Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Doing what it takes

What a charming old poster!
"A potential calamity," predicts Democratic pollster Doug Schoen. "If the reactions we're seeing hold, we could have real spasmodic anger directed at businesses and corporations." And the timing will have consequences, says financier and onetime GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney: "Unfortunately, politicians have seized on the politics of envy," he told Fortune, "and they are stoking it this election year like I've never seen in my lifetime." (...) Union leaders like the AFL-CIO's John Sweeney suddenly sound as if they're in the mainstream of public opinion with statements like this: "One thing is certain. No one - no politician, no investment banker, no television commentator, no economist - should be able to say again with a straight face that here in the United States we just let markets do whatever markets do and everything works out for the best." Fortune

We come in one size: extra large. We are sometimes insolent and often quick to fight. We love competitive spectacle such as NASCAR and paintball, and believe gun ownership is the eleventh commandment. We fry things nobody ever considered friable - things like cupcakes, banana sandwiches and batter dipped artificial cheese even pickles. And most of all we are defiant and suspicious of authority, and people who are "uppity" (sophisticated) and "slick" (people who use words with more than three syllables). Two should be enough for anybody. Joe Bageant, author of "Deerhunting With Jesus" - BBC NEWS

Obama’s “Change” message, Saunders argues, is too abstract, too vague, for the region. “Those people you were with today were screwed by the English in Scotland and Ireland way before they came over here and started getting screwed,” he said. “They’ve been screwed since the dawn of time. And you know what? You ain’t gonna do anything with them, talkin’ about change. You know why? We’re all changed out. That’s all you ever hear, every election. Somebody’s gonna change some shit. Nothin’ ever changes. We get fucked.” David (Mudcat) Saunders - New Yorker
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You have to start from somewhere and probably a nascent class consciousness is as good a place as any. A realization that your life is going to be damaged by a few powerful people who don't give a damn about you and your problems and the lives and problems of millions like you, and reaching out to find others in the same fix you are in.

Here we are.

The Reaganite-Thatcherite-Friedmanite, bloom is finally off the rose, innit?

As Sam Cooke sang, "It's been a long time coming, but a change is going to come someday".

Has it come?

Probably not.

Why not?

The culture wars.

Instead of everyone standing together to face a small group of people who it is no exaggeration at all to call our oppressors, we shall soon see all this righteous anger and energy siphoned off into bickering over whether we are descended from great apes or whether Adam and Eve dodged dinosaurs only five thousand years ago in the company of a talking snake. As if any of that mattered when universal health care was hanging in the balance.

As my readers know, I personally am "pro choice", but I would put that on a back burner in order to come to some agreement with those who support the "pro life" position if it took that to get universal health care.

Forty million Americans without health care, who cannot see a doctor except in an emergency room is what I call a "primary contradiction" and all the culture questions for me, at this moment, important as they are, are secondary contradictions: issues to be postponed until the primary contradiction is taken care of. This is also because to get universal health care would reorder the priorities of the entire system and put the final nail in Ronald Reagan and Milton Friedman's coffins. This is the issue that a social democratic future of the United States hinges on... It is the primary contradiction.

Obviously this accepting priorities does not mean abandoning one's beliefs, it means postponing those battles in order to make common cause with others who also need what we need most and therefore I think that at present, as badly as women need abortion on demand, they and the children they already have need regular visits to the doctor, glasses and dental care more. So the welfare of children already in the world, who don't have access to a pediatrician, has to be temporarily put first.

In short, I think progressive American politicians should handle rattlesnakes, go into trance, howl like dogs, speak in tongues, join the NRA and eat fried pie, if that is what it takes to get socialized medicine in the USA. DS

Monday, September 29, 2008

Every cloud has a silver lining

It was a catastrophic political defeat for President Bush, who had put the full weight of the White House behind the measure and had lobbied wavering Republicans in intensely personal telephone calls on Monday morning before the vote. Both presidential candidates also supported the plan. NYT

The Treasury plan is a disgrace: a bailout of reckless bankers, lenders and investors that provides little direct debt relief to borrowers and financially stressed households and that will come at a very high cost to the US taxpayer. And the plan does nothing to resolve the severe stress in money markets and interbank markets that are now close to a systemic meltdown. It is pathetic that Congress did not consult any of the many professional economists that have presented - many on the RGE Monitor Finance blog forum - alternative plans that were more fair and efficient and less costly ways to resolve this crisis. This is again a case of privatizing the gains and socializing the losses; a bailout and socialism for the rich, the well-connected and Wall Street. And it is a scandal that even Congressional Democrats have fallen for this Treasury scam that does little to resolve the debt burden of millions of distressed home owners. Nouriel Roubini

"A potential calamity," predicts Democratic pollster Doug Schoen. "If the reactions we're seeing hold, we could have real spasmodic anger directed at businesses and corporations." And the timing will have consequences, says financier and onetime GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney: "Unfortunately, politicians have seized on the politics of envy," he told Fortune, "and they are stoking it this election year like I've never seen in my lifetime." Compared to this, Enron was a warm-up exercise. For all the public outrage over accounting scandals seven years ago, the result in Washington was limited to a financial reporting rule that most Americans have never heard of (though many in the business community still consider Sarbanes-Oxley a destructive overreaction). By contrast, the implosion of Wall Street, followed by Paulson's escalating series of multibillion-dollar rescues, has fired up populist sentiments that were already building in American politics, promising to reshape legislative battles over everything from tax and trade policies to federal regulation. Union leaders like the AFL-CIO's John Sweeney suddenly sound as if they're in the mainstream of public opinion with statements like this: "One thing is certain. No one - no politician, no investment banker, no television commentator, no economist - should be able to say again with a straight face that here in the United States we just let markets do whatever markets do and everything works out for the best." Washington hath no fury like Middle America scorned - and there's reason to think it will only get uglier. The government's massive new financial commitments will severely tie the next President's hands in addressing middle-class concerns. "The next President will have to temper expectations a lot," says Middlebury College economist David Colander, "far beyond what either of the candidates has been willing to talk about." Fortune
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A happy society cannot be based on the idea that the life of the community is merely a race with "winners and losers", because in any race almost all the runners lose and losers cannot be happy with that result.

It is well to remember that Margaret Thatcher maintained that "society" doesn't even exist, only individuals and families. In Thatcher's idea it is implicit that these individuals and families have no stake in any common good whatsoever.

There is a huge difference between a "community" and communism (whatever that might be), but for the philosophy of life that Thatcher represents there is little difference at all.

It is also implicit in her philosophy that most of humanity exists only to serve those of their number that have managed to get the levers of wealth and power in their hands. This is not at all conservative; on the contrary it is radical in the extreme... These are the doctrines of Ayn Rand and her devoted disciple Alan Greenspan... perhaps the man most responsible for this mess.

A true conservative knows that real quality of a society is the quality of what is "average". Anyone who has studied our species know that the exceptional springs from the normal and the mediocre. Most geniuses have normal parents and normal children. And many exceptional people have come from the most unpromising backgrounds and their descendants have sunk quickly back into that obscurity. Has anybody heard much from the Mozarts or the Einsteins lately?

