ingenuity. This is a party that in 2008 was not just beaten but obliterated, with nearly every one of its recognizable leaders reduced to historical-footnote status and pinned with blame for some ghastly political catastrophe. There were literally no healthy bodies left on the bench, but the Republicans managed to get back in the game anyway by plucking an assortment of nativist freaks, village idiots and Internet Hitlers out of thin air and training them into a giant ball of incoherent resentment just in time for the 2010 midterms. They returned to prominence by outdoing Barack Obama at his own game: turning out masses of energized and disciplined supporters on the streets and overwhelming the ballot box with sheer enthusiasm.

The bad news is that the Tea Party's political outrage is being appropriated, with thanks, by the Goldmans and the BPs of the world. The good news, if you want to look at it that way, is that those interests mostly have us by the balls anyway, no matter who wins on Election Day. That's the reality; the rest of this is just noise. It's just that it's a lot of noise, and there's no telling when it's ever going to end.

This was an article from the October 15, 2010 issue of Rolling Stone, available on newsstands on October 1, 2010.

[Oct 05, 2010] Tea & Crackers

Rolling Stone Politics

In the Tea Party narrative, victory at the polls means a new American revolution, one that will "take our country back" from everyone they disapprove of. But what they don't realize is, there's a catch: This is America, and we have an entrenched oligarchical system in place that insulates us all from any meaningful political change. The Tea Party today is being pitched in the media as this great threat to the GOP; in reality, the Tea Party is the GOP. What few elements of the movement aren't yet under the control of the Republican Party soon will be, and even if a few genuine Tea Party candidates sneak through, it's only a matter of time before the uprising as a whole gets castrated, just like every grass-roots movement does in this country. Its leaders will be bought off and sucked into the two-party bureaucracy, where its platform will be whittled down until the only things left are those that the GOP's campaign contributors want anyway: top-bracket tax breaks, free trade and financial deregulation.

The rest of it - the sweeping cuts to federal spending, the clampdown on bailouts, the rollback of Roe v. Wade - will die on the vine as one Tea Party leader after another gets seduced by the Republican Party and retrained for the revolutionary cause of voting down taxes for Goldman Sachs executives.

...Paul had a surprisingly good showing as a fringe candidate in 2008, and he may run again, but he'll never get any further than the million primary votes he got last time for one simple reason, which happens to be the same reason many campaign-trail reporters like me liked him: He's honest. An anti- war, pro-legalization Republican won't ever play in Peoria, which is why in 2008 Paul's supporters were literally outside the tent at most GOP events, their candidate pissed on by a party hierarchy that preferred Wall Street-friendly phonies like Mitt Romney and John McCain. Paul returned the favor, blasting both parties as indistinguishable "Republicrats" in his presciently titled book, The Revolution. The pre-Obama "Tea Parties" were therefore peopled by young anti-war types and libertarian intellectuals who were as turned off by George W. Bush and Karl Rove as they were by liberals and Democrats.

The failure of the Republican Party to invite the elder Paul into the tent of power did not mean, however, that it didn't see the utility of borrowing his insurgent rhetoric and parts of his platform for Tea Party 2.0. This second-generation Tea Party came into being a month after Barack Obama moved into the Oval Office, when CNBC windbag Rick Santelli went on the air to denounce one of Obama's bailout programs and called for "tea parties" to protest. The impetus for Santelli's rant wasn't the billions in taxpayer money being spent to prop up the bad mortgage debts and unsecured derivatives losses of irresponsible investors like Goldman Sachs and AIG - massive government bailouts supported, incidentally, by Sarah Palin and many other prominent Republicans. No, what had Santelli all worked up was Obama's "Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan," a $75 billion program less than a hundredth the size of all the bank bailouts. This was one of the few bailout programs designed to directly benefit individual victims of the financial crisis; the money went to homeowners, many of whom were minorities, who were close to foreclosure. While the big bank bailouts may have been incomprehensible to ordinary voters, here was something that Middle America had no problem grasping: The financial crisis was caused by those lazy minorities next door who bought houses they couldn't afford - and now the government was going to bail them out.

"How many of you people want to pay your neighbor's mortgage that has an extra bathroom and can't pay their bills? Raise your hand!" Santelli roared in a broadcast from the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade. Why, he later asked, doesn't America reward people who "carry the water instead of drink the water?"

Suddenly, tens of thousands of Republicans who had been conspicuously silent during George Bush's gargantuan spending on behalf of defense contractors and hedge-fund gazillionaires showed up at Tea Party rallies across the nation, declaring themselves fed up with wasteful government spending. From the outset, the events were organized and financed by the conservative wing of the Republican Party, which was quietly working to co-opt the new movement and deploy it to the GOP's advantage. Taking the lead was former House majority leader Dick Armey, who as chair of a group called FreedomWorks helped coordinate Tea Party rallies across the country. A succession of Republican Party insiders and money guys make up the guts of FreedomWorks: Its key members include billionaire turd Steve Forbes and former Republican National Committee senior economist Matt Kibbe.

Prior to the Tea Party phenomenon, FreedomWorks was basically just an AstroTurfing-lobbying outfit whose earlier work included taking money from Verizon to oppose telecommunications regulation. Now the organization's sights were set much higher: In the wake of a monstrous economic crash caused by grotesque abuses in unregulated areas of the financial-services industry, FreedomWorks - which took money from companies like mortgage lender MetLife - had the opportunity to persuade millions of ordinary Americans to take up arms against, among other things, Wall Street reform.

Joining them in the fight was another group, Americans for Prosperity, which was funded in part by the billionaire David Koch, whose Koch Industries is the second-largest privately held company in America. In addition to dealing in plastics, chemicals and petroleum, Koch has direct interests in commodities trading and financial services. He also has a major stake in pushing for deregulation, as his companies have been fined multiple times by the government, including a 1999 case in which Koch Industries was held to have stolen oil from federal lands, lying about oil purchases some 24,000 times.

So how does a group of billionaire businessmen and corporations get a bunch of broke Middle American white people to lobby for lower taxes for the rich and deregulation of Wall Street? That turns out to be easy. Beneath the surface, the Tea Party is little more than a weird and disorderly mob, a federation of distinct and often competing strains of conservatism that have been unable to coalesce around a leader of their own choosing. Its rallies include not only hardcore libertarians left over from the original Ron Paul "Tea Parties," but gun-rights advocates, fundamentalist Christians, pseudomilitia types like the Oath Keepers (a group of law- enforcement and military professionals who have vowed to disobey "unconstitutional" orders) and mainstream Republicans who have simply lost faith in their party. It's a mistake to cast the Tea Party as anything like a unified, cohesive movement - which makes them easy prey for the very people they should be aiming their pitchforks at. A loose definition of the Tea Party might be millions of pissed-off white people sent chasing after Mexicans on Medicaid by the handful of banks and investment firms who advertise on Fox and CNBC.

The individuals in the Tea Party may come from very different walks of life, but most of them have a few things in common. After nearly a year of talking with Tea Party members from Nevada to New Jersey, I can count on one hand the key elements I expect to hear in nearly every interview.

  1. Every single one of them was that exceptional Republican who did protest the spending in the Bush years, and not one of them is the hypocrite who only took to the streets when a black Democratic president launched an emergency stimulus program. ("Not me - I was protesting!" is a common exclamation.)
  2. Each and every one of them is the only person in America who has ever read the Constitution or watched Schoolhouse Rock. (Here they have guidance from Armey, who explains that the problem with "people who do not cherish America the way we do" is that "they did not read the Federalist Papers.")
  3. They are all furious at the implication that race is a factor in their political views - despite the fact that they blame the financial crisis on poor black homeowners, spend months on end engrossed by reports about how the New Black Panthers want to kill "cracker babies," support politicians who think the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was an overreach of government power, tried to enact South African-style immigration laws in Arizona and obsess over Charlie Rangel, ACORN and Barack Obama's birth certificate.
  4. In fact, some of their best friends are black! (Reporters in Kentucky invented a game called "White Male Liberty Patriot Bingo," checking off a box every time a Tea Partier mentions a black friend.) And five: Everyone who disagrees with them is a radical leftist who hates America.

It would be inaccurate to say the Tea Partiers are racists. What they are, in truth, are narcissists. They're completely blind to how offensive the very nature of their rhetoric is to the rest of the country. I'm an ordinary middle-aged guy who pays taxes and lives in the suburbs with his wife and dog - and I'm a radical communist? I don't love my country? I'm a redcoat? Fuck you! These are the kinds of thoughts that go through your head as you listen to Tea Partiers expound at awesome length upon their cultural victimhood, surrounded as they are by America-haters like you and me or, in the case of foreign-born president Barack Obama, people who are literally not Americans in the way they are.

It's not like the Tea Partiers hate black people. It's just that they're shockingly willing to believe the appalling horseshit fantasy about how white people in the age of Obama are some kind of oppressed minority. That may not be racism, but it is incredibly, earth-shatteringly stupid. I hear this theme over and over - as I do on a recent trip to northern Kentucky, where I decide to stick on a Rand Paul button and sit in on a Tea Party event at a local amusement park. Before long, a group of about a half-dozen Tea Partiers begin speculating about how Obamacare will force emergency-room doctors to consult "death panels" that will evaluate your worth as a human being before deciding to treat you.

