Friday, December 28, 2012

The "cliff"

David Seaton's News Links
This is the perfect occasion to resurrect one of my favorite rants, that political paralysis in America is not a byproduct of ideological struggle but the principal objective of the billionaire front, that in the interest of economy I call, the "Tea-Fox-Koch-Murdoch-Beck-Limbaugh-Party".

Are they incredibly, devilishly smart to pull this? Not really.
You don't need to be very smart. You need to have a lot of money. There are people who are getting so much rent off their capital that the mere act of bending over to pick up a hundred dollar bill off the pavement would literally be a waste of their time.
With that kind of wealth comes freedom and the fear of losing it. They pay to create an environment that protects them, people are falling all over themselves to help them do it.
Brains are cheap when you have that kind of money, politicians are cheap, journalists are cheap, think tanks, etc. People are lining up to serve them, the crumbs from their table can buy a home, send kids to college. Things are often much simpler than they appear.... making them seem complicated costs a lot of money.
The good thing about this crisis is that more and more people can see who owns the world they live in.
There are people who can put $100,000 into the offshore account of a politician as easily as you or I can give a beggar 50 cents. They are the the 0.01%.
Since the fall of the USSR, these people have enjoyed a freedom and untrammeled power unknown since the post-Civil War period known as the "Gilded Age". They are trying to avoid losing any of that freedom and power at any cost to the rest of us.
The method is to create so much ideological "noise" that rational thought and dialog is impossible. That was what the Krupps and the Thyssens did in Germany to stop the communists from taking over in the 1920s. Their boy blamed all the country's troubles on the Jews and took the heat off the Krupps and the Thyssens, but the thing got out of hand and cost Germany several million dead and left the country in smoking ruins, but, hey, the Krupps and the Thyssens made money hand over fist all the way through the process from beginning to end, and are still today some of the richest families in Germany.
As Fitzgerald said to Hemingway, "the rich are different from us Ernest".
Action and reaction, just as in the late 19th and early 20th centuries the grotesque abuses of the system brought forth a muscular reform movement to tame the beasts of the Gilded Age, today the feeling is growing all over the world that this new Gilded Age must also be brought under some sort of rational control and regulation. As the center of the world economic system, any general reform and regulation of globalization logically must begin in the United States of America.
That is what the one-percent are afraid of and that is why they fund and promote the paralysis of the American political system.
Americans for Prosperity, the right wing campaign funded in part by the energy billionaires the Koch brothers, is working with the Tea Party movement to increase its impact through the use of new media and social networking. The Guardian
Rupert Murdoch has declared his dissatisfaction with Barack Obama and the Democratic party, saying that two $1m donations by News Corp were intended to encourage change in Washington. Financial Times
Shortly before leaving for the US to report on the midterm elections, a respected colleague told me that: “Obama’s problem is that he is trying to govern a nation where half the population is insane.” Gideon Rachman - Financial Times
This is done by way of "the big lie".

Lets look at the "big lie": the art of calling black white and white black and making it stick, how it works and why it works.
I will cut directly to the chase: to me it is obvious that the Tea Party has been evoked, like a political poltergeist, from the shadowy depths, of the American earth by people like the Koch brothers and Rupert Murdoch in order to terrorize moderate Republicans and keep them from moving to the center and cooperating with president Obama in a time of national emergency.
In any one of a dozen national emergencies of the nature I suspect (or might not even dream of) that may be developing or might already be upon us, the natural reaction of the citizenry would be to demand, as in wartime, or any other great national emergency, that their elected representatives work together in a bipartisan fashion to clean up the mess and to put in place regulations and regulators to make sure it never happens again and to punish those responsible severely "pour encourager les autres".
And who knows, then,  perhaps in  the cheery glow of new found kameradschaft and moderate bi-partisanship, they might set themselves to reform campaign financing, the infrastructure and even work on climate change and fossil fuel energy dependence.
From a certain point of view this kind of constructive or reconstructive harmony must be avoided at all costs.
So we here we come to the big lie.
What I call the "Tea-Fox-Koch-Murdoch-Beck-Limbaugh-Party" are using classic techniques, nothing new here.
To get into the mood and to understand better what the Murdochs and the Kochs are up to and what  techniques they are using to achieve their ends, let us look at what the OSS had to say during WWII about the recognized master of the big lie:
His primary rules were: never allow the public to cool off; never admit a fault or wrong; never concede that there may be some good in your enemy; never leave room for alternatives; never accept blame; concentrate on one enemy at a time and blame him for everything that goes wrong; people will believe a big lie sooner than a little one; and if you repeat it frequently enough people will sooner or later believe it. "Hitler as His Associates Know Him" - OSS report on Hitler, p.51
Sounds familiar doesn't it. Now let us hear the "master's voice" as he himself describes in some greater detail how the big lie works:
(...) In the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation. For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying.— Adolf Hitler , Mein Kampf, vol. I, ch. X
Let us move directly to a concrete example of how this "philosophy" is being put into practice today.
Why are the "Tea-Fox-Koch-Murdoch-Beck-Limbaugh-Party" so afraid of Barack Obama?
Because he is a radical socialist-communist-extremist, right?
Wrong, wrong, wrong!
They are afraid of him for precisely the reason he "disappoints" his progressive base:

They are terrified of him because he is a born centrist, reaching out eagerly for members of the Republican opposition in order to "cut a deal" or "split the difference".
That has been his message from the beginning. To refresh your memory:
I say to them tonight, there's not a liberal America and a conservative America - there's the United States of America. There's not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there's the United States of America. The pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into Red States and Blue States; Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats. But I've got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the Blue States, and we don't like federal agents poking around our libraries in the Red States. We coach Little League in the Blue States and have gay friends in the Red States. There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and patriots who supported it. We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.  Senator Barack Obama - Keynote speech, Democratic convention - 2004
Despite all of President Obama's unearthly and unbearable lightness of being, that speech still has them terrified. The more he appears manifestly mild mannered and generally ineffectual, the louder they cry "Marxist!" and "radical!"... and worse.
That idea of inclusiveness, the mildness, the desire to negotiate and split the difference, not radical, leftist, extremism, is what has Murdoch and the Kochs frantic and frothing at the mouth.
Because, under the new rules of globalization, much of the world's economic power and especially the cash, has escaped from state control, regulation and supervision. As the recent euro crisis showed, elected officials of powerful and wealthy countries found themselves suddenly at the mercy of the "markets" and the rating agencies, themselves made up of human beings, whose power, unlike the law makers of a democratic states, is in no way derived from the consent of the governed... and there are people... not many people, but very, very rich people, who are extremely comfortable with that.. and why shouldn't they be?
Now it happens that there is only one state in the whole world that is still, for the moment at least, potentially powerful enough to be able to bring this situation under some sort of control at home and abroad, and this state is in theory a democracy that is elected by its citizens to serve them.
That state is, of course, the United States of America.
Now, for the state apparatus of the United States of America to bring the situation under control in America and to a great extent around the world, all the branches of the state, executive, legislative and judiciary would have to be in nearly total alignment, as they were during World War Two.
Keeping that from happening, paralyzing the political system so that unity is entirely unthinkable except around "supporting our troops" to defend the "homeland" against the threat of "terrorism" is what the Tea Party movement and every move of Fox and Kochs is about.
The acceptance of policies that counteract our interests is the pervasive mystery of the 21st century. In the US blue-collar workers angrily demand that they be left without healthcare, and insist that millionaires pay less tax.  George Monbiot - Guardian
I think we have just solved George Monbiot's mystery.
As I said at the beginning of this piece,  the Tea Party has been created in order to terrorize moderate Republicans and keep any of them from moving to the center and cooperating with president Obama in a time of national emergency.
Just to see how effective this strategy is, lets look at the following old quote from certainly the best known and perhaps the once most respected of Republican moderates, John McCain,
“People want us to do what we’ve forgotten, which is put aside philosophical differences, which are important, and legislate and get things done.”
What happened since then? This from Vanity Fair:
“The senator owes his victory to the pressure he received from conservatives and Tea Partiers,” the conservative guru Richard Viguerie declared after the primary. “To receive that support, he had to give up his maverick positions that have sometimes given aid and comfort to the liberals. I’m sure Senator McCain knows very well that he would not have won if he had continued his reputation as the Democrats’ favorite Republican.”
So that is what it is really all about: it is about not legislating and not getting things done... to paralyze the government of the United States of America at a critical time in its history. To prevent the system from flushing itself out and regenerating itself. To cut the wires of the burglar alarms to be able to sack the house in peace.DS

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Spanish Economic Crisis Explained

David Seaton's News Links
In case you are interested, this hour long documentary from the BBC gives a very workmanlike breakdown of how it all happened.
Spain is the canary in the coal mine for the world's top economies, because of its large size and its fragility. The story carries lessons for everyone, everywhere. What happens in Spain first can happen later in more robust economies.
Well made and clearly explained, in one hour with this video, you'll be up to speed. DS

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Sandy Hook school massacre

David Seaton's News Links
I have little to add to everything written about this horrible massacre. I find myself especially moved by the heroism of the school teachers that died trying to protect the children in their care. There should be a statue of them in Washington and a wreath laid at its base on every anniversary of their sacrifice, perhaps a national holiday should be declared in their honor and in the honor of all the men and women who teach children.
When you think of what those teachers take home pay was and what the chairman of Goldman Sachs, Lloyd Blankfein's take home pay is and the respective value of what they do or did and that such different human beings can inhabit the same country, you have all the hope and despair of America in one package.
With all the pressure of public opinion, will anything be done to regulate firearms now?
The good news is that there is going to be gun control legislation, the bad news is that the gun lobby will only allow restrictions for "crazy" people. People will think that makes sense as all these massacres have been perpetrated by people with mental health issues.
That will be the only compromise possible with the powerful NRA and Democrats in Congress will think that getting that would be better than nothing.
That will of necessity mean some sort of standard test as to who is nuts and who is not, just like who is blind and who is deaf in order to get a driver's license, but nationwide.
This will entail a very objective measurement of what is sane and what isn't, something that in a democracy is quite a slippery slope.
Since the US Constitution in its Second Amendment still guarantees the citizens the "right to bear arms", those who don't pass the standard sanity test (don't have any friends, talk to themselves etc) will become officially second class citizens. This then will mean that owning guns will be automatic proof that officially you are not crazy and then everybody will not only want to own a gun, anybody who doesn't do an "open carry" will appear an oddball.
Result: more people owning and carrying guns... you'd be crazy not to. DS

Monday, December 10, 2012

Global Civics: The ideas the Tea Party fears most of all

David Seaton's News Links

In my last post I wrote how the fear of a new wave of reform propelled by the problems and abuses arising from globalization.
Global Civics is the idea-force that would make reform possible if it spread, not only possible, but inevitable. Any collective global action would require adopting the ideas expressed here. These ideas, the consciousness of the practical, unavoidable, reality of the unity of humanity are the starting point for any change.
Therefore it is obvious that any interest groups that would feel threatened by this idea-force, would marshal its resources to discredit anything or anyone who in anyway embodied these ideas.
Watch the video and then try to run it through the filter of Fox, Glenn Beck or the Tea Party. Try to imagine how the mentality espoused in the video would affect the lives and wealth of the Koch brothers or Sheldon Adelson and then the behavior of the American right begins to make some sense. Their survival is at stake. DS