I know the family of one of Spanish literature's greatest poets and playwrights: a name that any educated person anywhere in the world knows as well as his own, and they are the most untalented, if charming, examples of Spain's liberal middle class that you could ever want to meet, unexceptional in every way except their electrifying surname. I went to school with the son of one of America's greatest film directors and one of Hollywood's most interesting actresses and he was without any particular talent except his humor and charm.

The exceptional by definition can take care of themselves. The important thing, to make the world a happy place, is that average people live fruitful, peaceful lives with a dignified old age and can give their children a good education and health care. This only happens on a mass scale in social democracy.

You cannot have social democracy without taxes. That means taxes for working class, middle class and most of all the top earners. At this moment enunciating this unpleasant truth would amount to political suicide in the USA.

The good news is that the American economic model has lost all its shine and charisma for the rest of the world and will no longer be trotted out as the path to take to prosperity. It is now officially a bankrupt ideology.

This means that social democracy will become possible in many places where in the last twenty years or so it was little more than the sin that dare not speak its name and maybe, someday, finally, Americans, as Churchill always said, having exhausted all other alternatives, will do the right thing. DS

Sunday, September 28, 2008

October Surprise

Having been responsible for much of the economic bleeding America has done in Iraq and Afghanistan, al-Qaeda now has a chance to significantly advance its bleed-to-bankruptcy strategy. While al-Qaeda had no hand in creating the ongoing, self-inflicted unraveling of the US financial system, al-Qaeda could accelerate that unraveling with a 9/11-like or larger attack in the continental United States. The US political class has often scoffed at or ridiculed Bin Laden's goal of driving America to bankruptcy, assuming that al-Qaeda irrationally assumed it could bring down the US economy through its actions alone. This analysis is inaccurate. Just as Bin Laden saw al-Qaeda as the inspirer of jihad and not the jihad itself, he saw that his group's attacks on the US economy could not cause bankruptcy, but might do so if they worsened other US economic problems. Thus the main economic damage done by the 9/11 attacks resulted from the Iraq and Afghan wars, not from the raids on Manhattan and Washington. Today, Bin Laden and al-Qaeda have a chance to deal the United States an enormous economic blow if they can stage a near-term attack in America. Such an attack would serve as a devastating force-multiplier and perhaps push the current economic disaster into the category of a financial catastrophe. Whether al-Qaeda is positioned to stage such an attack is an open question. What is unquestionable, however, is its intention to do so; the US intelligence community's conclusion that al-Qaeda poses a "clear and present danger" to the continental United States rests on the fact that US borders remain almost entirely open and the weapons of mass destruction arsenal of the former Soviet states and other sources of nuclear-bomb-making material have yet to be fully secured. Michael Scheuer - Asia Times
David Seaton's News Links
At the risk of repeating myself (actually repeating myself) I'd like to refresh my prediction that Osama bin Laden is going to try to do something in the critical month leading up to the election. Here is what I said way back in February:

Everybody seems to have forgotten Osama bin Laden. I wonder what the old boy is up to?

Getting ready to decide who is to be President of the United States of America, I should imagine.

If you stop and think about it, Osama bin Laden owes the Republicans big. If Gore had won the election in 2000, (ok, I know he did win, but you know what I mean) then, when and if the Twin Towers went down, the United States, accompanied by all of NATO, would have gone through Afghanistan like a dose of fruit salts and bin Laden would have been brewed up in some hole in Tora Bora.

But Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld's ineptitude not only saved the sheik's life: by invading Iraq, by opening Guantanamo, by running Abu Ghraib and by supporting the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, they made Osama bin Laden's case for the entire Muslim world. Who's your daddy?

Does Osama bin Laden want the Republicans to win?

Does Dolly Parton sleep on her back?

Now, even his worst enemies would have to admit that Osama bin Laden is a very focused, scheming, long headed fellow, so it is not difficult to imagine that he is not simply going to trust his fate to the wisdom of the American voters.

The only card the Republicans really have left to play these days is national security. Defense still seems the natural calling of mean, old, white men.

Maybe it's because I live in Madrid and have actually seen it happen that I expect a bomb to define the next US presidential election. In 2004, many observers thought that bin Laden's "October Surprise" video was enough to give Bush a second term. But after "four more years", it will take a bit more than a video to keep the Republicans in the White House. DS

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Debate

David Seaton's News Links
We'll need a couple of days of polls to really gauge the effect of this debate, but it seems pretty clear that McCain is still alive and in there with a chance.

This shouldn't be. No Republican presidential candidate should be in striking distance of the Democrat this year. I'm not going to bore you with yet another laundry list of disasters, we could all recite them like schoolboys can recite the lineup of baseball teams. Bush and his administration have trashed practically everything (everything?) that they have laid their hands on. Obama should have a lead of about twenty points: this year the Republicans should lose like Mondale did against Reagan.

This does not look like happening and I believe that it is because voters are simply not convinced about Obama and perhaps race matters for only about six percent of them. The rest is simply the failure to connect with his message and his personality.

At this point I think Barack Obama is very vulnerable. The Republicans are sure to spring something very nasty and Rovian on Obama in the next few days (the famous “Michelle Tape”, perhaps?) and he should have at least a ten point lead to absorb the damage. With Bush fumbling so badly, he should have that lead already… he doesn’t.

The fact that he doesn't makes more people doubtful, a vicious circle.

As I say, this is weird, the American people have such doubts about the Democratic Party and about Barack Obama's fitness to run US affairs that a Republican president that makes Jimmy Carter look like Abraham Lincoln can't give them a solid ten point lead as the United States of America apparently circles the drain. DS

Thursday, September 25, 2008

When you're hot, you're hot and when you're not, you're not

The US is poised to lose its role as a global financial “superpower” in the wake of the financial crisis, Peer Steinbrück, German finance minister, said on Thursday as he called for a regulatory crackdown on financial markets. “The US will lose its status as the superpower of the world financial system. This world will become multipolar” with the emergence of stronger, better capitalised centres in Asia and Europe, Mr Steinbrück told the German parliament. “The world will never be the same again.” Financial Times

Remember the mood music of eight years ago. The greatest power the world has ever seen. Rome on steroids. An international system said to be unipolar, and Washington's unabashed embrace of unilateralism. The US as "Prometheus unbound", according to the neoconservative commentator Charles Krauthammer. Wall Street investment bankers bestriding the financial globe as Pentagon generals did the military globe and Harvard professors the soft power one. Masters of the universe. Timothy Garton Ash - Guardian

My bills are all due and the baby needs shoes and I'm busted
Cotton is down to a quarter a pound, but I'm busted
I got a cow that went dry and a hen that won't lay
A big stack of bills that gets bigger each day
The county's gonna haul my belongings away cause I'm busted. "Busted" - Ray Charles
David Seaton's News Links
I think now that the USA is really going to be down and out, I'm going to stop kicking it.

What I hate is the stupidity of imperial hubris, the bloated idiocy of it all. I think that most of us, or at least me who writes and you who read this blog, are hurt and angry at being identified with all of the swollen, bullying imbecility and not one bit in contradiction with our language or culture, curious religious habits or the smell of our earth.

