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December

[Dec 31, 2011] Russia's Smouldering 'White Revolution' by Nicolai N. Petro

See also Color revolutions and Russian White Revolution of 2011-2012
Dec 29, 2011 | opendemocracy.net

Five groups of the protest movement

As presently constituted, the protest movement can be divided into roughly five groups:

(1) The most popular group consists of artists, poets, television personalities, writers, and journalists. People like Artemy Troitsky, who came to the last rally dressed as a condom, Leonid Parfyonov, Boris Akunin, Dmitry Bykov, Olga Romanova, singer Alexei Kortnev, and socialite Kseniya Sobchak. They all make it a point, however, to declare that they are 'non-political,' that their concern is to give the nation back its 'moral voice.'

2) Another large group at these protests have been Russian nationalists like Vladimir Tor, and 'true communists' like Sergei Udaltsov. Udaltsov, a scion of the Old Bolshevik elite—one of Moscow's streets is named after his great-grandfather — parted ways with other communist organizations when the failed to adequately reflect, in his view, worker's interests. His latest project, the Russian United Labor Front--Left Front, also objects to mere party politics and calls for power to be transferred directly to the working masses. Tor, on the other hand, is one of the perennial leaders of the right wing 'Russian March,' which also counts blogger Alexei Navalny among its participants.[3] He also abjures the divisive term 'party politics', preferring to speak on behalf of the whole Russian nation.

While many at Sakharov Square might wish to distance the protests from his appeal 'Russia for Russians,' as Tor pointed in his address to the crowd, the nationalist protesters in Manezh square in Moscow who battled riot police last February share one important bond with the current protests--an uncompromising hostility to political authority. 'Without the heroes of Manezh,' Tor reminded the audience, 'there would never have been a Bolotnaya.'[4]

(3) Smaller in number, but much better known, are the perennial leaders of the Old Opposition, figures like Vladimir Ryzhkov, Boris Nemtsov, Mikhail Kasyanov, Garry Kasparov, and Grigory Yavlinsky. While some have worked in the government, they have all publicly broken with Putin, and now demand that the entire political system be reconstituted. Their personal ambitions have prevented them from agreeing on a common political strategy, much less a joint list of candidates. As a result, while theoretically they could represent the beginnings of a political opposition, in practice they have placed themselves at a safe remove from the political process.

(4) A fourth group is one I call the new Internet Opposition. It is composed of people like Alexei Navalny, Evgenia Chirikova, Grigory Melkonyants, and Ilya Yashin, who have developed a core following among Russia's rapidly burgeoning internet community. Navalny is the most charismatic of this group. He has made clear that he considers himself a politician, and that he will run for office (under a different system). For now, however, his political views are hard to pin down. He is all things to all people, refusing, for example, to even discuss whether a (hypothetical) political party he might lead would be on the left or the right side of the political spectrum.[5]

With the exception of Navalny and Yashin, who were once active in Yabloko (Navalny also served briefly as an advisor to Belykh in Kirov), their rise to prominence has been largely due to persecution by the authorities and devotion for a single cause, be it corruption, the environment, or election monitoring. Their persecution has garnered them "street cred," but not much else. Some in the Old Opposition thinks these youngsters look to them for guidance, and that they will ride into political office on the latter's coat tails. I very much doubt it.

(5) The latest addition to protest movement are individuals who have been part of, or directly benefited from, the Putin regime but have since abandoned it. They include former finance minister Alexei Kudrin, oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov, and "A Just Russia" deputy Ilya Ponomarev. While they too reject the Old Opposition and share the values of the Internet Opposition, at the last two mass rallies they were met by resounding disapproval. Prokhorov, for example, chose not to address the crowd in Sakharov Square after being hectored by shouts of "Go back to Courchevel"—the Swiss ski resort favoured by Russian nouveau riches. The crowd's antipathy to individuals with practical political experience are once again on full display here.

Thus, by default, the government retains the sole practical political agenda and, as such, its dominance is unassailable. It can easily afford to wait for opposition leaders to devour each other as they have so often in the past. It can then step in to co-opt the best and the brightest by giving them the opportunity to apply themselves in the only meaningful political game in town.

'… the government retains the sole practical political agenda and, as such, its dominance is unassailable. It can easily afford to wait for opposition leaders to devour each other as they have so often in the past.'

Despite what opposition leaders may say, the fault for this lies primarily with them. They have ritualistically rejected any meaningful political dialogue with the government, despite the fact that under president Medvedev attempts were regularly made to set the stage for a liberal political party. But no matter what the Kremlin did to encourage the emergence of such a party--simplifying party registration, reducing the percentage quota for a parliamentary seat from seven to a five percent minimum, guaranteeing federal funding and air time to parties that get even three percent of the popular vote--the opposition has been either unable or unwilling to assume its proper political role in a democracy, that of constructive gadfly.

Those few opposition leaders who have accepted the challenge of constructing real political life from the ground up, however, have found the current regime to be, if not a friend, then at least a receptive partner. Asked about his differences with his former aide Alexei Navalny, Nikita Belykh summed them up as follows: 'By my actions I am attempting to mitigate the crisis [of confidence in government] and improve relations between government and society. He is attempting to tear apart what connections remain.'[6]

Belykh did not attend the meeting on Sakharov Square in Moscow. Instead, he attended the rally in Kirov and spoke to a small crowd of opposition supporters that gathered there. His impromptu remarks were an appeal for the kind of personal civic engagement that could transform 'opposition to everything' into a true revival of politics. "I believe that civic activism must be constructive in nature, not destructive. In my opinion, the government took a step in our direction today. A major and truly significant step. And we need to seize this opportunity, instead of telling the government to go to hell. The ball, he says, 'is now in society's court.'[7]

... ... ...

Nicolai N. Petro is professor of politics at the University of Rhode Island (USA). He served as the U.S. State Department's special assistant for policy on the Soviet Union under George H.W. Bush.

[Dec 31, 2011] Crushing Vladimir Putin by Dan Lieberman

There must be more than coincidence to the observation that the American media's appraisal of a world leader often reflects the State Department's attitude towards the same leader. See also Propaganda and Demonization of Putin
Dec 26, 2011 | Scoop News

There must be more than coincidence to the observation that the American media's appraisal of a world leader often reflects the State Department's attitude towards the same leader. Just search history; leaders who failed their people but accepted United States foreign policies received only mild criticisms, while leaders who contended U.S. foreign policies, regardless of relations with their populations, received scathing reviews from popular news sources.

China's Chang Kai-Shek, Korea's Syngman Rhee, Vietnam's President Van Thieu, Nicaragua's Somoza and in more recent times, Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, Mexico's Carlos Salinas de Gortari, Russia's Boris Yeltsin, and Georgia's Mikheil Saakashvili fit the former pattern. These friends of Washington received relatively harmless rebukes for nefarious actions.

Soviet leaders until Mikhail Gorbachev, France's Charles de Gaulle, Egypt's Gamal Abdel Nasser, Indonesia's Sukarno, Cuba's Fidel Castro, and Venezuela's Hugo Rafael Chavez, all of whom confronted American foreign policies, were, regardless of their acomplishments, constantly castigated by the American media.

Description of the castigated grow, graduating from being against American policies to being anti-American, then a serious threat to America and finally a danger to everyone. Nothing good can be said about them; anyone muttering kindly remarks is considered ignorant and slightly warped. After the aversion to the anti-Americans who are a danger to everyone engulfs a large percentage of the population, the media joins the bandwagon, aware it best not contradict the one-sided appraisals.

This conditioning enables U.S. foreign policy planners to gain public support for their rejection of foreign critics and for policies that disturb their critics. Initiation of wars in Vietnam, Iraq, Granada, Panama and other countries could not occur before a mention of the name of the leaders of the antagonist nations had aroused an angry emotional reaction in America's psyche. Economic warfare against several nations could not be practiced until Americans were made to feel that the economic warfare was morally correct; a necessary action to defeat and replace the criminal leader of the impudent nation.

Despite Hillary Clinton having pressed the reset button, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin clearly broadcasts his disfavor with State Department initiatives. Has he also fallen into the Washington character crusher and being leveled due to his alleged antagonism towards America? American media's scornful attacks on the Russian premier hint at that possibility.

The Russian Prime Minister is continually presented as a bad boy, a tyrannical, and corrupt megolomaniac who assists his cronies in pilfering Russia's resources. Lacking is a body of verified evidence to support the allegations. Putin's critics found an opportunity to provide evidence in the recent legislative elections in Russia and promptly accused the Russian premier of personally stealing the election, labeled him rejected by the Russian people, made him responsible for his Party's losses, and described him as lucky. To them, Russia's tremendous growth during Putin's tenure is only due to high energy prices and not his leadership.

Constant repetition of these charges condition the portrait of Vladimir Putin. Are the charges true, specious or a matter of perspective? If the facts are obscure, logic overcomes the obscurity.

Putin stole the election

The New York Times echoed the American media approach to the confusing situation.

Not What Mr. Putin Planned, New York Times, December 7, 2011

"The United States needs Russia's cooperation on a host of issues, most notably Iran, and the Obama administration made the right decision to try to 'reset' the relationship. But that can't mean giving Mr. Putin's authoritarian ways a pass. So it was good to hear Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton express 'serious concerns' that the voting was neither free nor fair."

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) monitored the election and presented an analysis on "free and fair" in a press release.

MOSCOW, 5 December 2011 "Despite the lack of a level playing field during the Russian State Duma elections, voters took advantage of their right to express their choice.

"The observers noted that the preparations for the elections were technically well-administered across a vast territory, but were marked by a convergence of the state and the governing party, limited political competition and a lack of fairness.

"Although seven political parties ran, the prior denial of registration to certain parties had narrowed political competition. The contest was also slanted in favour of the ruling party: the election administration lacked independence, most media were partial and state authorities interfered unduly at different levels. The observers also noted that the legal framework had been improved in some respects and televised debates for all parties provided one level platform for contestants.

"On election day, voting was well organized overall, but the quality of the process deteriorated considerably during the count, which was characterized by frequent procedural violations and instances of apparent manipulations, including serious indications of ballot box stuffing."
http://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/85753

Granted the OSCE press release is only a preliminary and abbreviated summary before a final report, scheduled for its 2012 meeting. Nevertheless, its evaluation uses vague expressions - procedural violations, instances of apparent, serious indications - that don't confirm extensive fraud.