"They're going to look at your age, your vocation in life, your health, your income. . . ." says a guy active in the Northern Kentucky Tea Party.

"Your race?" I ask.

"Probably," he says.

"White males need not apply," says another Tea Partier.

"Like everything else, the best thing you can do is be an illegal alien," says a third. "Then they won't ask you any questions."

An amazing number of Tea Partiers actually believe this stuff, and in the past year or so a host of little-known politicians have scored electoral upsets riding this kind of yahoo paranoia. Some are career Republican politicians like Sharron Angle, the former Nevada assemblywoman who seized on the Tea Party to win the GOP nomination to challenge Harry Reid this fall. Others are opportunistic incumbents like Jan Brewer, the Arizona governor who reversed a dip in the polls by greenlighting laws to allow police to stop anyone in a Cypress Hill T-shirt. And a few are newcomers like Joe Miller, the Alaska lawyer and Sarah Palin favorite who whipped Republican lifer Lisa Murkowski in the state's Senate primary. But the champion of champions has always been Rand Paul, who as the son of the movement's would-be ideological founder was poised to become the George W. Bush figure in the Tea Party narrative, the inheritor of the divine calling.

Since Paul won the GOP Primary in Kentucky, the Tea Party has entered a whole new phase of self-deception. Now that a few of these so-called "outsider" politicians have ridden voter anger to victories over entrenched incumbents, they are being courted and turned by the very party insiders they once campaigned against. It hasn't happened everywhere yet, and in some states it may not happen at all; a few rogue politicians, like Christine O'Donnell in Delaware, might still squeak into office over the protests of the Republican establishment. But in Kentucky, home of the Chosen One, the sellout came fast and hard.

Paul was transformed from insurgent outsider to establishment stooge in the space of almost exactly one year, making a journey that with eerie cinematic precision began and ended in the same place: The Rachel Maddow Show. When he first appeared on the air with the MSNBC leading lady and noted Bible Belt Antichrist to announce his Senate candidacy in May 2009, Paul came out blazing with an inclusive narrative that seemingly offered a realistic alternative for political malcontents on both sides of the aisle. He talked with pride about how his father's anti-war stance attracted young voters (mentioning one Paul supporter in New Hampshire who had "long hair and a lip ring"). Even the choice of Maddow as a forum was clearly intended to signal that his campaign was an anti-establishment, crossover effort. "Bringing our message to those who do not yet align themselves as Republicans is precisely how we grow as a party," Paul said, explaining the choice.

In the early days of his campaign, by virtually all accounts, Paul was the real thing - expansive, willing to talk openly to anyone and everyone, and totally unapologetic about his political views, which ranged from bold and nuanced to flat-out batshit crazy. But he wasn't going to change for anyone: For young Dr. Paul, as for his father, this was more about message than victory; actually winning wasn't even on his radar. "He used to talk about how he'd be lucky if he got 10 percent," recalls Josh Koch, a former campaign volunteer for Paul who has broken with the candidate.

Before he entered the campaign, Paul had an extensive record of loony comments, often made at his father's rallies, which, to put it generously, were a haven for people gifted at the art of mining the Internet for alternate theories of reality. In a faint echo of the racially charged anti-immigrant paranoia that has become a trademark of the Tea Party, both Paul and his father preached about the apocalyptic arrival of a "10-lane colossus" NAFTA superhighway between the U.S. and Mexico, which the elder Paul said would be the width of several football fields and come complete with fiber-optic cable, railroads, and oil and gas pipelines, all with the goal of forging a single American-Mexican state. Young Paul stood with Dad on that one - after all, he had seen Mexico's former president on YouTube talking about the Amero, a proposed North American currency. "I guarantee you," he warned, "it's one of their long-term goals to have one sort of borderless, mass continent." And Paul's anti-interventionist, anti-war stance was so far out, it made MoveOn look like a detachment of the Third Marines. "Our national security," he declared in 2007, "is not threatened by Iran having one nuclear weapon."

With views like these, Paul spent the early days of his campaign looking for publicity anywhere he could get it. One of his early appearances was on the online talk show of noted 9/11 Truth buffoon and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. The two men spent the broadcast exchanging lunatic fantasies about shadowy government forces, with Paul at one point insisting that should Obama's climate bill pass, "we will have an army of armed EPA agents - thousands of them" who would raid private homes to enforce energy-efficiency standards. Paul presented himself as an ally to Jones in the fringe crusade against establishment forces at the top of society, saying the leaders of the two parties "don't believe in anything" and "get pushed around by the New World Order types."

Unsurprisingly, the GOP froze Paul out, attempting to exclude him from key party gatherings in Kentucky like the Fayette County Republican Party Picnic and the Boone County Republican Party Christmas Gala. "We had the entire Republican establishment of the state and the nation against us," says David Adams, who mobilized the first Tea Party meetings in Kentucky before serving as Paul's campaign manager during the primaries.

The state's Republican establishment, it must be said, is among the most odious in the nation. Its two senators - party kingmaker and Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell and mentally disappearing ex-jock Jim Bunning - collectively represent everything that most sane people despise about the modern GOP. McConnell is the ultimate D.C. insider, the kind of Republican even Republicans should wonder about, a man who ranks among the top 10 senators when it comes to loading up on pork spending. With his needle nose, pursed lips and prim reading glasses, he's a proud wearer of the "I'm an intellectual, but I'm also a narrow-minded prick" look made famous by George Will; politically his great passion is whoring for Wall Street, his most recent triumph coming when he convinced Republican voters that a proposed $50 billion fund to be collected from big banks was actually a bailout of those same banks. Bunning, meanwhile, goes with the "dumb and unashamed" style; in more than a decade of service, his sole newsworthy accomplishment came when he said his Italian-American opponent looked like one of Saddam's sons.

Paul's animus toward the state's Republican overlords never seemed greater than in August 2009, when McConnell decided to throw a fancy fundraiser in Washington for the national GOP's preferred candidate, Trey Grayson. Attended by 17 Republican senators who voted for the TARP bailout, the event was dubbed the "Bailout Ball" by Paul's people. Paul went a step further, pledging not to accept contributions from any senator who voted to hand taxpayer money over to Wall Street. "A primary focus of my campaign is that we need Republicans in office who will have the courage to say no to federal bailouts of big business," he declared.

The anti-establishment rhetoric was a big hit. Excluded from local campaign events by the GOP, Paul took his act to the airwaves, doing national TV appearances that sent his campaign soaring with Tea Party voters. "We were being shut out of a lot of opportunities in the state, so you go with what is available to you," says Adams. "And what was available was television."

In the primary almost a year later, Paul stomped Grayson, sending shock waves through the national party. The Republican candidate backed by the party's Senate minority leader had just received an ass-whipping by a Tea Party kook, a man who tried to excuse BP's greed-crazed fuck-up in the Gulf on the grounds that "sometimes accidents happen." Paul celebrated his big win by going back to where he'd begun his campaign, The Rachel Maddow Show, where he made a big show of joyously tearing off his pseudolibertarian underpants for the whole world to see - and that's where everything changed for him.

In their first interview, Maddow had softballed Paul and played nice, treating him like what he was at the time - an interesting fringe candidate with the potential to put a burr in Mitch McConnell's ass. But now, Paul was a real threat to seize a seat in the U.S. Senate, so Maddow took the gloves off and forced him to explain some of his nuttier positions. Most memorably, she hounded him about his belief that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was an overreach of government power. The money exchange:

Paul was pilloried as a racist in the national press. Within a day he was completely reversing himself, telling CNN, "I think that there was an overriding problem in the South so big that it did require federal intervention in the Sixties." Meanwhile, he was sticking his foot in his mouth on other issues, blasting the Americans With Disabilities Act and denouncing Barack Obama's criticism of British disaster merchant BP as "un-American."

Paul's libertarian coming-out party was such a catastrophe - the three gaffes came within days of each other - that he immediately jumped into the protective arms of Mitch McConnell and the Republican Party. "I think he's said quite enough for the time being in terms of national press coverage," McConnell said, explaining why Paul had been prevailed upon by the party to cancel an appearance on Meet the Press. Some news outlets reported that Paul canceled the appearance after a call from Karl Rove to Adams, who concedes that he did speak with Rove around that time.

Soon after, McConnell threw yet another "Bailout Ball" fundraiser in Washington - only this time it was for Rand Paul. The candidate who just a year before had pledged not to accept money from TARP supporters was now romping in bed with those same politicians. When pressed for an explanation of Paul's about-face on the bailouts, Adams offers an incredibly frank admission. "When he said he would not take money from people who voted for the bank bailout, he also said, in the same breath, that our first phone call after the primary would be to Senator Mitch McConnell," says Adams. "Making fun of the Bailout Ball was just for the primary."

With all the "just for the primary" stuff out of the way, Paul's platform began to rapidly "evolve." Previously opposed to erecting a fence on the Mexican border, Paul suddenly came out in favor of one. He had been flatly opposed to all farm subsidies; faced with having to win a general election in a state that receives more than $265 million a year in subsidies, Paul reversed himself and explained that he was only against subsidies to "dead farmers" and those earning more than $2 million. Paul also went on the air with Fox News reptile Sean Hannity and insisted that he differed significantly from the Libertarian Party, now speaking more favorably about, among other things, judicious troop deployments overseas.