Saturday, December 08, 2012

What the Tea Party billionaires are really afraid of

David Seaton's News Links
Before starting off on the Tea Party's craziness, I would like you to examine some images from two nearly identical tragedies that occurred over a hundred years and several thousand miles apart. Later in the post I hope to make a connection between these twin horrors and the strange metamorphosis of the American right. Please bear with me.
Tazreen Garment Factory Fire - 2012
Tazreen Fashions Fire, Bangladesh - 2012
Interior view of the tenth-floor work area in the Asch Building after the Triangle fire
The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, New York - 1911
Drawing "The Locked Door!" refers to the Triangle fire and depicts young women throwing themselves against a locked door in an attempt to escape the flames.
The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, New York - 1911

The great mystery of American politics, a mystery which no one in the world can fathom, not even most Americans, is why so much money, hot air and spittle is being spent on literally paralyzing the American political system and making it impossible, not just to negotiate solutions, but to even have an intelligent conversation about solving the problems facing everyone, everywhere today. For that is what the Tea Party is really about: making first thought, then negotiation, and finally action impossible.
What is all this sound and fury covering up?
In my opinion it has much to do with where contemporary globalization is leading, the forces that it is setting in motion, which for historically minded Americans could elicit a bit of dèjá vu.
It seems to me that the globalization of today is in many ways similar on a world scale to the explosion of growth, power and sophistication of the US economy in the period after the Civil War, commonly called "The Gilded Age". This was the period of the "robber barons" and viewed nostalgically by many of the American right as a paradise of anarcho-capitalism. This was a period of immense growth and innovation, but also one of enormous inequality, suffering and exploitation and financial crisis, all of it interpenetrated by an ubiquitous political corruption as the enormous new wealth so recently created set about purchasing and deforming to its benefit the institutions of American government: federal, state and local.
The excesses of the Gilded Age gave birth to a mass reform movement in the United States called, "Progressivism". This movement, in a titanic struggle, bridging decades, among other things brought into effect: the regulation of interstate commerce, the breaking up of the monopolies known as "trusts", laws regulating the purity of food and drugs, the rise of labor unions, laws eliminating child labor and in 1913, even progressive income tax, something which still causes intense indignation on the American ultra-right.
I would maintain that today the "Gilded Age" is happening on a global scale. The same viral growth and innovation; the same inequality, suffering and exploitation and financial crisis and similar corruption as rootless, multinational corporations evade much needed tax money and corrupt the political systems where they find themselves, world wide. And today we can add the more recent concerns for climate change and renewable energy.

Action and reaction, just as in the late 19th and early 20th centuries the grotesque abuses of the system brought forth a muscular reform movement to tame the beasts of the Gilded Age, today the feeling is growing all over the world that this new Gilded Age must also be brought under some sort of rational control and regulation. As the center of the world economic system, any general reform and regulation of globalization logically must begin in the United States of America.
That is what the one-percent are afraid of and that is why they fund and promote the paralysis of the American political system.
Just to show you the symmetry between the urge to reform one hundred years ago and to reform today, I'd ask you to take the trouble to read two texts, they are like the tiny samples taken to analyze DNA.
I'm sure you have heard about the terrible fire in a garment factory in Bangladesh a few days ago,which took the lives of over a hundred workers trapped in the blaze, (the color photo at the top of the page shows the aftermath) so the first text I'd like you to read, is about that tragedy:
(...) On the third floor, where firefighters later recovered 69 bodies, Ms. Pakhi was stitching sweater jackets for C&A, a European chain. On the fifth floor, workers were making Faded Glory shorts for Walmart. Ten bodies were recovered there. On the sixth floor, a man named Hashinur Rahman put down his work making True Desire lingerie for Sears and eventually helped save scores of others. Inside one factory office, labor activists found order forms and drawings for a licensee of the United States Marine Corps that makes commercial apparel with the Marines’ logo. In all, 112 workers were killed in a blaze last month that has exposed a glaring disconnect among global clothing brands, the monitoring system used to protect workers and the factories actually filling the orders. After the fire, Walmart, Sears and other retailers made the same startling admission: They say they did not know that Tazreen Fashions was making their clothing.(...) David Hasanat, the chairman of the Viyellatex Group, one of the country’s most highly regarded garment manufacturers, pointed out that global apparel retailers often depend on hundreds of factories to fill orders. Given the scale of work, retailers frequently place orders through suppliers and other middlemen who, in turn, steer work to factories that deliver low costs — a practice he said is hardly unknown to Western retailers and clothing brands. The order for Walmart’s Faded Glory shorts, documents show, was subcontracted from Simco Bangladesh Ltd., a local garment maker. “It is an open secret to allow factories to do that,” Mr. Hasanat said. “End of the day, for them it is the price that matters.” New York Times
A little over a hundred years ago something almost identical happened in the USA. You probably know about it, but read the following text to refresh your memory and to compare it with the Bangladesh tragedy:
The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City on March 25, 1911, was the deadliest industrial disaster in the history of the city of New York and resulted in the fourth highest loss of life from an industrial accident in U.S. history. It was also the second deadliest disaster in New York City – after the burning of the General Slocum on June 15, 1904 – until the destruction of the World Trade Center 90 years later. The fire caused the deaths of 146 garment workers, who died from the fire, smoke inhalation, or falling or jumping to their deaths. Most of the victims were recent Jewish and Italian immigrant women aged sixteen to twenty-three; of the victims whose ages are known, the oldest victim was Providenza Panno at 43, and the youngest were 14-year-olds Kate Leone and "Sara" Rosaria Maltese. Because the managers had locked the doors to the stairwells and exits – a common practice at the time to prevent pilferage and unauthorized breaks – many of the workers who could not escape the burning building jumped from the eighth, ninth, and tenth floors to the streets below. The fire led to legislation requiring improved factory safety standards and helped spur the growth of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union, which fought for better working conditions for sweatshop workers. (emphasis mine)Wikipedia
The only real difference between the two fires is that today the money is not bringing poor immigrant women to America to do the sewing, they are sending the sewing out to poor women in their home countries.
The text I put into bold type, the reforms the Triangle fire produced, is the key, the symbol, to explain the energy and funds behind the Tea Party's mostly successful struggle against rational thought in the USA today.
It is easy to imagine that we will be seeing more and more incidents like these sweatshop fires, some of them may cause thousands of deaths, pollute the atmosphere or spread disease in much the same way that the financial crisis that began in the USA has spread around the world. Today, unless the world cooperates to regulate, what goes around, comes around.
Now it happens that there is only one state in the whole world that is still, for the moment at least, potentially powerful enough to be able to bring this situation under some sort of control at home and abroad, and this state is in theory a democracy that is elected by its citizens to serve them.
That state is, of course, the United States of America.
Now, for the state apparatus of the United States of America to bring the situation under control in America and to a great extent around the world, all the branches of the state, executive, legislative and judiciary would have to be in nearly total alignment, as they were during World War Two.
Keeping that from happening, paralyzing the political system, with racism and paranoia so that unity is entirely unthinkable except around "supporting our troops" to defend the "homeland" against the threat of "terrorism" is what the Tea Party movement and every move of Fox and Kochs is about.
So that is what it is really all about: it is about not legislating and not getting things done... to paralyze the government of the United States of America at a critical time in its history and the history of the world at large. To prevent the system from flushing itself out and regenerating itself. To cut the wires of the burglar alarms so they can sack the house, the house of everyone in the world, in peace. Their peace. DS