All seven registered political parties were approved to participate in the elections. Is that a narrow field? The Party with the lowest total received only 0.3% of the vote. Did the electorate need more or want more?

Incumbent legislators, certainly those in the U.S., usually have great advantages in elections, monopolize the news and gain more media coverage. Wherever possible, the Party in power slants the election with all its power. What else is new? Proven charges of ballot stuffing and multiple voting demand investigations, but these skewing of elections are minor when compared to the disguised frauds from PACs and lobbies, many of whom control media expressions and campaign funding. Political Parties are shaped to skirt the edges of legality and do everything to assure victory. When the numerical and financial disparity between one political Party and the others is great, as it is between United Russia and its competitors, the favoritism and slant becomes more exaggerated.

By sensationalizing the alleged frauds, constantly repeating and continually re-circulating the same, the media made it difficult to gauge their actual significance. Signals were filtered out and noise amplified so that only the noise was heard. A similar happening occurred with the heavily publicized videos. Subjectively interpreted, lacking verification and possibly being staged, an unlikely situation, but still a possibility that nobody considered to investigate, an appraisal of the condemning videos places them as images of fraud that look good on Court TV but are not sufficiently convincing for judicial courts. Undoubtedly there were severe irregularities, but were they substantiated as massive and organized or were they more driven by local exuberances and incompetent behaviors?

The table below contains significant details for resolving the debate on election validity. It shows that the election results were close to the trend in the polls and to their final readings. If United Russia (UR) did much better than the polls, then fraud would be a definite probability. By doing worse than predicted, either the UR poorly prepared the mechanisms for illegally augmenting vote totals, or the mechanisms did not exist.

United

Russia

Communist Party

Liberal Democratic
Party

A Just Russia

Yabloko

Patriots of Russia

Right
Cause

Opinion poll
19-20 Nov

53.7%

16.7%

11.6%

10%

2.9%

1.6%

1.0%

Final Vote

49.32%
(238 seats)

19.19%
(92 seats)

11.67%
(56 seats)

13.24%
(64 seats)

3.3%

(no seats)

0.97%

(no seats)

0.60%

(no seats)

The Russian people rejected Putin

"The youthful, Internet-savvy Russians who have turned out in the streets in historic numbers in recent weeks want to end Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's untrammeled rule over their country, but whether they can translate their frustration to the political arena - or even whether they will remain fired up - remains an open question."
Washington Post, December 19, 2011

Did voters, who were electing local delegates to the Duma, go to the polls thinking of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin? Unlikely. Interim elections reflect voter opinions on the legislature and somewhat on the president, who is Dmitry Medvedev. In Russia, as in France, the president has considerable power. He nominates the highest state officials, including the prime minister, can pass decrees without consent from the Duma, and is head of the armed forces and Security Council.

The American media might insist that Putin manages everything behind the scenes, but President Medvedev's performance during the last four years contradicts that assertion. No question that several years ago Putin dealed with Medvedev and promised him support for the presidency in return for a promise that Medvedev would not run for a second term. Knowledge of that agreement might have disturbed voters and swayed their preferences. Nevertheless, Medvedev has operated sufficiently independent during his reign. U.S. media portrays Putin as the Russian leader. Putin is prime minister, but Russians and the U.S. State Department interacted with President Medvedev during the last four years.

Putin's United Russia was Defeated

"It's embarrassing enough to do poorly in an honest election. Putin's party managed to crater despite vigorous measures to rig the vote." Chicago Tribune, Steve Chapman, Dec. 15, 2011.

Crater? A defeat? Steve Chapman misrepresented the election. Gaining 49.3% of the vote in a five Party system is an astonishing victory, not as large as previous United Russia victories, but a total that any European political Party would envy. In the last national elections in United Kingdom, France and Germany, no political Party received more than 36% of the vote. Don't weep for UR. They are not too sad.

The electorate normally anguishes when the same political Party dominates its life for a decade. Lower totals for United Russia reflect that usual discontent. After ten years of power, it is surprising that Russia's leading political organization still retains 50% support from the electorate. Evidently, the populace has not tired of United Russia's managed economy, which features statist and nationalist positions, both of which have irked the western powers. The statist Communist Party and nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (misnamed) showed increased vote totals from their 2007 vote totals.

... ... ...

Dan Lieberman is the editor of Alternative Insight, a monthly web based newsletter. His website articles have been read in more than 150 nations, while articles written for other websites have either appeared or been linked in online journals throughout the world. Many have served as teaching resources in several universities and several have become Internet classics, each attracting about ten thousand readers annually

[Dec 30, 2011] The Pumpkin Sherbet Revolution

Huge pressure from the West which is ready to go "va bank" for any anti-Putin candidate and coordinate and finance color revolution. That point does not require further comments.
Dec 19, 2014 | The Kremlin Stooge

Kievite:

This is a war the Kremlin can win.

IMHO the situation is actually pretty serious. Like was in case with Orange Revolution the opposition now wants to exploit weak spots of "Putin's regime". Among them:

1. Huge pressure from the West which is ready to go "va bank" for any anti-Putin candidate and coordinate and finance color revolution. That point does not require further comments.

2. Results of Yeltin's privatization. there is wide discontent about it and this is probably the most powerful tool the opposition has. My impression is that this demand has a lot of support of middle (and part of upper) class. I remember that similar noises were heard from Orange Revolution leaders, especially from Timoshenko (who for her role correlates with Navalni well). Of course after coming to power this was swiped under the rug: the only action I remember that can be classified as "re-privatization" was confiscating from Kuchma son-in-law and selling giant Krivorozhstal for 4.8 billions (more then total sum of previous Ukrainian privatization) to Indian billionaire Lakshmi N. Mittal the German subdivision of the British-Dutch Mittal Steel. (http://www.kommersant.com/page.asp?id=620652)

3. Medvedev weakness as a politician. His tremendous personal blunders (stupid dances, extreme, childish happiness when he was giver a new iPhone, stupid, badly though out initiatives, like Skolkovo, stupid initiatives as a lawmaker like flirting with amnesty for economical crimes and weakening of punishment for embessement, multiple humiliations from his Presidential council on human rights, latest rush with badly thought out reforms, etc) as well as his naive and stupid flirting with liberalism are serious source of discontent that hurt Putin because people see this as a betrayal of Putin's own principles and course by his most trusted lieutenant. In more way then one Medvedev is a knife in Putin's back.

4. The fact that in 10 years in power very few people were brought in and "Leningrad cycle of friends" (aka Leningrad mafia) still dominates (rotation of elite question).

5. Huge problems with the corruption of law enforcement and links between law enforcement and organized crime which are inherited from Yeltsin's days. Including crimes committed by acting policemen (so called werewolfs) are projected on the party in power and personally on Putin despite the fact that this is impossible to change. Complicity and fear of police to investigate crimes committed by "people from Caucasus" because of fear of retaliation.

6. Net of western NGO (actually Navalni in a way is one person NGO as he is no other job but "protester"). Which works in close coordination with three letter agencies.

7. Betrayal of the part of the current elite (Kudrin, etc).

8. Wide discontent about government officials abuses of their status as well as part of the elite behaviors "above the law" especially various traffic accidents and using extra expensive cars (Mercedes-Benz, Bentley Continental GT, Maybach, Lamborghini etc) as well as driving with flashing lights without regard to other drivers life or property. Often against the traffic on the opposite side of the road. BTW Prokhorov's Maybach on which he came to the Sakharov Sq meeting did have flashing lights despite the fact that he is not a senior government official.

9. National problems including well-known "Kavkas problem" and problems with gastarbeiters from Turkmenistan and other Southern ex Soviet republics such as Ukraine and Georgia.

[Dec 30, 2011] Wall Street Propagandists Scramble To Cover US Ties to Russian Protesters by Tony Cartalucci

Wall Street and London's media machine claims Russia's protests are "leaderless" and not being organized by political opposition movements – even as it interviews protest organizers such as the above pictured opposition leader, Boris Nemtsov, who takes to stages build amidst supposedly "spontaneous" protests with a troupe of US NED-funded NGO leaders and opposition parties cheerleading what is clearly yet another Western-funded color revolution.
Dec 30, 2011 | EPHEMERIS 360°

As the evidence begins to mount pointing the accusing finger at the increasingly illegitimate corporate-financier occupiers of the West's governments as having built up Russian opposition movements and being behind the current unrest filling Russia's streets, the corporate media has already started to rewrite events as they unfold.

Wall Street and London's media machine claims Russia's protests are "leaderless" and not being organized by political opposition movements – even as it interviews protest organizers such as the above pictured opposition leader, Boris Nemtsov, who takes to stages build amidst supposedly "spontaneous" protests with a troupe of US NED-funded NGO leaders and opposition parties cheerleading what is clearly yet another Western-funded color revolution.

[Dec 30, 2011] Washington's "Fifth Column" in Russia by Hans-Werner Klausen

See also Fifth Column of Globalization and Color revolutions
Sep 30, 2007 | currentconcerns.ch

Chess champion Gary Kasparov, his comrades and supporters in the west

Defiance of all rules on sovereignty

"A strange practice has developed in international relations since Washington, relying on "freedom and democracy", set up a number of foundations and think tanks in order to intervene in the internal affairs of foreign countries in defiance of all the rules on ­sovereignty."

Peter Scholl-Latour: Russland im Zangengriff, Putins Imperium zwischen Nato, China und Islam, ISBN 10: 35-490726-51, p. 110

Ever since the murder of the journalist Anna Politkovskaya and the mysterious death of the former secret service office Litvinenko, the western media have turned up the heat in their campaign against the Russian president Vladimir Putin that has never actually ceased since the arrest of the oligarch Chodorkovski in autumn 2003.

