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US Presidential Elections of 2012

News Inverted Totalitarism Recommended Books Recommended Links Elite Theory The Iron Law of Oligarchy Pluralism as a myth Myth about intelligent voter
Principal-agent problem Neoliberalism American Exceptionalism Inside "democracy promotion" hypocrisy fair Totalitarian Decisionism & Human Rights: The Re-emergence of Nazi Law Nation under attack meme Big Uncle is Watching You Neoconservatism as a stage of development of Neoliberalism
Libertarian Philosophy Corporatist Corruption: Systemic Fraud under Clinton-Bush-Obama Regime Amorality and criminality of neoliberal elite Harvard Mafia Color revolutions Skeptic Quotations Humor Etc

Scrap between a community organizer with extremely murky past and management consultant turned into (hated by everybody) buyout industry mogul, essetially a criminal oligarch of the mold that can be found in Ukraine of Russia,  might be more accurate depiction of the 2012 Presidential race. But we need to see a bigger picture. In all crucial respects the Bush II era did not end Jan. 20, 2009. According to Bacevich Bush II contributions can be summarized as following (What Bush hath wrought):

Obama continued Bush policies and to assume that Romney will reverse them is naive. So both candidates represent a single unified vision for the US domestic and foreign that was put forward by Bush II.

No sitting president since Franklin Roosevelt has won re-election with unemployment above 7.2%, and with today's jobless rate of 8.1% Obama is the first such case. He managed to pull away from Romney beyond the margin of error in the swing states. Even before the elections polls show his lead in the seven swing states – Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin. And those states determined theNovember's elections outcome . AS Guardian reported

A new survey from the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute gives Obama a 53%-to-44% lead over Romney in Florida and a similar 53%-to-43% advantage in Ohio. "Romney is falling further behind and he's only got a few weeks left to make up ground," said Quinnipiac's analyst, Peter Brown.

In a way, 2012 elections played more like election about demographic changes  (increasing role of minorities and woman) then swing votes that became disillusioned with Obama's complete betrayal of their interests ("Change we can believe in" became travesty) and the conditions of the economy (which are grim...)

Republicans are now engaged in systematic voter suppression and the real question which Party wins the elections now partially depends is how effective this disenfranchisement is for minorities and woman. The mechanism is well described in the book Stealing Democracy The New Politics of Voter Suppression by professor Spencer Overton.


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[Sep 30, 2012] The status of presidential race by Mark Adomanis

25/09/2012 | inosmi.ru

Just over a month is left before the U.S. presidential election. What is the situation now? Can Romney reduces a gap? Or Obama goes to White Castle? Who is the most likely winner in all the circumstances?

Well, mainstream media, including traditional newspapers and even some of the more traditionally minded websites such as Politico, do everything possible to create the impression of a difficult and dramatic struggle that goes with full exertion. Without any effort you can see lush headlines like "Romney and Obama on the results of recent polls are neck and neck," or "Obama and Romney trade blows." There is an impression that the race, in fact, is close, and the result is impossible to predict.

Of course, it happens sometimes that the headlines just poorly written, uninformative and contentless (remember the one that appeared on Monday 24 September in Washington Post - «Obama, Romney - the front line is fuzzy"). But it is clear that their bias is aimed at creating excitement, excitement and hype. After all, the newspaper business - is also a business, and the title of the "Obama and Romney met in mortal combat" gives a greater chance that people will buy a newspaper or go to the website than it will say something like "the latest polls in major states had shown that Romney could lose"

The good old rule of the election season is that we should just ignore the headlines, reading the articles themselves instead. Often the title just plain contrary to what is written in the body of the article, and the article gives the material a lot more evidence and reasons for the conclusions. For example, in the title you can read: "The election headquarters Romney weighing its options in Pennsylvania." But in the article clearly states that Romney's staff had already decided to abandon their efforts in the state, because it bought advertising campaign ads to 10 million dollars, he succeeded only in the fact that even further behind Obama. Incidentally, the title -- a real example, and not some hypothetical article. Romney, in fact, waited in Pennsylvania a substantial sum of money. However, what should have been a banal article about the defeat of Romney, was tangled beyond recognition, at least - in the title.

If you ignore all the shrill screeching editorials by surrogate authors (a dominant majority those days), and if you stop paying attention to all of these bloated headlines, the result will be a rather boring story about Obama - a very strong favorite, and that he, most probably, will win in November.

Former KPMG consultant and statistician Nate Silver (Nate Silver), all his life obsessed with baseball (he has developed a number of high-quality technical algorithms to predict the future performance of the players), is the best political analyst in the country, far ahead of the rest. In 2008, he accurately predicted the winner of the presidential elections in 49 of the 50 states, as well as all the winners in the senatorial race. This forecast was too good to the media ignored it, and Silver, who previously wrote on his website, has taken to his work New York Times. Now he is there a blog called 538 (the total number of electoral votes, to give the electors in the presidential election in the U.S.).

Silver consciously avoids overused metaphors such as "race" and attempts to squeeze the presidential race in simplistic plot and thematic framework (eg, "Romney is rich, and therefore it will be a problem with the working class"). Instead, Silver does what every journalist should do: it collects all kinds of facts and then gives its readers the opportunity to make their own conclusions.

One of the theses from which Silver begins his analysis seems obvious, but it is usually ignored: the U.S. presidential election - a contest conducted in each state, but not on a national level. If the result is not determined in advance, and the candidates are going smoothly, national surveys do not really help you to determine the winner. National surveys tell you absolutely nothing about who wins the election battlefields in Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina and Florida -- that is, in those four states, which determine the next president. But Silver sufficiently diligently and painstakingly traces not only the national polls, but carefully analyzes, compares, and summarizes the results of surveys in a large number of states.

Using the results of opinion polls, and the behind the scenes magic of mathemtica statistics, Silver has created a model that allows you to track the likely outcome of the vote count, the probable number of votes received by each candidate, and each candidate's overall chances of winning (it also has other statistics, intelligible only to the initiated, but the above is most suitable for our purposes.) The latter figure is the most interesting to us, because if you look at it and follow it for the last two months, it is not a stone was to leave on what they write and say about the election, our media, including the employer of the Silver's New York Times.

According to his model, Obama is now a chance to win up 77.6%. And this is a very modest figure, as it had a peak in early September, and he was equal to 80%. However, Obama may feel very comfortable from the beginning of July, when the chances of winning it was 59%. The probability of an Obama victory increased gradually and modestly throughout the summer. Growth stopped briefly only during and immediately after the congress of the Republican Party (which was to be expected, since even the weakest candidates, such as Bob Dole (Bob Dole), immediately after the Congress get a sort of acceleration). Silver's figures show that the current presidential election never were at the stage "as the card will fall" and never went this way. Obama has always had a better chance to win than to lose. They also show that the fight is not "became more fierce", but gradually but steadily turned in Obama's favour. And that - in spite of the fact that Silver's predictions on voting for Obama is not very varied and not shifted strongly in his favor. Since early summer predicted number of votes for Obama increased by only one percent.

Some conservatives suspect that Silver distorts statistics or manipulates the figures in favor of Obama. "As president of the chances of winning can be increased if the survey data are not biased in his favor?" -- they cry indignantly. Well, Obama is quietly gettin an admirable results of polls in the states which he needs to win, because that's where his headquarters operates in the most targeted way. So, Obama in Ohio Obama's advantage rose by about 3.5%. This figure is hardly an overwhelming advantage, but it can't be called disappointing. In Virginia the situation is more difficult, because there is Obama up by just about 2.5% which a mergin of error. But even there, there are objective reasons to believe that he will repeat his victory of 2008: rapid demographic changes and improving economy.

One general conclusion that I want to leave you, dear readers, is the following. If Obama is in the next few weeks will not make any blunder, he can win. It will not be a crushing victory (judging by the way things are, he can win by a vote of electors, but lose the popular vote). But it will still be winning. Increasingly incompetent staff of Romney in the next five weeks should completely change practices if it wants to keep the chances of success. It is quite possible, because Romney has the ability to change his positions like a chameleon, but his headquaters have no strategy. Instead, he focused on achieving tactical victories, and thus, often contradicts himself (first he said that Obama is the friend of big banks on Wall Street, and then that he is friends of loafers and beggars, living off the state) .

[Sep 30, 2012] Mitt Romney's Still Not Telling the Truth About European Missile Defense by Mark Adomanis

9/07/2012 | Forbes

Mitt Romney’s campaign recently put out an…interesting indictment of Barack Obama’s foreign policy record. To the layman it would appear that Obama has been in broad continuity with the foreign policies of his predecessor and has, in a few spheres, pursued notably more aggressive and bellicose stances. Certainly one would not expect a weak-willed coward to surge tens of thousands of combat troops into Afghanistan, nor would you expect such a milquetoast to dispatch a large number of flying death robots to regularly dispense extra legal justice-via-missile across a broad swath of the Middle East and Pakistan. Indeed one might even be forgiven for thinking a truly radical thought: that Barack Obama, a president who, recall, fought a non-war-war in Libya without Congressional authorization, is vulnerable to criticism because his foreign policies have been too aggressive.