Beyond that, Paul just flat-out stopped talking about his views - particularly the ones that don't jibe with right-wing and Christian crowds, like curtailing the federal prohibition on drugs. Who knows if that had anything to do with hawkish Christian icon Sarah Palin agreeing to headline fundraisers for Paul, but a huge chunk of the candidate's libertarian ideals have taken a long vacation.

"When he was pulling no punches, when he was reciting his best stuff, I felt like I knew him," says Koch, the former campaign volunteer who now works with the Libertarian Party in Kentucky. "But now, with Mitch McConnell and Karl Rove calling the shots, I feel like I don't know him anymore."

Hardcore young libertarians like Koch - the kind of people who were outside the tent during the elder Paul's presidential run in 2008 - cared enough about the issues to jump off the younger Paul's bandwagon when he cozied up to the Republican Party establishment. But it isn't young intellectuals like Koch who will usher Paul into the U.S. Senate in the general election; it's those huge crowds of pissed-off old people who dig Sarah Palin and Fox News and call themselves Tea Partiers. And those people really don't pay attention to specifics too much. Like dogs, they listen to tone of voice and emotional attitude.

Outside the Palin rally in September, I ask an elderly Rand supporter named Blanche Phelps if she's concerned that her candidate is now sucking up to the same Republican Party hacks he once campaigned against. Is she bothered that he has changed his mind on bailouts and abortion and American interventionism and a host of other issues?

Blanche shrugs. "Maybe," she suggests helpfully, "he got saved."

Buried deep in the anus of the Bible Belt, in a little place called Petersburg, Kentucky, is one of the world's most extraordinary tourist attractions: the Creation Museum, a kind of natural-history museum for people who believe the Earth is 6,000 years old. When you visit this impressively massive monument to fundamentalist Christian thought, you get a mind-blowing glimpse into the modern conservative worldview. One exhibit depicts a half-naked Adam and Eve sitting in the bush, cheerfully keeping house next to dinosaurs - which, according to creationist myth, not only lived alongside humans but were peaceful vegetarians until Adam partook of the forbidden fruit. It's hard to imagine a more telling demonstration of this particular demographic's unmatched ability to believe just about anything.

Even more disturbing is an exhibit designed to show how the world has changed since the Scopes trial eradicated religion from popular culture. Visitors to the museum enter a darkened urban scene full of graffiti and garbage, and through a series of windows view video scenes of families in a state of collapse. A teenager, rolling a giant doobie as his God-fearing little brother looks on in horror, surfs porn on the Web instead of reading the Bible. ("A Wide World of Women!" the older brother chuckles.) A girl stares at her home pregnancy test and says into the telephone, "My parents are not going to know!" As you go farther into the exhibit, you find a wooden door, into which an eerie inscription has been carved: "The World's Not Safe Anymore."

Staff members tell me Rand Paul recently visited the museum after-hours. This means nothing in itself, of course, but it serves as an interesting metaphor to explain Paul's success in Kentucky. The Tea Party is many things at once, but one way or another, it almost always comes back to a campaign against that unsafe urban hellscape of godless liberalism we call our modern world. Paul's platform is ultimately about turning back the clock, returning America to the moment of her constitutional creation, when the federal bureaucracy was nonexistent and men were free to roam the Midwestern plains strip-mining coal and erecting office buildings without wheelchair access. Some people pick on Paul for his humorously extreme back-to-Hobbesian-nature platform (a Louisville teachers' union worker named Bill Allison follows Paul around in a "NeanderPaul" cave-man costume shouting things like "Abolish all laws!" and "BP just made mistakes!"), but it's clear when you talk to Paul supporters that what they dig most is his implicit promise to turn back time, an idea that in Kentucky has some fairly obvious implications.

At a Paul fundraiser in northern Kentucky, I strike up a conversation with one Lloyd Rogers, a retired judge in his 70s who is introducing the candidate at the event. The old man is dressed in a baseball cap and shirtsleeves. Personalitywise, he's what you might call a pistol; one of the first things he says to me is that people are always telling him to keep his mouth shut, but he just can't. I ask him what he thinks about Paul's position on the Civil Rights Act.

"Well, hell, if it's your restaurant, you're putting up the money, you should be able to do what you want," says Rogers. "I tell you, every time he says something like that, in Kentucky he goes up 20 points in the polls. With Kentucky voters, it's not a problem."

In Lexington, I pose the same question to Mica Sims, a local Tea Party organizer. "You as a private-property owner have the right to refuse service for whatever reason you feel will better your business," she says, comparing the Civil Rights Act to onerous anti-smoking laws. "If you're for small government, you're for small government."

You look into the eyes of these people when you talk to them and they genuinely don't see what the problem is. It's no use explaining that while nobody likes the idea of having to get the government to tell restaurant owners how to act, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was the tool Americans were forced to use to end a monstrous system of apartheid that for 100 years was the shame of the entire Western world. But all that history is not real to Tea Partiers; what's real to them is the implication in your question that they're racists, and to them that is the outrage, and it's an outrage that binds them together. They want desperately to believe in the one-size-fits-all, no-government theology of Rand Paul because it's so easy to understand. At times, their desire to withdraw from the brutally complex global economic system that is an irrevocable fact of our modern life and get back to a simpler world that no longer exists is so intense, it breaks your heart.

At a restaurant in Lexington, I sit down with a Tea Party activist named Frank Harris, with the aim of asking him what he thinks of Wall Street reform. Harris is a bit of an unusual Tea Partier; he's a pro-hemp, anti-war activist who supported Dennis Kucinich. Though he admits he doesn't know very much about the causes of the crash, he insists that financial reform isn't necessary because people like him can always choose not to use banks, take out mortgages, have pensions or even consume everyday products like gas and oil, whose prices are set by the market.

"Really?" I ask. "You can choose not to use gas and oil?" My awesomely fattening cheese-and-turkey dish called a "Hot Brown" is beginning to congeal.

"You can if you want to," Harris says. "And you don't have to take out loans. You can save money and pay for things in cash."

"So instead of regulating banks," I ask, "your solution is saving money in cash?"

He shrugs. "I'm trying to avoid banks at every turn."

My head is starting to hurt. Arguments with Tea Partiers always end up like football games in the year 1900 - everything on the ground, one yard at a time.

My problem, Frank explains, is that I think I can prevent crime by making things illegal. "You want a policeman standing over here so someone doesn't come in here and mug you?" he says. "Because you're going to have to pay for that policeman!"

"But," I say, confused, "we do pay for police."

"You're trying to make every situation 100 percent safe!" he shouts.

This, then, is the future of the Republican Party: Angry white voters hovering over their cash-stuffed mattresses with their kerosene lanterns, peering through the blinds at the oncoming hordes of suburban soccer moms they've mistaken for death-panel bureaucrats bent on exterminating anyone who isn't an illegal alien or a Kenyan anti-colonialist.

The world is changing all around the Tea Party. The country is becoming more black and more Hispanic by the day. The economy is becoming more and more complex, access to capital for ordinary individuals more and more remote, the ability to live simply and own a business without worrying about Chinese labor or the depreciating dollar vanished more or less for good. They want to pick up their ball and go home, but they can't; thus, the difficulties and the rancor with those of us who are resigned to life on this planet.

Of course, the fact that we're even sitting here two years after Bush talking about a GOP comeback is a profound testament to two things: One, the American voter's unmatched ability to forget what happened to him 10 seconds ago, and two, the Republican Party's incredible recuperative skill and bureaucratic ingenuity. This is a party that in 2008 was not just beaten but obliterated, with nearly every one of its recognizable leaders reduced to historical-footnote status and pinned with blame for some ghastly political catastrophe. There were literally no healthy bodies left on the bench, but the Republicans managed to get back in the game anyway by plucking an assortment of nativist freaks, village idiots and Internet Hitlers out of thin air and training them into a giant ball of incoherent resentment just in time for the 2010 midterms. They returned to prominence by outdoing Barack Obama at his own game: turning out masses of energized and disciplined supporters on the streets and overwhelming the ballot box with sheer enthusiasm.

The bad news is that the Tea Party's political outrage is being appropriated, with thanks, by the Goldmans and the BPs of the world. The good news, if you want to look at it that way, is that those interests mostly have us by the balls anyway, no matter who wins on Election Day. That's the reality; the rest of this is just noise. It's just that it's a lot of noise, and there's no telling when it's ever going to end.

This was an article from the October 15, 2010 issue of Rolling Stone, available on newsstands on October 1, 2010.

[Oct 01, 2010] Why is There No Political Outlet for Anger on the Left These Days " naked capitalism

LeeAnne said it well: "Obama's greatest service to the American people is the end of any illusion a two-party system exists." American two party system is just an interesting political invention where one party state tries to d to divide the population into two camps by attracting people to one of the opposite poles and forcing them to compromise on the other as part of the party platform

I wonder why this has come to pass. In the stone ages of my youth, the left was feared (some of that was due to the violence of the 1960s: riots, demonstrations, the SDS, the Weather Underground, to name a few), in fact so feared it led to the concerted right wing push that started in the 1970s. But then again, the left was also much further to the left.