For many commentators there can be no doubt: The Kremlin is to blame. Peter Scholl-Latour is one of the few who raise his voice in protest, pointing out that while Putin might be a Chekist, he isn't stupid. Politkovskaya was murdered immediately before Putin's visit to Germany, with Litvinenko following immediately before the summit between Russia and the EU. There is no doubt that these deaths did not benefit Putin. As part of the anti-Russian campaign, considerable publicity was given to a rather disappointing anti-Putin demonstration on 16 December 2006 in Moscow (attracting just over 2,000 protesters, not exactly impressive in the light of the 18 million inhabitants of the Moscow region), with its most prominent speaker, the chess player Gary Kasparov. For this reason, it is appropriate to look eastwards.

Anger of the western imperialists at collapse of oil deal

The campaign against Russia began with the arrest of Chodorkovski. Rainer Rupp in the "Junge Welt": "The vehemence of the vicious propaganda campaign against Putin reflects the anger of the western imperialists that he thwarted their plans to acquire Russian raw materials cheaply. Ever since Putin prevented the fraudster and Yukos boss Michail Chodorkovski from selling the oilfields grabbed by the overnight billionaire (roughly one half of the Russian oil reserves) to the west in a gigantic deal, the fronts have been clear. Following the wild privatisation orgies under US fan Boris Yeltsin, Putin has since taking power gradually returned the Russian resources to state control. The western imperialists are furious at this suppression of capitalist 'human rights', and so they take every opportunity to sell Chodorkovski and now Litvinenko to the western public as martyrs and victims of 'Putin the Terrible'. "("Junge Welt", 20.12.2006)

Neocon attack on Russia

On 28 September 2004 an open letter was published by 115 Europeans and Americans against Putin's policies. The signatories included neocons, liberal imperialists and greens.1 In December 2004, Washington succeeded in making further progress in drawing a circle around Russia with the "Orange Revolution" in Kiev. On 12 August 2005, the then director for Russia and ­Foreign Programmes of the Carnegie Foundation (Carnegie Endowment for Internatio­nal Peace), Anders Aslund (who also signed the open letter of 28 September 2004) a report entitled "Putin's Decline and America's Response". This sets out recommendations for the US administration basically suggesting that the US should finance a further revolution, this time in Russia. "The US should insist on effective international monitoring of elections. …

The best monitors have proven to be nongovernmental organisations. … The US can assist in setting up indepen­dent exit polls for elections. The most effective protests in the region have been those led by student activist organisations such as Otpor in Serbia, Kmara in Georgia, Subr in Belarus and Pora in the Ukraine. Their techniques are well-known and can and should be disseminated in Russia."2 The neocon ideologist Robert Kagan (cofounder of the neo­con central organ Weekly Standard and of the Project for the New American Century) is, incidentally, employed at the Brussels office of the Carnegie Foundation (one of the financiers of NGOs). Kagan's wife Victoria Nuland was deputy advisor for national security in the office of Vice President Cheney from 2003 to 2005, and has been US ambassador to the Nato since 2005. Her official biography states: "A career Foreign Service Of­ficer, she was Principal Deputy National Security Advisor to Vice President Cheney from July 2003 until May 2005 where she worked on the full range of global issues, including the promotion of democracy and security in Iraq, Afghanistan, Ukraine, Lebanon and the broader Middle East."3.

Russian support for US interests

In November 2005, the US Congress approved four million dollar in the 2006 budget for the development of political parties in Russia. It's hardly surprising in the light of this decision and the Aslund report that the Russian Duma adopted a new law on improving the monitoring of NGO activities at the end of 2005.

Aslund identified the former prime minister Michail Kasyanov as his ideal candidate for a leading role in the movement against Putin. Kasyanov, a man with excellent contacts to Yeltsin and oligarchs such as Beresovski and Chodorkovski's deputy Leonid Nevzlin, was prime minister from January 2000 to February 2004. In 2005 he announced that he intended to stand in the presi­dential elections in 2008. Kasyanov founded his own party, the Popular Democratic Union, and formed an alliance with the United Popular Front of the former world chess champion Gary Kasparov. The Heinrich-Böll Foundation, generally ­favourable to the anti-Putin opposition, wrote about Kasyanov: "In the eyes of most people, his image continues to be closely linked with the economic crisis and corruption of the Yeltsin presidency."4

Gary Kasparov (who describes himself as a "Russian citizen and cosmopolitan") is the only personality in the pro-west anti-Putin opposition who enjoys nationwide popularity. Most liberal politicians did everything they could to make themselves unpopular during the Yeltsin era. In contrast, Kasparov, born in 1963 in Baku on the Caspian Sea as Garik Weinstein, is only known as a chess genius. Kasparov, who in 2004 predicted the inevitability of a crisis in the system in the Ukraine in 2006, has his own political organisations with the "All Russian Civic Congress" and the "United Civic Front". The liberal politician Irina Chakamada, presidential candidate in 2004, is also a member of the Civic Congress. In the meantime, the leaders of the established liberal parties – the Union of Right Forces (SPS) and the Yabloko Party (under Grigori Yavlinski) – have not shown any inclination to acknowledge Kasparov as their new leader. Instead, Kasparov has other comrades.

Kasparov – US citizen and member of neocon think tanks

Kasparov, who holds both US and Russian nationality, urged the exclusion of Russia from the G8 summit on 16 December 2006. Similar demands had previously been raised by the neocon "Prince of Darkness" Richard Perle and the neocons' favourite sena­tors Jon McCain and Joseph Lieberman. On 2 December 2006, Kasparov published an article in the Wall Street Journal entitled "Chessboard Endgame. Obsessed with Iraq, we've lost sight of the rest of the world" (the "we" means the USA).5 In it, Kasparov urged Washington to take a harder line against Russia, and on the Iraq war said "However, if you attack Iraq, the potential to go after Iran and Syria must also be on the table." – the same war propaganda as can be heard from Richard Perle, Michael Ledeen, William Kristol or Frank Gaffney.

Kasparov is allied with the neocons not only in ideology but also in organisational terms. He is a member of the National Security Advisory Council (NSAC) of the militarist think tank Center for Security Policy (CSP) led by Frank Gaffney (protégé of Richard Perle). The Council's members include politicians, neocon intellectuals, former govern­ment officials, retired generals and admirals (most of them no doubt linked to the mili­tary and industrial complex by consultancy contracts), and representatives of the armaments industry. Its honorary chairmen are the Republican Senator Jon Kyl (a friend of the Christian right) and James Woolsey (2002 to 2005 chairman of the board of the "human rights organisation" Freedom House, Vice president of consultants Booz Allen Hamilton [one of the largest government contractors], proponent of the "4th World War", head of the CIA from 1993 to 1995.6 As head of Freedom House, Woolsey had been one of the men behind the Orange Revolution.

Manipulators of the "revolutions" in Belgrade, Tiflis und Kiev

Shortly before the G8 summit, Kasparov and Kasyanov organised an anti-Putin conference in Moscow under the name Drugaya Rossia (Other Russia), attended by western diplomats and representatives of well-known western organisations (Council on Foreign Relations, National Endowment for Democracy, Project on Transitional Democracies, Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung, Carnegie Foundation etc.). Bruce Jackson of the Project on Transitional Democracies (one of the most important figures in the neocon and militarist networks and, like Kasparov, a member of the National Security Advisory Council at the CSP) organised an address of solidarity by western personalities for the conference.7 The conference was sponsored by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED, a "private" organisation financed from the US budget, as independent of the US government as the Comintern was of the Soviet Union) and by the Soros Foundation. Both bodies were supporters of the "revolutions" in Belgrade, Tiflis und Kiev. The conference was attended by neither the leaders of Jabloko and the Union of Right Forces nor those of Syuganow's Communist Party of the Russian Federation. Instead there came the leader of the National Bolshevist Party of Russia (NBP), Edward Limonov (whose party flag recalls that of the Nazis, except that the white circle in the red flag contains not a swastika but a hammer and sickle), and anti-semites such as Victor Anpilov of the Stalinist Trudovaya Rossia or Sergei Glazev (former chairman of the Rodina Party). This variegated crowd indicates the desperate situation of Kasparov, Kasyanov and their western supporters. Men like Bruce Jackson, Richard Holbrooke from the Council on Foreign Relations, Carl Gershman from the National Endowment for Democracy or Reinhard Bütikofer from the Greens, who participated in the conference, would in better days certainly never have sat at the same table as Limonov or Anpilov. Limonov's National Bolshevists (who use provocation to attract the necessary publicity) were responsible for the stewards at the conference and intoned their favourite chant "Stalin-Beria-Gulag".

March of the political valuta prostitutes

A comprehensive alliance spanning from Kasparow to Limonow and Anpilow was brought about by the Druggaja Rossija Conference, albeit without the Alliance of the right-wing forces or Jawlinskis Jabloko. The Kasparow-Kasjanow-Limonow-Anpilow-­Alliance (Wladimir Ryshkow from the small Republican Party of Russia also joined in) organized the "March of the Discontented." With barely 2,000 participants it was cordoned off by 8,000 members of the Security Forces. Members of the Russian Youth Movement organized a counter protest march. They displayed a banner reading: "We greet the March of the Valuta Prostitutes". They also used other means in their attempt to disrupt the march. National Bolsheviks, who at the end of the rally, in violation of police regulations, tried to march through the city center, were arrested. The rally, which was to take place from 12 noon until 2 p.m., lasted exactly one hour, i.e. from 12.30 until 1.30.

The Western Media raised their voices against the huge police presence and the arrests made on December 16th. We should remind ourselves that Liminow's National Bolshevik Party was often referred to as the neo-nazi or extreme right-wing party in the German Media, and that Liminow's supporters seeking to draw attention to themselves, indulged in militant activities and used ­methods familiar to the western neo-nazi scene, as well as to the so-called auto­nomous group scene. In addition, Liminow as well as Anpilow campaigned for resorting to violence to overthrow the government.

Were the autonomous block, the neo-nazis, or the Stalinists to join forces in Germany, how would the government react? Having asked this questions, it needs to be answered.

Prevent import of rotten fruit

The campaign against Chodorkowski by the Russian government was at that time an effective blow. Kasparow's big campaign on the other hand was a flop, and the crisis he prophe­sized for 2006 didn't come about. Wladimir Putin's political agenda underlies the national interest of his country. The majority of Russians are aware of this, and for this reason they stand behind their president.