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Susan Rice

David Seaton's News Links
Susan Rice
In diplomacy the core question is often this: What do I want to get and what do I have to give to get it? Certitudes and bluntness get you only so far. It is less a question of what you know than how curious you are about what you do not." Roger Cohen on Susan Rice - NYT
What I want to make clear from the start is that I think Susan Rice is a very talented high achiever, with total access to the President of the United States. For me it is also clear that her being a woman and an African-American are both pluses in representing the United States in a world where the majority of human beings are neither white nor male. And at least she is not contemplating running for president in 2016, with all the pandering that something like that entails (Cuba, Israel, etc).
My objection to Susan Rice as Secretary of State has nothing to do with the Benghazi incident, for example, and I think she may be well qualified for many things, but simply not qualified for diplomacy.
The problem for me is that she appears not to have the basic temperament needed for a diplomat, which is to be "diplomatic". For, whatever its color, American diplomacy's face should be a friendly face and Susan Rice's face is anything but friendly. "Diplomacy" is the old word for international "public relations" and this is not likely to be carried out efficiently by anybody whose primary facial expression appears to be that of a flamenco dancer with hemorrhoids.
One of the first qualities of a diplomat is apparent friendliness and charm, which, more often than not, may very well be a disguise for harsh realpolitik and cynical "truthiness", but charm is essential. The last thing the USA needs is to be seen as a "strict governess" and Susan Rice seems totally humorless, self-righteous and authoritarian in manner, which is always a bad sign in anyone charged with managing human foibles and convincing people to do things they might prefer not to do.
If she becomes Secretary of State, her presence will be provocative and counterproductive. In short, despite her many merits, she doesn't fit the job description, like a midget for a basketball team or a fat lady for synchronized swimming. DS

Friday, November 30, 2012

Palestine at the UN

David Seaton's News Links 
Some commentators have said the UN vote, which, by a massive majority, gave Palestine observer status is meaningless... Meaningless?
Now, for starters, we finally are not talking about a stateless "PLO" or the "Palestinian people", we are talking about "Palestine", a country that now actually and officially exists as a sovereign state, although its territory is totally occupied and subjugated and slowly being colonized, by another state, Israel.
The Israelis, of course act as if nothing had happened, in fact to show their contempt for the UN vote they have authorized the construction of 3,000 settler homes in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, only a day after the UN upgraded the Palestinians' status.As always any body or anybody that backs Israel into a political or humanitarian corner immediately ceases to be "a credible mediator", or "partner for peace", that is the general hasbara line and always has been. Nothing new here, except it wont work anymore.
The significance of the UN vote is that as of now, the vast majority of the world's sovereign states, with their vote, or with their abstention, have simply told Israel that it ceases to have that special status of political and moral immunity that it has hidden behind until now.
Even Germany abstained!
That is how much moral legitimacy Israel has lost; Germany dared to abstain!
Not important? To begin with the UN vote is a universal slap down of American hypocrisy and the US role in the pantomime "peace process"... It also drains a lot of energy from the march to war with Iran.
But, in my opinion the most important thing the UN vote does is to firmly underline the validity and continuing relevance of the post - six day war, UN Resolution-242, which most Israelis consider a joke.
Now the West Bank territories that are illegally occupied by Israeli troops and "settlers" are clearly the legitimate property of a people whose existence and rights as the citizens of a universally recognized, but illegally occupied, state have now been overwhelmingly validated by the "international community"...
This leads us to the point that most worries the Israelis: the possibility that the state of Palestine will take the state of Israel to the International Criminal Court in The Hague. And well the Israelis may worry: for decades they have been in flagrant violation of international law as an occupying power with hundreds of well documented incidents, each of which could lead to international arrest warrants.
The UN vote has made it clear that if Israel doesn't change its ways, it is about to gain apartheid-South African-pos-Milosevic-Serbian status. This will certainly complicate things for them in dealing with their only friendly neighbors and major trading partner, the EU, both culturally and commercially.
Because Israel is about to replace apartheid South Africa as a universal pariah.
Not important? I cannot think of any comparable disaster in the entire history of modern Israel. DS