There was a wonderful Spanish song about a woman that wanted to be "the bride at the wedding, the child at the baptismal font, the cadaver at the funeral", just so that she could always be the star of the show. I think that is what all the world and even many Americans are mortally tired of... I know I am.

I am panting for a multipolar world: one where the shops smell differently in one country from the shops in another country, where the hotels don't look the same... different odors, different tastes, different sounds.

I detest it that everyone everywhere tries to speak our language and knows so many useless (for them) things about our "way of life". I envy people like Romanians who can speak their mother language on a crowded bus without anyone
else understanding them... Small countries, whose local dishes are family secrets, private pleasures waiting to be accidentally discovered and not unhealthy travesties pitifully and methacrylicly replicated on street corners all over the planet.

What could sound more foreign than the following phrase:

"Down with the empire, long live America!"

World, forget you ever knew us.

I'll drink to that. DS

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Bailout: holding the bag

Heavy handed metaphor
Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama said on Tuesday a $700 billion Wall Street rescue plan would likely delay some campaign spending promises, as the reality sank in of the costs of the mammoth bailout. Obama said if elected he might have to phase in some of his plans such as an overhaul of the U.S. health care system. (...) The Wall Street bailout proposed by the Bush administration would cost almost as much as Washington has spent fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since late 2001. The estimated cost of those wars so far is around $800 billion, with about two-thirds of that for combat in Iraq. Together, the wars and the bailout could add about $1.5 trillion to a national debt quickly approaching $10 trillion. Reuters

Still seeking to gain entrance into Troy, clever Odysseus (Ulysses) ordered a large wooden horse to be built. Its insides were to be hollow so that soldiers could hide within it. Once the statue had been built by the artist Epeius, a number of the Greek warriors, along with Odysseus, climbed inside. The rest of the Greek fleet sailed away, so as to deceive the Trojans. One man, Sinon, was left behind. When the Trojans came to marvel at the huge creation, Sinon pretended to be angry with the Greeks, stating that they had deserted him. He assured the Trojans that the wooden horse was safe and would bring luck to the Trojans. Only two people, Laocoon and Cassandra, spoke out against the horse, but they were ignored. The Trojans celebrated what they thought was their victory, and dragged the wooden horse into Troy. That night, after most of Troy was asleep or in a drunken stupor, Sinon let the Greek warriors out from the horse, and they slaughtered the Trojans. Stanford.edu
David Seaton's News Links
I found this wonderful photograph/metaphor for the Bush/Paulson/Bernanke bailout .

In it, there is an elephant, who represents the Republicans, and a lady who represents the Democrats.

The elephant, having thoroughly enjoyed his meal, is happily filling the lady's bag with its excrement. The lady is left holding the bag.

Get it (nudge, nudge)?

The bailout will probably not keep America from sliding into recession, but it will certainly keep the next president and congress, if they be Democrats, from creating a public health system or anything like it. If the Democrats are left overseeing a deep recession without any money to spend on welfare, the Republicans will retake congress and the White House in 2012 and then take credit for the next cyclical upswing. Thus, the American people will never get socialized medicine or money to pay off their mortgages or anything else that would justify the Democratic brand. With the bailout, the Republicans would win, even if they lost the White House and both houses of Congress.

This is why I think that, if the Democrats get their fingerprints on Paulson's plan, it would be better if they lost this year, something that, happily, they seem trying their best to do.

The Democrats would be fools to sanction this scheme for crippling them.

This bailout is obviously the Republican's "Trojan Horse": and I, alas, am left the role of Laocoon, the priest who warned his fellow Trojans:
‘O wretched countrymen! What fury reigns?
What more than madness has possess'd your brains?
Think you the Grecians from your coasts are gone?
And are Ulysses' arts no better known?
This hollow fabric either must inclose,
Within its blind recess, our secret foes;
Or 't is an engine rais'd above the town,
T' o'erlook the walls, and then to batter down.
Somewhat is sure design' d, by fraud or force:
Trust not their presents, nor admit the horse.’
Aeneid - Virgil

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The future's face

AP NewsAlert
WASHINGTON (AP) — Paulson says financial crisis is 'embarrassing for the United States of America' .

Over the next few years, the U.S. will have to climb out from under mountainous piles of debt. Many predict a long, gray recession. The country will not turn to free-market supply-siders. Nor will it turn to left-wing populists. It will turn to the safe heads from the investment banks. (...)Government activism will provide support to corporations, banks and business and will be used to shore up the stable conditions they need to thrive (...) If you wanted to devise a name for this approach, you might pick the phrase economist Arnold Kling has used: Progressive Corporatism. David Brooks, NYT


Are we not the supermen
Aryan pure supermen
Ja we ist der supermen
Super-duper supermen
Ist this Nutzi land not good?
Would you leave it if you could?
Ja this Nutzi land is good!
Vee would leave it if we could

We bring the world to order
Heil Hitler's world New Order
Everyone of foreign race will love Der Fuehrer's face
When we bring to der world disorder
"Der Fuehrer's Face" - Spike Jones and the City Slickers

David Seaton's News Links
I suppose that all this would have to feel like a drug induced nightmare when it finally came... None of it really surprises me, I've been predicting a lot of it for years now, but at the same time I have trouble believing it is truly happening... An attempted coup d'etat in the US of A.

God, I'm glad I'm not living there right now, I don't think I could stand this. DS

Monday, September 22, 2008

Shark jumping can be habit forming

Flying in the face of Congress and both presidential campaigns, Treasury is resisting efforts to impose pay limits on Wall Street executives and bankers whose companies stand to be helped by the government’s $700 billion rescue plan for the financial markets.(...) Treasury argues that the requirements will make it harder to convince companies to sell their troubled assets to the government. - Politico

Up to 10,000 staff at the New York office of the bankrupt investment bank Lehman Brothers will share a bonus pool set aside for them that is worth $2.5bn (£1.4bn), Barclays Bank, which is buying the business, confirmed last night. The revelation sparked fury among the workers' former colleagues, Lehman's 5,000 staff based in London, who currently have no idea how long they will go on receiving even their basic salaries. Independent

"I have concluded that Americans, who pretend in public to be straitlaced, are in fact rabid masochists addicted to whips, black leather and the application of fists." Juan Cole

"It is certainly not conspiracy that causes revolution, and secret societies -- though they may succeed in committing a few spectacular crimes, usually with the help of the secret police -- are as a rule much too secret to make their voices heard in public. The loss of authority in the powers-that-be, which precedes all revolutions, is actually a secret to no one, since its manifestations are open and tangible, though not necessarily spectacular; but its symptoms, general dissatisfaction, widespread malaise, and contempt for those in power are difficult to pin down since their meaning is never unequivocal. Nevertheless, contempt, hardly among the motives of the typical revolutionist, is certainly one of the most potent springs of revolution; there has hardly been a revolution for which Lamartine's remark about 1848, 'the revolution of contempt' would be altogether inappropriate. Hannah Arendt - "On Revolution" pg-260
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There is a very dangerous mood about. Simple contempt for the political representatives, the media and the giants of finance, abounds. This is an inflammable mass, like gasoline vapors, just waiting for a spark. So much contempt for others always contains much self-contempt, which is perhaps humanity's most murderous emotion.

