Saturday, July 30, 2011

Faith in the system

Ruin The Economy Or Not? Congress Still Unable To Decide

Also from The Onion; this is from last week, but needless to say the melodrama is still playing. Am I expecting too much if I'm disappointed that they don't point out that BHO is also trying to cut entitlements?

And(below),from August 2008,

Today Now!: How To Pretend You Give A Shit About The Election

I was reminded of this because Ian Welsh recently discussed a Firedoglake post of his from August '08, and I linked to the second Onion video at Hugo Zoom that summer.

I've been meaning to add Ian Welsh's site to the blogroll, as well as Jodi Dean's I Cite, both of which are very valuable to me, along with some others.

For example, Robert Bonomo(The Cactus Land),Bob Somerby(Daily Howler), Moon of Alabama, and Washingtonsblog.

However I hesitated, partly because sometimes I think of shutting down this wee blog. I'm not going to, although I may take a pretty lengthy break, say six to ten or twelve months. At any rate I wouldn't feel right doing so without consulting Bob in Pacifica, Mimi, and Micah Holmquist, and naturally they may still post. I hope they will.

I miss when Rob Payne was affiliated with us, although I understand his reasons for leaving, some of which is my fault, as he is a very gracious and decent chap. (As I said before, he essentially carried this blog on his shoulders at times.) I always looked forward to going to the web site when he was here, as I am always look forward to posts from Bob and Mimi and Micah today, as I also looked forward to Micah Pyre's posts in 2009. If you post solo you miss out on the pleasure of being surprised by your blog collaborators, although I guess if you're a big-shot blogger who takes getting 50 or more comments for granted every time you discuss your dog or cat or parakeet, you may not understand, or you may understand but not care too much about things like that.

Does blogging matter? Not as much as concrete action, but the sense of solidarity people can get from reading and writing political blogs matters, especially living in a surreal age of impression management and "optics" and a constantly changing, distracting spectacle. Maybe we should be disappointed that left and right-wing blogs don't have more of a conversation, although maybe they do and I don't see it, and maybe worrying about it is false sentimentality.

(There's a little more to it than "left=good", "right=bad", and the brutishness and tribalism that corrodes the culture is more complicated than left vs right, but I want to leave that discussion for another day. )

I note the conversion of Balloon Juice's John Cole from being a George W. Bush supporter to a team democrat booster in 2008, although in his case I think it illustrates Cole's recognition of Obama's right wing corporatist aspect more than anything else.

Ultimately millions of people are like John Cole, even if most of them don't blog; they prefer government that treats them like consumers (of constitutional services?) and asks them to vote every 2 to 4 years to reaffirm the legitimacy of the system but which they otherwise don't have to think about too much, like an insurance agent who shows you where to sign and assures you he's trustworthy and respectable by virtue of a genial manner and the numerous plaques on the wall, and doesn't want you to worry about the details apart from where to send your check.

To some extent this is understandable. Certainly it's preferable, or would be if it existed, when contrasted with a government that seems intent on making you worry that it's on the verge of collapse. But it's a fiction. It's a desire to have one's delusions and childish disposition protected, and that same desire helps open the door to precisely the people who create the opposite situation, with the manufactured crises designed to rattle us. Ultimately it requires a massive suspension of disbelief to give the people in power that much benefit of the doubt, and you have to wonder if the people who behave as if they have that much faith actually do. And if they don't, what do they tell themselves to make believe they believe?

I've talked to several persons I know who are reliably democratic voters, who are willing to accept the notion that BHO might be a weak leader, or the best we can do under the circumstances, or just befuddled and outfoxed by the wily Tea Partiers, etc. But they are usually aghast when I suggest he might just be a right-wing(not "centrist") crook and that Obama, Pelosi, Reid, as well as republicans like Ryan and Cantor are in collusion, whether de facto or otherwise, in a concerted effort to wreck the welfare state. And actually, if he is trying to ruin the economy for the lower 80 or 90 percent of people on the economic ladder, does it even matter what kind of crook he is?

Moon of Alabama, "Obama's Artificial Debt Crisis"

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Friday, July 29, 2011

ABC News vs. tax hikes

note: update below.

The video is from the ABC nightly news, "Debt Ceiling Crisis: What Would You Do?"

It really should be titled, "what would you cut?" because it certainly seems that this was how things were presented to these panelists: that addressing the current budget debate requires believing that the budget has to be cut, taking this as received wisdom. Also, we have the sense of the false limit of a "spectrum" that runs from Tea Partier to "Liberal Democrat", i.e., you have to believe in the system(and accept that the Tea Party is part of that system, while anybody to the left of the supposedly liberal Obama is not.)

I note the two GOP types are older and seem more self-assured in their demeanor, in contrast with the other three participants, who seem more sheepish and unsure of themselves; maybe they were selected for this. The diffident three end up being cowed by the tea partier and the other republican regarding raising taxes on the wealthy, while the panel cuts social security, raising the retirement age to 68. Additionally I have to wonder how much this process and their conclusions were steered by the reporter and how it may have been further steered in the editing.