One can point to some causes. The young used to be a reliable source of idealism and willingness to break china. As French Prime Minister Aristide Briand said, "The man who is not a socialist at twenty has no heart, but if he is still a socialist at forty he has no head." But young people in America are worried about survival (aka getting a job) and up to their eyeballs in school debt, which they can't discharge even in bankruptcy. School loans in particular seem an almost Machiavellian device for forcing students into bourgeois conformity. And we have Obama's veal pen strategy which neutered key groups on the progressive flank.

It might even be plausible to attribute the complacency (or maybe sullen resignation) of what passes for the left to Prozac use or learned wussiness. For instance, some of my colleagues were having fun by e-mail coming up with the name for a leftie movement to oppose the Tea Partiers. This was all in good fun, but they came up with Cammomile, which per Bill Black could stand for "Creative Anti-imperialist Majoritarian Movement Of Morally Illuminated Liberal Enterpreneurs."

How about something more to the point, like the Pitchfork Party?

In all seriousness, why has no movement emerged on the left to channel the considerable disappointment and anger of progressives?

purple:

On a broad scale it does have to do with the collapse of the USSR; much of the push from the left came from hard-core socialists who were driving the debate. The Left hasn't found an alternative yet and is basically flailing about intellectually.

On a smaller scale, yes, the debt slavery of the current student, and a whole host of laws which tie receiving loans to 'being good' , i.e. not being arrested for protesting, act as a chill.

Also, the 'elite' has been successful at directing broader Left goals of economic equality and workplace democracy into more narrow ethnic and identity rights issues which, while important, are easier to control.

Jim the Skeptic:

The Tea Party is to the right of the Republicans and the Communist party is to the left of the Democrats. Neither party will have any sustained success in this country. Only a Progressive party operating at the center between the major political parties can have any success. And the new party will be snuffed out when both parties move to the center.

Our politics over the last 20 years have been about dividing middle class voters with social issues.

The Republicans have been rabidly against any form of abortion. That issue has been used to bludgeon any opponent including some of their own. The Republicans have also been rabidly in favor of deregulation of business.

The Republicans don't like government unless it is enforcing their moral and ethical standards on the entire population. Abortion is a deeply personal issue which could have been left to the people involved. The system of regulation of business had served us well for over 50 years, there was no adequate reason for change.

The Democrats have been rabidly protective of welfare programs, illegal immigration, and gay rights. By 1990 it was obvious that welfare programs had done harm, with one family on welfare for several generations and none of them had held jobs. (I understand that they were a tiny minority but how was that even possible?) Only a Republican Congress and a conservative southern Democrat President could change the system. Illegal immigration in the late 1980s was a defining issue and only a compromise granting amnesty to the 3 million illegals allowed a resolution of sorts. (Why were the Democrats so determined to protect an illegal minority?) In the early 1990s it was gays serving in the military and only the compromise of 'Don't ask, don't tell' put a temporary end to the issue. Then came gay marriage.

The Democrats protection of the two minority groups, gays and illegal immigrants, borders on Quixotic. We have no moral or legal obligation to allow unlimited immigration into this country and it should be a matter of principal that we will do nothing to encourage illegal immigration. The illegals should have been forced to return home by extremely harsh punishment of their employers. Gays are a minority who are protected by the same laws that protect the rest of us from crimes against our persons or property. Spending political capital on extending these minorities' rights, distracts from more important problems and divides the Democratic party's followers. There were more important issues which they should have been addressing, like the stagnant wages of the middle class. The US Supreme Court believes that corporations are a minority worthy of their protection. When will this fascination with minorities end?

At this stage in our history the health of our economy is the paramount issue. We are headed toward lower living standards for the majority and incredible wealth for the top 1%. If the majority can not force it's will on the minority top 1% then what is the point of our political exercise. Should every minority's vote be counted twice to insure fairness? If the majority must provide special protections for any and all minorities then we will never be done with these special laws. Those laws protect but they also divide. Where will it end?

How can any Progressive party come into existence while these sort of social issues are dominant?

Hugh:

Before the 2008 election, I stressed the need for a progressive party. The Democrats were not addressing our concerns and Obama, as most progressives acknowledged at the time, was not and never had been a progressive. I was told the important thing was to elect Obama and put an end to the bad days of the Bush era. Well, we can all see how well that turned out.

There has been a lot of talk about how the left has been veal penned. But I don't think it is understood how much of its organizations have been. The healthcare debate is a great example for this. You had large swathes of the traditionally liberal Democratic blogosphere like dkos and Huffington Post that were essentially in the bag for whatever the Democrats/Obama came up with. This also included HCAN, a veal pen creation put together by other veal pen groups, including unions.

But beyond these, there were co-opted veal penned progressive groupings. These were the public option supporters, like firedoglake. The PO was never more than a contentless, read into it whatever you want, hook to keep the rubes quiet while the real sellout was going on.

These were the positions of most of the liberal/progressive organizations and groups going in. Noticeably absent from all these was the only truly progressive program of single payer universal healthcare. This already exists in various forms in most of the industrialized world and delivers better outcomes at substantially lower prices. What is so interesting about this is that not only did Obama and the Democrats never put this on or anywhere near the table, neither did almost the whole of the organized left. Single payer proponents were ostracized, banned, and viciously attacked, not just by Obama and the Democrats, which was to be expected, but by this much larger veal pen of liberal Democrats and independent progressives.

When it was all over, the public option was exposed as the PR sham it was, and had always been. Some progressive groups belatedly opposed the healthcare bill, but most did not. By then it didn't matter anyway. It was a done deal. Yet to this day, most of the rancor of these groups remains directed at the single payer supporters, the only people in that whole sorry mess who got it right on both the policy and the politics that were going on.

So what does this have to do with a new progressive party or populist movement on the left? Well, everything. All the liberal and progressive groups that could have done so much to create a real debate on healthcare yet did so much instead to suppress that debate are playing the same role here. dkos and Huffington Post could be powerful tools for organizing a populist progressive alternative to the two parties and the Tea party. But this would be to overlook that they operate as virtual adjuncts of the Democratic party. So their hostility to anything independent or third party is expectable.

What is less expected, and actually quite pernicious, is how so many progressive blogs take a similar if not so obvious position. There the attitude, as I have often heard, is go out organize a third party, get it up and running, on the ballot, and start winning elections, and then, and only then, will we maybe come along.

You have to understand these are the same groups that in 2006 and 2008 pushed hard the theme of "more and better Democrats" and eagerly sought out potential forward looking Democrats and organized for them. Many of those Democrats lost, done in by the Establishment Democratic machine, but even those that won without exception sold out their progressive supporters and turned their back on them at the earliest opportunity. Yet these groups, despite being burned and burned again, continue to concentrate on and favor Democrats. When it comes to backing actual progressives, people who won't burn them or scuttle the progressive agenda, they vary between indifferent and hostile.

So if you want to know why there is no populist alternative on the left, the answer is that huge chunks of the left continue to be controlled by the Democratic party, fairly overtly. Independent progressives are similarly dominated by Trojan Horse groups, progressive in name but Democratic in orientation, which suck all the air out of progressive organizing efforts. The result is that progressives are largely shut out, even on the left, even in those organizations that should be most supportive of their ideas, even among those that say they support those ideas.

There are a few progressives who have rebelled and are trying to build new organizations. But it is hard. Look at it this way. There is a periphery between traditional Democrats and liberal Democrats. There is another between liberal Democrats and progressives, and there is yet another between veal pen progressives and true independent progressives. Progressives have a good message and good solutions, but it is difficult to get it to an audience in a recognizable form past all those veal pens.

anon:

Thank you, Hugh. You expressed my concerns far more eloquently than I could have.

In 2006, I volunteered many hours to elect a representative that was opposed by the Democratic Party because he was "unelectable" (i.e., not centrist enough). He won but, as you said, he soon turned his back on his progressive supporters and became a stalwart, mainstream Dem. The same thing happened with other candidates I gave money to.

Most of my friends supported single payer and were frustrated that it was not a part of the health care debate. Yet most fell into line and are now defending Obama and the other Dems.

Doug Terpstra:

Great analysis, Hugh. But dare I say, this time it's different? It sure feels different.

LeeAnne said it well: "Obama's greatest service to the American people is the end of any illusion a two-party system exists." There's enormous cynicism seething on both the left and right promising high volatility, fraught with pitfalls, yes, but also potential. Who knows, if regressives retake control of Congress (which I am perversely hoping for) and that happens to coincide with a renewed market contagion (nothing's changed) or military disaster (no end anywhere in sight), then rapid change is possible, maybe even on the order of the collapse of the USSR. Even in darkness we should keep a candle lit and plenty of lamp oil at hand.

Maju:

I understand that the Obama phenomenon, two years ago, specially the Democrat nomination campaign with all its grassroots mobilization, later vanished like smoke, was a good example of the huge grassroots forces that are latent at the Left in the USA. However, as soon as the Dem nomination was achieved, it became obvious (at least to me and also to some red intellectuals in the USA, like James Petras) that he was just another man of the establishment. Still people was so desperate with the Bush period that they voted for him anyhow (apparently, because the e-voting system is anything but transparent).