Since Putin came to power, the Russian economy has continued to improve. Unemployment figures are lower than in Germany.

Wages and salaries are increasing, and in contrast to the Jelzin era, they are paid out. The oil fields as well as the gas supplies are once more under Russian ownership, and in other strategically important branches of the national economy the state has strengthe­ned its position. Agricultural land is under Russian ownership and can only be leased. It cannot be purchased by companies. Russia has modern weapons and has freed itself of foreign debt. Furthermore, it has a considerable amount of reserve assets. The Kremlin doesn't adhere to Washington's demands in foreign affairs issues, it pursues its own interests. Russia doesn't need "democratizing" by the US or EU-NGOs.

A "democracy" according to the aims of The National Endowment for Democracy, Freedom House, George Soros, various Think Tanks, or the German political parties trust funds would give criminal oligarchs and western banks and large corporations the freedom to plunder Russia and its people.

The Russians already experienced that type of "democracy" under Jelzin. If Washington fails to force Russia to change its political course, Kasparow and Kasjanow, together with their western supporters, will make further attempts to destabilize Russia's undertakings. They can rest assured their attempts will meet the approval of the green do-gooders in Germany.
The oranges in the Ukraine have proved to be foul fruit and it would be wise for Russia's political leaders in charge of national security issues if they could prevent the import of this type of foul fruit.

1 An Open Letter to the Heads of State and Government of the European Union and Nato, http://www.newamericancentury.org/russia-20040928.htm
2 http://www.carnegieendowment.org/files/pb41.aslund.FINAL1.pdf
3 Source: Biography, Victoria Nuland, United States Permanent Representative to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (Nato), http://nato.usmission.gov/Bio/Ambassador_Nuland.htm
4 http://www.boell.de/downloads/jahresberichte2006/Pol_Jb_Russland_2005_2006.pdf
5 http://www.opinionjournal.com/editorial/feature.html?id=110009331
6 List of members of the National Security Advisory Council at the CSP: http://www.centerforsecuritypolicy.org/index.jsp?section=static&page=nsac,
List of former members who held government offices under George W. Bush http://www.centerforsecuritypolicy.org/index.jsp?section=static&page=nsac-gvtsvc
7 An Open Letter to the G-7-Leaders "The Other Russia", http://www.charter97.org/eng/news/2006/07/18/leader, List of forthcoming participants of the conference "Drugaja Rossija", http://www.theotherrussia.ru/eng/list/. See also: Justin Raimondo: Russia's Fifth Column. An unnatural alliance: Russian ‚liberals, commies, and neo-Nazis unite against Putin, antiwar.com/justin/
Source: www.berlinerumschau.com, 21 december 2006

Different Tools to Promote "Democracy"

The United States gives high priority to helping democracy and human rights advocates in Europe and Eurasia succeed and consolidate their successes. The United States continued to engage governments of the region toward this end, often with other democratic allies and in multilateral forums, and employed a variety of tools to deliver tangible support to democracy and human rights efforts in 2006. These tools included training for officials, media, democratic parties, and NGO advocates; monitoring of elections and criminal justice proceedings; capacity building of civil society groups and government structures; and technical and legal assistance, grants, and exchanges. […] , elections were an intensive focus of U.S. support during the past year. The United States promoted democratic political processes and the administration of fairly-contested elections by, for example, supporting political party development in Belarus, empowering voters' groups – including women ­activists and youth – in Serbia, and assisting international election monitoring efforts in Ukraine. In preparation for Armenia's elections in 2007 and 2008, the U.S. supported efforts to improve election systems, update voter lists, educate the public on voting and democratic principles, and strengthen political parties. The United States is providing similar support, through political party training, training for mass media representatives on covering political issues, and voter education initiatives, in support of free and fair elections in Russia for the Duma in December 2007 and for president in March 2008.[…] The United States also provided technical assistance and grant support to Russian civil society groups, NGO resource centers, think tanks, labor unions, and watchdog organizations to sustain their active participation in society.

Source: Extract from Europe and Eurasia in Supporting Human Rights and Democracy: The U.S. Record 2006, released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor of the U.S. Department of State, April 5, 2007

NGOs as a Device for Foreign States

Wladimir Putin: In Russia, the non-governmental organizations are in operation. Indeed we have introduced a new governmental system for them. There is little difference between our system and that in place in other countries. For the time being we have had no comment from the non-governmental organizations themselves. We actually didn't refuse anyone permission to register. There were two or three cases with formal issues, and these non-governmental organizations are working on correcting their byelaws etc. When it came down to it, nobody was rejected. Everyone is contributing and will also continue to do so.

What are our major concerns? I can tell you and I believe it's easy to comprehend. If these non-governmental organizations are basically financed by foreign governments, we view this as a device for foreign powers to impose their political agenda on our country. That's the first thing. Secondly, there are rules and regulations in every country for the financing of an election campaign. Via the non-governmental organizations, the financing comes from government sources in foreign countries.

How does this work? Is this a normal democracy in any way?

It's a latent type of financing, concealed from society. What is democratic about it? Can you answer that question? No. You can't. And you will never find an ­answer. Because this isn't democracy, but the influencing of one state by another.

We are interested for the people of Russia to take care of their own interests, and for them to criticize the authorities and to help find their mistakes, and to rectify political policies according to the interest of the people. That is, without doubt, our goal.

And we will support the Russian people and the non-governmental organizations.

Source: The Discussion following Putin's speech at the Security Conference in Munich on the 10th February 2007.
Translated by Novosti, published 14 February, 2007

The US-American Revolution-Limited Liability Company

Almost unanimously, the world paid homage to the rebellion of a young East European nation that not only wanted to free itself of the shackles of its own tyrants and exploiters, but above all, it also wanted to break free from the Putin lobby interfering in its affairs.

It's nothing short of a miracle that night after night this huge gathering remained steadfast and strong in their attempt to bring their noble ideals to the forefront, despite having to contend with inadequate food supplies and bitterly cold temperatures.

Surprisingly, Western TV cameras avoided filming the 1500 heated tents, where warm meals were distributed free of charge. Reporters were reluctant to mention the dubious, if not shady activities involved, including bribery, in the time and effort required to raise money. Money which in turn was used to strengthen the backbone of the organized frenzy.

Deprived of this type of background information, it was many months before newspaper readers, not to mention TV viewers, were informed by way of detailed and exemplary reports in renowned newspapers about the schemes of the American donation organizations – institutes, foundations and government bodies who made no attempt to conceal their subversive meddling.

At this point in time, information was also brought to light on what Spiegel magazine termed Revolutions Ltd., an international squad deployed by the US Secret Service to dispose of "uncooperative" regimes.

Source: Peter Scholl-Latour, Russland im Zangengriff, Putins Imperium zwischen Nato, China und Islam, p.386

[Dec 27, 2011] WikiLeaks: Yanukovych threatened Lithuania on Orange Revolution by Petras Vaida

Dec 5, 2010 | The Baltic Course

In the letters of U.S. diplomats to Washington, Yanukovych's Party of Regions is described as a "shelter for criminal elements and oligarchs from Donetsk", and its member Rinat Akhmetov, the richest Ukrainian, is called "the godfather of the Donetsk clan."

Threats against Lithuania were uttered during Yanukovych's meeting with Lithuania's ambassador in December 2005 in Kiev. Yanukovych was angered by Adamkus' participation in the international mediation mission, which was aimed at reducing tensions in Ukraine in the aftermath of the Orange Revolution in 2004, writes LETA/ELTA.

The then Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski and the European Union's representative Javier Solana also took part in the mission.

"During his meeting with the Lithuanian ambassador in December 2005, the first after the Orange Revolution, Yanukovych immediately gave an offensive rant (at Lithuania), even though the mandatory polite diplomatic phrases had not been exchanged yet," says the American embassy's document.

"In December last year, you participated in the putsch. You allowed (the then Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma) to manipulate you in his own machinations. Therefore, your actions will have negative consequences for the future development of the relations between Lithuania and Ukraine," Yanukovych warned the Lithuanian ambassador.

[Dec 27, 2011] For this article I will be fired

Dec 08, 2011 | politonline.ru

This is not about what you are thinking. And not about me.

My friend, a female journalist from Ukraine, published an article with exactly the same headline in one of the Ukrainian MSM in 2004 about just organized and not yet heated to boiling point Maidan. This theme of Maidan or organism is the one we need to discuss today, but a little bit later.

And while I admit that this header is designed specifically to get the click in Twitter, Facebook or after getting notification by email from Live Journal about new post.

This, by the way, tells you something about human psychology, in particular about popular now words like "I an intelligent, advanced, rational individual, who will never fall on manipulations and will not behave like a person in a crowd." To this point we also will get later.

Actually, this is a long and serious conversation - so if you do not like or can not read long posts you can close the window and continue to revel in the "revolution" and enjoy excitement of catching and browsing posts and articles about troop movements, "night helicopters", and so on and so forth. It's much easier. If you believe the psychologists, 40% of users - read the text "diagonally" to see the word-markers such as "Putin", "Edro", "Navalni", "State Department" and begin to post the heated comments about "scoundrels and chiefs", medveputa" regime, "peoples"... You got it.

Actually, this conversation will be about the Orange Revolution and protest rally on October 10. Yes, you're right -- I separated the two events on purpose, but in essence they are - unfortunately - merge into a single event. No, I do not want to discourage or scare anybody - it is useless. I simply suggest to think and draw conclusions. And then decide yourself if this makes sense.

We will start with the review of the "Orange Revolution" and then down the road switch to the December 10 rally.

Let's begin with the question - you do fail to see, or do not fail to believe me and understand that there are efforts in Russia is to deploy an "Orange" (or "Arabic, if you like) scenario? And according to the classical canon, in fact - by the infamous training manual Sharp "From Dictatorship to Democracy ? It fits point by point. From the harvested before the election accounts, domains, and crowd sourcing projects such as "map of protests ", "color symbol of revolution" to creation of a totally incredible, hysterical media background of "election fraud", " election violations", stolen votes, constantly "growing number of protesters" in the media and the blogosphere and any other interested in politics media? Then I congratulate you. And I also want to upset you. They - the organizers of the "event" on December 10 also do not hesitate to publicly call what is happening "revolution of hipsters/children/white ribbons", "fresh wind of Arab spring " and several other quite frank terms.