But no! Barack Obama is not, as he appears, a president with a record of modest foreign policy success, he has actually been a bumbling incompetent, and has failed in a truly bewildering array of spheres. Did you know that Barack Obama could have ensured a “clean” election in Afghanistan but failed to do so? Me neither! Did you know that Obama has ignored the “threat” posed by Hugo Chavez? I didn’t even know Chavez was a “threat,” I thought he was dying of cancer and was in serious danger of losing the next election (I also thought that Venezuela’s economy was an inflation-strangled basket case that was in danger of collapse, but I guess I need to pay more attention).

But while most of the accusations in the foreign policy memorandum are simply tendentious, one of them appears to be an outright falsehood. Here is what the article says about Obama’s decision to “abandon” missile defense:

Abandoning A European Missile Defense System. The unilateral abandonment of a missile defense system to be based in Poland and the Czech Republic and completed by 2013 was a sop to Russia, which had sought to intimidate our allies and discourage them from agreeing to the system in the first place. They agreed to it despite the pressure. To add insult to injury, he announced his decision on September 17, 2009—the 70th anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Poland.

I don’t think I’m being uncharitable, but if you read this paragraph and didn’t have any background knowledge about US missile defense in Eastern Europe you would come away with at least two very clear conclusions

  1. Obama canceled a missile defense system planned for Poland and the Czech Republic
  2. Obama did not replace this planned missile defense system with anything else

Conclusion 1) is accurate, Obama really did kibosh the Czech/Polish system that had been planned by George W. Bush. Conclusion 2), however, is absolutely, categorically false. Obama , you see, replaced the system planned for Poland and the Czech Republic with a system in Romania. The United States is, right this second, continuing with a play to deploy land-based interceptors in Romania by 2015. Even the Heritage Foundation, hardly an Obama fan club, has recognized this.

You can criticize Obama for pulling the system out of Poland and the Czech Republic, you can criticize him for needling the always sensitive Poles, you can criticize him for not moving quickly enough with the system in Romania, you can criticize him for being overly accommodative of the Russians, you can, truthfully if not compellingly, criticize him for an awful lot of things regarding foreign policy in general and missile defense in particular. But what you absolutely cannot criticize Obama for is “canceling” or “abandoning” ballistic missile defense in Europe. By any minimally honest reckoning, Obama has not done that.

For the life of me I don’t understand why the Romney campaign can’t simply say: “President Obama unnecessarily delayed missile defense in Eastern Europe and this reflects a worrying lack of judgement on his part.” That gets across the exact same point (Obama is weak-kneed and incompetent) and it has the virtue of not being completely false.

Personally speaking, I find the US’ continued pursuit of ballsitic missile defense in Eastern Europe to be an unconscionable waste of resources: virtually any activity short of lighting a large pile of money on fire would bring a greater benefit to the US and to its allies. Romania, the country hosting the new missile system, is not only a poor, underdeveloped country it is also currently in the midst of a horrific economic downturn; its security, and the security of its citizens, would almost certainly be better served by having Ben Bernake helicopter over downtown Bucharest dispensing hundred dollar bills than by building missile interceptors designed to shoot down non-existent Iranian nukes. But the US government doesn’t appear overly troubled by my views on the matter, and is continuing to build a comprehensive system of ballistic missile defense, a system which Obama has at no point “abandoned.”

I understand that presidential campaigns are ugly, sordid affairs, which is why I’ve done my very best to ignore the conventions and why I don’t intend to vote for either Obama or Romney (just like I didn’t vote for either Obama or McCain). But the accusation that Obama has “abandoned” missile defense is so far out in left field, so far past any minimal bounds of honesty, that it has to be rebutted. In a country with 8% unemployment and pervasive economic misery you would think the Romney campaign wouldn’t have to strain itself to find Obama’s soft spots: the fact that they are inventing foreign policy failures ought to tell you something.

[Sep 29, 2012] Poll Rich and poor, male and female, what groups would thrive under Obama or Romney

It is an electorate that is less engaged, less enthusiastic and less favorably inclined toward the candidates than at this point in recent presidential campaigns. It is also an electorate that confidently predicts the groups that will be winners and losers, depending on who prevails on Nov. 6.

The rich? By an overwhelming 55 percentage points, those surveyed say upper-income Americans would fare better if Republican challenger Mitt Romney wins.

The poor? By 36 points, they say low-income people would do better under Barack Obama.

And by 10 points, middle-income Americans are seen as doing better over the next four years if Obama wins a second term. That's important politically, since most Americans identify themselves as middle class. One of Romney's most critical tasks -- including at the candidates' first debate Wednesday in Denver -- is to persuade more middle-class voters that electing him would be good for them.

There is also a gender chasm. By double digits, Americans say women would be better off under an Obama presidency; men would be better off under a Romney presidency. Given that, it's hardly surprising that female voters nationwide and in some crucial swing states have boosted Obama while male voters are inclined to support Romney.

With one group, though, there seems to be a disconnect. Those 65 and older are the age group that most strongly backs Romney. But by 11 points, Americans say seniors would fare better over the next four years if Obama prevails.

In contrast, voters under 30 are Obama's best age group. By 13 points, Americans say young people will do better if the president wins a second term.

The decisive judgments of which groups that would be winners in an Obama or Romney presidency is a sign of how sharply defined the two candidates have become. Investors would do better under Romney, those surveyed say by an overwhelming 41 points. Racial and ethnic minorities would do better under Obama, they say by an equally huge 42 points.

Only one group fell right in the middle: Small-business owners. By 47%-47%, those surveyed divided over whether they would do better under Obama or Romney. For the other nine groups named, Americans by double digits and well outside the survey's margin of error say they would fare better under one or the other.

The poll of 1,446 adults, taken Monday through Thursday, has a margin of error of +/- 3 percentage points.

Republicans have opened a big enthusiasm gap: 64% say they are more enthusiastic than usual about voting, compared to 48% of Democrats. In general, though, the results show an electorate that is less excited and less engaged than in recent presidential elections.

Democrats are less enthusiastic about voting than in 2008, although Republicans are a bit more enthusiastic. Fewer Democrats and Republicans say they have given a lot of thought to the election than they did in the falls of 2008 and 2004.

Romney's favorable rating is 47%, lower than that of any presidential candidate at this point in the past 20 years. Obama's favorable rating is better, at 55%, but still lower than that of six of the past 10 major-party nominees.

Only 13% say both Obama and Romney would be a good president. Four years ago, 25% felt that way about Obama and 2008 rival John McCain. Advertisement Susan Page Susan Page is the Washington Bureau chief of USA TODAY, covering her 9th presidential campaign and still trying to get it right. She's interviewed the past 8 presidents and reported from 5 continents.

[Sep 29, 2012] Is this the problem of degeneration of US political establishment?

The world laughs at Romney's candidacy... That's not a good omen... US elite includes many bright people. The question is why those two are chosen as candidates for the President...

Papasha Muller @ Livejounal

Only Romney, ONLY HARDCORE!

Mitt for President! He can accomplish everthing: with Chirikova , as well as "rein in Russia."

The God-Awful Presidential Candidacy of Mitt Romney

The Daily Banter

easyjjgrand3:

Can we just finally admit that Mitt Romney is the worst candidate the GOP has offered up in, well, maybe ever? Is there anyone who still thinks Romney is anything more than one big walking punchline, an ongoing political disaster of Irwin Allen-esque proportions?

Look, I get that if you’re a Republican there’s a pretty good chance that your ebullient hatred of Barack Obama runs so deep that you’d vote for a flaming paper bag full of dog@!$%# if the party nominated it for president, but that doesn’t mean you wouldn’t have to hold your nose while you were doing it. You’re more than welcome to cast your ballot for Romney in November and to support his candidacy every second of every day until then, but there’s no way you can tell me you’re happy about it.

Romney’s not simply the worst possible guy to trot out as your party’s figurehead and message-carrier at this particular point in our nation’s history — with the global economy having been gang-banged by untouchable aristocratic @!$%#s just like him — he’s also thoroughly incapable of relating to anybody on anything approaching a human level without coming off like a creepy version of Jeff Bridges in Starman.

[Sep 29, 2012] The real reason Obama constantly lies

07/11/2012 | www.wnd.com

I serve as a blank screen’

In his second autobiography “The Audacity of Hope,” Obama makes an audacious admission: “I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views.” While it’s amazing that anyone could openly brag about such a manipulative life-strategy, Obama has long cultivated his appealing yet ambiguous public persona in preparation for a career as political messiah. For instance, he voted “present” no less than 129 times while a member of the Illinois state Senate to avoid taking a position that might alienate one side or the other – including on bills he had supported and even sponsored! Taking a position, you see, might have compromised the purity and universality of his “blank screen,” which would one day serve to reflect the aspirations for “hope” and “change” of millions of Americans.