Meanwhile, from Andrew Leonard in Salon(via Duncan):

How to make a bad economy even worse:New GDP numbers should be a warning bell for Obama and Congress. But they're not listening
Yes, we need a deal that avoids default. But if the GDP data proves anything, spending cuts shouldn't be part of it. Shrinking state and local budgets are already a significant drag on growth. Consumer spending is weak. And yet everyone seems to agree: Obama, Republicans and Democrats, that the first order of business should be shrinking government even further, subtracting even more demand from the economy, and likely accelerating our economic decline.

One of the problems with critiquing the shortcomings of mainstream news reportage and figuring out what's really going on is that corporate and agenda-driven journalistic portals are rarely uniformly biased or distorted; if they were they would be reliably unreliable. Salon editors sometimes make excuses for Obama, but to their credit they also provide a platform for Glenn Greenwald. Leonard is absolutely correct here that shrinking state and local budgets are having a harmful effect on economic growth, but he also describes GOP brinksmanship as incompetence, which is highly questionable. This Shock Doctrine-esque behavior has been highly effective in moving the debate to a point where the failure of the 2009 stimulus is now axiomatic and the debate is essentially cutting entitlements a little versus a lot, as opposed to, say, that the stimulus was bungled, or too small. (At least he acknowledges that Obama seems to assent to the hacking away.) Of course it would be nice if ABC's Brian Ross had exposed his panel (and the viewers) to an argument like Leonard's, and discussed the traditional economic position that cutting government budgets in a recession hurts the prospects for an economic rebound.

ABC's panelists in the video above were familiar with the notion that raising taxes on the wealthy hinders job creation, and selecting a college aged democrat to debate this with a self described businessman representing this talking point seems like a tailor made lay-up for the GOP position. (For what it's worth, I tend to think the businessman believes this, and isn't just deliberately misleading the kid. Maybe Brian Ross believe it too.)

see also, Bruce A. Dixon, "Obama & the Fake Debt Ceiling Crisis: This President Is Really Just Smarter Than You Are"(via KFO)

But what if President Barack Obama never intended to fight for jobs or justice? What if he believes the nonsense about Wall Street being “job creators” instead of economic vampires?
What if Obama is not weak, or timid, or vacillating or waiting for us to “make him do it”? What if what we've seen is all there is, all there ever was?

The truth is that Barack Obama's actions are entirely rational, understandable and even predictable if you suppose him to have been a vicious, vacuous and cynical right wing operative from the very beginning.

The historic pattern of post-sixties Democratic candidates has been to come in on the high tide of public disgust at Republican rule, but to push the pro-corporate agenda further than would be allowable under Republicans.

The rest is here and well worth your time.

update: also via KFO, from the Economic Collapse blog: "Broke! 10 Facts About The Financial Condition Of American Families That Will Blow Your Mind"
(incidentally, re no. 7, I think they still want your 2½ percent.)

the above video has moved, here.

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Thursday, July 28, 2011

28 July 2011: Yves Smith on th' Real News, etc

note: update below

video: "Yves Smith: Debt Ceiling Extortion"

Yves Smith of Naked Capitalism is a lady? Apparently so! The name Yves makes me think of Yves Montand, so all this time I pictured a middle aged French guy who put himself through grad school making WWII movies featuring him smoking Gauloises and shrugging a lot.

Forbes, "There Is Rage At The Rich Paying Only 18% Taxes" "Effective Tax Rates of the Richest 400 Americans"
The IRS has just released an analysis of the richest 400 American tax filers (pdf link). The top-line finding drawing the most attention is that these 400 earned about $138 billion, collectively, in 2007, the most recent year of data...

BBC, Arundhati Roy: India's success a 'lie'
Novelist Arundhati Roy speaks about how India's apparent economic success hides growing poverty and oppression

CNN, "Poll: 52 percent approve of God’s job performance"
(pdf link)

Mark Thoma, "Why Taxpayers Are So Angry and So Wrong About Spending"

"The real reason that the U.S. public is so dead set against tax increases and so apoplectic about government spending is growing income inequality. In addition, many taxpayers underestimate their consumption of government services..."

I don't know. It's getting harder to say "the public feels x" and feel confident that you've made an accurate observation, whatever thing x may be. The public is both atomized and polarized. Yes, many people are angry about wealth inequality, but when some people say they want the government to cut spending they're talking about vague, amorphous 'social programs', while others are talking about our massive military expenditures, etc. And I don't think 'the public' is all that against increased taxes. Most people do believe in progressive taxation, even if they have never heard of the phrase. (Yes, there I go making a sweeping statement about the public mood.)

update: see also Duncan's post about the Mark Thoma article.