Friday, November 23, 2012

The American religious + economic right fractures

David Seaton's News Links
Losing the election seems to have really shaken the American conservative movement deeply and the most significant long term effect, that I perceive, is watching some important, born again, wooly-evangelicals slowly morphing into what, in Europe, would be classified as Christian-Democrats.
It might be that the descendents of people who voted for William Jennings Bryan, Huey Long and FDR may again be susceptible to the "populist" messages of Democrats bearing "gifts".
Surprising, perhaps, but eminently logical, because one of the most curious "strange bedfellows" effects of American politics has been the alliance between those who consider themselves followers of Jesus Christ and those who are demonstrably followers of Ayn Rand and who propose lowering the taxes for the super rich and cutting assistance to the needy, who they often refer to as "moochers".
The success of this alliance always depended on the infusing of the teachings of Jesus with racism, homophobia and the love of firearms. This is known as the "God, guns and Gays" formula.   Even a cursory reading of the teachings of Jesus would show us that this formula is more "tribal" than theological, to say the least. This is the center of the "What's the Matter with Kansas" conundrum.
Why Christians were ever interested in guns and pampering the rich passeth all understanding, however, the reasons for the Randistas to seek the company of Christians are not hard to figure out.
Since it is obvious that a political movement whose slogan was simply, "help the super rich to avoid paying taxes and to escape bothersome regulations that would cramp their style", besides not fitting on a bumper sticker, would not win enough votes to shape policy effectively, so it was necessary to craft something with broader appeal.
This simple idea began to take shape when Richard Nixon hatched his Southern Strategy, a tactic whereby by championing the dog-whistle, "state's rights", the Republican Party ceased to be the party of Lincoln, the party that freed the slaves, which nobody in the South (who was allowed to vote), ever ever voted for, became the party of choice of the all the racists, reactionaries, religious fanatics and assorted rednecks.
Ronald Reagan's "Reagan Democrats" strengthened the mix in the North with his talk of "welfare queens", thus weakening the unions and then this brew has come to its fullest fruition with Fox News and the Tea Party.
Of course, at the center of all the nuttiness of today’s Republicans, in reality, is their bankrollers’ fear of taxes and regulation… For them the ceaseless culture warfare is merely a tactic to simultaneously attract and confuse a sufficient number of the ignorant to enable the “one-percenters” to paralyze the political process and pack the Supreme Court in coming years with justices that would roll back all the progressive legislation going back to Roosevelt (I'm talking about Theodore Roosevelt here, not just FDR). It looks like in this post-Romney moment the arrangement may be unraveling.  
Precisely to pack the Supreme Court, winning the presidential election of 2012 and getting Obama out of the White House, and getting a union buster in, was dear to the hearts of America's billionaires, they spent hundreds of millions of dollars to that effect and came up empty... Republican politicians, men and women who would like to get into office and stay in office, have taken note of a simple fact -- the billionaires can't buy them power -- that a majority of the American people want what Mitt Romney calls "gifts": affordable health care and education... and are quite happy to see the rich pay for it.
Significantly, the religious right has also taken note.
The problem that the one-percenters have with the religious right is that on one hand for the Bible-thumpers, their ideology, "right to life" etc, is the center of their agenda: their ideological position trumps money. While, on the other hand, for the billionaires money is their ideology, nothing trumps money.
The two groups, evangelicals and one-percenters have different priorities, what Chairman Mao used to call different "primary and secondary contradictions".
I'll give you an example of what I mean, an excerpt from an op-ed that one of America's most important evangelical gurus wrote in the Washington Post, an article by Robert Jefress, which I don't think has received the attention it deserves.
They don't much more socially conservative than the Reverend Jefress, senior pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, a preacher with a daily radio program that is broadcast on 725 stations nationwide.
To give you an idea, of how conservative Jefress is, although he generously denies that President Barack Obama is the Antichrist, he affirms that, "the course he is choosing to lead our nation is paving the way for the future reign of the Antichrist."
So check out Reverend Jefress's, "trip to Damascus":
Evangelicals need to remember that we are a diminishing minority in America. If we care about winning elections with candidates who will push back against abortion and immorality, then we have to be willing to compromise on some secondary issues to form a winning coalition with other Republicans. Unfortunately, evangelicals tend to resist “compromise” because of our propensity to label every issue a “spiritual conviction.” In the four weeks before Election Day, I spoke to thousands of pastors in cities across the country(...) In private conversations with some of these pastors, I discovered that for some, “standing for righteousness” meant more than pushing back against abortion and same-sex marriage. They saw opposing higher taxes, Obamacare and bans on assault weapons as equally important moral issues, even though such purely partisan positions have no biblical support. My message to fellow evangelical Christians is this: We must differentiate between biblical absolutes and political preferences. We must never compromise on the former, but we must be willing to bend on the latter if we want to see our moral agenda enacted. Breaking a pledge to Grover Norquist and embracing higher taxes for even higher cuts in expenditures is not tantamount to denouncing Christ. Acknowledging the need for governmental health-care reform does not necessarily pave the way for the rule of the Antichrist. I have a proposal for all Republicans. Instead of nominating a candidate who is mute or malleable on social issues but intransigent on political issues, let’s try the reverse. Let’s find a candidate who has a history of consistently and courageously embracing the social views of the majority of the Republican Party, as well as many Democrats and independent voters: that life in the womb should be protected and that marriage is for a man and a woman. But let’s also nominate a candidate who realizes that compromise with the other party is necessary if we are to restore our country’s fiscal integrity, protect our environment and provide the quality health care Americans deserve. Robert Jeffress - Washington Post
So, ironically, far from being a warm-up act for "the Beast", President Obama's victory seems to be healing a rift between Christians that opened when Martin Luther nailed his "95 Theses" to the church door in Wittenberg. Because what the evangelical Reverend Jefress is advocating could come straight from the Vatican or the pen of any Catholic bishop.  