Appearing as all things to all people has been key to Obama’s meteoric rise, requiring constant deception. As one blogger put it recently:

He is Muslim, he is Christian, he is a capitalist, he is a socialist, he is black, he is white, … he is a constitutional professor, he is an average collegian who smoked dope and did cocaine, he is a foreigner, he is American-born, he is “EVERYMAN.”

With America now in precipitous decline on his watch, many have tried to explain the enigma of Obama and his prodigious ability to lie so confidently, comfortably and continually:

In “Rules for Radicals,” Alinsky counsels wannabe revolutionaries that they must be willing to ignore the dictates of their own conscience to advance the left’s agenda:

In action, one does not always enjoy the luxury of a decision that is consistent both with one’s individual conscience and the good of mankind. The choice must always be for the latter. Action is for mass salvation and not for the individual’s personal salvation. He who sacrifices the mass good for his personal conscience has a peculiar conception of “personal salvation”; he doesn’t care enough for people to be “corrupted” for them.

That, friends, is one of the most twisted things I’ve ever heard. To believe it and act on it is to abandon your greatest gift, your moment-to-moment connection with the Living God – your conscience. Maybe that’s why Alinsky dedicated “Rules for Radicals” to “the first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom – Lucifer.”

In the final analysis, Obama lies because that’s how he gets his way, and getting his way is all he cares about.

Editor’s note: The preceding is excerpted from a longer piece by David Kupelian in the July issue of Whistleblower magazine, “WHY OBAMA LIES: Exploring what’s behind the president’s glaring and unprecedented dishonesty.” One of Whistleblower’s most popular issues ever, “WHY OBAMA LIES” features groundbreaking analysis of President Obama by multiple psychiatrists who reveal him to be a seriously damaged, fundamentally dishonest and even delusional person, as well as a comprehensive list, running throughout the entire magazine, of Barack Obama’s lies, each followed by PROOF influences and associations, his religion, his accomplishments, his policies, his true beliefs and his plans for America's future. Barack Obama, the man whose entire presidency has been a seamless fabric of deception and duplicity

katlin's column on Newsvine

Mary J

Obama, the man who lies as easily as breathing – a serial deceiver regarding his birth, his childhood, his education, his

A perfect description of obama. The media is like watching a sitcom, it's a joke. The article described the mainstream media well. It looks real, but is totally fiction.

Great article! :)

infrared

supposedly the biggest liar according to the article but no specifics.

NectarineRecordsInc.

politifact.com has specifics, and it seems that Paul Ryan wins the category of greatest liar by a growing nose.

The President? Much less than Ryan or Romney.

Joe

If Obama lies, what does romney < we are not going to let the fact checkers run our campaign> do?

Mitt Romney's Secret "47%" video has set a new world record ...

The Irony of Democracy An Uncommon Introduction to American Politics Thomas R. Dye, Harmon Zeigler, Louis Schubert 9780495802709 Amazon.com Books

The quality most introductory book don't have. December 6, 2003

By "legal_geek"

Format:Paperback

"The Irony of Democracy" was my college-level introduction to American politics, and I feel it provided me something far greater than any of the political/historical texts I read in high school. Instead of the same details of Democrats as the longest political party and Columbus crossing the ocean blue in 1492, Dye and Zeigler focus on the current United States political agendas and attempt to unravel how and why this country has developed as it has.

The thing that I liked best about this text is that it reads more like a novel than a textbook. It explains United States politics in an engaging way that forces the reader to react. Dye and Zeigler support that America is an elitist nation, and back up their argument with an analysis of government structure (primary elections, electoral college, what it takes to REALLY make it into Congress) and interaction between governmental branches and the American public (through political action committees, interest groups, and the media). Also interesting are the facts presented on similarities between political parties as an effort to reach the "middle ground."

If your instructor recommends this book, expect a class that will take you far beyond the nuts and bolts of American politics; expect to make your own conclusions on what may make the United States a stronger nation, why you should challenge the system from time to time, and actually learn WHY and HOW politics work the way that they do. The class you take may end up requiring more thought or effort on your part if this is one of the required readings, but you will come out of the class more informed, wary, and enlightened about what really governs our actions and thoughts as masses.

Non-Voters Like Me Are Good for the Country! February 3, 2003

By mwreview TOP 1000 REVIEWER

Format:Paperback

I read this book for an introductory political science course in junior college and I enjoyed it so much that, although I was not planning to be a political science major, I decided not to sell this book back to the college. This textbook is a thorough , well-written, and well-organized study of the basics of American democracy (or republicanism, if you will). The authors are brutally honest in their overview of the American democratic system. The irony of democracy?: "Elites-not masses-govern the United States" and, my favorite, "that democratic ideals survive because the masses are generally apathetic and inactive" (the masses breed intolerance, you see).

Among the fifteen chapters is one entitled "Elite-Mass Communication: Television, the Press, and the Pollsters," which I found to be very interesting.

The Right, The Left, The Election The Tea Party, Occupy Wall Street, and The Presidential Campaign of 2012

Logos

Embarrassed by the foreign policy failings of the Bush Administration, its inability to privatize social security and balance the budget, the Tea Party refused to sit quietly on the sidelines or act as cheerleaders for establishmentarian Republicans. Its members took aim at the largest government intervention in American history involving bail-outs of the auto industry and the banks, health-care and an invigoration of the welfare state, as well as a cultural agenda that allowed for abortion, multiculturalism, secular education, and the need to confront climate change. With the sweeping victory of the far right in the congressional elections of 2010, the Tea Party forwarded a new agenda of capitalist fundamentalism that relied upon old notions of possessive individualism and the invisible hand of the market. This new ideology transformed the GOP and even infected conservative “blue dog” Democrats who constitute a significant minority of the party.

Composed of roughly two hundred thousand, organized locally in about 1000 small groups spanning the country, the Tea Party enjoys “strong” support from about 20% of the voting populace or about 46 million Americans. But its influence obviously transcends its numbers. The Tea Party is not simply an “astro-turf” organization artificially constructed by the influx of cash by elites but a mass movement that has been an ongoing feature of political life in the United States. Mixing laissez-faire economics with parochial populism and evangelical religious zeal, this new right-wing organization is the heir to the “know nothings” of the 1840s, the Ku Klux Klan that ruled the South and much of the Mid-West from the aftermath of the Civil War until the 1960s, the “America First” movement of the 1930s that preferred Hitler to FDR, the partisans of Joseph McCarthy following World War II, the ubiquitous John Birch Society as well as the “silent” majority of the 1960s and the “moral” majority of the 1980s, and the populist advocates of neo-conservatism that marked the Bush Administration. The Tea Party may vanish but its mass base will remain.

Right-wing political power was already evident in the election of 2008. Republicans were burdened with two failed wars; an economic collapse (in which their candidate did not even take a position); a discredited Republican presidential incumbent (Bush); and arguably the worst ticket in recent history (McCain-Palin). They also had to deal with the upsurge of support for a charismatic black Democratic contender who ran a near perfect campaign. Obama still only won the popular vote by 52.3 to 47.7. Whatever his wide margin of victory in the electoral vote, he never had a mandate. The economic crisis he inherited may have produced a moment when the new president might have demanded stiffer regulation of the financial sector and perhaps even the nationalization of Citibank in exchanging for bailing out those banks that were “too big to fail.” President Obama might have called for single-payer health insurance, introduced a jobs bill, and created a bank holiday on foreclosures. His supporters were shocked by his readiness to compromise over the bail-outs, health-care, and the budget. They were also appalled by his refusal to conduct an inquiry into the Bush administration and its handling of the Iraqi invasion or launch a forceful attack on the Republican Party and the Tea Party.

... ... ...

The question is not whether Obama is “really” a centrist sell-out but to which Western socialist leaders and Democratic politicians he should meaningfully be compared. Actually the president is no more or less a “communist” or “socialist” than most European social democratic leaders. Revolution is on the shelf and, in its absence, compromise is unavoidable. Those who believe that legislative gains are possible in a capitalist democracy without support from certain sectors of capital simply don’t understand the system they are contesting. That is especially the case in the absence of a sustainable and organized radical mass movement from below.

Some left-wing intellectuals have argued that the current election is “not about” Obama. But this is like suggesting that a rock concert is not about the main act. World-weary mainstream Democrats also like to insist that Obama did nothing exciting and that this justifies their support for him. But that is simply untrue. He succeeded on healthcare, where other presidents failed, with a program that abolishes pre-existing conditions and covers 30,000,000 citizens previously without insurance. He has defended the integrity of Social Security, Medicare, Food-stamps and a host of other programs from withering attack by the right. He has opposed the Bush tax cuts that so radically favored the rich. His administration introduced progressive legislation on energy, mortgages, student loans, and unemployment benefits. It has abolished “don’t ask don’t tell,” protected abortion, endorsed gay marriage, supported women’s organizations like Planned Parenthood, legalized the status of children born of illegal immigrants, and became identified with a multicultural and secular educational agenda. Government bailouts of the banks and auto industries have had more than a measure of success and The New York Times (May 1, 2010) described his oversight legislation for the stock market as “the most sweeping regulatory overhaul since the aftermath of the great depression.” The Obama administration has sought to tax companies that invest abroad and roll back the Bush tax cuts that so radically favored the 1%. Obama has opposed austerity plans for dealing with the financial crisis in Southern Europe, resisted Israel’s plans to bomb Iran, pulled troops out of Iraq, refused to intervene militarily in Syria, opened travel to Cuba, contested the neo-conservative reliance on pre-emptive strikes and contempt for international law; and radically improved the global standing of the United States.