America has the good fortune to possess noble, time-tested, institutions, but institutions without people to color in the lines are only historical curiosities to be studied in libraries. S
ociety and institutions are not one and the same thing. Great institutions, of themselves are not enough, the society that inhabits them counts for much more. Institutions and societies can be hollowed out and the process is mysterious to all who live through it. We must also include our new technologies in the mix; they lend the speed of light to man's natural cupidity and stupidity and make our era look even more sordidly tacky than it would if all we had were the steam engine and the telegraph to magnify our will and transmit our desires.

We have come to a point where,
with this alignment of the planets, in many countries around the world anything could happen. Only our long democratic history and our constitutional traditions reassure us that all will finally be well.

However, if we say that Guantanamo is twenty first century America's answer to habeas corpus, FISA, twenty first century America's answer to English common law, and Paulson's bailout,
twenty first century America's answer to free market capitalism; then how much of all that is really left?

A global village is bound to have a global village idiot.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Thoughts on the bailout

Horse manure: makes the grass grow green
If you think Henry Paulson’s three-page rewrite of the nation’s financial and governmental systems was vague and open-ended, you might want to check out the responses to his plan from John McCain and Barack Obama. The presidential candidates are hardly powerless bystanders in the financial crisis — as senators and as leaders of their respective parties, either could have suspended his campaign and headed to Washington to lead his party’s legislative response to the proposal. Far from that, neither McCain nor Obama has yet to venture so much as a detailed comment on the substance of today’s proposed $700 billion bailout. Instead the candidates are sticking to party-appropriate bromides while waiting to discern the public’s reaction, and also what move their parties’ respective congressional leaders are planning to make. Saturday was tiptoe time. Politico
David Seaton's News Links
I am trying to get a handle on the great "bailout" of Wall Street and I admit I haven't got one yet. However my olfactory nerves are sending me distinct signals that they have picked up the hints of a significant quantity of equine excrement hovering around this question.

What I see (smell), is that the same folks that brought us the War in Iraq are again in a big hurry. That always makes me wary, how about you?

Certain things are striking.

People that contribute a lot money to both party's political campaigns are set to lose a lot of money and we are all being asked to cough up an immense sum to keep that from happening... We are being told that if we don't the sky will fall.

The odor hanging around this is pretty rank and I imagine that people are going to get very angry in increments when they stop to think about it.

Politically this issue is as tender as rotten dynamite.

History's most unpopular president is about to negotiate this "pennies from heaven" deal with history's most unpopular congress. This is a deal, that as far as I can understand it, is going to put a great burden of debt on the American people well into the future. Nobody is talking about sending anybody to jail. Nobody is talking about where the money is going to come from, nobody is talking about raising taxes. And since nobody is talking about cutting defense spending to pay for it, I imagine that it will have to come out of "entitlements"... But why go on? You can see the picture.

Both presidential candidates should be very careful how they grasp this question, both are taking a lot of contributions from Wall Street, but at the same times they hope to get the votes of a lot of people who are going to get angrier and angrier as the week wears on. Certainly this is our Berlin Wall and today's most relevant American politicians may soon be looking like dear old Egon Krenz.DS

Thursday, September 18, 2008


David Seaton's News Links
If the economic crisis doesn't open up a significant lead for Barack Obama, then I think nothing will.

Perhaps if McCain became confused or wet himself during the debates... but short of that...

At this moment the polls are hardly moving and we still see masses of undecided voters. What are they so undecided about? McCain has been around for donkey's years, the Republicans have failed at everything they have turned their hands to since Bush stole the election in 2000.

Obviously they are undecided about Obama.

Is this racism?

In some cases, yes, of course, but for that to be a fair question,
to cry "racism" for sure, you would have to have an African-American candidate with the credentials of a Colin Powell sputtering in the polls, despite his party's huge generic advantage.

I always liked the Hillaryite appraisal that a woman with a CV as thin as Obama's would never be taken seriously, and I would venture to say that a white man with so little on his stick wouldn't be either.

In the specific case of Obama, I think race has been an essential part of his appeal, his package... what they call now his "story" and it has protected him from a lot of aggressive questioning.

Still, a decisive percentage of potential voters don't seem to feel they "know" him yet and suddenly all of this is getting deadly serious. There is a whiff of panic, a whiff of the Great Depression

So now, with the economy seemingly melting down, are the undecided going to choose the unknown?

They might, if Obama showed the quality that he claimed as his own at the beginning, that of bringing the people together, "uniting" them, above partisanship, to enthusiastically contribute, selflessly, to a common project. However, it is reasonable to say that if he were showing much of that quality these days, he would have broken 50% long ago, be leading by over ten points and he would be drawing the crowds and enthusiasm he drew in the early primary season. That obviously isn't happening.

If Obama doesn't go over 50%, with at least a seven point lead over McCain this weekend, I would say, no, the undecided won't choose the unknown. Most of the undecideds, in my opinion, are people who are not going to vote for Obama, but don't want the poll taker to think they are racists.
On Monday we'll know a lot more. DS

PS. For me, the joker in the deck is that pollsters don't call people with cellphones. That is the variable that could blindside all us wiseguys. There is an entire generation of potential voters that don't use landlines very much, and although they don't usually vote, they are said to be wild about Obama. But, if these people never get phoned, how do the pollsters know they like Obama so much?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


David Seaton's News Links
Who knows where all of this is going to lead, but watching Wall Street and listening to some well informed Spanish economists -- and I have the privilege of knowing some of the best informed -- I got to remembering family folklore about the depression.

My dad's family were Middle Western farmers and money was always tight on American farms in the teens and 20s. FDR brought electricity and graveled roads to the farm and of course on a farm in Iowa there was always plenty to eat. Like during a war, things were tougher in the city.

On the other hand my maternal grandfather, a first generation German-American, was a city boy, trained in law and the young manager of a small steel mill when the depression hit and a year later he was selling shirts from door to door and going to the vegetable markets at closing time to buy cheap the limp vegetables that were not fresh enough to sell the next day. He finally got a job at Rand McNally printing atlases, set himself to learning the ins and outs of the printing trade, joined the printer's union, became a master craftsman, a foreman in charge of color quality and for the first time in his life, found happiness and fulfillment in using his hands, which he had never dreamed were capable of such skill. He cried like a baby when FDR died.

My dad, got out of university with a degree in mathematics from Ames just as the depression started and he couldn't find any work, so he joined the then tiny US Army and was sent out to field artillery at Fort Sill Oklahoma. His first Christmas away from home he spent drinking white lightning out of a fruit jar with a very solemn Indian corporal -- the only other human on the base -- in one of those hundred open toilet bathrooms they have in the army. He never could remember that New Years.