Here is how conservative columnist and former chief speech writer for George W. Bush explains Catholic social teaching:
The Catholic Church — a politically and ethnically sprawling institution — has no natural home on the American ideological spectrum. Neither major party combines moral conservatism with a passion for social justice. So Catholic leaders have often challenged Democrats to be more pro-life and Republicans to be more concerned about immigrants and the poor. Michael Gerson - Washington Post
Without going too deeply into the many differences between the evangelicals insistence on charismatic conversion or being, "born again" and the Catholic church's rather plodding "salvation through works", we could cut to the chase by saying that most Catholic social thought has its roots in following words from the Book of Matthew:
'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.' They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?' He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least among you, you did not do for me.' Matthew 25:41-45
Such a text is one of the earliest expressions in Christian terms of the thirst for social justice. As such it helps give that thirst shape and a common, deeply rooted, electrifying language.
Imagine how that text would sit with Ayn Rand or the Koch Brothers, in fact, can you imagine it being spoken at a Tea Party event? It would be amusing to watch Willard Mitt Romney flippityflop when confronted with it.
Who is a "stranger" to be invited in? Who is a "prisoner" to be looked after? Who are the needy and the sick to be taken care of?
If you stop and think that the African-American and the Latino communities are often both over represented in the prison system and in need of "gifts" such as good health coverage, immigration reform (strangers to be "invited in") and good public education and at the same time these communities are often devoutly Christian and socially conservative (read "homophobic" etc), this split on the right could soon cause tensions on the left as different members of the liberal consensus (read single women and gays) assess their "primary and secondary contradictions".
If the white evangelicals, in order to achieve Christian unity, renounce racism and nativism and include blacks and Hispanics in a return to the populism of their ancestors, American politics could become a lot more class-based and a lot more interesting. DS

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The wacky Petraeus tacky attack tactic

With Gen Petraeus' public downfall, the American public can begin to grapple with why after 11 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan "we haven't won anything", (Andrew) Bacevich says. The consequences of the myth of "the great heroic general" have been dire, he says. "It's an excuse to not think seriously about war and to avoid examining the actual consequences of wars that we have chosen to engage." BBC

"See, the problem is that God gives men a brain and a penis, and only enough blood to run one at a time." Robin Williams
David Seaton's News Links
Such a bad week for conservatives... first they lose the presidency, for the second time, to an African-born, Muslim, Communist of color and with it the chance to pack the Supreme Court with Tea Party vetted justices and then repeal a hundred years of social legislation; then to top that, their favorite general, a great white hope, a true man on horseback for conservatives in future presidential elections, turns out to be a nooky-whipped old fool.
The man in charge of all of America's countless spies is brought down because his dippy mistress used an amateur spy "dead drop" email which the United State's head spook activated himself, for general and mistress to discreetly exchange their billet-doux, to send threatening messages to Cent Com's "hostess with the mostest"... Who it turns out is herself drowning in debt.
And following the trail of said hostess, it turns out that Tampa Florida, from where all of America's wars are fought, from where young Americans are regularly sent to far flung lands to be killed or mutilated, is some sort of "Zenith of Winnemac on the blow", where the cheesy, greedy, parvenus, local babbitry, meet with the centurions of America's military elite, to greet and eat. The hostess then dragged in some minor FBI agents looking for dinner invitations and who knows what else, to investigate the messages, which contained no direct, physical threats: whereupon the agents, without a warrant, blithely opened the private correspondence of American citizens... Idiot citizens, but citizens, none the less. 
I could go on but I think I'd rather just go and throw up. DS

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

What Romney has taught the American left

"The president was elected on the basis that he was not Romney and that Romney was a poopy-head." - Grover Norquist (ht:Doonesbury)
Just for argument's sake let us accept that Romney was right and that 47% of Americans will always vote against the Republicans because, as "dependent" parasites, they cannot take responsibility for their "own lives"... In other words, they need old age pensions, medical care, good public schools and universities etc. This means that, probably totally unbeknownst to themselves, they are what is known in most other developed countries as "Social Democrats".
What we have learned then in 2012, following the Romney analysis, is how easy it is to turn 47% into 50.6%.
What progressives need to learn is how they can turn 47% into a 60%, that is to say, an absolute majority. 
Perhaps the economy and the interrelated complexity of the modern world will do the job by itself. DS

Wednesday, November 07, 2012


At least the sinuous Romney isn't going to be president... At least the first African-American president gets to serve two terms... At least the Tea Party wont get to name any justices of the Supreme Court... and at least a hundred "at leasts" that we might not even imagine till they happened, but which wont happen because Romney and the Tea Party, and the Koch brothers and Shelden Adelson and Rupert Murdoch and a cast of one-percenters have lost... 
Please feel free to add to this list. DS 

Monday, November 05, 2012

Dear God, will it ever end?