Mitt Romney and the Republicans have promised to “starve the beast” that they identify with the welfare state. They wish to roll back “Obamacare.” turn social security and medicare into voucher programs, maintain existing tax inequities, and oppose unions. Theirs is the world of laissez-faire capitalism and social Darwinism. They seek radical de-regulation of markets, abolition of the environment and other government agencies, and unbridled free trade that allow for further “outsourcing” and capital flight. Republicans have opposed gay rights and gay marriage. They wish to make abortion illegal, shut down women’s clinics, and render their organizations impotent. Their educational agenda opposes “critical thinking,” evolution, and a multi-cultural narrative. They seek to break down “the wall of separation” between church and state. They wish to abolish limits on campaign spending and institute voting restrictions that would effectively disenfranchise hundreds of thousands among the poor and people of color. They insist upon stronger support of Israel, military action against Iran, intervention in Syria, 100,000 new troops for Afghanistan and Iraq, opposition to bettering relations with Cuba, and a rehabilitation of neo-conservative advisors and policy goals. Republican economic policy would return this country to the gilded age. Their supporters’ cultural outlook is nostalgic for the old world in which white men ruled, and their politics attacks the democratic progress what progress subaltern groups have achieved. Their patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels, their foreign policy is anchored in notions of imperial hegemony and lack of concern with international law, and their rhetoric conjures up images of fascism on the rise.

Every election is a choice between the lesser of the two evils, but some elections are more important than others. This is one of them. It is not about whether the present administration might have done more, done it better, or done it faster. Nor is it simply about looming nominations to the Supreme Court or that, historically, social movements tend to flourish under Democratic rather than Republican regimes. Should the Republicans win this election it would serve as a lasting symbolic endorsement for laissez-faire economics, constricting democracy, bigotry, educational autarky, and a foreign policy unapologetically predicated on militarism and contempt for internationalist goals. Those who cannot see the qualitative differences between the two parties, who cannot see the urgency in opposing the powerful reactionary threat, are living in Hegel’s twilight where all cats are gray. Sectarianism has never built consciousness, but rather marginalized its advocates thus leading to still more esoteric definitions of the true faith and further disillusionment. Criticism of the Democrats can begin the moment that they win the election: new compromises and serious budget cuts are on the liberal agenda. Soon enough it will again be time to take to the streets. Countering political reaction today, however, requires partisan support for the radically lesser evil. Too many radical intellectuals are saying: I want to see Obama win but I won’t do what I can for his re-election. They are hedging their bets. Thus, they ignore the most basic assumption linking theory and practice: “He who wills the end wills the means thereto.”

[Sep 29, 2012] Bad Political Discourse Drives Out Good

Quote: "I'm not sure who I despise more, the GOP or the media that enables them."
August 31, 2012 | Economist's View

Chris Dillow tries to explain the poor quality of political discourse:

Adverse selection in political discourse, by Chris Dillow: ...there is adverse selection in political debate: fanatics are given attention whilst sober, rational voices are overlooked. There are four channels through which this happens: What I'm suggesting here is an adjunct to something Mancur Olson said in the 1960s. He pointed out that small numbers of people with large interests would organize themselves better than large numbers with smaller interests. The upshot, he said, was that politics would give too much weight to small vested interests to the detriment of aggregate well-being. ... Small groups with strongly-held beliefs are given more credence and deference than they should have.
And this, in turn, implies that the mass media can sometimes undermine rational political discourse rather than promote it.

bsc:

There's something missing in this analysis: there is a small group in the US with the strongly held belief that global warming will render the Earth uninhabitable, but they are not given particular credence or deference despite their organized actions.

Seth:

"There's something missing ..."

It's the money, bsc. A minority with a strongly held belief but no money has no impact. The deniers on the other hand, have loads of money from fossil fuel interests to amplify their 'motivated reasoning'.

{ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motivated_reasoning }

Cheryl :

This week I changed my mind about what a fanatic is. Someone who uses moral framing to promote open borders in the middle of the worst recession since the 1930s when very little is being done to help the unemployed and corporations are sitting on mountains of cash is a now a fanatic in my view. I am being told that I have to do 100 informational interviews to interest 1 employer. What would the number be with open borders 500? And what would my rent be like?

kthomas:

Cheryl, what exactly changed in your mind? And who is the "someone" you refer to?

As for your rent, that's going to go up. And that has nothing to do with any open or closed borders.

Cheryl -> kthomas...

Does it matter who the someone is? Apparently the economic theory of "race to the bottom" in terms of eliminating high quality employment and decent quality lifestyles is being taught globally and the theory is so dominant that it does not matter how many people have lower standards of living than ten years ago.

Second Best:

This sounds like an intro marketing course on how to sell bogus products home channel style to gullible consumers who make adverse selections.

As for small fanatical groups using government to manipulate the rest through adverse selection, that's exactly what conservatives typically complain about as they do it themselves.

Instead of adverse selection why not call it moral hazard of the wealthy in the context of how enough money can be used to carpet bomb the media with fanatical messages until they replace the truth.

Two major factors drive this. First is how public funding of campaigns failed miserably to produce serious competition among political candidates who are instead simply drowned out from the mountain of private sector cash until the desired winner surfaces.

Second is how private sector mainstream media designed it that way to thrive off cheap phony caricatures of competition by selling soundbite ads for hundreds of millions that cost way below that.

Most humiliating of all it matters increasingly less who actually wins elections because the system is so highly rigged for the upper 10% they win either way. The apathy is so pervasive it betrays any player attempting comically to pretend the political field is level so choices matter, whether fanatical or rational.

[ Sep 25, 2012 ] Republicans 'outfoxed' elitist Democrats, Daley says by FRAN SPIELMAN

November 5, 2004 | City Hall Reporter

Mayor Daley said Thursday his beloved Democratic Party took a beating in Tuesday's election because they were "outfoxed": Republicans remembered that all politics is local, while Democrats became the "party of Washington" insiders and big money.

"We always thought the Republican Party was Washington, D.C. The Democrats are Washington, D.C., politicians. They don't reach out to a mayor, a governor, or the state chairman. There's no local anymore," Daley said.

"If you watch the Republican Party, they're to the people. . . . They're more grass-roots than Democrats. We think we are. The Republicans outfoxed the Democrats. They became the party of precincts, a county, a city. Their strategy was to go to the people and not to the money people. . . . We're supposed to be the party of the people. We're the party of the money. . . . We've become the party of the insider."

Daley said he can't help but laugh when he turns on the tube and sees those same Democratic insiders playing Monday morning quarterback in the wake of John Kerry's defeat.

Earlier this week, Daley said the re-election of George W. Bush signaled a sea change in American politics that would make it more difficult for Democrats to win future presidential elections.

The mayor also accused unnamed "Washington elitists" of underestimating the power of the Religious Right.

"People in Washington called the elitists don't like faith-based organizations. They don't like people who have different beliefs than they do -- who maybe read the Bible or read the Quran and have some religious beliefs that, maybe, differ from the politicians in Washington. There's a long message there. These are good people. . . . But, they were shoved out and shoved across America," the mayor said.

On Thursday, Daley threw in a plug for Howard Dean, the candidate he favored all along.

The mayor said if you listen closely to the Dean message -- before that infamous ranting and raving speech -- you'll hear the anti-Washington, anti-establishment message that Democrats ignored.

"Howard Dean talked about that. Democrats didn't like that in Washington," the mayor said. "Go back and read and take all of the [TV news] clips of the primary. What was Howard Dean telling everybody? We were the insiders. We were not the outsiders. We couldn't think outside the box. We were inside the box. That's what he talked about," Daley said.

[Sep 01, 2012] Neo-cons Meet Neo-Progressives by Joel S. Hirschhorn

Sep 13 2006 Smirkingchimp

Before you say it, let me say it: I am espousing a political view that is counter to current politically correct, mainstream feelings and thought in the "progressive" community.

I can understand the considerable passion to hand Republicans a defeat this year. I am as anti-Republican as anyone. George W. Bush will surely go down in history as the nation's worst, most corrupt, most incompetent, most dishonest, most elitist, most war-mongering, and most anti-democracy president – a true disgrace to American ideals.

Still, I am deeply troubled by what I see: What all the current fervor among "progressives" to produce a Democratic victory this year reveals is that the marked growth of "progressive" activities and events in recent years may have been a charade. To some degree, it has been a semantic trick and deception to escape the effective attacks by Republicans and conservatives against liberals and Democrats. A tactic to more effectively combat conservatives, because progressive sounds good.