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Sunday, July 24, 2011

24 July 2011

video above: Keiser Report: Ideas for Revolution (E166)

via Avedon Carol, who writes,
Down in comments, CMike advises: "Max Keiser provides a minute or so of useless analysis but Stacy Herbert does spotlight a headline about "fair use" here which I found interesting." Internet Petitions
Does signing online petitions serve any real purpose?

"The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerated the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than the democratic state itself. That in its essence is fascism: ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or any controlling private power."
— Franklin D. Roosevelt

Obama Top Recipient of Murdoch’s News Corp. Donations?

Political donations by News Corp., its employees and their families were evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, with President Obama the all-time leading recipient, according to a report from the Sunlight Foundation.

I hear and read a lot of people on the internets talk about revolution, some seemingly flippantly and some not, some anonymously and some not, etc. At this juncture I wonder what would happen if people just stopped voting, especially in presidential elections. You'll never get everybody to stop, of course. I remember reading somewhere that in the last Soviet election somewhere around 12 percent of those eligible participated. If that happened here(damn unlikely at this juncture), I'm guessing either the big media portals would downplay it or show you man-on-the-street interviews with people who boycotted the vote, with an emphasis on the nuttier sounding ones.

But even if you could persuade 70,80 million or more regular voters to not bestow legitimacy on the process and just stay home, would that be sufficient? Then what? A jubilant scene as the credits roll, with soldiers and hippies dancing in the streets, and billionaires giving all their money away? I imagine not, however much we have been conditioned to long for those kinds of endings. And even if the first two things occurred the third thing wouldn't happen, as the billionaires will just hire a different group of soldiers.

Of course, this decline in voter turnout may happen anyway, without any persuasion involved. It would more likely be a gradual process that hardly anybody would remark upon.

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Friday, July 22, 2011

Max Keiser talks with Steve Keen

This is part one, above.

Max Keiser interview w Steve Keen 2/2

(2/2 via Washingtonsblog, here, and well worth reading.) I wished Keen didn't talk so fast.

"Running for president on Facebook"

TPM:CNN Poll: Obama Losing Support From The Left

Possibly you've seen this, via BDR, apparently regarding this, from Amanda Marcotte.

Justin Raimondo,"Who Was Behind the Anthrax Attacks?"
More evidence Bruce Ivins was a scapegoat
(via Xymphora)

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Thursday, July 21, 2011

21 July 2011

The video is by way of Glenn Greenwald's column from earlier today,
"Cenk Uygur and the ethos of corporate-owned media"

Also from Salon(via Mahablog):

Corporate America’s Sunshine Patriots.” “… as of last week, as per the website Zero Hedge and data analysts Capital IQ, 29 public companies — including Bank of America, JP Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, GE and Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway — each have more cash on hand than the U.S. Treasury.”

from Rolling Stone, "Corporate Tax Holiday in Debt Ceiling Deal: Where's the Uproar?"

Two from Dissident Voice,

Alton C. Thompson, The New Society: Part III: Toward a New Moral Equivalent of War

(Part 1, and part 2 are here.)

Phil Rockstroh, "The Arts of Life They Changed into the Arts of Death: Bachmann, Palin, Robertson and the limits of logic"

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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

20 July 2011

This is old, and the language is arguably a bit hyperbolic. All the same, I couldn't help but remember this essay when I heard of the "Gang of Six" and Obama's fondness for their plan, because it sounds like it could be discussing BHO as easily as it's about GWB:

Clear-cutting the middle class, By H.N. Arendt, 2003

The Gang of Six plan supposedly reforms the tax code by removing one or two token tax breaks intended for wealthy executive types, while it lowers the top tax rate from 35% to 29%, or even less, and does away with the AMT. And, oh yeah, it cuts social security. On the news on TV they're saying it will raise an extra trillion in revenue over 10 years.

This is garbage of course, as the raging deficit they've made so much fuss about will only get worse, under such a scheme and there will be less revenue, not more. But for the sake of a breezy narrative on a 30 minute nightly newscast with commercials, the networks just need to compare it to the "Cut, cap, and balance" plan to make it seem like they're covering the story fairly. One imagines at least some of the reporters realize this is a crock, and that both plans are designed to head the US towards a fate like Greece's. I wonder, because the human tendency to believe what you are compelled to promote is also strong.

(Some of these are from June; I'm catching up.)
Man Robs Bank for $1 To Get Health Care in Jail

Pelosi's wealth grows by 62 percent

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) saw her net worth rise 62 percent last year, cementing her status as one of the wealthiest members of Congress. Pelosi was worth at least $35.2 million in the 2010 calendar year, according to a financial disclosure report released Wednesday. She reported a minimum of $43.4 million in assets and about $8.2 milion in liabilities. Budget cuts leave UK ‘unable to hold Falklands’

Guardian: Secret US and Afghanistan talks could see troops stay for decades

Robert Bonomo, "Who's Afraid of Ron Paul?"