That campaign emphasizes the need for permanent and not just campaign- or leader-oriented organization. If all that grassroots movement would be organized now, they could at least have an influence by the left of Obama and the Dem establishment, and could probably be placing candidates or going out to strike or make a huge demo against the Gulf spill abuses or creating a new party or whatever.

They are not organized, so they have no influence. Instead Big Capital, the Military, the Zionists, and even the NeoCons… have it. Because they are organized (in a hierarchical undesirable manner).


[Oct 01, 2010] Why is There No Political Outlet for Anger on the Left These Days " naked capitalism

LeeAnne said it well: "Obama's greatest service to the American people is the end of any illusion a two-party system exists." American two party system is just an interesting political invention where one party state tries to d to divide the population into two camps by attracting people to one of the opposite poles and forcing them to compromise on the other as part of the party platform

I wonder why this has come to pass. In the stone ages of my youth, the left was feared (some of that was due to the violence of the 1960s: riots, demonstrations, the SDS, the Weather Underground, to name a few), in fact so feared it led to the concerted right wing push that started in the 1970s. But then again, the left was also much further to the left.

One can point to some causes. The young used to be a reliable source of idealism and willingness to break china. As French Prime Minister Aristide Briand said, "The man who is not a socialist at twenty has no heart, but if he is still a socialist at forty he has no head." But young people in America are worried about survival (aka getting a job) and up to their eyeballs in school debt, which they can't discharge even in bankruptcy. School loans in particular seem an almost Machiavellian device for forcing students into bourgeois conformity. And we have Obama's veal pen strategy which neutered key groups on the progressive flank.

It might even be plausible to attribute the complacency (or maybe sullen resignation) of what passes for the left to Prozac use or learned wussiness. For instance, some of my colleagues were having fun by e-mail coming up with the name for a leftie movement to oppose the Tea Partiers. This was all in good fun, but they came up with Cammomile, which per Bill Black could stand for "Creative Anti-imperialist Majoritarian Movement Of Morally Illuminated Liberal Enterpreneurs."

How about something more to the point, like the Pitchfork Party?

In all seriousness, why has no movement emerged on the left to channel the considerable disappointment and anger of progressives?

purple:

On a broad scale it does have to do with the collapse of the USSR; much of the push from the left came from hard-core socialists who were driving the debate. The Left hasn't found an alternative yet and is basically flailing about intellectually.

On a smaller scale, yes, the debt slavery of the current student, and a whole host of laws which tie receiving loans to 'being good' , i.e. not being arrested for protesting, act as a chill.

Also, the 'elite' has been successful at directing broader Left goals of economic equality and workplace democracy into more narrow ethnic and identity rights issues which, while important, are easier to control.

Jim the Skeptic:

The Tea Party is to the right of the Republicans and the Communist party is to the left of the Democrats. Neither party will have any sustained success in this country. Only a Progressive party operating at the center between the major political parties can have any success. And the new party will be snuffed out when both parties move to the center.

Our politics over the last 20 years have been about dividing middle class voters with social issues.

The Republicans have been rabidly against any form of abortion. That issue has been used to bludgeon any opponent including some of their own. The Republicans have also been rabidly in favor of deregulation of business.

The Republicans don't like government unless it is enforcing their moral and ethical standards on the entire population. Abortion is a deeply personal issue which could have been left to the people involved. The system of regulation of business had served us well for over 50 years, there was no adequate reason for change.

The Democrats have been rabidly protective of welfare programs, illegal immigration, and gay rights. By 1990 it was obvious that welfare programs had done harm, with one family on welfare for several generations and none of them had held jobs. (I understand that they were a tiny minority but how was that even possible?) Only a Republican Congress and a conservative southern Democrat President could change the system. Illegal immigration in the late 1980s was a defining issue and only a compromise granting amnesty to the 3 million illegals allowed a resolution of sorts. (Why were the Democrats so determined to protect an illegal minority?) In the early 1990s it was gays serving in the military and only the compromise of 'Don't ask, don't tell' put a temporary end to the issue. Then came gay marriage.

The Democrats protection of the two minority groups, gays and illegal immigrants, borders on Quixotic. We have no moral or legal obligation to allow unlimited immigration into this country and it should be a matter of principal that we will do nothing to encourage illegal immigration. The illegals should have been forced to return home by extremely harsh punishment of their employers. Gays are a minority who are protected by the same laws that protect the rest of us from crimes against our persons or property. Spending political capital on extending these minorities' rights, distracts from more important problems and divides the Democratic party's followers. There were more important issues which they should have been addressing, like the stagnant wages of the middle class. The US Supreme Court believes that corporations are a minority worthy of their protection. When will this fascination with minorities end?

At this stage in our history the health of our economy is the paramount issue. We are headed toward lower living standards for the majority and incredible wealth for the top 1%. If the majority can not force it's will on the minority top 1% then what is the point of our political exercise. Should every minority's vote be counted twice to insure fairness? If the majority must provide special protections for any and all minorities then we will never be done with these special laws. Those laws protect but they also divide. Where will it end?

How can any Progressive party come into existence while these sort of social issues are dominant?

Hugh:

Before the 2008 election, I stressed the need for a progressive party. The Democrats were not addressing our concerns and Obama, as most progressives acknowledged at the time, was not and never had been a progressive. I was told the important thing was to elect Obama and put an end to the bad days of the Bush era. Well, we can all see how well that turned out.

There has been a lot of talk about how the left has been veal penned. But I don't think it is understood how much of its organizations have been. The healthcare debate is a great example for this. You had large swathes of the traditionally liberal Democratic blogosphere like dkos and Huffington Post that were essentially in the bag for whatever the Democrats/Obama came up with. This also included HCAN, a veal pen creation put together by other veal pen groups, including unions.

But beyond these, there were co-opted veal penned progressive groupings. These were the public option supporters, like firedoglake. The PO was never more than a contentless, read into it whatever you want, hook to keep the rubes quiet while the real sellout was going on.

These were the positions of most of the liberal/progressive organizations and groups going in. Noticeably absent from all these was the only truly progressive program of single payer universal healthcare. This already exists in various forms in most of the industrialized world and delivers better outcomes at substantially lower prices. What is so interesting about this is that not only did Obama and the Democrats never put this on or anywhere near the table, neither did almost the whole of the organized left. Single payer proponents were ostracized, banned, and viciously attacked, not just by Obama and the Democrats, which was to be expected, but by this much larger veal pen of liberal Democrats and independent progressives.

When it was all over, the public option was exposed as the PR sham it was, and had always been. Some progressive groups belatedly opposed the healthcare bill, but most did not. By then it didn't matter anyway. It was a done deal. Yet to this day, most of the rancor of these groups remains directed at the single payer supporters, the only people in that whole sorry mess who got it right on both the policy and the politics that were going on.

So what does this have to do with a new progressive party or populist movement on the left? Well, everything. All the liberal and progressive groups that could have done so much to create a real debate on healthcare yet did so much instead to suppress that debate are playing the same role here. dkos and Huffington Post could be powerful tools for organizing a populist progressive alternative to the two parties and the Tea party. But this would be to overlook that they operate as virtual adjuncts of the Democratic party. So their hostility to anything independent or third party is expectable.

What is less expected, and actually quite pernicious, is how so many progressive blogs take a similar if not so obvious position. There the attitude, as I have often heard, is go out organize a third party, get it up and running, on the ballot, and start winning elections, and then, and only then, will we maybe come along.

You have to understand these are the same groups that in 2006 and 2008 pushed hard the theme of "more and better Democrats" and eagerly sought out potential forward looking Democrats and organized for them. Many of those Democrats lost, done in by the Establishment Democratic machine, but even those that won without exception sold out their progressive supporters and turned their back on them at the earliest opportunity. Yet these groups, despite being burned and burned again, continue to concentrate on and favor Democrats. When it comes to backing actual progressives, people who won't burn them or scuttle the progressive agenda, they vary between indifferent and hostile.

So if you want to know why there is no populist alternative on the left, the answer is that huge chunks of the left continue to be controlled by the Democratic party, fairly overtly. Independent progressives are similarly dominated by Trojan Horse groups, progressive in name but Democratic in orientation, which suck all the air out of progressive organizing efforts. The result is that progressives are largely shut out, even on the left, even in those organizations that should be most supportive of their ideas, even among those that say they support those ideas.

There are a few progressives who have rebelled and are trying to build new organizations. But it is hard. Look at it this way. There is a periphery between traditional Democrats and liberal Democrats. There is another between liberal Democrats and progressives, and there is yet another between veal pen progressives and true independent progressives. Progressives have a good message and good solutions, but it is difficult to get it to an audience in a recognizable form past all those veal pens.

anon:

Thank you, Hugh. You expressed my concerns far more eloquently than I could have.

In 2006, I volunteered many hours to elect a representative that was opposed by the Democratic Party because he was "unelectable" (i.e., not centrist enough). He won but, as you said, he soon turned his back on his progressive supporters and became a stalwart, mainstream Dem. The same thing happened with other candidates I gave money to.

Most of my friends supported single payer and were frustrated that it was not a part of the health care debate. Yet most fell into line and are now defending Obama and the other Dems.