What is now apparent is that we have a whole lot of "neo-progressives," people who have no hesitancy in supporting mainstream Democrats in the name of defeating Republicans. Neo-progressives cannot resist the temptation to support the lesser-evil as a pragmatic strategy, justified in the name of saving the country from yet more years of Republican dominance.

Neo-progressives seem blind to the fundamental deficiencies of the Democratic Party and its candidates. The concept of a two-party duopoly and the reality that Democrats as well as Republicans are beholding to many special economic interests, are also corrupt and dishonest, and when in power do not seriously pursue what were historic progressive and populist values – all seem now to be lost in the pseudo-ecstasy of anticipating a Democratic victory this year, enough to take over one or both houses of congress. Objective reality is lost in the heat of anti-Republican anger and frustration. Neo-progressives, it seems to me, have let their emotions out-gun their deeper intellectual knowledge and principles. They seem drunk from drinking Democratic Party Kool-aid.

I applaud what Frank J. Ranelli has said:

"As suggested in the past, endorsement of candidates should be done one at a time and based on merit. Candidates should not receive blanket endorsements by-proxy for the itinerary of the DCCC or the DSCC merely by claims of being Democratic. The candidate must demonstrate not only their grasp of the issues we face and the words to express them, but must reveal the actions they will undertake to accomplish the goals of a true progressive messenger of the people."

This is sound thinking. True progressives must carefully evaluate individual Democrats for their authenticity as progressives. Very few Democratic candidates, I propose, will meet this test.

History tells us (at least me and I hope many other progressives) that when in office Democrats will disappoint true progressives. Compared to Republicans, they may be less corrupted by big-money interests, they may be less dishonest, they may be less eager to undermine democracy, but such differences are quantitative, not qualitative. As Ralph Nader and, more recently, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. have emphasized, Democrats are also huge disappointments when it comes to serving the interests of working- and middle-class Americans.

For example, I am terrified that a Democrat-controlled House might actually give the business sector what they want – continued massive illegal immigration. Any progressive that thinks millions more low-wage immigrants serve the interests of working- and middle-class American CITIZENS is misguided.

Sure, neo-progressives will dwell on what a Democratic-controlled House might do in a positive vein, such as increasing the minimum wage and reducing funding for the Iraq war. And even more they are already jumping with joy about House investigations into the many misdeeds of the Bush administration, and maybe even a serious attempt to impeach Bush. Fine. These are good common dreams. But a few years later what reality will we see?

Will a 2006 Democratic win increase or decrease the chances for a Republican presidential candidate victory? The current neo-progressive excitement is all about near-term benefits, not longer term effects. A Democratic win will surely mobilize all the constituencies that have accounted for Republican successes; they will be more determined than ever to retain the White House and take back any congressional power they lose this year. But I guess neo-progressives will be happy to see Hillary Clinton become the Democratic candidate in 2008. Personally, I never saw the net positive impact of the Clinton presidency, and I am equally pessimistic about a second Clinton presidency. Moreover, I foresee a McCain candidacy that will be brilliantly marketed and sufficient to keep the White House in Republican hands.

It comes to this: Progressives should be anti-Republican. They should want Republicans to lose this year. But I also suggest that they should want ALL congressional incumbents to lose, because (with very few exceptions) ALL incumbents of both parties share the shame of the current congress. The deeper, more complex question is whether progressives should be so automatically supportive of Democrats, so thrilled about a Democratic victory, so public allies of Democrats. Without the help of the progressive community, the mood of the nation is clearly on the side of defeating ALL incumbents and, statistically, that means the odds of a Democratic victory are very high, though clearly the Bush machine is once again working to make American so afraid that they will resist voting against incumbents. This is the year of the lesser-evil conundrum.

I can understand why progressives will vote for Democrats. What troubles me is the outright excitement and vocal support for Democrats, as if they will be the salvation for the nation. This is what separates progressives from neo-progressives. Neo-progressives genuinely believe that Democrats will finally deliver the political outcomes that have been dreamed about for a long term. This seems like delusion-driven hope. Conversely, true progressives know in their hearts and minds that lesser-evil Democrats are not what we really need and they will remain committed to finding other political routes to restoring American democracy and bringing justice to our economy.

Forgive me, for speaking some truth... but I think it is time to distinguish between real progressives and Democrats hiding behind the progressive label.

[Joel S. Hirschhorn is the author of Delusional Democracy - Fixing the Republic Without Overthrowing the Government; contact him through www.delusionaldemocracy.com]

[Aug 28, 2012] Chris Hedges on 'Empire of Illusion' and a Vignette of The Fall of Berlin 1945

This is an almost perfect illustration of the credibility trap. One cannot allow the illusion to falter, even a little, to the bitter end. And as the fraud fades, the force intensifies, becoming almost rabid in its deflection. Because that illusion has become the center of a hollowed people's being, their raison d'être, a mythological justification for their existence.
Aug 25, 2012 | Jesse's Café Américain

I came across a nice, compact interview with Chris Hedges which illuminates his thesis of the decline of the American Empire and the illusions and the end of rational thinking that accompanies it. Empires seem to give off quite a bit of flash in their latter stages, rather like the last gasp of a dying star.

The interviewer, Allan Gregg, does a particularly nice job of drawing Hedges out.

I would like to add an observation I came to in thinking further about the Sophie Scholl piece which I put up earlier today. Perhaps there is something about gardening that focuses the mind.

The almost frenetic preoccupation and adherence to the Nazi ideology in the latter stages of the war, when it was obvious to any rational observer that they could not win, is remarkable. I had been particularly struck in my reading some time ago with the 'wolf packs' of Nazis who had raged through Berlin, rounding up old men and even boys who had not joined the Volkssturm, and hanging them, even while the Russians were shelling the Reichstag. It never made sense to me until today.

"The radio announced that Hitler had come out of his safe bomb-proof bunker to talk with the fourteen to sixteen year old boys who had 'volunteered' for the 'honor' to be accepted into the SS and to die for their Fuhrer in the defense of Berlin. What a cruel lie! These boys did not volunteer, but had no choice, because boys who were found hiding were hanged as traitors by the SS as a warning that, 'he who was not brave enough to fight had to die.'

When trees were not available, people were strung up on lamp posts. They were hanging everywhere, military and civilian, men and women, ordinary citizens who had been executed by a small group of fanatics. It appeared that the Nazis did not want the people to survive because a lost war, by their rationale, was obviously the fault of all of us. We had not sacrificed enough and therefore, we had forfeited our right to live, as only the government was without guilt."

Dorothea von Schwanenfluegel, Eyewitness account, Fall of Berlin 1945

minded of this phenomenon by the trial of Sophie Scholl, he ranted his virulent condemnations at them. 'Soon you will be in our place,' she said to him. He did escape the hangman's noose at Nuremburg, but only by virtue of an Allied bomb in 1945. When his body was brought to hospital an orderly remarked, 'It was God's verdict.' He was buried in an unmarked grave, without ceremony and unmourned. Much like his beloved Fuhrer.

This is an almost perfect illustration of the credibility trap. One cannot allow the illusion to falter, even a little, to the bitter end. And as the fraud fades, the force intensifies, becoming almost rabid in its deflection. Because that illusion has become the center of a hollowed people's being, their raison d'être, a mythological justification for their existence.

If the ideology had been a lie, then they are not heroes and gods on earth, but monsters and criminals, and their life has been self-serving and meaningless, without significance and honor. And that is the credibility trap.

And this is the US financial system today.

[Aug 25, 2012] Matt Taibbi and Eliot Spitzer Discuss Eric Holder's (and Obama's) Failure: Credibility Trap

A credibility trap is a situation in which the regulatory, political and/or the informational functions of a society have been thoroughly taken in by a corrupting influence and a fraud, so that one cannot address the situation without implicating, at least incidentally, a broad swath of the power structure and the status quo who at least tolerated it, if not profited directly from it, and most likely continue to do so.

Jesse's Café Américain

The failure of Obama's Justice Department to engage in any systemic investigations and indictments of a thoroughly rotten and corrupt financial system that has laid waste to the real economy is an almost perfect example of the credibility trap.

A credibility trap is a situation in which the regulatory, political and/or the informational functions of a society have been thoroughly taken in by a corrupting influence and a fraud, so that one cannot address the situation without implicating, at least incidentally, a broad swath of the power structure and the status quo who at least tolerated it, if not profited directly from it, and most likely continue to do so. They become susceptible to various forms of blackmail. And so a failed policy can become almost self-sustaining long after it is seen to have failed, and even become counterproductive, because admitting failure is not an option for those holding power.

Another example is the blatant fraud, and principles not of productivity but of prey, that prevail on the financial asset exchanges and the monetary system, the stealing of customer funds, and the manipulation of commodity markets such as silver. And it expresses itself in the frivilous coarseness of spectacle, and careless brutality of decline.