I do not think it's worth spending a letter, explaining and proving by example WikiLeaks, his own words "dissent" and piercing facts that provide a platform for the meeting "dissenting liberals" do have a close and substantive relationship with the West in quite understand the direction and talking about " grants for the removal of the regime " has long been referred not propagandists, but by the opposition? Moreover, the conspiracy theorists have remembered the words of Kasparov that "split the tandem is a project of the U.S. administration" and match it with one of the organizers of the protest demands "to re-election of Acting President " - talking about a radical attempt to revenge and liberal "marketplace" attack on the Medvedev - suddenly under such pressure he "removes" Putin, and then became easy target of the opposition himself (note - this is the quote from Liberal blogosphere in spring 2011).

Let's ask ourselves: what is the essence of the orange scripts? Alas, too many do not understand this essence. They think that the "orange revolution" - this is when "professional organists protesters", without any coordination come to some square, "occupy" it, fight with riot police or even capture the state institutions. Sorry, but this is not "orange protested", it is commonplace lumens cannot fodder - which should be dealt with law enforcement.

The real "orange" coup detat is impossible without the people. The very same people, whom - according to the methods Sharpe and other "ideologues velvet revolutions" - Organist convince that the authorities "stole the vote," that "we can not live with such an injustice" and "need to wake up and fight."

And then begins a classic game on the enthusiasm of the crowd, "team spirit" rapture, feeling "involved in the just course," etc. And, unfortunately, a terrible rift in society - if you remember, during the Independence Square in Ukraine-2004 not only old friends fought on the different sides of barricades, but the families fell apart when one was "for Independence and Julia," and another "for Vitya and against the Maidan" . It took 7 years. Ukraine, excuse me for pretentious word, to clean themselves from orange throw out. And what happened over those years with social programs, economy, political system - you probably know. What happened to companies whose employees were enthusiastically coming out "for Julia, Yushchenko and freedom" in anticipation - "real democracy will come and we will live happily ever after"? What happened to the promise of "no West, no-no, we are their - the people"? But if the Maidan at least was bloodless, there multiple example of much less peaceful development. Tunisia, Kyrgyzstan, Egypt, Libya, etc.

You really are so longing for 90th, the place which on your neck organists are driving the country? Or you just do not remember what it was - especially if you are 18-25 years old and you have not seen collecting boxes for winter storage of potatoes designers from defense industry, the poisonous color liquors on stands and oversized "Legs of Bush" in the stores, You probably never heard night shooting in your residential area. Which happened more or less regularly, say once a week. You do not remember how those with diabetes need to run all over the city in search of vital medication. And elderly people hungry and just trying to survive until the "new power stabilize and start paying pensions again," etc.?

Here I would like to make a small remark. Was their election fraud in 2011 Duma elections? Yes, there were, of course. There are no elections without violations - nowhere and never. Alas, the ideal gas exists only in the pages of physics textbooks. What was their scale? You judge yourself. More precisely - the to use the math.

Every day, tens of thousands of bloggers and the media again and again "twist" the same facts - posts, videos, clips and posts. How many are there? I counted - 60 clips. 31 post in LJ - emotional, or dry and mathematical. That is now the Guant Internet audience is brainwashed using 91 violation, extrapolating them to all elections. 91 violation on more than 95,000 polling stations. And people, being in this information tsunami, hearing it from time to time do not even think about the wildest skewed proportions.

The fact that so loved by the opposition for "rating Putin, Medvedev," United Russia falls "and recognized the" most relevant "the West" Levada-Center "gave" United Russia "before the election as much as 54% of the vote. The fact that in 1996 so loved by the opposition, Yeltsin started the election with a rating of 3%, and won - with more than 50%. I wonder, why did the liberal media like the "Y" or "Echo of Moscow" did not let the machine gun fire diatribes about the "total fraud" " intolerable lies, "etc.?

But back to the violations. Where they were recorded reliably and the place is really (and I have reason to believe that violations of the commercials is real only one-third) - to investigate, try and put the perpetrators. Does this power? Yes. Actually, it already demanded to investigate and punish those responsible for violations.

And civil society would do well to check how "power the be" investigated and punished perpetrators. Althouth it is easier to rush into a maelstrom of delightful "revolutionary action". I would lit to repeat it once again that this is the difference between "justice" (prosecution those who committed a proven violation, etc.) and "Orange justice". But somebody try to propagate the "orange justice" doing this forcefully and deliberately. The parties who participated in the elections decided not to give up on the mandates of the State Duma of the sixth convocation.

I foresee that many will respond to me - we know that it is Orange, but we're spitting on Nemtsov, Chirikov Navalny and other "friends." Like, we just want to "say authorities deserved F*ck you " and "professional revolutionaries " only provide a platform for this action. Are you guys serious? You go to a gay club just because you want to dance or drink?

And now - about the rally. Let's open opposition "Echo of Moscow" and read article of Vladimir Milov. Ex-head of Parnass, called the U.S. ambassador in Wikileaks dispatches one of the leaders of the opposition. "We understand people have the blood boiling, you want to go out, there is a heady feeling close of the revolution" - he writes - "On the other hand, we do not fully trust the organizers of the rally on December 10. He warns "while meeting agreed on December 10, at we have full confidence that the organizers at the end of the event will encourage people to unauthorized march and will put them against riot police batons" Moreover, turning to society Milov noted," We are fully confident that it will be so at this time. This is - in the style of these political free riders and freeloaders. "He warned that" this can result in a lot of blood. "

Alas, this is confirmed by the words of one of the organizers of the rally. "The revolution without sacrifice - a despicable lie," - said an organizing member of the board meeting of "Solidarity" ... about her compatriot.

Well, listen - if they refer to as their compatriots, why do you think that they would demonstrate better attitude to the regular people. Who do not know, for example, that if after the rally, the crowd simply disagrees - it's legal, but if it comes with chants, shouts, or down on the roadway "because there is no space of sidewalk - this is an illegal march and riot police must stop it. Do you think will they explain this difference to the crowd beforehand from the podium?

Or they suggest how happened in case Clean Ponds incident "just walk" to the CEC, the State Duma, the KGB or the Kremlin, so that "the people peaceably express their displeasure" And they will then throw up your hands, "well, who knew that the crowd will not like that the doors of the State Duma, the CEC or the KGB were closed and they decide that it's insulting disregard" Or will sing an old song, "if the crowd wants something, the police should not stop and give her the opportunity to express emotions"

On this account, by the way, great friend said Alexei Navalny, a former leader of the "Dissenters' March" and the governor of the Kirov region Nikita Belykh. Speaking on the same "Echo," he said, "I think that many people whom I consider to be my companions, friends, associates, an effect of " revolutionary ecstasy" has happened. "According to Belk," they had the feeling that the crowd can in a simple and easy way change the bad people in power to new and good. This, in my opinion, very grave and dangerous error ".

Former co-director of the SPS to led multi-thousands "dissent" columns in various cities says, "Excited crowd is out of control. When the crowd hears appeals" to cut the throat ", she will not care to whom it should be cut" United Russia party or all. Any persons to will be hurt Jews, and fans of another club, gay, representatives of all political parties," who will "in a fur coat and foreign car" - summarizing that early classic researchers of mob psychology such as Ortega y Gasset and Le Bon wrote, the crowd of intelligence is always lower components of its people; that the crowd is suggestive acts at the behest of emotion and appeals to the leaders, not the voice of reason. " And if it "exploded" it is impossible to stop her without extremely hard and cruel measures.

But they (in the sense - measures) are ready. After all, the police also monitors social networks, which already offers in bulk to "take the State Duma", "enter the Kremlin," or "go to the detention center with Yashin and Navalny and release them." Naturally, in order to prevent riots, police used batons not only the traditional - according to the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Moscow S, the riots will be stopped by special means and special equipment. Among them - stun grenades, rubber bullets, tear gas and other "pleasure", which man of the street saw only in reports to the crackdowns of the "Occupy Wall Street" in the USA.

And here is one more remark.

I can be assured that I think too bad about the people or, God forbid, I think that people are "cattle." In the sense that they are going, "sane, strong-willed and adequate" people who do not succumb to provocations, which have not been manipulated from the podium or inside the crowd. I need, unfortunately, to upset you. As Belykh said - no matter how intelligent was an individual participant the crowd is much stronger than him. And not only in the metaphysical or emotional sense, and even banal-force.

Here are sane people in 3, 5, 10, but let the 25 000 people and not to succumb to provocations. And then some anarchists, radical nationalists, or professional or provoke panic with cries of "They shoot!" or yelling "To the Kremlin", or "Ours are beaten!" - Variations can be endless. And the crowd, like a living organism will explode and rush on pure emotions. Fleeing from the alleged shooting, or "to help our" whatever. If it will make at least 100 people in the audience - everything the entire crowd will be in motions. The man simply can not withstand the pressure of hundreds of people to say nothing the "thousands". It will rush and ....

What will the police and riot police, seeing crowd rushing somewhere? I wrote about that above. Please remember how you clicked the headline of this post confirming the finding of social psychology. Yes, and I would have clicked this title, to be honest. So here we are "not amenable to manipulation"...

Now let's go back to the history of the headline. Yes, the author of the note was actually fired from his local newspaper - its chief supported Maidan, and even gave employees paid leave "to defend freedom." Why? Just in her article said about that in a month or two, the revolutionary fervor will subside year - and people will see, "who came to power and what for whom and how to do." The fact that 5 years after Maidan he would regret his decision, as most people do (if you believe the pollsters). As regret more then a half of those who participated in the "protection of the White House in 1991." They now understand that the air of freedom does not feed well to say the least, neither them not their children not old parents. And that Yushchenko work "in the interests of the West, but not people."

The same thing is now in the "Arab spring". Are those former prosperous people who " fought for the freedom" still well fed and and secure? Is there peace in Libya, Tunisia and Egypt?

Many people like to repeat a long-standing "we are not slaves". I really hope that they can tell about ourselves also that "we aren't Arabs."

Decide for yourself.