Doug Terpstra:

Great analysis, Hugh. But dare I say, this time it's different? It sure feels different.

LeeAnne said it well: "Obama's greatest service to the American people is the end of any illusion a two-party system exists." There's enormous cynicism seething on both the left and right promising high volatility, fraught with pitfalls, yes, but also potential. Who knows, if regressives retake control of Congress (which I am perversely hoping for) and that happens to coincide with a renewed market contagion (nothing's changed) or military disaster (no end anywhere in sight), then rapid change is possible, maybe even on the order of the collapse of the USSR. Even in darkness we should keep a candle lit and plenty of lamp oil at hand.

Maju:

I understand that the Obama phenomenon, two years ago, specially the Democrat nomination campaign with all its grassroots mobilization, later vanished like smoke, was a good example of the huge grassroots forces that are latent at the Left in the USA. However, as soon as the Dem nomination was achieved, it became obvious (at least to me and also to some red intellectuals in the USA, like James Petras) that he was just another man of the establishment. Still people was so desperate with the Bush period that they voted for him anyhow (apparently, because the e-voting system is anything but transparent).

That campaign emphasizes the need for permanent and not just campaign- or leader-oriented organization. If all that grassroots movement would be organized now, they could at least have an influence by the left of Obama and the Dem establishment, and could probably be placing candidates or going out to strike or make a huge demo against the Gulf spill abuses or creating a new party or whatever.

They are not organized, so they have no influence. Instead Big Capital, the Military, the Zionists, and even the NeoCons… have it. Because they are organized (in a hierarchical undesirable manner).


[Sep 27, 2010] Why is There No Political Outlet for Anger on the Left These Days-

Poll ratings show approval levels for the major political perps, meaning the President, Congress, each of the two major parties, at levels so low as to be tantamount to loathing. But while the Tea Party has become a force to be reckoned with by tapping into this wellspring of discontent, those on the left who are unhappy with the lump of coal the Administration and the Democratic party has put in their stocking have no outlet.

I wonder why this has come to pass. In the stone ages of my youth, the left was feared (some of that was due to the violence of the 1960s: riots, demonstrations, the SDS, the Weather Underground, to name a few), in fact so feared it led to the concerted right wing push that started in the 1970s. But then again, the left was also much further to the left.

One can point to some causes. The young used to be a reliable source of idealism and willingness to break china. As French Prime Minister Aristide Briand said, "The man who is not a socialist at twenty has no heart, but if he is still a socialist at forty he has no head." But young people in America are worried about survival (aka getting a job) and up to their eyeballs in school debt, which they can't discharge even in bankruptcy. School loans in particular seem an almost Machiavellian device for forcing students into bourgeois conformity. And we have Obama's veal pen strategy which neutered key groups on the progressive flank.

It might even be plausible to attribute the complacency (or maybe sullen resignation) of what passes for the left to Prozac use or learned wussiness. For instance, some of my colleagues were having fun by e-mail coming up with the name for a leftie movement to oppose the Tea Partiers. This was all in good fun, but they came up with Cammomile, which per Bill Black could stand for "Creative Anti-imperialist
Majoritarian Movement Of Morally Illuminated Liberal Enterpreneurs."

How about something more to the point, like the Pitchfork Party?

In all seriousness, why has no movement emerged on the left to channel the considerable disappointment and anger of progressives?

[Sep 27, 2010] Why is There No Political Outlet for Anger on the Left These Days-

Poll ratings show approval levels for the major political perps, meaning the President, Congress, each of the two major parties, at levels so low as to be tantamount to loathing. But while the Tea Party has become a force to be reckoned with by tapping into this wellspring of discontent, those on the left who are unhappy with the lump of coal the Administration and the Democratic party has put in their stocking have no outlet.

I wonder why this has come to pass. In the stone ages of my youth, the left was feared (some of that was due to the violence of the 1960s: riots, demonstrations, the SDS, the Weather Underground, to name a few), in fact so feared it led to the concerted right wing push that started in the 1970s. But then again, the left was also much further to the left.

One can point to some causes. The young used to be a reliable source of idealism and willingness to break china. As French Prime Minister Aristide Briand said, "The man who is not a socialist at twenty has no heart, but if he is still a socialist at forty he has no head." But young people in America are worried about survival (aka getting a job) and up to their eyeballs in school debt, which they can't discharge even in bankruptcy. School loans in particular seem an almost Machiavellian device for forcing students into bourgeois conformity. And we have Obama's veal pen strategy which neutered key groups on the progressive flank.

It might even be plausible to attribute the complacency (or maybe sullen resignation) of what passes for the left to Prozac use or learned wussiness. For instance, some of my colleagues were having fun by e-mail coming up with the name for a leftie movement to oppose the Tea Partiers. This was all in good fun, but they came up with Cammomile, which per Bill Black could stand for "Creative Anti-imperialist
Majoritarian Movement Of Morally Illuminated Liberal Enterpreneurs."

How about something more to the point, like the Pitchfork Party?

In all seriousness, why has no movement emerged on the left to channel the considerable disappointment and anger of progressives?

[Sep 24, 2010] Paul Krugman: Downhill With the G.O.P.

Economist's View
Republicans have thoroughly embraced the Irving Kristol strategy for political effectiveness: "say whatever it takes to gain power":
Downhill With the G.O.P., by Paul Krugman, Commentary, NY Times: Once upon a time, a Latin American political party promised to help motorists save money on gasoline. How? By building highways that ran only downhill.

I've always liked that story, but the truth is that the party received hardly any votes. And that means that the joke is really on us. For these days one of America's two great political parties routinely makes equally nonsensical promises. ... And this party has a better than even chance of retaking at least one house of Congress this November.

Banana republic, here we come.

On Thursday, House Republicans released their "Pledge to America," supposedly outlining their policy agenda. In essence, what they say is, "Deficits are a terrible thing. Let's make them much bigger." The document repeatedly condemns federal debt - 16 times, by my count. But the main substantive policy proposal is to make the Bush tax cuts permanent, which ... would add about $3.7 trillion to the debt over the next decade - about $700 billion more than the Obama administration's tax proposals.

True, the document talks about the need to cut spending. But as far as I can see, there's only one specific cut proposed - canceling the rest of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, which Republicans claim (implausibly) would save $16 billion. That's less than half of 1 percent of the budget cost of those tax cuts. As for the rest, everything must be cut, in ways not specified - "except for common-sense exceptions for seniors, veterans, and our troops." In other words, Social Security, Medicare and the defense budget are off-limits.

So what's left? Howard Gleckman of the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center has done the math. As he points out, the only way to balance the budget by 2020, while simultaneously (a) making the Bush tax cuts permanent and (b) protecting all the programs Republicans say they won't cut, is to completely abolish the rest of the federal government: "No more national parks, no more Small Business Administration loans, no more export subsidies, no more N.I.H. No more Medicaid... No more child health or child nutrition programs. No more highway construction. No more homeland security. Oh, and no more Congress."

The "pledge," then, is nonsense. ... So how did we get to the point where one of our two major political parties isn't even trying to make sense?

The answer isn't a secret. The late Irving Kristol, one of the intellectual godfathers of modern conservatism, once wrote frankly about why he threw his support behind tax cuts that would worsen the budget deficit: his task, as he saw it, was to create a Republican majority, "so political effectiveness was the priority, not the accounting deficiencies of government." In short, say whatever it takes to gain power. That's a philosophy that now, more than ever, holds sway in the movement Kristol helped shape.

And what happens once the movement achieves the power it seeks? The answer, presumably, is that it turns to its real, not-so-secret agenda, which mainly involves privatizing and dismantling Medicare and Social Security.

Realistically, though, Republicans aren't going to have the power to enact their true agenda any time soon - if ever. Remember, the Bush administration's attack on Social Security was a fiasco, despite its large majority in Congress - and it actually increased Medicare spending.

So the clear and present danger isn't that the G.O.P. will be able to achieve its long-run goals. It is, rather, that Republicans will gain just enough power to make the country ungovernable, unable to address its fiscal problems or anything else in a serious way. As I said, banana republic, here we come.

[Sep 24, 2010] Paul Krugman: Downhill With the G.O.P.

Economist's View
Republicans have thoroughly embraced the Irving Kristol strategy for political effectiveness: "say whatever it takes to gain power":
Downhill With the G.O.P., by Paul Krugman, Commentary, NY Times: Once upon a time, a Latin American political party promised to help motorists save money on gasoline. How? By building highways that ran only downhill.

I've always liked that story, but the truth is that the party received hardly any votes. And that means that the joke is really on us. For these days one of America's two great political parties routinely makes equally nonsensical promises. ... And this party has a better than even chance of retaking at least one house of Congress this November.

Banana republic, here we come.

On Thursday, House Republicans released their "Pledge to America," supposedly outlining their policy agenda. In essence, what they say is, "Deficits are a terrible thing. Let's make them much bigger." The document repeatedly condemns federal debt - 16 times, by my count. But the main substantive policy proposal is to make the Bush tax cuts permanent, which ... would add about $3.7 trillion to the debt over the next decade - about $700 billion more than the Obama administration's tax proposals.