Ben Doherty, The Age, "Fasting becomes weapon of choice for the disaffected"

Apparently hunger strikes by dissidents are 'aggressive', and they upset Mr. Doherty, who writes:

Ninety years on, the realpolitik of hunger is forefront in India. Fasts are common practice. They are effective, they draw public attention and force opponents to act. But also, they leave governments paralysed. Affairs of state and social reform are held hostage to one person's caprice.

And,From earlier today: Ian Welsh asks, “will I crawl on my belly, will I fight, or will I try to make a separate peace?

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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Piers Morgan vs Louise Mensch

Added On July 19, 2011
CNN's Piers Morgan tackles British MP Louise Mensch, who accused him of admitting to phone hacking.

Update July 20th,2011, with a newer link, below.

Speaking of news organizations making it difficult to embed their videos, as I was the other day, it seems CNN is transitioning to a new and supposedly improved system which won't offer the embed codes. You'd think they'd appreciate bloggers who make their clips available to people who otherwise avoid watching teevee. I guess not.

This, I guess, is what it takes to get CNN to stop taking about Casey Anthony: The Aftermath. (Cue the reverb.)

As you may know, members of the US Congress are also protected from litigation regarding things they say on the house or senate floor as British MPs are, but can you imagine an American pol taking an American marquee journalist to task the was Louise Mensch does with Piers Morgan? Maybe it has happened, but I'm pretty sure it's been a while. I haven't read the book she refers to and have no idea of the veracity of her assertions, but naturally my curiosity is now aroused. Speaking of appreciating people, you'd think Morgan would appreciate Mensch calling attention to his book, instead of trying to bait her into saying something litigation worthy, which is what he seems to be doing. (Incidentally, I think the UK laws on slander make it even easier to successfully sue somebody than those here.)

I wonder if her colleagues ever refer to her as The Mensch.

Update: there's a recut version of the previous video here. This time it has Morgan mentioning his book by its title; I don't know if he did so in his entire conversation with Mensch, but the snippets from the previous version of their exchange did not feature this. And of course both are very brief, so neither may include the entire exchange. At any rate there's a lot less of her talking in this second version.

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Monday, July 18, 2011

1973 vs. 2011

Did you know the White House has a Youtube channel? Well, they do.
(via Firedoglake)
"The President speaks to a bi-partisan group of college students March 8th 2011"

And, from a White House press conference, November 17, 1973

Dead Horse blog post number 555. In which your host taxes the patience of the kindly and long-suffering audience, persisting in his juvenile and irrelevant comparisons between one Barack Obama and Richard Nixon.

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Sunday, July 17, 2011

Confuse dem

part 2 is here; MSNBC used to offer embed codes for their online videos, as I recall, but this one didn't have one.

1."Why Obama is winning the debt war"
[MSNBC video link is here] If you want to watch all of the video continuously it's here.

July 12: "MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell explains how President Obama continues to outsmart, out-strategize and out-talk the Republicans, in the debt ceiling standoff."

2.Salon, "Why Mitch McConnell will win the day", Robert Reich

3.Scarecrow(at Firedoglake), "Why Is Larry O’Donnell Implying Obama Lied to the Country and the Tea-GOP?"

The clip of Lawrence O'Donnell has to be seen to be believed. You probably should watch it continuously via the MSNBC link. I'm reminded of the healthcare debate in late 2009 and early 2010, when I got the distinct impression that the administration was trying to confuse people about what exactly was covered by the Democrat's/Obama's healthcare bill and how he regarded the public option McGuffin, as numerous interim versions of the bill were reported on, many released as downloadable PDFs[pdf; pdf2] but even the one that was finally voted upon in March '10 was in fact supposed to get some more fiddling down the road.

Now of course both Obama and the GOP are trying to confuse people, and getting able help from people like O'Donnell. In national polls you often hear about how people have a low opinion of the news media in general, but my impression is that they trust reportage a lot more than a positive or negative response to a poll question may suggest. After all, even though a majority of people polled are against increasing the debt limit, most of these people didn't worry about it one bit prior to 2009, while the federal debt grew like a cancer under George W. Bush, and majorities of republicans, democrats and tv reporters said nothing.

At any rate, FDL's Scarecrow(above) is absolutely correct that bragging about how crafty and dishonest Obama is being in negotiating with the republicans is absurd, even risible. O'Donnell's spin is duplicitous on several levels, apart from the obvious one of pleasing corporate, as BDR might say. He speaks (we assume) to democrats, congratulating them on their presumed worldliness and canniness in being "in on the con," encouraging them to find gamesmanship and opacity laudable, in much the way the grown ups in the story of the Emperor's new clothes thought they were being reasonable and adult by playing along. So a concession is not a concession, and anyone who says otherwise is not cool. Of course even MSNBC has millions of viewers, and one imagines some of them are republican, or at least lean that way. So at another level he's doing his job by annoying those republican viewers with that same schtick; one man's craftiness is another man's flim-flammery. On a third level, perhaps, is contempt for both of them.