Volodin, Oleg

[Dec 27, 2011] Information war strategy

In the information war to compute all the main weak points of the electorate. If there are not enough, you can create them artificially by whipping the foam by subservient media around existing or imaginary problems.

[Dec 26, 2011] Sergei Kurginyan: Rally on Sakharov -- Carnival of the liberal wing of the Kremlin (VIDEO)

Video. "We can not allow political scum appeared on behalf of all of Russia!"
December 12, 2011 | NR2.Ru

TV channel Dozhd is the creation of the liberal wing of Kremlin. They repeat Gorbachov tricks when Yakovlev and Gorbachov destroyed the party and government from inside which followed by the dissolution of the USSR. They want the energy of people's protest to channel into Perestoyka-2 coup detat.

Fin.Sky

Это было последней каплей: ЕР с Путиным уже достали людей

Вот до чего проклятый Путин
Россию матушку довел
Кричали тысячи несчастных
И все снимали на айфон (С)

Путник,

Fin.Sky, 25.12.11 01:09:39, (id: 1690407) Вот до чего проклятый Путин Россию матушку довел Кричали тысячи несчастных И все снимали на айфон (С)

Точна! Правильно пометил! Когда условия получения айфона таковы же с условиями получения яхты в 120 метров и дачи в 2 гектара и домика в Лондоне или на Лазурном берегу, то айфон выглядит уже простым издевательством и хочется справедливости.

А справедвивость в виде ст.86-3 в самой первой редакции Налогового Кодекса РФ, которая определяла контроль за расходами физлица, была чесными единоросами и их высшим покровителем упразднена в начале 2000 годa с формулировкой как неработающая.

Ну затем и налоговую полицию упразднили, чтоб не раздражала вороватых. И получив волю воровства и бесконтролья, теперь удивляются итогам принятого решения и дикой коррупционности и воровству, которое является нормой для власть придержащих всех уровней и зависти остальных, которые не могут полноценно участвовать в традиционном процессе!

Путник

Fin.Sky:

Чё айфон уже не комильфо? Подавай вам яхту в 120 метров и 2 гектара дачу + домик в Лондоне или в Ницце? Россия не потянет ваших расходов. Вы уж как-нибудь сами пробуйте заработать.

Ты так и не понял предыдущего поста! Кто-ж в России, которые вышли оборванцами из советского народа СССРа, ЗАРАБОТАЛ на яхту и домик в Ницце?!!! Кто сумел обеспечить возникновение миллиардеров-скороспелок с доходом в 1000 баксов в минуту? И самое, главное, каков результат их "работы" в благе российского общества? Или эти митинги, и есть итог этой "работы"?

Так, что возможность украсть или поиметь, никак не тождественна возможности ЗАРАБОТАТЬ.

Влад,

Тогда почему Кургиняну постоянно проигрывает на телевидении Сванидце и Млечин.?

Мне тоже это интересно. Очень часто на примитивные вопросы кургиняна Сванидзе даёт неверные ответы , Про Млечина не знаю ни разу не видел. Могу только предположить , что сванидзе проигрывает только потому , что он не знает как раньше жили . Он не жил с детства ни в колхозе не работал на заводе , а кургинян его на это и ловит.

Анонимный пост с IP-адреса из C-сети 92.243.166.0

Коррупция стала бедствием национального масштаба, и это произошло именно вследствие построенной вертикали власти.

Дуремарыч,:

а когда в России не было коррупции? Еще Петр говорил: Государевым людям жалованье не платить, сами себе на прокорм добудут. Думаю если в России сейчас придут либерасты- не поздоровится стране.

Анонимный пост с IP-адреса из C-сети 91.214.128.0

Он призывает граждан России одуматься

Сергей, не волнуйтесь. Граждане России с вами. Даже пусть 120 тысяч (как они насчитали) были на том митинге. Но это жалкие крохи от 140 миллионов.

Вот увидите, 4 марта 60%, как минимум, проголосуют за Путина.

В нашей стране люто ненавидят каспаровых, немцовых и дуру собчак.

Мы не хотим дерьмократии 90-х, не хотим гражданской войны как в Ливии и Египте. И не хотим вождей, сытно живущих за границей и приезжающих в Россию сеять смуту.

[Dec 25, 2011] The rebellion of frustrated achievers

Original is Russian. Abridged, edited Google translation
Dec 24, 2011 | ria.ru

They are forcefully blinded by ever-growing number of protesters, their Facebook pumped euphoria and anticipation of the next government concessions, they are fed by steam of polling data that state that "yes" "just a little bit" and they will became such a numerous force that wins... For their votes there is already struggle of several different political forces and in their ranks already try to infiltrate billionaires, nationalists and former ministers.

They are fed with deafening cry "Let's smile to each other!". But this is such a terribly desperate scream that you might wish to hang yourself instead of smiling. "All that we want is a fair election," they are brainwashed from the podium. And they called to follow the "fearless leader". But they're are still undecided.

Who are they?

I found this term "frustrated achievers" in the article of my old friend Chrystia Freeland , who is now a prominent columnist in Reuters, and who was in the past the chief of the Moscow office of Financial Times. And I intends to use it. It's not Christie's invention - she found the term in the study of Carol Graham and Stefano Pettinato, published on the website of the University of Maryland.(GrahamP02)

The study addresses two emerging economies - Peru and Russia. It contains a very interesting argument about the why is quite a prosperous society can still provide a fertile ground for rebellious discontent (do not know about Peru, but Russia is definitely not a poor county if we of course are talking about "the average"). These "Frustrated achievers" only recently escaped from poverty, have left the dreary existence at the bottom of the middle class.

"Frustrated achievers are people who are just out of poverty or the lower middle class," Graham, who is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said. "They are people who have made relatively large gains, but they report being very frustrated."

Their earning are now quite decent, but the trouble is that the level of their frustration is growing. A source of that frustration is that

"the gains of some people around them are much bigger than their own, and bigger than they can ever achieve in their lifetime.... Post-Soviet Russia, with its oligarchs, crony capitalism and corruption, is a Petri dish for frustrated achievers."

They see that no matter how hard you try, life in their country will never be the same as in prosperous Europe or the U.S. And least how they see it in foreign media. And that generate despair.

And, I might add, these "Frustrated achievers" are perfect breeding ground for cannon fodder of the anti-government protest meetings. Their range of incredibly broad. Journalists, by the way, also belong to one of them. And the ex-Prime Minister Kudrin, too. Any country in which wages suddenly stopped growing is generally a good breeding ground for anything there.

I read my own Facebook, where friends are almost 100 percent of the journalists and I see frustration "Frustrated achievers" sentiments displaces cold professionalism even in those who initially has it. All of a sudden became mortally offended at the way they were created during the past elections. And I believe that it is quite sincere feeling of injured gentle soil ;-). But something stops me form sharing this newly discovered revolutionary enthusiasm.

Deputy Head of the Russian presidential administration, Vladislav Surkov, called them "the best part of Russian society." However, even the best part of the patient's body does not look completely healthy.

What do "Frustrated achievers" want ? Cancel the election results. To power them are not treated as cattle. Why would they want to just now? Were they even treated differently then now ? Previously, they were not against it, because ... because .. they were OK with such a treatment. As the boy out of the joke, which was considered numb from birth, and start speaking only when the porridge was burnt.

I want to understand what porridge "Frustrated achievers" consider to be burnt. When they are not manipulated at elections but everything else is OK - as always? ... With officials who are standing with the candles in in VIP church ceremonies. With Dom-2 TV show, and journalism in bushes.

Those members of the Russian elite, the political figures who attempt to lead a revolt of "Frustrated achievers" say: we want to change everything. "We know why we're here: we have stolen our votes - said at a rally on the 24th Alex Navalni - "They are ours". But the real question is for whom such votes were given, even if someone stole it. And who would "Frustrated achievers" have as their representatives in the new Parliament.

[Dec 25, 2011] Ukrainians: They want to defraud Russia using Maidan three card Monte

Dec 19, 2011 | politonline.ru

For me as a resident of Ukraine, the situation in Russia, about which I can judge from Runet (Russian Internet), evokes a feeling of deja vu with our history seven years ago.

"In the center of Moscow gather Maidan" (Maidan or Independence square — the central place on which Orange Revolution took place ) — blast multiple headlines Ukrainian media, with almost the same level of enthusiasm as they informs readers about sinking of the "neighboring state" passenger ship, or the crash of airliner that killed the whole hockey team.

And really, for me, as a resident of Ukraine, the situation in Russia, about which I judge from Runet, evokes a feeling of deja vu with our history seven years ago. At this time, however, the Internet was not so common, "Twitter" and "Youtube" were not available, but "the power that be" had has real and well financed opponent as well as the fifth channel of "honest news" that used to belong to one of the closest associates of Yushchenko.

But everything else match to tiny details. The same determined instigation of mass hysteria about election fraud, "one hundred percent true" rumors about ballot boxes already staffed with the "correct" voting results, which at the right time replaced the real thing, that employees in state institutions were warned that if they voted for Yushchenko, they should not bother coming the next day to work. As well as the induced sinking feeling that at least 80-90% around me want to vote for the opposition, despite the fact that in all elections (including those held by the "orange" government) Party of the Regions (Yutchenko opponent party) in my city got 10-20% more than their opponents .

That is a law of theatric drama which state, that a gun that is hanging on the wall in the first act should fire in the fifth. So fraud simply can't fail to appear. When I came to vote, I saw myself as an observer from Yushchenko grabbed the hand of the voter, alleged ballot stuffing — and then, of course, no extra ballots in the box were found. "Maidan" itself was launched into existence by transmitted by several TV channel Yutchenko false declaration that in Donetsk region his representatives were forcibly expelled his representatives from voting places . He asked "people" to come to the Independence Square to defend their choice. A well prepared group of people in retrospect.

Gathered on the Independence Sq (Maidan) were "warmed up" with exit polls data giving a convincing victory Yushchenko. As well al quotes from the protocols, in which more that 100% of voters voted, examples of blank protocols with all the necessary stamps ready for forgery. Fifth channel shows clips about intercepted buses in which "hired voters" were transported and "as a sweetener" spread rumors about Russian Spetznaz troops which arrived and which thousand already have seen. And it goes without saying, that the "independent observers" testified about people who staffed ballots, but whom for some mysterious reason they were unable to catch during the act.