"Happy Hunger Games. And may the odds be ever in your favor."
Normally a two party system or a balance of powers would correct such a situation, but if the fraud is pervasive and enduring enough, those remedies can lose their effectiveness since the fraud binds even seemingly diverse elements in its grasp. And therein lies the trap.

There is a general loss of honor, a disparagement of moral principles, the common welfare, and a sense of 'service.' People in power are creatures of the system, 'getting their ticket punched' in Washington, as resume builder on their way to an even more lucrative position back in the corrupt system where they can leverage their connections and knowledge of the system to further undermine the rule of law. Their guiding principles are self-referential greed and power.

After one of the most outrageous periods of widespread fraud in a major developed country, prosecutions for fraud are at twenty year lows. Who expected this outcome from an election in which the theme was change and reform?

Here is a recent article, Why Can't Obama Bring Wall St to Justice, asking the broader question inferred by this video interview. Why? And the answer is not to be found in making excuses and allowing him to hide behind the incompetency or disengagement defense so popular in American management circles.

And if you think that voting for the other guy in this case, the emotinally engaging but fatally flawed red v. blue paradigm, is going to provide a cure you are sadly mistaken. The other guy in this case is the poster child for most of the problems that face a nation under siege by a financial elite engaged in an economic, ideological, and political coup d'etat.

As Glenn Greenwald recently put it:

"You can often, and I would say more often than not, in leading opinion-making elite circles, find an expressed renouncement or repudiation of that principle [of the rule of law]...All of these acts entail very aggressive and explicit arguments that the most powerful political and financial elites in our society should not be, and are not, subject to the rule of law because it is too disruptive, it is too divisive, it is more important that we should look forward, that we find ways to avoid repeating the problem...the rule of law is not that important of a value any longer...

The law is no respecter of persons, but the law is also a respecter of reality, meaning if it is too disruptive or divisive that it is actually in our common good, not the elite criminals, but in our common good, to exempt the most powerful from the consequences of their criminal acts, and that has become the template used in each of these instances."

And thanks to the apathy of the people and the gullibility of the badly used, self-proclaimed 'patriots' they are winning.
“The disposition to admire, and almost to worship, the rich and the powerful, and to despise, or, at least to neglect, persons of poor and mean condition is the great and most universal cause of the corruption of our moral sentiments.”

Adam Smith

Such unsustainable social arrangements are backed by force and fraud. And as the fraud loses its power over time, force must increase, until there is an end in genuine reform, or evenutal self-destruction.

[Apr 29, 2012] Matt Stoller Obama as Neoliberal Ideologue

April 29, 2012 | naked capitalism

G3

My quip :

Repubs are like the abusive guy who will hit and throw the wife out of the house. Dems are like the one who will hit but let her stay in.

My friend’s quip :

With Repubs, it is like outright rape. With Dems, it is like date rape.

[May 30, 2012] Stephen Fleischman The Great American Oligarchy

I never thought I'd ever hear the United States of America called an "oligarchy". But now I have.

My dictionary says an oligarchy is a form of government where most or all political power effectively rests with a small segment of the society. As Wikipedia, the popular online encyclopedia, puts it,

"Oligarchies are often controlled by a few powerful families whose children are raised and mentored to be heirs of the power of the oligarchy, often at some sort of expense to those governed."

Does that sound like the administration of George W. Bush?

For all my life, ever since grade school, I've been taught that the United States of American is a paragon of democracy. We have popular elections on every level-local, state and Federal. We have two houses of Congress, a President and a Supreme Court, a system of checks and balances, a Constitution second to none, and a Bill of Rights, the pride of our forefathers. Most Americans see our country as Ronald Reagan did -- the shining city on the hill-beacon to the world.

But here we are, today, when, according to the most recent CNN/USA Today poll, six of ten Americans see the Iraq war as a huge mistake and want our troops out of there, yet they are incapable of making that happen. Why? It's simple. It's the oligarchy that's keeping them there-that tight little group around Bush in the White House and Rumsfeld in the Pentagon, who run things for corporate feeders. You know who they are, Halliburton, Bechtel, and Lockheed Martin, to name a few of the no-bid war profiteers. They can make 18 billion dollars, allocated for the reconstruction of Iraq, disappear in the blink of an eye. That is really slight of hand.

The war in Iraq is the best example of an oligarchy at work -- produced and managed to make money and to secure the remaining reserves of oil in the world. As they say, the world's oil has "peaked". It's all down hill from here, so we better grab it before somebody else does. To do this, we're got to keep a perpetual war spinning in the best oil-producing areas, the Middle East and the Caspian region. (We'd do it in Venezuela if we could.) With Iraq as a pivotal base, the oligarchy is planning to stay there into the foreseeable future. Any talk about drawing down troops is just that, talk-a tease offered for the 2006 mid-term elections. Using Iraq as a military base also explains the moves on former Soviet states, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and others in the Russian orbit-targets of the giant oil conglomerates.

Oligarchies operate in secret. They spawn conspiracy theories. The 9/11 World Trade Towers collapse, for example. That garnered more than a million references in Google. Enough conspiracy theories for everyone. But the event caused a number of reputable construction engineers to raise their eyebrows. They saw it as a controlled demolition, as did Dr. Steven E. Jones, Physicist and Archaeometrist of Brigham Young University, who has done a major investigation on his own. He asks, why was this possibility not investigated by the 9/11 Commission and other governmental investigating agencies at the time? Not much help from the mainstream media, either. They accepted the Commission finding that it was an al-Qaeda attack. That's been the conventional wisdom ever since.

Everything is up for questioning. Does the media have the Chutpah to investigate any of them? No way. The Israel Lobby? No way. Untouchable. Look what happened when somebody tried to touch it. Two esteemed academicians, Professor John J.Mearsheimer of the Political Science Department of the University of Chicago and Stephen M. Walt, Professor of International Affairs at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard did a study and wrote a report on the Israel Lobby for the London Review of Books giving their views on the influence of Israel and the Israel Lobby in Washington on US foreign policy. Of course, the establishment, media and otherwise, came down on them like a ton of bricks. Alan Dershowitz, Professor at Harvard Law School and proponent of torture, reflects the kind of hysteria that was generated

"it is fair to ask why these distinguished academics chose to publish a paper that does not meet their usual scholarly standards, especially given the obvious risk that it would be featured, as it has been, on neo-Nazi and extremist websites, and even those of terrorist organisations, and that it would be used by overt anti-semites to 'validate' their claims of a worldwide Jewish conspiracy"

All Mearsheimer and Walt were trying to do was bring a few facts to public attention and open the subject for discussion.

The oligarchy knows how to lock down.

[Mar 28, 2012] Why Can’t Americans Have Democracy by PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS

Counterpunch
Syria has a secular government as did Iraq prior to the American invasion. Secular governments are important in Arab lands in which there is division between Sunni and Shi’ite. Secular governments keep the divided population from murdering one another.

When the American invasion, a war crime under the Nuremberg standard set by the US after WW II, overthrew the Saddam Hussein secular government, the Iraqi Sunnis and Shi’ites went to war against one another. The civil war between Iraqis saved the American invasion. Nevertheless, enough Sunnis found time to fight the American occupiers of Iraq that the US was never able to occupy Bagdad, much less Iraq, no matter how violent and indiscriminate the US was in the application of force.

The consequence of the US invasion was not democracy and women’s rights in Iraq, much less the destruction of weapons of mass destruction which did not exist as the weapons inspectors had made perfectly clear beforehand. The consequence was to transfer political power from Sunnis to Shi’ites. The Shi’ite version of Islam is the Iranian version. Thus, Washington’s invasion transferred power in Iraq from a secular government to Shi’ites allied with Iran.

Washington’s hostility toward Assad is hypocritical. On February 26, the Syrian government held a referendum on a new constitution for Syria that set term limits on future presidents and removed the political monopoly that the Ba’ath Party has enjoyed.

The Syrian voter turnout was 57.4%, matching the voter turnout for Obama in 2008. It was a higher voter turnout (despite the armed, western-supported rebellion in Syria) than in the nine US presidential elections from 1972 through 2004. The new Syrian constitution was approved by a vote of 89.4%.

But Washington denounced the democratic referendum and claims that the Syrian government must be overthrown in order to bring democracy to Syria.

Washington’s allies in the region, unelected oil monarchies such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar, have issued statements that they are willing to supply weapons to the Islamist rebels in order to bring democracy–something they do not tolerate at home–to Syria.

For Washington “democracy” is a weapon of mass destruction. When Washington brings “democracy” to a country, it means the country’s destruction, as in Libya and Iraq. It doesn’t mean democracy. Libya is in chaos, a human rights nightmare without an effective government.

Washington installed Nouri al-Maliki as president of Iraq. He lost an election, but remained in power. He has declared his vice president to be a terrorist and ordered his arrest and is using the state police to arrest Sunni politicians.