Abbie has nailed it.... If anything defines the period we live in, it is the sight of a nation of over 300M people, with historically unsurpassed military and economic power in a state of sluggish political and social paralysis... and managing to make such a crisis, one so objectively earth shaking and transcendental, mendacious, mediocre and boring to boot. DS

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Campaign note: Obama or the deluge (no kidding)

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Readers of mine should not be under the impression that I am a big fan of Obama's or of the Democrats... I wrote this back in 2008:
I find myself against almost everything that the Republicans stand for, but at least they seem to truly stand for what they say they stand for (although many evangelicals doubt this). I respect that quality, even in a jerk like Bush... He defends his people (the very, very rich) to the bone. But the Democratic Party to use highly technical language, really, really, sucks: with few exceptions, a herd of Judas Goats leading the poor to slaughter, bells a tingling.
Having said that I still say Obama is a better pick than Romney.
Here is what Roger Cohen writes today in the Washington Post:
On the movie screen, Robert F. Kennedy’s appeal is obvious: authenticity. He cared. He showed it. People saw that and cared about him in return. With Obama, the process is reversed. It’s hard to care about someone who seems not to care in return. I will vote for him for his good things, and I will vote for him to keep Republican vandals from sacking the government. But after watching Bobby Kennedy, I will vote for Obama with regret. I wish he was the man I once mistook him for.
I realize that voting for Obama is not an attractive proposition; it's a little like having your leg cut off to save you from dying of gangrene... but that is the only thing on the menu. The Republican party is now in the hands of rogue billionaires who are stimulating fascism in order to evade taxes and regulation... They want to even go back and repeal the reforms of Teddy Roosevelt. This is really that simple: avoiding a ultra-right coup d´etat. DS

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Why it is essential that Barack Obama be reelected

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No matter what you may feel or think about Barack Obama, no matter how disappointed you may be by his failure to live up to the promises he made in 2008 or the hope he inspired four years ago; it is essential for every progressively minded American to do what they can to keep Mitt Romney out of the White House. The only instrument the American people possess in this case is their vote and the only realistic alternative to Romney is to reelect Barack Obama.
The following clipping from TPM by Sahil Kapur, explains the situation perfectly.
A potential Mitt Romney presidency carries huge implications for the Supreme Court that have conservatives excited and progressives fearful about the future. Liberal-leaning Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 79, and Steven Breyer, 74, are likely candidates for retirement during a Romney administration. The GOP nominee has vowed to appoint staunch conservatives, and the influential conservative legal community will make sure he follows through. Replacing even one of the liberal justices with a conservative, legal scholars and advocates across the ideological spectrum agree, would position conservatives to scale back the social safety net and abortion rights in the near term. Over time, if a robust five-vote conservative bloc prevails on the court for years, the right would have the potential opportunity to reverse nearly a century of progressive jurisprudence. For all those reasons, conservative legal activists anticipate that a Romney win would be the culmination of their decades-long project to remake the country’s legal architecture.(...) a Romney presidency — even a one-term presidency — would pose a slow-release threat to key progressive accomplishments, and why small-government conservatives view his candidacy as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. (emphasis mine) Sahil Kapur - TPM
The idea of wiping out all the progress made in over a lifetime of legislation and rulings... a veritable coup d'etat by the most reactionary elements in America, is truly too horrible to contemplate. DS

Saturday, October 27, 2012

What are things like in Spain right now? Watch the video.

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See SpongeBob SquarePants duke it out with Hello Kitty in Madrid’s Puerta del Sol… (where the “Indignados” camped out last year). DS