True, the document talks about the need to cut spending. But as far as I can see, there's only one specific cut proposed - canceling the rest of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, which Republicans claim (implausibly) would save $16 billion. That's less than half of 1 percent of the budget cost of those tax cuts. As for the rest, everything must be cut, in ways not specified - "except for common-sense exceptions for seniors, veterans, and our troops." In other words, Social Security, Medicare and the defense budget are off-limits.

So what's left? Howard Gleckman of the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center has done the math. As he points out, the only way to balance the budget by 2020, while simultaneously (a) making the Bush tax cuts permanent and (b) protecting all the programs Republicans say they won't cut, is to completely abolish the rest of the federal government: "No more national parks, no more Small Business Administration loans, no more export subsidies, no more N.I.H. No more Medicaid... No more child health or child nutrition programs. No more highway construction. No more homeland security. Oh, and no more Congress."

The "pledge," then, is nonsense. ... So how did we get to the point where one of our two major political parties isn't even trying to make sense?

The answer isn't a secret. The late Irving Kristol, one of the intellectual godfathers of modern conservatism, once wrote frankly about why he threw his support behind tax cuts that would worsen the budget deficit: his task, as he saw it, was to create a Republican majority, "so political effectiveness was the priority, not the accounting deficiencies of government." In short, say whatever it takes to gain power. That's a philosophy that now, more than ever, holds sway in the movement Kristol helped shape.

And what happens once the movement achieves the power it seeks? The answer, presumably, is that it turns to its real, not-so-secret agenda, which mainly involves privatizing and dismantling Medicare and Social Security.

Realistically, though, Republicans aren't going to have the power to enact their true agenda any time soon - if ever. Remember, the Bush administration's attack on Social Security was a fiasco, despite its large majority in Congress - and it actually increased Medicare spending.

So the clear and present danger isn't that the G.O.P. will be able to achieve its long-run goals. It is, rather, that Republicans will gain just enough power to make the country ungovernable, unable to address its fiscal problems or anything else in a serious way. As I said, banana republic, here we come.

[Sep 11, 2010] The Real Lesson of Post-9-11 Once Fools Rush In, They Never, Ever Leave by James Wolcott

September 11, 2010 | James Wolcott's Blog Vanity Fair

TPM's Josh Marshall pithily describes the perversity of a day of mourning being converted into a Newt Gingrich belly-dance of dread-mongering:

Having a hard time reconciling the experiences of those I know who lived through the 9/11 attacks with the emergence of "9/11" as Republican hate festival.

On the other hand, how did we not see it coming.

Upon which follows a clip of Rudy Giuliani at his most Tony Soprano neocon.

But basic, venal political opportunism doesn't begin to explain the magnitude of dementia uncapped by 9/11 that led to a lava flow of blood and destruction that veined through the decade.

[Sep 11, 2010] The Real Lesson of Post-9-11 Once Fools Rush In, They Never, Ever Leave by James Wolcott

September 11, 2010 | James Wolcott's Blog Vanity Fair

TPM's Josh Marshall pithily describes the perversity of a day of mourning being converted into a Newt Gingrich belly-dance of dread-mongering:

Having a hard time reconciling the experiences of those I know who lived through the 9/11 attacks with the emergence of "9/11" as Republican hate festival.

On the other hand, how did we not see it coming.

Upon which follows a clip of Rudy Giuliani at his most Tony Soprano neocon.

But basic, venal political opportunism doesn't begin to explain the magnitude of dementia uncapped by 9/11 that led to a lava flow of blood and destruction that veined through the decade.

[Sep 04, 2010] Is the GOP Ready for Prime Time FrumForum by David Frum

But when a party exhausts or abandons its policy impetus, power devolves to committee chairs. Politico describes this devolution as "opening" government. Well, yes - but opening to whom? Committee chairs occupy one corner of what used to be described as the "iron triangle" - with the other two corners occupied by industry lobbyists and federal regulators.

[Sep 04, 2010] The Purge at Cato FrumForum by David Frum

"At least they didn't get purged as badly as Kamensky, Zinoviev and Trotsky. Lindsey and Wilkinson can live to scribble another day" Sadly the Republican party may be years away from a return to sanity.

We are likely soon to have a Republican majority in the House of Representatives, maybe the U.S. Senate too. And what will that majority do? The answer seems to be: They have not a clue. Unlike the Republican House and Senate majorities of 1994, unlike the Republican Senate majority of 1980, these new majorities will arrive with only slogans for a policy agenda. After staging a for-the-record vote against Obamacare, and after re-enacting the Bush tax cuts, it will be policy mission accomplished.

...

There's little other policy inventory, because the think tanks have not done their proper work. Without a think tank agenda, the new majority will rapidly decline into a brokerage service for K Street.

After the GOP lost its majority in 2006, a leading think tanker said to me: "Somehow I always thought we'd get more done before we became completely corrupt." How much will we get done next time given the poverty of our think tank work over the past half decade? And how can we expect better work from institutions that have so emphatically warned their employees that an unwanted answer can end a career?

The losers here are not Brink Lindsey (who has moved to a fine new position) or Will Wilkinson (whose personal future is more unsettled, but whose talents will surely also be recognized). The loser is a conservative political movement waiting at the end of the intellectual conveyor belt for a product that increasingly arrives so shoddy and defective that it might as well not come at all.

balconesfault:

It might be objected that Cato and the others have no choice. The waters are surging in the conservative world, and conservative institutions must either ride the wave or be swamped.

The wave? Clearly "the wave" is the tide of money directed via coordinated effort between the Kochs, the Scaifes, the Olin Foundation, and a small number of other huge donors that support the "independent" think tanks. The people in charge of those think tanks cannot ignore the wishes of those donors, since without them they'd be reduced to putting most of their staff on leave or part-time status while resorting to direct mail campaigns to keep their doors open.

We have seen that the Koch family has been carefully cultivating the Tea Party as an electoral cudgel to use both within and without the GOP. We know the Koch family is a primary funder of Cato.

There is any reason for surprise here?

Stranded Wind:

Spot on analysis here. The American right has tipped away from self reliance and the rule of the law, landing in the hands of religious fanatics like Sarah Palin, racist crackpots connected with the Klan and Stormfront, and paranoid anti-government Tea Party kooks voting against their own interests on behalf of the Koch brothers.

It's like watching a favorite uncle with dementia coming on fast. Affirmation of the Christian Identity heresy replaces policy analysis and that just isn't relevant in the real world.

Rabiner:

The problem with a conservative or in this case libertarian purge of alternative ideas is that competition of ideas leads to the best ideas eventually coming out on top. If everyone who doesn't tow the party line is kicked to the curb then there is no internal debate among people on how to proceed forward. Democrats and liberals as a whole may be fractured but at least there are a wealth of ideas coming from them to debate and look at. Conservatives have a dither of ideas which makes them seem outdated and unwilling to govern.

Personally I think liberalism and libertarianism has a lot more in common on social issues than conservatism and libertarianism does on economic issues. However, if you're going to be a strict economic libertarian you're just not going to agree with governments role in anything. This seems to be Cato's mission (economic over social issues) so I'm not surprised these people were pushed out after many years of employment.

I do find it humorous how wrong Fairy Hardcastle is regarding conservatives and voting for health care reform. The reform that passed was very similar to the conservative response to Clinton's legislation in the mid 1990s.

Fairy Hardcastle
Rabiner, it's hard to assess your humor when neither you nor I read every page of either the 1990s counter proposal you cite nor the recently passed legislation and prepared a point by point comparison. Come to think of it, neither did the legislators of the 111th.
Rabiner
Fairy Hardcastle:

http://www.kaiserhealthnews.org/Stories/2010/February/23/GOP-1993-health-reform-bill.aspx

here ya go. Enjoy seeing the Republican bill from 1993 and how similar it is to what was passed in 2009.

And Title 7 are those 'death panels' or as sane people call them: advanced directives.

JJWFromME
What Lindsey did was dare spell out his opposition to Country and Western Marxism, and thus, touched the third rail of modern institutionalized "conservatism." Lindsey wanted a debate of ideas, not a mindless, PR-orchestrated populism, which actually was the kind of thing the founders of this country were greatly afraid of. Culture war and coordinated messaging makes the kind of public discussions we need as a country (about, for instance, global warming) all but impossible…

Lindsey forgot who he worked for–Koch and Scaife and company.

[Sep 04, 2010] Is the GOP Ready for Prime Time FrumForum by David Frum

But when a party exhausts or abandons its policy impetus, power devolves to committee chairs. Politico describes this devolution as "opening" government. Well, yes - but opening to whom? Committee chairs occupy one corner of what used to be described as the "iron triangle" - with the other two corners occupied by industry lobbyists and federal regulators.

[Sep 04, 2010] The Purge at Cato FrumForum by David Frum

"At least they didn't get purged as badly as Kamensky, Zinoviev and Trotsky. Lindsey and Wilkinson can live to scribble another day" Sadly the Republican party may be years away from a return to sanity.

We are likely soon to have a Republican majority in the House of Representatives, maybe the U.S. Senate too. And what will that majority do? The answer seems to be: They have not a clue. Unlike the Republican House and Senate majorities of 1994, unlike the Republican Senate majority of 1980, these new majorities will arrive with only slogans for a policy agenda. After staging a for-the-record vote against Obamacare, and after re-enacting the Bush tax cuts, it will be policy mission accomplished.