For a decade Washington has misrepresented its wars of naked aggression as “bringing democracy and human rights to the Middle East.” While Washington was bringing democracy to the Middle East, Washington was destroying democracy in the US. Washington has resurrected medieval torture dungeons and self-incrimination. Washington has destroyed due process and habeas corpus. At Obama’s request, Congress passed overwhelmingly a law that permits US subjects to be imprisoned indefinitely without a trial or presentation of evidence. Warrantless searches and spying, illegal and unconstitutional at the turn of the 21st century, are now routine.

Obama has even asserted the right, for which there is no law on the books, to murder any American anywhere if the executive branch decides, without presenting any evidence, that the person is a threat to the US government. Any American anywhere can be murdered on the basis of subjective opinion in the executive branch, which increasingly is the only branch of the US government. The other two “co-equal” branches have shriveled away under the “war on terror.”

Why is Washington so determined to bring democracy to the Middle East (with the exception of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, and the Emirates), Africa, Iran, Afghanistan, Russia, and China, but is hostile to constitutional rights in America?

The rights that Americans gained from successful revolution against King George III in the 18th century have all been taken away by Bush/Obama in the 21st century. One might think that this would be a news story, but it isn’t.

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 through his website.

[Mar 28, 2012] Political Inequality

Economist's View

At the end of a post discussing Acemoglu and Robinson's claim that inclusive political institutions are one of the keys to widespread prosperity, I wondered how inclusive our political institutions really are. Acemoglu and Robinson give an answer:

Who's Afraid of Super PACs?, by Acemoglu and Robinson: A lot of discussion on Super PACs has focused on whether they are able to get their candidate elected... This is the wrong way to think about a very serious problem.
As we argued in this Huffington Post article, political inequality is a serious challenge to US inclusive institutions, and is the real reason why we should be worried about the increase in inequality. These problems predate the Citizens United ruling. Lobbying and campaign contributions already have major impact on politics, and the wealthy have much better access to politicians and are able to convince them of their viewpoint much more easily.
Larry Bartels documents an intriguing and alarming pattern in his book Unequal Democracy: US Senators roll call votes correlate strongly with the opinions of their rich constituents, and not at all — or even sometimes negatively — with those of their poor constituents. Notably, this is true both for Republicans and Democrats. ...
In this light, the real problem with Super PACs is not whether they get Romney or Santorum elected, but how they have already totally changed the political agenda — and together with it, political inequality in the US.

Lafayette:

THE IMAGE MAKERS

{the real problem with Super PACs is not whether they get Romney or Santorum elected, but how they have already totally changed the political agenda — and together with it, political inequality in the US.}

The issue of SuperPACs is not that they exist, but that they work adeptly at manipulating Public Opinion.

One must presume that most of the money goes to publicity on behalf of the candidate. It would seem the most effective usage, given that Americans seem attached at the hip to the BoobTube (TV). (Not that it is any different elsewhere in the world and the differences only a matter of degree of attachment.)

If one wanted to enter every American household with political messaging, there could not have been innovated a more effective means to do so.

The issue devolves therefore to this simple question: Why does it work in manipulating public opinion?

Most of the publicity is mindless nonsense intended to show how a candidate, like soap-powder, washes "whiter than white". Because, obviously, their opponent is the Dirty Devil Incarnate.

For this sort of manipulation to be effective, they key ingredient is the recipient and an extremely supple but simple mind. One that has not be tasked to ask pointed questions about the malarkey being shown. One that has very little training in the political process and how winning is all important and the ends justify the means.

Political debates on TV are candidates trying to demonstrate oneupmanship and woe betide the candidate who says the wrong wrong words in the wrong way at the wrong time. Which means what?

It means that Americans are indeed swayed by the image conveyed and not the substance of a candidate. And thus the Image Designers and Handlers are defining how a candidate looks, how s/he behaves, what they say and how they say it.

The work is of a professional level that reminds one of the best national Advertising Agencies.

In a Pavlovian sense, since we are so inured to TV advertising, we, the sheeple, are being molded into supporting a political candidate - often on a daily basis.

MY POINT: The puppet show

And political substance be damned ... with any luck, like Dubya, we learn much too late that - behind the mask - is, uh, nothing. Just an ordinary human being, sometimes a puppet being manipulated with strings by Vested Interests.

What a surprise!

Lafayette:

I could not agree more.

Which makes me wonder what are they being taught in primary- and secondary-school education? Or is it a phenomenon of the television itself - that people actually allow themselves willingly to be manipulated?

I recall the movie Fahrenheit 451 (the temperature at which books burn). Its author, Ray Brandbury, said, according to WikiP: {The novel (was) the subject of various interpretations, primarily focusing on the historical role of book burning in suppressing dissenting ideas. Bradbury has stated that the novel is not about censorship, but a story about how television destroys interest in reading literature, which leads to a perception of knowledge as being composed of factoids, partial information devoid of context}

The book was published in 1953. Fast-forward 60 years - fiction has become reality ...

Lafayette:

A VERY LONGGGGGGG SHOT

Let's remember, when thinking about "Political Inequality", that SuperPACs work both ways in a country with a two-party system. (Towards which many countries are morphing because it tends - supposedly - to bring about government stability. But at what price?)

From their Huffington Post article: {So here is the concern: economic inequality will lead to greater political inequality, and those who are further empowered politically will use this to gain a greater economic advantage by stacking the cards in their favor and increasing economic inequality yet further }

Wasn't it the Bobsie Twins (Summers & Rubin) who convinced Clinton to retract the Glass-Steagal Act? Which, for the Dem Party, does not show them in the best Progressive Light.

So, is it not our two-party system that may be at fault? For instance, a Senate in control of the Dems but consisting of 47% of Senators who are qualified millionaires. Much like the Roman Senate was that of the Roman elite (Patrician Families) that owned large parts of Rome and tracts of land in the countryside?

As I am fond of saying: Reagan's election opened Pandora's Box of Reactionary Ills that brought to the fore those interests of a Plutocrat Class. Aka, the Vested Interests of this nation, who desire to perpetuate the Trickle-Up Money Pump, by keeping their hands on the levers-of-power on both the State and Federal levels.

By which "regulatory environments are bad for business and worse for jobs". The sort of false-factoid that voters swallow hook, line and sinker.

And again I put this simple question: Who voted them into power? We, the sheeple, did.

And why did we do that? Because we continue to believe the mindless nonsense that "What is good for General Motors is good for America". First uttered by Secretary of Defense (in 1955) Charlie Wilson, ex-head of ... GM.

And what is the ultimate solution? There's only one, methinks. To increase the Progressive Caucus in Congress, presently constituted of 83 brave souls, all Dems, and only one Senator. This represents only about 20% of all Congress representatives (both Chambers). It is nonetheless a good start.

If only the Progressives can get their act together and increase their numbers in November. Which is, at present, a very longggggg shot.

Besides, "Progressive" in America is not quite the same term as a European Progressive, the former being more Centrist and the latter more Leftist on most matters of Social Justice.

Darryl FKA Ron:

"Wasn't it the Bobsie Twins (Summers & Rubin) who convinced Clinton to retract the Glass-Steagal Act? Which, for the Dem Party, does not show them in the best Progressive Light."

Well yes, but still long story there about theThe Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act (GLB), also known as the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999. I would start with Gramm, but to be fair it was not the work of one Senator, or even one lobbyist.

The link below presents the final vote tally in an effort to represent the bipartisan nature of the bill.

http://www.uspoliticsonline.com/economic-issues/60404-repeal-glass-steagall-bi-partisan.html

However, if you look into the history of the bill back to 1998 then you will find that it originally passed along partisan lines, some deals were made during reconciliation so that the final bill passed with a veto proof majority. Now if the Dems had gotten any intention that Clinton might veto the Republicans then that might have turned out differently. But the congressional Republicans had made themselves "veto proof" by virtue of Monica-gate weakening the authority of a sitting President. It is a complicated world my friend

Lafayette :

{Now if the Dems had gotten any intention that Clinton might veto the Republicans then that might have turned out differently.}

I am of the opinion that Billy-boy had in mind, when he went along with Summers & Rubin, his wife's eventual election bid for which she would need Wall Street money to pursue.

The fact that she was New York's Senator also worked in her favor to curry the funds necessary for an election bid.

It must have been a great disappointment not to have been successful.

But, she'll be back. As Obama's VP, placing her in pole-position to take over from him.

bakho:

The TV advertising is largely negative. Negative advertising works. It discourages voter turnout. One characteristic of the GOP primaries has been low voter turnout. Voter suppression is necessary for a minority to win an election.

The threat of a primary challenge is used to make politicians change their votes. Vote for me or I fund a primary challenger with millions of dollars in negative TV ads and force you to raise enough money to counter them making you even more beholden to other interests groups.

DrDick:

While negative advertising has an impact, I think most of the GOP turnout issues can be explained by the quality of the candidates on offer. It is absolutely the most pathetic group of presidential candidates I have seen in my 60 years (they make Dukakis look charismatic).