In those days they used French 75mm field guns drawn by six galloping horses: a picture right out of Frederic Remington. Since he was a farm boy, he was the only one in the unit that had any idea of how to harness six horses, so they made him a corporal the first day, by the end of the month he was briefly the youngest sergeant in the Army and then they sent him to the Artillery School at Fort Sill and he became an officer, the artillery school graduates of the prewar regular army were an exclusive mafia and my father was saddened that during the war,
(because he was one of a small group of men who were able to actually visualize a million units), he was transferred to quartermaster duty in the Corp of Engineers at the Pentagon, saddened, because out of reach of his artillery infrastructure and mafia he only finished the war as a Captain, while most of his fellow students at Fort Sill finished the war as generals. Bitched about that all his life.

I could ramble on and on, because as a child I heard so many stories from the Depression, that I sometimes think I lived it myself instead of the Golden Age between the early 50s and 1973.

Really, all the villains are the same today, but none of the "heroes" today have anything like the quality of either Hoover or Roosevelt. I mention Hoover, because, he was, in fact, a very noble and good man, who was tragically overwhelmed by events... nothing of a horse's ass like George W. Bush and for sure neither McCain or Obama have anything like FDR's class... if they even dreamed they did they would have to wake up and apologize.

It won't be the same, it never is, it might be worse, I don't think, if the depression finally comes, that it will produce the great books, film, or jazz that came out of the 30s, but if it doesn't lead to a world war like the last one, did I'll settle for that. DS

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

What exactly are meant by "experience" and "judgment"?

Pakistan's military has ordered its forces to open fire if U.S. troops launch another air or ground raid across the Afghan border, an army spokesman said Tuesday. The orders, which come in response to a highly unusual Sept. 3 ground attack by U.S. commandos, are certain to heighten tensions between Washington and a key ally against terrorism. Although the ground attack was rare, there have been repeated reports of U.S. drone aircraft striking militant targets, most recently on Sept. 12.(...) army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas told The Associated Press that after U.S. helicopters ferried troops into a militant stronghold in the South Waziristan tribal region, the military told field commanders to prevent any similar raids. "The orders are clear," Abbas said in an interview. "In case it happens again in this form, that there is a very significant detection, which is very definite, no ambiguity, across the border, on ground or in the air: open fire."(...) In a rare public statement last week, Kayani said Pakistan's sovereignty would be defended "at all cost." Abbas said Pakistani officials had to consider public opinion, which is skeptical of American goals in the region and harbors sympathy for rebels fighting in the name of Islam. "Please look at the public reaction to this kind of adventure or incursion," Abbas said. "The army is also an extension of the public and you can only satisfy the public when you match your words with your actions." - Associated Press
"Pakistan is an extremely dangerous and unstable country. We need to tread carefully. We need to get the Pakistanis to see this as their war. And that's going to require some major new initiatives on the American side. Commando raids and Predator strikes are not a long term solution to this problem." - Bruce O. Riedel, Brookings Institution

"Without adequate political leadership, eradicating sympathy for the Taliban may prove more difficult than eradicating their hideouts in frontier Pakistan. But as long as NATO and the United States continue unilateral strikes in Pakistan that kill civilians, the real battle - for hearts and minds - will be lost." - Mustafa Qadri, Asia Times

The United States has just invaded Cambodia. The name of Cambodia this time is Pakistan, but otherwise it’s the same story as in Indochina in 1970. An American army, deeply frustrated by its inability to defeat an anti-American insurgent movement despite years of struggle, decides that the key to victory lies in a neighboring country.(...)The eventual outcome of the American intervention in Cambodia in 1970 was Communist overthrow of the American-sponsored military government in that country, followed by genocide. The future consequences in (nuclear-armed) Pakistan await. There is every reason to think they may include civil protest and disorder in the country, political crisis, a major rise in the strength of Pakistan’s own Islamic fundamentalist movement, and conceivably, a small war between the United States and the Pakistan Army, which is the central institution in the country, has a mind of its own, and is not a negligible military force. - William Pfaff

The Democratic candidate had raised hackles in Pakistan by suggesting he would authorize U.S military incursion into Pakistan if there was information about Osama bin Laden's presence there and Islamabad did not act on the information. Administration officials and foreign policy mavens, including
Obama's current running mate Joseph Biden and John McCain, had criticized such a public utterance, preferring the policy to be unsaid. In the past week, the Bush administration has begun doing precisely what Obama recommended -- covert attacks inside Pakistan aimed at eliminating terrorists. But according to Pakistan, they are resulting only in civilian deaths. - The Times of India (emphasis mine)
David Seaton's News Links
What exactly are meant by the words "experience" and "judgment"?

These words have been thrown around a lot during this campaign

The Obama camp has insisted that Obama's "judgment" trumps McCain's "experience". This gives the impression that in some way these two qualities are in conflict. In the case of the quotes above, it is obvious that the border of Pakistan is the most dangerous place in the world. American soldiers are for the first time in history attacking targets in the territory of a country armed with nuclear weapons. This in itself calls into question the judgment of anyone ordering or even suggesting such an attack.

However, at times, very dangerous things have to be undertaken. There are two basic risks when this occurs: the first is that things go very wrong and the other is that people talk about it when they do.

In the case, of attacking in Pakistan it is also very negative that people talk about a cross border attack even if it were "successful". Successful meaning, in this case, the public humiliation of the military establishment of an unstable, nuclear armed country whose cooperation is essential.

If it is questionable that such attacks are useful, what is beyond any question is that publicly advocating these actions and introducing them into the echo chamber of a presidential campaign is the height of irresponsibility and poor judgment.

It is not difficult to surmise that Bush, a wickedly foolish man, one whose judgment is poor beyond doubt, has taken these extremely dangerous actions in response to Obama's prodding.

So even before becoming president, Barack Obama has made a critical foreign policy error, one which may have unbelievably terrible knock on effects...

Even if he
isn't finally elected, he still may have left an indelible mark on American foreign policy, one that may mean the death of many thousands of human beings and the destabilization of south Asia and beyond.

The only reason that Obama could possibly give to excuse such irresponsibility and lack of judgment is... inexperience. DS

Monday, September 15, 2008


"What we are facing now if the beginning of the unraveling and collapse of the entire shadow financial system, a system of institutions (broker dealers, hedge funds, private equity funds, SIVs, conduits, etc.) that look like banks (as they borrow short, are highly leveraged and lend and invest long and in illiquid ways) and thus are highly vulnerable to bank like runs; but unlike banks they are not properly regulated and supervised, they don’t have access to deposit insurance and don’t have access to the lender of last resort support of the central bank (with now only a small group of them having access to the limited and conditional and thus fragile support of the Fed). So no wonder that this shadow banking system is now collapsing.(...) This is indeed the most severe financial crisis since the Great Depression and occurring at a time when the US is falling in a now severe consumer led recession. The vicious interaction between a systemic financial and banking crisis and a severe economic contraction will get much worse before there is any bottom to it. We are only in the third inning of a nine innings economic and financial crisis. And the only light at the end of the tunnel is the one of the incoming train wreck." Nouriel Roubini
"Ignored in Georgia and under attack by its closest allies in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, the United States is somewhat unhappily entering the realities of the post-Cold War world, in which it has to play by new rules that it seems to find rather unpalatable." Immanuel Wallerstein
David Seaton's News Links
The United State's biggest problem is not racism, creationism, the media, or even the economy... it is America's obsession with controlling everything, everywhere , all the time: tapping phones, invading countries, drones, spy satellites, giving lectures and sermons, leveling sanctions... and then not controlling that which needs to be controlled and which it could control.