Many observers have suggested that it took raving anti-communist Nixon to go to China and so it follows that it takes Obama the purported Muslim-Socialist-Commie to cut(or gut) social security and medicare. It certainly looks like we're headed in that direction, and the dancing around is meant to make sure stupid republicans will blame Obama and stupid democrats will blame the GOP. What if they're both right?

Maybe if Obama does as he's told he'll get to run against wacky Michele Bachmann, and if he doesn't he'll get to run against Mitt I-got-your-healthcare-reform-right-here Romney.(And if he really misbehaves, Rick Perry!) Speaking of polls, many recent ones suggest that even republicans generally worry about preserving these programs. To be mystified by who wants this to happen requires a belief in the 'combat' between the two parties and that the guys on your side are looking out for you, no matter what they may actually say or do. So it helps if you are confused.

see also

Mike Whitney, "Debt Ceiling Kabuki"

Rob Payne, "Balloon payment"

Dennis Perrin, "Obvious Things"

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Friday, July 15, 2011

15 July 2011

Google view-Marietta Ga

A commenter writes:

Somehow it seems that The South will never get any better. Nowhere is perfect, but The South seems to pump out a never-ending stream of demented brutality from men in positions of power. And the South seems to be the future of America.*

apropos of this article at Streetsblog, "Mother Convicted of Vehicular Homicide For Crossing Street With Children"

A 30-year-old woman in Marietta, Georgia was convicted of vehicular homicide this week – and she wasn’t even driving a car. The woman was crossing the street with her three children when a driver, who had been drinking, hit and killed her four-year-old. The driver, Jerry Guy, was initially charged with “hit and run, first degree homicide by vehicle and cruelty to children,” Elise Hitchcock of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. “Charges were later dropped to just the hit and run charge.”

The man has previously been convicted of two hit-and-runs – on the same day, in 1997, one of them on the same road where he killed Raquel Nelson’s son.

Guy will serve six months for killing the boy, but Nelson will serve up to 36 months – just for crossing the street with her child. Yes, it’s true: they were not in a crosswalk. Are there any crosswalks on that street at all?

The image is from the Google Street View of the intersection where Raquel Nelson's four-year-old son was killed. There are no crosswalks in sight. I don't know how you can be found guilty of 'vehicular homicide' when you're a pedestrian.

and, via another commenter,

From John Emerson,"If you’re not a conspiracy theorist some of the time, you’re a sucker"

July 13, 2011 On Deficit, Americans Prefer Spending Cuts; Open to Tax Hikes
Twenty percent favor deficit reduction by cutting spending only
by Jeffrey M. Jones

Joe Weisenthal , Business Insider: "IT'S OFFICIAL: The Whole World Thinks Republicans Are Dangerous Maniacs Threatening Everyone"

Dean Baker, "Economic Illiteracy" (via Rob Payne, "Trust in Obama")

CNN, "Tea party to GOP: We could make 'examples' of you over debt ceiling"

1958 interview with Aldous Huxley[video]

*I remember a New Republic article from the mid-90s or so, about how the Southern political model was being exported to the rest of the US. I wish I could remember the title or the author's name.

update: I think this is the article I was thinking of, from 1995, by Michael Lind(partial paywall). It seems that later he expanded it into a book.

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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Population Control

The next time somebody tells me members of the American military are "fighting for our freedoms" or "defending our liberty," I'll stick a fork in his eye.

Note that the reporter first mentions the involuntary biometric recording of escaped prisoners. Well, who could object? See how it helped in apprehending the escapees? Then the article switches to referencing the same inflicted on just ordinary citizens--especially "men of fighting age." No, we're not talking about people who have been found guilty of a crime or even accused of one. The Times identifies the "instant, computerized iris scans as a tool of population control."

Oh, but not to worry. One of our brave soldiers reassures us thusly:

“To be sure, there must be sound and responsible policies and oversight regarding enrollment and the storage, use and sharing of private individual data,” said Brig. Gen. Mark S. Martins, commander of the military’s new Rule of Law Field Force in Afghanistan.
In case you're nervous that his official bullshit is going to work against this program, fear not; Martins' quote ends on a positive note:
"...biometric systems 'can combat fraud and corruption, place law enforcement on a sounder evidentiary footing, and greatly improve security.'”
Whew! Had me going there for a minute. Oh, by the way, it's mentioned in the article that "Defense Department spending on biometrics programs is enormous, set at $3.5 billion for the 2007 through 2015 fiscal years, according to the Government Accountability Office."
Social Security and Medicare might be going down the tubes, but population control takes precedence.
Hey, you ain't seen nothing yet. It's coming to your neighborhood soon.