Jim Harrison:

It's normal for the rich to dominate American politics. As Jeffrey Winters points out in his book Oligarchy, money is a more reliable basis for power than the charisma of political leaders, revolutionary ardor, or religious fervor. Dough waits out enthusiasm. Formerly, however, there were factors that held wealth in check in American politics, most notably the threat of revolution, but also the circumstance that a dynamically growing economy allowed the rich to get richer without impoverishing the underlings.

In the absence of any credible threat from beneath and in a time where profitable investments in the real economy are hard to find, all bets are off. The be all and end all of Conservative politics was the protection of property and the defense of inequality: now it has become the aggrandizement of property and the premeditated intensification of inequality.

Mark A. Sadowski:

Just a plug for Larry Bartel's book (linked to in the post).

http://www.amazon.com/Unequal-Democracy-Political-Economy-Gilded/dp/0691136637

Every person who considers themself a Democrat should read it if for no other reason than it will remind you why.

Seth:

Our political institutions are inclusive in precisely the following ways:

  1. politicians will take money from anybody who'll give it to them,
  2. anyone can volunteer to make phone calls or walk a precinct

These do not extend to an influence on candidate behavior in office unless the amounts of money (#1) given figure prominently in their overall budget.

Public opinion does indeed register with candidates, but mostly as an obstacle to implementing the agenda given them by their major donors. Office holders have to demonstrate consistency on the issues over time, but this has more in common with the way actors get 'type cast' than with real ideology. Once a candidate gets a reputation as a "liberal" or a "conservative" (among other issue-specific positions) any actions which deviate from expectations can generate a loss of popularity. They have to maintain their "image" by playing parts in various issue-dramas that build on their perceived strengths. What they do 'off stage' is separate, but subject to risks of exposure. It was very bad for Tiger Woods to have marital problems in large measure because his image was "squeaky clean". The same issues would not have hurt a "bad boy" athlete. It's the same thing with pols.

The fundamental problem for an office-holder is how to square donor-driven policy priorities with voter perceptions. Political talent is the capacity to do this with grace and agility.

Seth -> Seth...

By this definition of political talent, Mitt Romney is pretty weak and Obama very good ... but not *quite* as good as some thought in 2008.

The Republicans are ALL OVER Romney for his etch-a-sketch inconsistency. And Democratic enthusiasm for Obama has waned as his 'compromises' (or is it really just plain 'comfort'?) with banker immunity, "tax cuts for the rich, austerity for the poor" fiscal policy, and 'national security' statism have whittled away his oratorically crafted image.

Mark A. Sadowski -> Seth...

Who are you kidding? Democrats aren't going to pick Gordan Gekko over Obama. Moreover human beings with a pulse beat in general aren't going to pick Romney over Obama.

If this is the best you can do you have lost now and for the next 40 years.

Seth -> Mark A. Sadowski...

I only said Democratic enthusiasm for Obama has *waned*. His tap-dancing in the service of the people who largely own the government has tarnished his image somewhat. I can't imagine a single Obama voter choosing any of the R field over Obama in 2012.

I can imagine some of them shrugging and staying home, though, if only because they are thinking emotionally rather than rationally. Such a pity that we spend our whole voting lives picking the lesser evil :(

Roger Gathman:
Interesting glimpse into the financial lives of our Representatives in the NYT: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/22/us/politics/study-shows-how-house-members-and-families-reap-benefits.html?ref=politics

The assumption a lot of people make is that the system is corrupted because politicos take money for their election campaigns, and then owe favors. But what if the venality is deeper and simpler than that? Getting the opportunity to do regulatory favors for monied interests pays off all the way down the line for politicos and their families. We know that the Senate and the House are in the ten percent, but how did they get there? They come, as it were, pre-bribed. I am not at all sure that the model that claims that the venality into which legislators tend to descend is derived from the expense of campaigning. I think it is derived from the unparalleled structure of incentives into which they are plunged. I would much rather see laws banning anyone who was ever elected to the House or Senate from any lobbying job, and from dealing in any way shape or form with any organization contracting with the government. And I'd like to see the lobbying ban put into effect for their immediate family.

Seth :

Yes. They are very much 'pre-bribed'. I think straight-up quid-pro-quo venality is relatively rare and is more common among long-time office holders who have become jaded.

The problem is that to GET elected requires finding a constituency, which pols generally select based on their own basic 'orientation' (innate, sincerely held beliefs), and then to attract funding sufficient to run a campaign.

If a pol doesn't approach funders 'tactfully' -- minus any threatening ideas like, say, confiscatory taxes for those very funders, or frankly ANYTHING that might be a little awkward to bring up -- they don't get the money. So they instead focus on a few hot button issue positions which are popular with a donor constituency and match their own personal preferences and cultivate that resonance with 'their' donors as their careers progress.

Over time there is an accumulation of compromises with the sources of funding. Both their own funding, and the funding of the other politicians they need to work with. Compromises with what we call euphemistically "Political Reality" which gradually disconnect even the most sincere pols from their original commitments and motivation.

It's darwinism: survival of the donor-friendliest.

[Mar 10, 2012] Sergey Khrushchev (son of Nikita Khrushchev) about modern Russia (in Russian)

[Mar 1, 2012] elections are for suckers Robert Scheer

Let’s just dip our fingers in purple ink and pose for photos now that voting has the same significance for us as it had for those Iraqis who got conned into thinking they were participating in some grand democratic experiment.

Robert Scheer

16 comments

Our own elections, the ones our government has modeled for the world, are a hoax. What other word should we use to describe this year’s presidential election, whose outcome will turn on which party’s Super PACs gets the most generous bribes from billionaires? The Republicans, enabled by decisions of a Supreme Court they still control, were the first out of the gate and are far more culpable in destroying our system of popular governance. But the Democrats, no less committed to winning at any cost to political principle, have now jumped in.

The generally reserved New York Times editorial page responded to the Obama campaign’s decision to seek Super PAC funding with a scathing editorial headlined “Another Campaign for Sale.” The Times reminded that Barack Obama, in his State of the Union speech two years ago, called out the Supreme Court justices sitting before him over their decision to free special interests from campaign spending limits. “I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests,” Obama said then. “They should be decided by the American people.” But sadly, as the Times editorial noted this week, “On Monday, the President abandoned that fundamental principle and gave in to the culture of the Citizens United decision that he once denounced as a ‘threat to our democracy.’ ”

Monday was the day the Obama campaign sent out an e-mail announcing that members of the president’s administration would solicit funds for Priorities USA Action, one of the Super PACs that can now, thanks to the Supreme Court decisions that Obama had castigated, raise unlimited funds in an effort to sway the election.

Just as the super political action committee supporting Republican primary contender Newt Gingrich had raised $10 million from Nevada gambling kingpin Sheldon Adelson and his wife, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Obama campaign set its sights on media mogul Haim Saban.

A backer of Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries in 2008, Saban had not subsequently supported Obama because of criticisms over the president’s actions toward Israel. Perhaps because the president has done nothing to effectively pressure the Israeli government to make any concessions toward Palestinian self-determination, Saban recently made his first contribution to Obama and in a written statement Tuesday said, “We are looking at all the Super PACs at the moment, will surely participate, but haven’t decided on the details.”

Saban may be one of the more idealistic mega-donors the pro-Obama Priorities USA Action PAC is now courting. Less savory, if one cares about the hold that Wall Street has exerted over this administration, are some of the top donors Obama aides met with Tuesday to urge that they contribute to the PAC. The list included Hamilton E. James, the president of the huge private equity firm Blackstone, and Robert Wolf, the chairman of UBS Group Americas.

Not that the Republicans should worry, since their list of Super PAC supporters is far more powerful. To date, the pro-Democrat PACs have collected a paltry $19 million as compared with the $91 million raised last year by committees controlled by Karl Rove and the allies of the Republican presidential candidates. This disparity is the president’s justification for abandoning his principled opposition to such groups. “We’re not going to fight this fight with one hand tied behind our back,” said Jim Messina, Obama’s campaign manager. “With so much at stake, we can’t allow for two sets of rules. Democrats can’t be unilaterally disarmed.”

That argument would be more compelling if not for the fact that it was the Republican presidential nominee, John McCain, who “disarmed” by accepting public funding in the last election. Obama subverted what remained of political campaign finance reform by turning instead to private contributions, with the result that major Wall Street interests greatly financed his victory. It is not entirely true that shunning the PACs would have left the president at a disadvantage, since he commands predominant media space by virtue of his office. He could have exploited the fat-cat contributions to Republicans as confirmation that they are servants of the 1 percent that has caused the rest of us so much misery. Once again he has failed to take that case for economic justice to the American people and instead validated the Republican assault on what remains of our democracy.

See also

The Democrats Who Unleashed Wall Street and Got Away With It (Banking Predatory Lending, Bill Clinton)

That Lawrence Summers and Bill Clinton, the president he served as treasury secretary, can still get away with disclaiming responsibility for our financial meltdown is an insult to reason.

Obama's Faux Populism Sounds Like Bill Clinton (Banking Predatory Lending, Barack Obama, Election 2012)

Betrayal by the “good guys” for whom we have ended up voting has become the norm.

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