Fortunately, there were no blood, but, as later told one of the leaders of the Maidan, David Zhvania, Tymoshenko claimed that there can be no revolution without blood. "So what?" she said "Well, 1,000 people will die — biomass is biomass."

The pressure of the crowd and the Western "mediators" caused authorities to "concessions" (which, more precisely, were act of surrender). To legalize the coup d'etat the petition of Yushchenko, about annulling of previous round should be stamped by the Supreme Court. It was clear that the court was a pony show with a predetermined decision, but what was interesting is that in the court hearing no one mentioned charges that were used on Maidan about the exclusion of observers, or voting of more then 100%, or ballot stuffing. As it turned out, the observers delegated by Yushchenko and election commission members were present at all sites and at all stages of the vote and had signed by all the protocols. All claims of opposition were limited to frauds allegedly committed outside the polling stations, of which they counted three types: fraud in the voting at home (substitution boxes, voting for absent voters, etc.), manipulation of absentee ballots (voting on them in several different places) and the "Carousel," which by interpretation of Yushchenko looked like this — people going to the polling station, on the street were asked for unspecified compensation throw into the box already completed bulletin(s) given by the organizers of the action and bring a new one for the subsequent use of the same.

All proofs were reduced to the testimony of witnesses and "implausible" discrepancies with exit polls in some places. And no one wanted to figure out how observers Yushchenko were removed from escorting ballot boxes to residential addresses in question (in reality I saw a picture of two members who carried the voting box, followed by a cavalcade of five observers), why in summing up the results of the elections it became clear that total of voted absentee coupons for the whole country were more than the coupons were issued, and that were the documents of strict accountability.

Well, look at all anecdotal stories of "Carousel." Imagine a day of voting in thousands of polling stations, though in areas with high support for Yushchenko (what's the point outbid vote in the Donets Basin, where as 90% for Yanukovych?). There are agents that offer citizens for a similar price, 10-20 dollars, to sell his voice, and with it the future of their country?! And many, according to the logic of lawyers Yushchenko, agree? So many that it had an impact on the election result, i.e., hundreds of thousands! At the same time, only a few cases honest citizens emerged who reported what was happening to law enforcement authorities or representatives of Yushchenko at the polls! But in each of these cases should have been hundreds of witnesses!
And then a third round. And it would seem, the media-generated mass "orange" psychosis dominated TV and airwaves, the promise of European politicians to urgently take Ukraine into the EU (in the case of Yushchenko's victory) was rock-solid. On the other side there was an actual surrender of the Yanukovich, virtually abandoning all the campaign …
Add to that well-known property of the electorate, as Truffaldino from Bergamo, to be "always for those who win" (that' why election campaigns are always accompanied by a "war of ratings," in which each side argues that she is leading the race), and then, that many supporters of Yanukovych did not vote, knowing their farcical nature (and their "opponents" on the contrary — who do not want to feel like an accomplice of victory).

But Yushchenko scored in the third round of miserable 51.99% (and they were doubtful, for some reason, the official results of the third round had to wait 20 days, although the law allows only 10), and in order to provide a Yushchenko victory, they had to change the electoral law, forbidding to vote at home (after all, most older people were in favor of Yanukovych).

Once in power, "Orangists" did not prosecute a single person to prove the fraud. Despite the fact that probably hundreds of thousands of people were over many months "pressed" by authorities to confess.

Later, when the Party of Regions and Yushchenko have started to make friends against Tymoshenko again, Yushchenko awarded a state prize to Sergei Kivalov, Chairman of the Election Commission, "awarding" him victory in the second round. Kivalov in the eyes of the "orange" public figure even more odious than his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Churov.

In retrospect, it is obvious that there was no mass fraud in 2004. It there was some fraud it was not outside "error bounds", and technology of "falsification of falsifications" was used to beat unfavorable party and stole the election results. For those who do not know, let me remind you that the growth in Ukraine in 2003-2004 accounted for 12% of the world press called the "European tiger." And what remains of the young "Tiger" after the victory of the revolutionaries Maidan? The country was (and still is) in the same place that loves to seek adventure (reference to rear end in Russia).

Now the next is Russia. As you know, fools learn from their mistakes (or do not learn at all), and smart – from strangers. Brothers Russians, please be smart!

[Dec 19, 2011] HBO Real Time with Bill Maher

Romney as a flip-floppers... "I've never met a politician who is so consistently without principles"...

[Dec 13, 2011] Putin recalculates as politics makes a comeback in Russia

We're looking at a classic revolutionary situation," in which a majority of people cannot go on living as before, the rulers cannot continue governing by past methods, and there is a precipitous rise in mass political activity, he adds.
CSMonitor.com

Boris Kagarlitsky, a veteran left-wing activist and director of the independent Institute for Study of Globalization and Social Problems in Moscow, says the movement that produced Saturday's rally is unlikely to maintain momentum, because its leaders are too fractious and its demands too diffuse, but it has opened a window for millions of people who have been the losers in post-Soviet Russia.

"As long as the authorities don't do something incredibly stupid – which can't be ruled out – the coalition [that organized the rally] will probably prove unsustainable," he says.

"But the real protests are yet to come," perhaps in the spring, he says.

"The vast majority of Russians, who saw their lives improve in the early Putin years, have experienced sharply worsening living standards since the economic crisis began in 2008. Now the rally in Moscow has shown them that protesting is a possibility; it's a psychological breakthrough. We're looking at a classic revolutionary situation," in which a majority of people cannot go on living as before, the rulers cannot continue governing by past methods, and there is a precipitous rise in mass political activity, he adds.

[Dec 13, 2011] Ron Paul Proposes Interesting Salary For Himself As President

This is a man who would eliminate five of the 15 cabinet-level departments (Commerce, Education, Energy, Housing and Urban Development, and Interior – he has no problem reciting them all); recall American troops from all foreign lands, not just war zones; repeal the 16th Amendment, which created the federal income tax; reduce his own presidential salary from $400,000 to $39,336 – the median salary of an American worker.

These are not the planks of a mainstream candidate's platform. But Paul rolls along, attracting a hard-core following and collecting millions in contributions.

How does he do it?

Perhaps it is not so complicated: He applies the lessons learned in a life that stretches back to the Depression.

___

Paul's grandfather, Casper, fled the economic wreckage of post-World War I Germany and went to work in the Pittsburgh steel mills at age 14. Ron Paul grew up on stories about rampant inflation and the dangers of paper currency.

"I remember my grandmother wanting to hang onto some property my dad thought she should sell," he says. "And she said, `No. The money might go bad.'"

Casper eventually saved up enough to buy some land outside the city. He started a small vegetable and chicken farm, then opened a dairy, which his sons eventually took over and relocated to nearby Carnegie. Ron Paul's first job was making sure no dirty bottles made it to the filling crates. He was paid a penny per bottle; when they were old enough, the Paul boys – all five of whom shared one bedroom – took over the summer milk routes to give the drivers some time off.

His brother Jerry says Ronnie was no goodie two-shoes. In fact, he was kicked out of school – twice. The first time was for allegedly bribing a grade school chum "two bits" to throw a baseball through a window. The second was for bringing firecrackers to Dormont High – and that time he ratted on himself.

"He couldn't stand the principals who were dictatorial," Jerry says. "He would call them fascists."

Still, he was elected president of the student council at Dormont and won the school's service award three years running. But he really excelled at track. His junior year, Paul placed first in the state in the 220-yard dash, second in the 440 and third in the 100. Pennsylvania State University offered him a full athletic scholarship.

When he tore the cartilage in his right knee playing touch football that summer, Penn State was still willing to take a chance on him. But Paul decided he couldn't accept in good conscience. "I was not confident I could meet the standards of honoring that scholarship," he says.

Instead, he chose Gettysburg College, a small Lutheran school near the famous battlefield. Paul paid his own way, using money earned from hisn The Bullet Hole, and washing dishes at the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity house. In his senior year, he married Carolyn Wells, who had first noticed him when a friend pointed out the lanky upperclassman running around the track at Dormont.

Paul went on to attend Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, N.C. During his second year of residency in Detroit, Paul got a letter from the Selective Service. He could be drafted into the Army as a "buck private," or join as a physician and receive an officer's commission.

"I volunteered immediately," he says, chuckling.

Paul served two years in the Air Force as a flight surgeon and three more in the Air National Guard. While he did not see any action, he says he's seen enough of war's aftermath to convince him "the way we go to war so often is the reason that we have difficulty getting out of war.

"My firm belief is that the founders were absolutely correct in going to war very, very cautiously, very, very rarely," he told the Greenville crowd. "And NOT by one individual deciding."

During his residency, Paul found time for some light reading: "The Road to Serfdom" by the free-market economist Friedrich Hayek. It was an epiphany. In short order, he devoured the works of Ayn Rand and Ludwig von Mises, the dean of Austrian school of laissez-faire economics.

Paul had been stationed at Kelly Air Force Base in San Antonio. When his service was up in 1968, he stayed on in Texas, eventually taking over the practice of the only obstetrician-gynecologist in tiny Lake Jackson, south of Houston. It was a busy office; often, Paul would deliver four babies in a single night, and in the course of his career, he estimates he brought more than 4,000 babies into the world.

There was minor shock in the office when Paul informed the staff they would no longer participate in the federal Medicaid or Medicare programs.

"People will pay as they can," scrub nurse Donna White, who later married her boss's youngest brother, recalls the doctor saying. "And if they can't, that's fine."

One family, she says, paid him in fresh-caught shrimp.

___

Paul can remember the date when he decided to enter politics. It was Aug. 15, 1971, the day President Richard Nixon decoupled the U.S. dollar from the nation's gold reserves.

"After that day, all money would be political money rather than money of real value," he told a writer from Texas Monthly. "I was astounded."

Paul lost his first congressional race in 1974 but won a special election two years later to fill the incumbent's unexpired term. Several months later, he lost the general election to Democrat Robert Gammage by fewer than 300 votes.

Paul defeated Gammage in 1978 and won back-to-back re-elections. His pledge to "never vote for legislation unless the proposed measure is expressly authorized by the Constitution" earned him a nickname: Dr. No.