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Baboon Petting Zoo

Keiser Report: Europe's Neo Feudalism (E162)
Youtube: This week Max Keiser and co-host, Stacy Herbert, report on selling Greece's sovereignty and Spain's El Gordo. In the second half of the show, Max talks to economist Michael Hudson about the IMF assassins sent in to destroy the Greek economy.
KR on Facebook:

Discussing our crumbling government and society is growing increasingly depressing. I wonder, as I so often do, what 'the people' think, and it's hard to escape the overwhelming impression that US society is growing increasingly fragmented, and although large numbers of people "get it", as it were, that fragmentation is only part of the reason the elites seem more brazenly corrupt, and knowing there's a problem is most definitely not some kind of magical first step out of twelve.

I don't believe in violent revolution, not because I believe the elites are likely to reform spontaneously or through strictly non-violent pressure-- I don't expect either of these things. Rather, because I know violent revolutions can and often do spiral out of control and cause more bloodshed and misery than the rotten old order. Given how predisposed American society is towards violence, this might be particularly likely in our case. Having said that, I don't know what kind of alternatives may exist to effect worthwhile change.(And yes, that word seems to have been ruined, doesn't it?)

Do those alternatives exist?

For that matter, why read political blogs? Why read anything or pay attention to anything about the world around you, apart from what's on Entertainment Tonight or the latest interminable circus-celebrity trial on CNN, et al? I'd like to believe that reading and writing blogs is a gesture of solidarity, but let's face it: (1)it's hardly the same thing as demonstrating in the streets, and (2)there are also millions of other politically engaged people blogging for a sense of solidarity and arguing for the destruction of the welfare state, against public education, for slashing the benefits of government workers and numerous other things you may find alarming and wrongheaded.,"How the Mediterranean Anti-Capitalist Conference defended French imperialism"

Washingtonsblog,"The Big Banks Are Waging Warfare Against the People of the World"

Gregory Elich, "Class War Without Mercy"

Ian Welsh, "So, compared to McCain, was Obama the lesser evil?"

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Sunday, July 10, 2011

Cheap date

55ella2007k, a video blogger* I've linked to once or twice before,

calls attention to this dKos diary[ video link] from one Giles Goat Boy:

"President Answers Collective Bargaining Question with Right-wing Talking Points"

Here's a sample from his essay:

GGB:I said all through the Wisconsin protests that we did not need President Obama to come here to validate our movement. I said he needed us more than we needed him. It wasn't a criticism. I truly believed that we could handle this without the distraction of having the President walking the picket line with us. I thought it was strategically smart to keep him away. I still believe that.

I assumed he would do his part in Washington and elsewhere to fight for the right to collectively bargain. I thought he had our backs. Apparently he has been taken in by some truly ridiculous Fox News-style talking points. That's what I find disappointing. Here is his answer, with the truthy parts highlighted:

BHO:The first thing I want to emphasize is that collective bargaining is the
reason why the vast majority of Americans enjoy a minimum wage, enjoy weekends, enjoy overtime. So many things that we take for granted are because workers came together to bargain with their employers.

GGB:Uh, oh. He's praising the Labor movement first. Here it comes...

BHO:Now, we live in a very competitive society in the 21st century. And that means in the private sector, labor has to take management into account. If labor is making demands that make management broke and they can’t compete, then that doesn’t do anybody any good.

When I read something like this I am often skeptical, given the kind of mental contortions I've seen people do to rationalize voting for and still supporting Obama after the abundant evidence he's offered to anybody paying attention that he's just a corporate shill. In no particular order:

1.He has to say what he says because of how far right the country has drifted;

1b. because of the viciousness of the press, especially Fox News,

2. he's playing 'eleven-dimension-chess', deftly out-maneuvering his opponents,

3. he has to keep the Blue Dogs happy, or they'll bolt for the GOP,

4. I voted for him without illusions, because a more liberal candidate wouldn't have been viable, etc.

In Goat Boy's case, this bit stood out:

"I assumed he would do his part in Washington and elsewhere to fight for the right to collectively bargain. I thought he had our backs. Apparently he has been taken in by some truly ridiculous Fox News-style talking points."

So Goat Boy belongs to yet another camp, the one that believes that BHO is an impressionable naif. Michelle, don't let him watch so much teevee! I suppose if he's naive that explains why he doesn't seem to see any contradiction in accepting the Nobel Peace Prize and ramping up the war in Afghanistan, or starting one in Libya; presumably this would vex a more sophisticated sort of person.

Ella opines that maybe Goat Boy will be banned from Daily Kos for daring to criticize the president and pointing out that BHO sounds like he's essentially sympathetic with the goals of the GOP regarding worker's rights because the people who run dKos generally don't take kindly to lefties who rock the boat for team democrat. But I don't think he has too much to worry about, regarding possibly getting kicked off dKos. Maybe she didn't see this from the Kos comments(there were over 200):

I rec'd the diary, but can't tip the jar. (78+ / 0-)

At some point we progressives are going to have to ask ourselves, "How does guaranteeing our vote for those that don't represent us effect change?"
"What does 'holding accountable' mean?" To all those who whine, "But, look what happened in Wisconsin," I say, "Look what is HAPPENING in Wisconsin!"

by WisePiper on Thu Jul 07, 2011 at 11:54:36 AM PDT

That's cool. (20+ / 0-)

My decision is based on a number of factors including the way our government is structured. I'll vote for him, but I understand why some people won't.It's not that easy being green.

by Giles Goat Boy on Thu Jul 07, 2011 at 11:59:06 AM PDT

Yes, WisePiper, at some point progressives are going to have to ask themselves, "How does guaranteeing our vote for those that don't represent us effect change?"