In a country where a person can go to jail for possessing a minute quantity of cannabis or get fined for not mowing his lawn, the American financial system is going to damage the lives of millions of people in America and around the world for lack of sufficient regulation.

In short America's biggest problem is incoherent stupidity.

Now Americans are American enough to know that people who are not up to life's struggles are going to be left by the wayside... "owdada way, bud, comin' though" could be tacked right up there with "In God We Trust".

The world has no more patience than Americans do with losers.

The consolation is that the United States of America is so big, so well populated, with such productive agriculture, with so many natural resources and so far from dangerous neighbors, that it is basically unsinkable.

However, fatheaded hubris is going to take a severe hit in the years to come and Americans are going to want someone to blame it on. I think that they will blame it on whichever poor, helpless, sap wins the White House this year. DS

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Jonathan Haidt 's "Why People Vote Republican": a must read for Democrats

Norman Rockwell's, 1950s America

There might not have been one single Republican voter in this picture, not even the owner of the café... But by now, the little boy saying grace might be a Republican. What has happened?

David Seaton's News Links
Thanks to Judith Warner's blog at the New York Times, I was able to discover this seminal essay by Professor Jonathan Haidt of the University of Virginia, called "Why People Vote Republican", which should be required reading for all Democrats... In it is the secret of why they lose elections, and perhaps why they deserve to lose elections. This is what I have been driving at for months.

Here is a short but meaty excerpt from Professor Haidt's essay:

First, imagine society as a social contract invented for our mutual benefit. All individuals are equal, and all should be left as free as possible to move, develop talents, and form relationships as they please. The patron saint of a contractual society is John Stuart Mill, who wrote (in On Liberty) that "the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others." Mill's vision appeals to many liberals and libertarians; a Millian society at its best would be a peaceful, open, and creative place where diverse individuals respect each other's rights and band together voluntarily (as in Obama's calls for "unity") to help those in need or to change the laws for the common good.

Psychologists have done extensive research on the moral mechanisms that are presupposed in a Millian society, and there are two that appear to be partly innate. First, people in all cultures are emotionally responsive to suffering and harm, particularly violent harm, and so nearly all cultures have norms or laws to protect individuals and to encourage care for the most vulnerable. Second, people in all cultures are emotionally responsive to issues of fairness and reciprocity, which often expand into notions of rights and justice. Philosophical efforts to justify liberal democracies and egalitarian social contracts invariably rely heavily on intuitions about fairness and reciprocity.

But now imagine society not as an agreement among individuals but as something that emerged organically over time as people found ways of living together, binding themselves to each other, suppressing each other's selfishness, and punishing the deviants and free-riders who eternally threaten to undermine cooperative groups. The basic social unit is not the individual, it is the hierarchically structured family, which serves as a model for other institutions. Individuals in such societies are born into strong and constraining relationships that profoundly limit their autonomy. The patron saint of this more binding moral system is the sociologist Emile Durkheim, who warned of the dangers of anomie (normlessness), and wrote, in 1897, that "Man cannot become attached to higher aims and submit to a rule if he sees nothing above him to which he belongs. To free himself from all social pressure is to abandon himself and demoralize him." A Durkheimian society at its best would be a stable network composed of many nested and overlapping groups that socialize, reshape, and care for individuals who, if left to their own devices, would pursue shallow, carnal, and selfish pleasures. A Durkheimian society would value self-control over self-expression, duty over rights, and loyalty to one's groups over concerns for outgroups.

A Durkheimian ethos can't be supported by the two moral foundations that hold up a Millian society (harm/care and fairness/reciprocity). My recent research shows that social conservatives do indeed rely upon those two foundations, but they also value virtues related to three additional psychological systems: ingroup/loyalty (involving mechanisms that evolved during the long human history of tribalism), authority/respect (involving ancient primate mechanisms for managing social rank, tempered by the obligation of superiors to protect and provide for subordinates), and purity/sanctity (a relatively new part of the moral mind, related to the evolution of disgust, that makes us see carnality as degrading and renunciation as noble). These three systems support moralities that bind people into intensely interdependent groups that work together to reach common goals. Such moralities make it easier for individuals to forget themselves and coalesce temporarily into hives, a process that is thrilling, as anyone who has ever "lost" him or herself in a choir, protest march, or religious ritual can attest.

In several large internet surveys, my collaborators Jesse Graham, Brian Nosek and I have found that people who call themselves strongly liberal endorse statements related to the harm/care and fairness/reciprocity foundations, and they largely reject statements related to ingroup/loyalty, authority/respect, and purity/sanctity. People who call themselves strongly conservative, in contrast, endorse statements related to all five foundations more or less equally. (You can test yourself at www.YourMorals.org.) We think of the moral mind as being like an audio equalizer, with five slider switches for different parts of the moral spectrum. Democrats generally use a much smaller part of the spectrum than do Republicans. The resulting music may sound beautiful to other Democrats, but it sounds thin and incomplete to many of the swing voters that left the party in the 1980s, and whom the Democrats must recapture if they want to produce a lasting political realignment. READ IT ALL
When I say that the Democrats have to reclaim as much as they can of the ground of William Jennings Bryant or lose all chance of creating a more just society in America, this is what I mean.

Don't underestimate how socially conservative most of the people who voted for FDR, Truman, JFK and Lyndon Johnson were.

People who were enthusiastic about WPA and the Tennessee Valley Authority might "speak in tongues" on Sunday.

Look up the term "solid south" in Wikipedia, to see how primitive many people who voted for FDR and JFK really were.

One of the most significant thing about Republican populist, Mike Huckabee, for example, is that he never plays the race card or "states rights" at all, or ever ties religion to race discrimination. He also got a Cato Institute "zero" for spending a lot of money on public education and infrastructure. In the 30s, 40s and 50s, Huckabee would have been a Democrat. DS

Friday, September 12, 2008

Palin's "Bush Doctrine" answer

"Charlie, if there is legitimate and enough intelligence that tells us that a strike is imminent against American people, we have every right to defend our country. In fact, the president has the obligation, the duty to defend, and that's what a McCain-Palin administration would do." ABC News
David Seaton's News Links
Many commentators on the left are playing "gotcha" with Governor Palin's reply to the "Bush Doctrine" question. I think they have misread the mood of the country.

Essentially most Americans reading of the "Bush Doctrine" is probably "In 2004 I voted for fascism and all I got was this lousy T-shirt".

A Republican has to walk a fine line on this issue. I think she understood that the question could be dangerous... But really not that dangerous.