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Romney's biggest lie

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Eye on the bottom line

Except for his sincerely wanting to be president, it is very difficult to locate any truth in Willard Mitt Romney. However, we may be able to take him at his word when he says he believes that his success in making lots of money in business especially qualifies him for the highest office in the land... Sadly, nothing could be farther from the truth.
Lets looks at the historical record of successful businessmen in the White House:
Since Herbert Hoover’s 1928 election, the American people have voted out of office after a single term only three elected presidents: Hoover, Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush — all of whom were successful businessmen before they were president. And the only successful business-trained president who was reelected, George W. Bush, oversaw an economic collapse at the end of his second term. (...) The startling bottom line is that the nation’s GDP has grown more than 45 times faster under presidents with little or no business experience than it has under presidents with successful business careers. (...) None of the five presidents under whom the stock market has had its best performances — Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Ronald Reagan, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower — had significant business experience. Topping the list are the two most recent career-politician presidents, Clinton and Obama, both of whom pursued economic policies that Romney and his running mate, Paul Ryan, insist are anti-business and economically disastrous. Robert S. McElvaine - Washington Post
Why should this be, when, as Calvin Coolidge said, "the business of America is business"? Why should businessmen, who are so adept at making money, be so inept at leading the nation?
As occurs so many times, the answer to that question is in the question itself.
It's obvious if you think about it... business is first and last about making money. This is not to oversimplify and say that every businessman would do anything to make a buck, many businessmen have a well developed sense of ethics, but finally to lose money is to fail in business and to make money is to succeed.
To succeed in business is not easy, it requires intense concentration and singularity of purpose. The businessman's eye can never be taken off the bottom line and everything he does must ultimately be dictated by that reality. In fact in a publicly traded company not to put the creation of shareholder value first is illegal.
In this business-process all the elements, material and human, that make it up are only contemplated with full attention as they affect profit and loss, they are merely a means to that end. Human beings and their needs and wants become even more abstract when, as in the financial industry, the only element involved in creating profit and loss is the money itself.
Here is how the Slovenian philosopher Zlavoj Zizek explains it using classical Marxist jargon.
Marx located the elementary capitalist antagonism in the opposition between use-value and exchange value: in capitalism, the potentials of this opposition are fully realized, the domain of exchange-value acquires autonomy, is transferred into the specter of self-propelling speculative capital which needs the productive capacities and needs of actual people only as its dispensable temporal embodiment. Marx derived the very notion of economic crisis from this gap: a crisis occurs when reality catches up with the illusory, self-generating mirage of money begetting more money-this speculative madness can not go on indefinitely; it has to explode in ever stronger crises. The ultimate root of the crisis is for him, the gap between use-value and exchange-value: the logic of exchange-value follows its own path, its own mad dance, irrespective of the real needs of real people.(emphasis mine) Slavoj Zizek - Rethinking Marxism
There is the answer to the question of why businessmen make lousy political leaders... In politics, the bottom line is and always has been the "real needs and wants of real people". In politics money is only a means to satisfying those needs and wants or for seducing the population into thinking those needs and wants are being satisfied. If the real needs of real people are not seen to be satisfied, then in democracy the politicians will be voted out of power and in a dictatorship, their lives are in jeopardy. Finally power comes from some form of consent or support from the governed... human  satisfaction not numbers is the objective. The humans are citizens or subjects, not shareholders cutting coupons.
In my opinion businessmen's difficulty in truly putting real people and their real needs at the center of their thinking has been further impaired by the homogenized training they now receive from such MBA programs as Mitt and Dubya's alma mater, Harvard Business School. 
The techniques of the modern "master of business" are supposed to enable him or her to administrate any sort of business using its methods of analysis and action, therefore making the human equation in business even more abstract. You would only have to compare a passionate "car man" like George Romney with his son Mitt to see how things have been changed by this study program in a relatively few years.
The reason then that businessmen fail in the presidency is that nothing in their training and experience, and perhaps even in their personal temperament, has prepared them for the challenges that will confront them once in power, and the values involved in judging their performance in facing those challenges. DS

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Mitt got whupped

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Romney Angry
What a poem this man's face is: anger mixed with fear. He almost looks like he is going to burst into tears. I think he knows he is beaten.

It might be more appropriate for Romney's autobiography to be titled "Dreams from my Father", than Obama's.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Barack fights back

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Obama second debate
He was having a ball

I had my doubts for a while, but now I think I might have been right to imagine in a previous post that President Obama threw the first debate, that he deliberately underperformed.
The question would have to be, why take such a huge, deliberate risk?
This is why I think he took that risk.
All the analysts are in agreement (and always have been) that this election is going to be very close... the economy is what it is and getting reelected with unemployment hovering around 8%, if not mission impossible, is mission pretty difficult. Playing it safe could turn out to be a bigger mistake than boldness when everything is playing out within the statistical error of the polls.
Analysts also agree that the Obama campaign was very smart to spend a lot of money early on in defining Mitt Romney as a hard hearted, tin eared, out of touch, clumsy, flip-flopping phoney. This early attack was successful in selling its narrative of Romney to voters before people were as over saturated with attack ads as they are at this stage.
Then why put up such a weak defense in the first debate? Why encourage his opponent's aggression?
My reading is that Obama believed that if he had attacked Romney personally with the same brio in the first debate as he did in the second debate people might have found him overly aggressive.
Why would he think that?
Because there is probably no politician in America, black or white, with a deeper understanding of American race psychology. One of the reasons being that perhaps the most important person in his whole life was a nice, little old white lady from Kansas, the woman who raised him, his own grandmother, Madelyn Dunham.
Here, taken from Wikipedia are some quotes of the president talking about her.
He describes his grandmother as:
"a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe. (...) not that my grandmother harbors any racial animosity – she doesn't. But she is a typical white person, who, if she sees somebody on the street that she doesn't know...there's a reaction that's been bred into our experiences that don't go away and that sometimes come out in the wrong way, and that's just the nature of race in our society.(...) some of the fears of street crime and some of the stereotypes that go along with that were responses that I think many people feel. She's not extraordinary in that regard. She is somebody that I love as much as anybody. I mean, she has literally helped to raise me. But those are fears that are embedded in our culture, and embedded in our society, and even within our own families, even within a family like mine that is diverse."
And if you don't believe racism is alive and well in America, all you have to do is follow the Drudge Report, where a chorus of every imaginable racist dog-whistle is blown daily. I don't think a white person can get assaulted or mugged by a black person anywhere in America without Matt Drudge covering it, echoing it and trumpeting it. By his numbers, readers appear to lap it up
So I believe that Obama thought that if in the final weeks of the campaign he was going to be able to attack Mitt Romney cruelly, brutally, that he could not be seen to "throw the first punch", to be the aggressor, to be someone with a chip on his shoulder, looking for a fight. His goal is not to be seen as someone who starts fights, but to be the sort of person that the American psyche loves, the hero of every classic western, the person who "finishes fights".
In this case Obama didn't start the fight, he got up off the floor with a bloody nose and fought back.

Mission accomplished. DS