...

There's little other policy inventory, because the think tanks have not done their proper work. Without a think tank agenda, the new majority will rapidly decline into a brokerage service for K Street.

After the GOP lost its majority in 2006, a leading think tanker said to me: "Somehow I always thought we'd get more done before we became completely corrupt." How much will we get done next time given the poverty of our think tank work over the past half decade? And how can we expect better work from institutions that have so emphatically warned their employees that an unwanted answer can end a career?

The losers here are not Brink Lindsey (who has moved to a fine new position) or Will Wilkinson (whose personal future is more unsettled, but whose talents will surely also be recognized). The loser is a conservative political movement waiting at the end of the intellectual conveyor belt for a product that increasingly arrives so shoddy and defective that it might as well not come at all.

balconesfault:

It might be objected that Cato and the others have no choice. The waters are surging in the conservative world, and conservative institutions must either ride the wave or be swamped.

The wave? Clearly "the wave" is the tide of money directed via coordinated effort between the Kochs, the Scaifes, the Olin Foundation, and a small number of other huge donors that support the "independent" think tanks. The people in charge of those think tanks cannot ignore the wishes of those donors, since without them they'd be reduced to putting most of their staff on leave or part-time status while resorting to direct mail campaigns to keep their doors open.

We have seen that the Koch family has been carefully cultivating the Tea Party as an electoral cudgel to use both within and without the GOP. We know the Koch family is a primary funder of Cato.

There is any reason for surprise here?

Stranded Wind:

Spot on analysis here. The American right has tipped away from self reliance and the rule of the law, landing in the hands of religious fanatics like Sarah Palin, racist crackpots connected with the Klan and Stormfront, and paranoid anti-government Tea Party kooks voting against their own interests on behalf of the Koch brothers.

It's like watching a favorite uncle with dementia coming on fast. Affirmation of the Christian Identity heresy replaces policy analysis and that just isn't relevant in the real world.

Rabiner:

The problem with a conservative or in this case libertarian purge of alternative ideas is that competition of ideas leads to the best ideas eventually coming out on top. If everyone who doesn't tow the party line is kicked to the curb then there is no internal debate among people on how to proceed forward. Democrats and liberals as a whole may be fractured but at least there are a wealth of ideas coming from them to debate and look at. Conservatives have a dither of ideas which makes them seem outdated and unwilling to govern.

Personally I think liberalism and libertarianism has a lot more in common on social issues than conservatism and libertarianism does on economic issues. However, if you're going to be a strict economic libertarian you're just not going to agree with governments role in anything. This seems to be Cato's mission (economic over social issues) so I'm not surprised these people were pushed out after many years of employment.

I do find it humorous how wrong Fairy Hardcastle is regarding conservatives and voting for health care reform. The reform that passed was very similar to the conservative response to Clinton's legislation in the mid 1990s.

Fairy Hardcastle
Rabiner, it's hard to assess your humor when neither you nor I read every page of either the 1990s counter proposal you cite nor the recently passed legislation and prepared a point by point comparison. Come to think of it, neither did the legislators of the 111th.
Rabiner
Fairy Hardcastle:

http://www.kaiserhealthnews.org/Stories/2010/February/23/GOP-1993-health-reform-bill.aspx

here ya go. Enjoy seeing the Republican bill from 1993 and how similar it is to what was passed in 2009.

And Title 7 are those 'death panels' or as sane people call them: advanced directives.

JJWFromME
What Lindsey did was dare spell out his opposition to Country and Western Marxism, and thus, touched the third rail of modern institutionalized "conservatism." Lindsey wanted a debate of ideas, not a mindless, PR-orchestrated populism, which actually was the kind of thing the founders of this country were greatly afraid of. Culture war and coordinated messaging makes the kind of public discussions we need as a country (about, for instance, global warming) all but impossible…

Lindsey forgot who he worked for–Koch and Scaife and company.

[Sep 03, 2010] One Lump Or Two - By James Howard Kunstler

August 30, 2010 | Clusterfuck Nation

Here come the Corn Pone Nazis!

Fox News entertainer, former drug addict, and professional weeper Glenn Beck took center stage at the Lincoln Memorial exactly forty-seven years to the day after Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech for a rally dedicated to "restoring honor," which is tea party code for the otherwise unutterable idea: get that nigger out of the White House! (despite the attendance of a few African-American shills on the scene).

Eighty-seven thousand disoriented citizens lined the DC Mall reflecting pool and adjoining lawns to witness Beck overstep his role as a television clown and don the mantle of an evangelist-savior battling the dark forces working insidiously to put the America of WalMart, Walt Disney World, Nascar, and Burger King into the Collapsed Society Hall of Fame -- where it's heading anyway, due to the bad choices these self-same citizens made during an extraordinary bonanza era of cheap oil that is now drawing to a close whether anyone likes it or not. Naturally, Beck invoked prayer against this prospect, which is what people resort to when they don't understand what is happening to them.

Beck himself just seems to be following a career arc more than really answering "a call." The emptiness of his platitudes and the confusion of his ideas shows that he is just flexing his demagogic muscles in a moment when weepy bluster passes for heroism. Ten years ago he was a cringing drunk contemplating suicide. Then he went shopping in America's Mall of Utopias for something to believe in and found Mormonism, a "religion" dreamed up by an imaginative young man on the agricultural frontier of western New York during an earlier age of ferment which -- guess what -- coincided with a decade of economic turbulence. (Anyone interested in the bizarre subject is advised to read Fawn Brodie's excellent biography of Smith, No Man Knows My History [Knoph,1945].)

Of course, what has allowed Beck to occupy center stage is the failure of rational political figures to articulate the terms of the convulsion that American society faces, brought about not by communists and other John Bircher hobgoblins but by the forces of history. The failure at the political center is a conscious one of nerve and will, of elected officials in both major parties playing desperately for advantage in defiance of the truth -- this truth being that the USA went broke trying to swindle itself into prosperity. Add to this the failure of the law to go after the swindlers, which has undermined the fundamental belief in the rule of law that enabled this society to function as well as it did previously.

Barack Obama personifies this failure these days, a politician proclaiming "change" who not only managed to change nothing, but promoted a continuation of the national self-swindling with legislation so dazzlingly prolix and complicated that no one can claim to have read either the Health Care Reform Act or the Financial Regulation bill, the two hallmarks of his tenure so far, neither of which will change anything about how we do these things. Why Mr. Obama has turned out to be such a weenie remains a mystery. Even the former communists at Russia Today laugh at the idea that he is a "communist" or a "socialist" and so do I. He certainly appears to be hostage of the more malign forces in society these days -- the medical insurance racket, the too-big-to-fail banks, the multi-national corporations. But I don't believe it's because he wants to suck up to them, or join their country clubs when his current job ends.

My own guess is that he's been informed that the system is so fragile that if he dares to disturb even one teensy-weensy part of it -- for instance, by throwing some executives from Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, et cetera, into federal prison -- that said system will fly to pieces in a fortnight. So Obama's main task for a year and a half has been to desperately apply baling wire and duct tape to the banking system while telling fibs to the public about a wished-for recovery to a prior state. Unfortunately that prior state is the ecstasy of a self-swindle in the moments before it unravels... the sublime feeling of having gotten something wonderful for nothing. We're beyond that now and nothing on the age-old shelf of nostrums, spells, prayers, and miracle-cures will avail to bring that moment back, though the public does not know this.

This is what allows a faker like Glenn Beck to shine. The masses still truly believe that prayer will save them from bankruptcy, foreclosure, penury, the loss of status, and the cut-off of precious air-conditioning, so Glenn steps onto a national monument like an Aztec priest ascending the Pyramid of Huitzilopochtli to soothe the angry god with worshipful incantations, and incidentally maybe a few dozen sacrificial hearts cut out -- just as the tea-bagger right-wing glorifies the sacrifices of US soldiers blown up by roadside bombs for the sake of American military adventuring in lost causes like the war to turn Afghanistan into a functioning western-style democracy.

Glenn Beck's sidekick nowadays, Sarah Palin, is exactly the kind of corn pone Hitler that America deserves: a badly-educated, child-like, war-mongering opportunist easily manipulated by backstage extremist billionaires who think they don't have enough money yet. Sarah Palin is going to run for president in 2012. In the process she'll turn the sad remnants of the Republican party into a suicide cult, but she might just get elected and you can kiss the 230-year-long experiment in representative government goodbye for good.

In the meantime, the financial markets are getting ready to puke, the housing market has yet a million frauds left to unwind, the commercial real estate and retail sectors are crashing, the projects in Afghanistan, and Iraq, too (despite the current hype about the end of the combat mission there), are set to suck a few billion a day out of the system, indefinitely, and the season leading into the holidays is taking shape as a major amplification of all the converging clusterfucks that make these such interesting times. The tea-bagger faction will only get more desperately crazy as a result.

The bigger mystery in all this -- if I may perhaps engage in some nostalgia of my own -- is: what happened to reasonable, rational, educated people of purpose in this country to drive them into such burrow of cowardice that they ca