At this point, I think it is fair to point out that the American people, by reelecting Bush in 2004 gave their approval to and a mandate for "preemptive war"... "the Bush Doctrine"

Sadly enough, Bush's disapproval ratings are more about his faulty execution of what he did than about what he intended to do. So a Republican can logically run saying, "I will do the same things that you voted for in 2004, but I will do them better, so that they work". And enough Americans, to get him or her elected, will vote that (they already have) if he or she can convince them that he or she is not such an insufferably, incompetent, clot as George W. Bush is.

In fact Palin avoided the "trap" in a very nuanced, "old pro" fashion. She avoided associating herself with anything named "Bush", while at the same time expressing traditional American bellicosity. This lady is much more dangerous than the Democrats are giving her credit for... not because she is dumb, but because she is very, very smart.

The issue is Bush's incompetence not his "ideas". If McCain is not seen as "McSame", then he can repackage most of Bush's "ideas" to his taste without fear... Americans have been voting for them in one form or another for decades.

This is all pretty simple, but I don't think a lot of Democrats have it figured out yet. DS

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A little geopolitics to keep y'all on your toes

The Turkish-Russian relationship has changed dramatically in recent years, though. Today, Russia is Turkey's largest trading partner, with trade between the two countries expected to reach $38 billion this year, up from $27 billion the year before. Russia also supplies close to half of Turkey's crude oil and 65 percent of its natural gas, used both to heat Turkish home and to run many of the country's power plants. But following the invasion of Georgia, Turkey is suddenly facing the prospect of a resurgent Russian presence near its border. "There is a dilemma which Turkey faces," says Ihsan Dagi, a professor of international relations at Ankara's Middle East Technical University. "Georgia is indispensable to Turkey's overall Caucasian and Central Asian strategy, and is central to its claim to being an energy corridor." On the other hand, he says, "Russia is mostly indispensable for the Turkish economy. What is at stake is Turkey's economic stability." - Eurasianet (emphasis mine)

The presidents of Turkey and Armenia held talks and watched a World Cup qualifier soccer match together during an encounter they said could help herald a new beginning in ties and aid regional security. Their foreign ministers would now work to build on what was achieved during Gul's one-day visit.(...)"The Georgia war was a great cover for Turkey to move forward on Armenia," said Hugh Pope, an author on Turkey and Central Asia and analyst for the International Crisis Group. "Armenia really needs a way out too. It has a lot to gain."(...) If Turkey and Armenia can move beyond the symbolism to re-establish normal relations, that could have huge significance for Turkey's role as a regional power, for energy flows from the Caspian Sea and for Western influence in the South Caucasus region.(...) Landlocked Armenia, a Soviet republic until 1991, could also derive enormous benefits from the opening of the frontier with its large neighbour and the restoration of a rail link. Western-backed pipelines shipping oil and gas from the Caspian Sea to Turkey's Mediterranean coast bypass Armenia and bend north instead to go through Georgia. With that route looking vulnerable after the Russian intervention, Armenia could be an attractive alternative. Reuters
(emphasis mine)

A small minority of Turks, 3 percent, said Turkey should act together with the United States on international matters. The largest percentage of Turks (48 percent) said Turkey should act alone, compared with 20 percent who felt it should act with the countries of the European Union and 11 percent who felt it should act with the countries of the Middle East. Only 1 percent supported Turkey acting together with Russia. The poll also revealed that the Turkish respondents continued to have the most critical views of US and EU leadership in world affairs. Only 8 percent of respondents viewed US leadership as "desirable," and 22 percent viewed EU leadership as "desirable." Today's Zaman - Turkey
(emphasis mine)

David Seaton's News Links
If you read the excerpts above and ruminate a bit, you will see that the Russian reputation as chess masters is entirely deserved.

Let's look again at these points:
  • Russia is Turkey's largest trading partner, with trade between the two countries expected to reach $38 billion this year, up from $27 billion the year before. Russia also supplies close to half of Turkey's crude oil and 65 percent of its natural gas
  • Western-backed pipelines shipping oil and gas from the Caspian Sea to Turkey's Mediterranean coast bypass Armenia and bend north instead to go through Georgia. With that route looking vulnerable after the Russian intervention, Armenia could be an attractive alternative.
  • A small minority of Turks, 3 percent, said Turkey should act together with the United States on international matters. The largest percentage of Turks (48 percent) said Turkey should act alone, compared with 20 percent who felt it should act with the countries of the European Union
So by strangling Georgia, Russia invites Turkey and Armenia, at great mutual benfit, to become the conduit for Caspian energy, thus enabling the EU to bypass Russia though Armenia and Turkey instead of using the now vulnerable route through Georgia.

In this case Turkey then would hold the key to Europe lessening it's dependence on Russian energy.

Turkey, if the polls are correct would use that key with great independence...

Except that Russia is Turkey's greatest trading partner and energy supplier.

Summing up: Turkey holds the key for Europe and Russia holds the key for Turkey, so... Russia holds the key for Europe.

Checkmate, eh mate?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Leaving the people behind

(Palin) held a meeting as governor three days after giving birth. “I just put down the BlackBerrys and pick up the breast pump,” she said of her life as a working mother. The Times

In terms of redefining the persona for female authority and leadership, Palin has made the biggest step forward in feminism since Madonna channeled the dominatrix persona of high-glam Marlene Dietrich and rammed pro-sex, pro-beauty feminism down the throats of the prissy, victim-mongering, philistine feminist establishment. (...) Sarah Palin is like Annie Oakley, a brash ambassador from America's pioneer past. She immediately reminded me of the frontier women of the Western states, which first granted women the right to vote after the Civil War -- long before the federal amendment guaranteeing universal woman suffrage was passed in 1919. Frontier women faced the same harsh challenges and had to tackle the same chores as men did -- which is why men could regard them as equals, unlike the genteel, corseted ladies of the Eastern seaboard, which fought granting women the vote right to the bitter end. Camille Paglia - Salon
David Seaton's News Links
I think that Camile Paglia has hit on something.

Sarah Palin seems to embody something we could call "frontier feminism" or "working class feminism" and the question that Democrats should be asking themselves is why somebody whose husband in a United Steelworker is a Republican, because the Democrats have gotten lost somewhere.

In the Rooseveltian days when Norman Rockwell painted "Rosie the Riveter" no woman like Sarah Palin would have ever been a Republican.

What is this "frontier or working class" feminism?

There is a feminist joke that outlines it pretty well; it says that Ginger Rogers danced everything that Fred Astaire did... wearing high heels and going backwards.