Who can doubt this? Nobody!

And Goat Boy**, it's very big of you to understand why some people won't vote for Obama. I hope you understand why BHO couldn't care less about your opinions.

*or vlogger, if you insist.
**I wanted to create a sock-puppet commenting identity over at Kos as 'John Barth' and demand my title back , but it seemed like too much bother.

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Thursday, July 07, 2011

Not your friends

BHO w Boehner

A common trope among lefty bloggers is the complaint regarding how stupid and mentally lazy ordinary Americans are supposed to be. I don't read conservo blogs terribly much, but I wouldn't be surprised if you occasionally see it there too, although I imagine it would be coming from a different angle, maybe invoking rich liberals who have illegals tending their kids while they text their brokers, spending their money on the Bejing stock market destroying American jobs and so forth.

My impression, however, is that the US media works incessantly to misinform and confuse regular people, who still depend on television to get most of their news, with vagueness and "optics" and regurgitated spin. The major US news portals aren't particularly liberal so much as they are corporatist, although upon occasion they tilt a little this way, then a little the other way for apparent balance. (Fox News tilts to the left by periodically inviting Dennis Kucinich on the air and not yelling at him.) The cumulative effect is an endorsement of the two-party system and the star politicos, even if this is done obliquely, with puffery, extolling smart, hard-working officials who know what they're doing even if they don't always agree.

For example, if you watched Thursday night's CBS broadcast you might be forgiven if you didn't realize that Obama had signaled his cave-in on cutting social security.

Anchor Scott Pelley and Chip Reid had this exchange towards the end of the segment[4:20-4:40]

Pelley: Is the White House insisting on cuts in social security?

Reid: No they are not, Scott. The White House is saying that social security is on the table for discussion, simply because everything has to be on the table for discussion, but they are not pushing hard for cuts...

Oh well, at least they're not pushing hard. Don't you feel better? Maybe Cantor and Boehner and the rest of the Republican leadership aren't pushing to cut social security, and Obama is just agreeing to talk about it. Who's pushing? Nobody! Maybe regular people are in fact stupid, or at least awfully impressionable, if they buy this. Do they? You can't tell by watching the TV what other viewers might think, although it seems pretty clear that the TV people do regard the viewers as stupid. And if you're not stupid, they'd really like you to be.

Maybe most people don't follow the news that closely, and just rely on general impressions, and certainly the CBS report [video link] seems designed to soothe and reassure the viewer that the professionals are in charge and there's nothing to worry about.

For some reason I'm reminded of the scene in Monty Python's The Meaning of Life in which Eric Idle comes out of a refrigerator and sings a song to persuade a poor old lady to give up her liver, in the "live organ transplants" bit.

[NOTE: video may not be 'work-safe' due to Monty Pythonish naughty images.]

Pelley didn't ask Chip Reid if tax hikes for the wealthy were "on the table"(surprising, huh?) but then he didn't have to, because the administration has been calling closing a few small loop-holes "tax increases" which suggests a tax rate increase, and CBS and the rest of the corporate media has been going along with that. Presumably the "grand deal" being hinted at will be designed to offset any revenue from those loop-holes being closed with lower tax rates, negating the effect of any increased revenue that might otherwise go towards lowering the deficit. Why? Because it's not about paring the budget deficit, but looting the government while it's still solvent, on behalf of their benefactors.

Obama wants to capitulate to the GOP. He's made vague noises about raising taxes on wealthier people back to where they were in the 1990s during the Clinton administration, but he folded in December of 2010 so there's no reason for the Republicans to be scared of him. And most democratic commentators, at least the ones who get any significant face time on television, will insist that democrat voters have to support Obama, otherwise, those horrible republicans, etc...

But it's not just television reporting that does this. Here's Jamelle Bouie, The Nation:

With Entitlements on the Table, Obama Plans to Go Big on a Budget Deal

What does this mean for liberals? Well, they can complain and attack Obama—they’ve already begun—but criticism from the left has yet to budge the president, and it’s doubtful that this time will be any different. Demonstrations sound great, but they don’t actually carry a high chance for success; if your only option for changing the political calculations of a president is protest, then you’re probably too late to the game. Likewise, a primary campaign against Obama sounds like it might work, but outside of activist circles, there is little appetite for a challenge. The Democratic establishment is satisfied with President Obama, and will work to ensure his reelection.

Indeed, given the importance of presidential elections, Obama will be able to count on organization and support from every member of the Democratic coalition. Moreover, if a deal comes through, it will probably help him with independents, who support modest reductions in entitlement spending.