The great songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller got a good grip on it with Peggy Lee's classic, "WOMAN":
I got a twenty dollar gold piece says
There ain't nothin' I can't do
I can make a dress out of a feed bag
And I can make a man out of you
'Cause I'm a woman
Paglia quotes the 1905 obituary of a frontier woman:
Abigail Becker

Farmer and homemaker born in Frontenac County, Upper Canada, on March 14, 1830

A tall, handsome woman "who feared God greatly and the living or dead not at all," she married a widower with six children and settled in a trapper's cabin on Long Point, Lake Erie. On Nov. 23, 1854, with her husband away, she single-handedly rescued the crew of the schooner Conductor of Buffalo, which had run aground in a storm. The crew had clung to the frozen rigging all night, not daring to enter the raging surf. In the early morning, she waded chin-high into the water (she could not swim) and helped seven men reach shore. She was awarded medals for heroism and received $350 collected by the people of Buffalo, plus a handwritten letter from Queen Victoria that was accompanied by £50, all of which went toward buying a farm. She lost her husband to a storm, raised 17 children alone and died at Walsingham Centre, Ont.
My own grandmother Seaton gave birth to my two Uncles in a gold mining camp in northern California and then was a farm wife in Iowa before Roosevelt brought electricity to the farm. Three boys, a homestead, no washing machine, a coal stove... she was small very pretty with black hair and flashing black eyes and played the guitar and sang things like "Annie Laurie" and "Little Brown Jug" in a sweet voice. When she was a young thing she was so pretty and coquette that a jealous and jilted suitor took a shot at her with a pistol through the family dining room window and only thanks to the window glass, the bullet went off course and she only got a superficial wound on her arm. She loved William Jennings Bryant and FDR. Frontier women.

There is this from the Washington Post:
After just a week, Palin is as popular as either Obama or McCain. White women in particular express favorable views of the Alaska governor, according to a newly released Washington Post-ABC News poll. Positive ratings of her spike to 80 percent among white women with children at home and among white women who are evangelical Protestants.

The percentage of white women with "strongly favorable" opinions of McCain jumped 12 percentage points from before the parties' national conventions. And nearly six in 10 white women in the new poll said McCain's selection of Palin increased their confidence in the decisions he would make if elected. In the Post-ABC poll, it is white women who helped McCain erase Obama's late-August advantage and seriously cut into the Democratic nominee's lead as the one who would bring more needed change to Washington.

Republican adviser Juleanna R. Glover calls Palin "the future of the GOP," and that was certainly the consensus at this stop in Ohio on Tuesday. McCain and Palin performed a ritual of Republican politics, speaking from a stage in front of the Golden Lamb Hotel, billed as Ohio's oldest inn. More than 5,000 guests filled the streets, packing it as fully as it had been four years earlier, when President Bush made the same stop.

But this event was more reminiscent of the Clinton campaign earlier this year: Mothers held their young daughters on their shoulders to catch a glimpse of Palin. Women held up pro-Palin signs and wore "I Love Sarah" stickers. One sign read "Working Mom 4 Palin." Another: "Strike Oil with Sarah." And another: "Outspoken Conservative Moms for Palin."Like other women in the crowd, Baron, the home-schooler from Maineville, Ohio, expressed frustration that feminism and women's issues have seemingly been owned by Democrats whose values she does not share.

Julia Burns, 72, a Republican from Lebanon, cut in: "Men had better jump back. Women are going to take over. We're sick and tired of playing by men's rules. We're coming out of the ground, and they had better move out of the way."
The Democrats have gotten lost. How can you have a "people's party" without the people and without their values? DS

Tuesday, September 09, 2008


Subtle metaphor of the current American political discourse

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The American presidential campaign is talking about everything but the central question facing the United States: it's rapid decline as the world's hegemonic superpower and the enormous dangers facing the United States and the world if America tries to maintain that fading hegemony.

This "primary contradiction", which could cause millions of lives to be lost and result in unimaginable chaos and impoverishment, is ignored except, perhaps, when presidential candidates suggest increasing military spending or promise to reassert American "leadership".

Both "solutions" are like a terminal cancer patient planning next year's summer vacation. An insane waste of precious time.

Today, I've posted excerpts from two important articles on this theme by John Gray, emeritus professor of European thought at the London School of Economics and my favorite political commentator, William Pfaff.

Please read them very carefully and be prepared to discuss:)
We are back to great-power politics, shifting alliances and spheres of influence. The difference is that the west is no longer in charge. With their different histories and sometimes sharply conflicting interests, Russia, China, India and the Gulf states are not going to form any kind of bloc. But it is these countries that are shaping world development at the start of the 21st century. The US - its bankrupt mortgage institutions nationalised and its gigantic war machine effectively funded by foreign borrowing - is in steep decline. With its financial system in the worst mess since the 1930s, the west's ability to shape events is dwindling by the day. Sermonizing about "law-based international relations" is laughable after Iraq, and at bottom not much more than nostalgia for a vanished hegemony. Deluded about its true place in the world, the west underestimates the risks of intervening in Russia's near abroad. Russia's weaknesses - demographic decline, cronyism in the economy and a seething sense of national humiliation - are well known, but western vulnerabilities are no less real. Our leaders bore on about Russia needing us as much as we need Russia. In fact, despite a recent blip, investment in Russia is a byproduct of the global market that will continue for as long as it continues to be profitable, whereas Russian energy supplies can be curtailed at will by the Russian government. Economists will tell you the country is too reliant on oil. But the world's oil reserves are peaking while globalisation continues to advance, and Russia stands to gain from any international conflict in which supplies are disrupted. Again, the west needs Russia if the Iranian nuclear crisis is ever to be defused peacefully, and without Russian logistical cooperation Nato forces will find it even harder to bring the aimless, unwinnable war in Afghanistan to any kind of conclusion.(...) Clearly, with the exception of some in "old Europe", our leaders do not know what they are doing. The grandstanding of David Miliband and David Cameron in Ukraine illustrates the point. Blathering about national self-determination and territorial integrity, they seem not to have noticed that the two principles are normally incompatible. Self-determination means secession and the break-up of states. In the Caucasus, a region of multi-sided national enmities, it means a wider war and worsening ethnic cleansing. The stakes are even higher in Ukraine. Deeply divided and with a major Russian naval base in the Crimean port of Sevastopol, the new state will surely be torn apart if an attempt is made to wrench it from Russia's sphere of influence. The country would become a battlefield, with the great powers irresistibly drawn in. Playing with Wilsonian notions of self-determination in these conditions is courting disaster. John Gray - Guardian

The United States has been invading troublesome Caribbean and Central American neighbors since the mid-19th century. It was what the U.S. Marine Corps did for a living – Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic. Ronald Reagan absurdly invaded Granada, officially to save American students from dangerous Cuban airport laborers. The senior George Bush invaded Panama to seize President Manuel Noriega, a former employee of the CIA. It has never been explained what those two invasions were really about. There were (widely publicized) clandestine operations in Nicaragua and El Salvador. All this has been taken for granted as the Monroe Doctrine at work.(...) Today the world’s only expansionist ideological power is the United States, aggressively pushing everywhere, persuading, promoting, and even invading countries for “democracy.” It wants to make everyone democratic “like us,” which in the end means to do as we want them to do. The ideology is meant to be generous, but it is a generosity devoted to the control of energy resources, raw materials, trade, and finance. This makes the U.S. the expanding and aggressive nation in the world today, the one with a “global ideology,” with military power to back it up. This frightens people. When the power doesn’t work as intended, as in the Caucasus, it makes other people frightened, the ones who have bet on the U.S. to advance their own agendas. That is what is changing the geopolitical map. William Pfaff
Meanwhile the American voters play with their dollies. DS