Simply put, liberals don’t have much leverage over the Obama administration, which, unfortunately, makes our concerns—and our anger—a second-order consideration at best.

(Or, behave yourselves and don't cause trouble for Obama, or Michele Bachmann will get you.)

And there's Andrew Leonard at Salon,

"Social Security is not on Obama's hit list":

The president knows that Republicans won't agree to the revenue increases necessary for a "grand bargain"

(the original title, per the url, was apparently "Reasons not to panic on Obama and Social Security")

Glenn Greenwald's discussion is more useful. And, as Ian Welsh points out, the warnings that Obama would do something like this have been telegraphed for quite some time.

For my part I imagine Barry is hoping that people are more likely to remember early July 2011 as the time when the Casey Anthony verdict came out rather than the time when he agreed to cut social security. He's getting help with that. Whether it's the reporters or the politicians, they are reading from the same memo. They extol bipartisanship, or at least reasonableness, and they seem like such nice people. But they are not your friends.

See also, Ian Welsh, "Obama's Personality"(including 'dandelion's' comment)

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Sunday, July 03, 2011

Air Travel

I just got back from Florida and am musing over the ordeal at the airport. It took roughly twenty minutes to get through "security," the U.S. version of "terrify the citizen until he begs to be violated." The usual invasions of privacy ensued: the dumping of everything in the bin, the removal of shoes, the entrance through the mysterious machine (how do I know I'm not being bombarded with death rays? Or obedience rays?), but the folks in Fort Lauderdale have added some refinements. Besides the above, travellers were forced to go through their luggage and remove everything containing any amount of liquid. I keep in my overnight case tiny sample bottles of shampoo, shower gel, and so on. Had to open my carry-on, find the case, unzip, root through, pick them out, and add them to the plastic bin. Was I then allowed to walk through the metal bower? Oh, no: I first had to empty my pockets, even of paper, to show the guards. I removed the Ativan I had in an envelope in one pocket, but forgot I had put my checked luggage receipt in the other. When I went through, it caused not a ripple, so what does that tell you? Maybe that the "take everything out" order is just a ruse to demonstrate the state's power and the citizens' lack of it.
Was the ordeal over after that? Nope: I was then forced to stand on a metal platform facing some kind of screen, with my feet apart and my hands over my head until, I guess, I was zapped with more death rays (or something). Finally finished, I gathered up my things and limped in my stocking feet to a non-too-convenient chair to put my shoes back. (I wear comfortable walking shoes--read "sneakers"--to travel, and I'll be damned, as some have advised me, to wear slip-ons just to accommodate the wardens.)
What struck me hard yesterday was the lack of protest among the people who, presumably, had paid a pretty penny for their airfare--stowaways don't go through "security." Everybody moved like sheep through the line that suggested so strongly those in a prison (thanks to my friend, Jim W., for this analogy). They all demonstrated docility and faces remained almost uniformly blank (don't let the screws know what you're thinking). However and incredibly, a few of the perps (guilty until proven innocent, of course) actually smiled and thanked their tormentors.
Okay, there was one exception: yep, I was pretty vocal about the outrages so many so easily accept. I made a number of loud remarks--some with vulgarities--which were ignored by the stone-faced examiners, who have surely been trained to ignore protest unless it gets physical. What's truly scary is that, aside from a startled glance or two, my fellow passengers reacted the same way.
It seems the propensity of just about everybody, no matter on which side of the political sty they wallow, is to point with alarm at situations like this and invoke Orwell. Such a bore; I suspect some of them have never even read 1984 and/or that they believe that's all he ever wrote. With that ponderous and self-serving aside, though, I'm going to do it here. For comparison with our travel ordeals, I advise readers to check out good ol' Eric Blair and his harrowingly prescient prose, especially in the scene where Winston first lands in the Ministry holding cell. Should make your blood run cold.
And here, thanks to Jim W.'s blog, "The Chestnut Tree" (what a tie-in title!), are some related thoughts. He writes:
"...Anthony Gregory gives a succinct summary of the New Paradigm:
We are not really surrendering our gels, forgoing our bottled water, or taking off our shoes for our own good. That’s all a ruse. The TSA is an agency whose function, if not intended purpose, is to condition obedience and subservience into the population. It is an arm of the federal police state and cannot be reformed into anything else. It must be abolished totally and nothing short of that will bring liberty back to air travel."
Gregory goes on: "Even more fundamentally, the media and talking heads — certainly the conservative opponents of TSA — forget why we have a terrorist threat, such as it is, in the first place: Because the U.S. government is waging imperial wars abroad, slaughtering children, propping up corrupt regimes, overthrowing governments, playing geopolitical favorites, cutting people off of international trade, and generally behaving as the biggest bully in the world. The blowback terrorism that results can never be stamped out so long as the wars continue...."
And when will they ever end? When our aggression does, I guess, and that bodes ill for anything but more--and worse--of the same.