He refused to vote for any tax increase or any budget that was not balanced, and eschewed most "pork barrel" projects for his district. He even voted against awarding Congressional Gold Medals to Mother Teresa, Nancy and Ronald Reagan, and civil rights icon Rosa Parks – though he suggested his colleagues "each put in 100 bucks" to pay for the $30,000 cost of a medal for Parks.

He has refused to enroll in the House pension program, saying it would be "hypocritical and immoral" to accept a benefit unavailable to the taxpayers who fund it. He also discouraged his five children – including the future Kentucky U.S. senator and tea party darling Rand Paul – from applying for government-backed student loans.

In 1981, Dr. No teamed up with "Senator No" (North Carolina's Jesse Helms) to pass legislation that formed the 17-member Gold Commission, which was to study "the role of gold in the monetary system." Appointed by Reagan, Paul argued for a gold coin – "without a dollar denomination" – as legal tender.

"I wanted people to think of money as weight," he wrote.

In 1984, Paul ran for the U.S. Senate. When that bid failed, he returned full time to his medical practice.

Four years later, Paul won the Libertarian Party's presidential nomination. He placed third in the election, with less than 1 percent of the popular vote, but he now had a national base.

In 1997, Paul retired from medicine and returned to Congress; he's been there ever since. In 2008, he made his second run for president, this time as a Republican. He raised almost $35 million, including more than $6 million on Dec. 16, 2007, the anniversary of the Boston Tea Party.

Still, in the end, it was projected that he had amassed just 42 delegates.

The 2008 race also brought Paul's closest brush with scandal. A controversy arose over statements in his monthly newsletters – "if you have ever been robbed by a black teen-aged male, you know how unbelievably fleet-footed they can be"; Martin Luther King Jr. was a "pro-Communist philanderer"; "Homosexuals, not to speak of the rest of society, were far better off when social pressure forced them to hide their activities."

Paul denied writing the offending passages – they were, he said, the work of ghostwriters, though he acknowledged that he bore "some moral responsibility" for them. And he said he was not a detractor of King's – the civil rights leader was a champion of individual rights and one of his heroes.

___

Now trotting sprightly along on two artificial knees, the high school sprinter has proved to be a steady long-distance runner. He placed a close second in the August Iowa straw poll, though he polls in single digits in most states.

The former fringe candidate is tapping into some mainstream anger. During a news conference at the Greenville airport, Paul – looking, as always, slightly rumpled in his workaday suit and sensible shoes – laughs when asked if throwing thousands of federal employees out of work in the current down economy is a good idea.

"Let `em go to work at McDonald's," he says, his brown eyes twinkling impishly beneath untamed eyebrows. "They should have a REAL job. Bureaucrats don't create wealth. They interfere with wealth production."

Downtown at the convention center, hundreds queue up for vinegary "eastern-style" barbecue, hush puppies, cole slaw and foam cups of sweet iced tea. One man sports a hat with a "REPEAL ObamaCare" button, while another wears a T-shirt cataloguing the supposed evils of fluoridated drinking water.

Paul's campaign takes pride in portraying him as a kind of Beltway Cassandra, ignored and marginalized by the "mainstream media." At the end of the food table sits a pile of business cards announcing Paul's latest "moneybomb" (the Oct. 19 drive raised more than $2.75 million) and daring news outlets to "BLACK THIS OUT!"

When the candidate arrives, the cheering crowd leaps to its feet. He then launches into a 33-minute, no-notes speech covering everything from 19th-century French economist Frederic Bastiat to the right to consume raw milk.

He speaks repeatedly of our "recession/depression" and says the "No. 1 cause" of the current financial crisis was the Federal Reserve.

"THEY are the ones who are responsible for so much suffering," he says, his already high-pitched voice rising to a near squeak. The Fed, he declares, is a "counterfeiter."

The crowd chants the title of one of Paul's books: "End the Fed! End the Fed!"

By speech's end, Todd Bennett, 45, of nearby Farmville, is sweating and hoarse.

"He's not the most charismatic man, by any stretch," says Bennett, a hospital supply courier and father of 10-year-old twin boys. "He's not got the greatest delivery by any stretch. But the words he says lights a fire in my soul. I'm ready to run through a brick wall for him."

Paul inspires that kind of devotion. But there are many naysayers, even among those who know him best. Jerry Paul, a retired Presbyterian minister and registered Democrat, says his brother "does not appreciate the depth" of human sinfulness and selfishness. He goes as far as to call Ron Paul's philosophy "kind of naive." Life is complicated, he suggests.

"Freedom, to me, really comes with responsibility ... to work together with others in the political realm, to work on behalf of the governed," he says. "That we're going to have a safety net ... Who else is going to do that, other than our political structure?"

The candidate freely acknowledges that the free market "is not perfect." But he says it adjusts for its mistakes.

"I think the people who assume that a few people in Washington, the bureaucrats and the politicians, know what's best for us, and we can trust them, that's being REALLY naive," he says.

___

When late-night comedian Jon Stewart recently asked Paul why he keeps running, the representative replied: "I think if you plant a seed, it tends to grow."

Years ago, Paul says, a congressional colleague slipped a laminated piece of paper into his hand. It was a passage from Elie Wiesel's 1970 book, "One Generation After."

In it, a child asks the one "Just Man" why he walks the streets of Sodom railing against wickedness, when he knows it is hopeless. The man replies: "if I continue my protest, at least I will prevent others from changing me."

Paul can't recall who gave him the quote. But he still has it, tucked away with his House voting card.

___

Allen G. Breed is a national writer, based in Raleigh, N.C. He can be reached at features(at)ap.org.

[Dec 11, 2011] Mutually Assured Destruction vs Mutually Assured Respect by Rep. Ron Paul,

Dec 10, 2011 | Antiwar.com

The Soviet Union detonated its first nuclear bomb on August 29, 1949, leading to the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction, shared by both the USA and the Soviets. The unwritten agreement by the two superpowers deterred nuclear war with an implied threat to blow up the world, if need be, to defend each of their interests.

I well remember the Cuban missile crisis of October 1962, having been drafted into the military at that time. Mutually Assured Destruction had significant meaning to the whole world during this period. This crisis, along with the escalating ill-advised Vietnam War, made me very much aware of the problems the world faced during the five years I served as a USAF flight surgeon.

It was with great pleasure and hope that I observed the collapse of the Soviet Empire between 1989 and 1991. This breakup verified the early predictions by the free market economists, like Ludwig von Mises, that communism would self-destruct because of the deeply flawed economic theories embedded in socialism. Our nukes were never needed because ideas are more powerful than the weapons of war.

Many Americans at the time were boldly hopeful that we would benefit from a generous peace dividend. Sadly, it turned out to be a wonderful opportunity wasted. There was to be no "beating their swords into plowshares," even though history shows that without weapons and war there's more food and prosperity for the people. Unfortunately, our leaders decided on another course that served the special interests who benefit from constant wars and the arbitrary rearrangement of national borders for control of national resources.

Instead of a peace dividend from ending the policy of Mutually Assured Destruction, US leaders opted for a foreign policy of American world domination as its sole superpower. It was all in the spirit of Woodrow Wilson's idealistic goal of "making the world safe for democracy" by pursuing a war to end all wars.

The mantra became that American exceptionalism morally required us to spread our dominance world-wide by force. US world dominance, by whatever means, became our new bipartisan foreign policy. There was to be no peace dividend, though our enemies were virtually non-existent.

In many ways America had been "exceptional" but in an opposite manner from the neocon driven foreign policy of the last 20 years. If America indeed has something good to offer the cause of peace, prosperity, and liberty it must be spread through persuasion and by example; not by intimidation, bribes, and war.

Maintaining world domination is based on an intellectually and financially bankrupt idea that generates dependency, war, loss of civil liberties, inflation, and debt, all of which contribute to our economic crisis.

Saddest of all, this policy of American domination and exceptionalism has allowed us to become an aggressor nation, supporting pre-emptive war, covert destabilization, foreign occupations, nation building, torture, and assassinations. This policy has generated hatred toward Americans and provides the incentive for almost all of the suicide attacks against us and our allies.

To continue to believe the fiction that the militants hate us for our freedoms and wealth may even result in more attacks against us — that is, unless our national bankruptcy brings us to our knees and forces us to bring our troops home.

Expanding our foreign military intervention overseas as a cure for the attacks against us, tragically, only guarantees even more attacks. We must someday wake up, be honest with ourselves, and reject the notion that we're spreading freedom and America's goodness around the world. We cannot justify our policy by claiming our mission is to secure American freedoms and protect our Constitution. That is not believable. This policy is doomed to fail on all fronts.

The policy of Mutually Assured Destruction has been gone now for 20 years, and that is good.

The policy of American domination of the world, as nation builder-in-chief and policeman of the world, has failed and must be abandoned — if not as a moral imperative, then certainly out of economic necessity.

My humble suggestion is to replace it with a policy of Mutually Assured Respect. This requires no money and no weapons industry, or other special interests demanding huge war profits or other advantages.

This requires simply tolerance of others' cultures and their social and religious values, and the giving up of all use of force to occupy or control other countries and their national resources. Many who disagree choose to grossly distort the basic principles shared by the world's great religions: the Golden Rule, the Ten Commandments, and the cause of peace. Religions all too often are distorted and used to justify the violence engaged in for arbitrary power.

A policy of Mutually Assured Respect would result in the U.S.:

Mutually Assured Respect offers a policy of respect, trade, and friendship and rejects threats, sanctions, and occupations.

This is the only practical way to promote peace, harmony, and economic well-being to the maximum number of people in the world.

Mutually Assured Respect may not be perfect but far better than Mutually Assured Destruction or unilateral American dominance.

Read more by Rep. Ron Paul

[Dec 10, 2011] Bill Maher on Dr. Ron Paul

See also: Bill Maher Is Voting For Ron Paul in 2012 and Ron Paul tells a truth nobody wants to hear and
Ron Paul HUMILIATES Rick Perry in front of Tea Party Audience and Ron Paul destroys Rick Santorum on Iran During Ames Iowa Debate! Go Ron GO!
Dec 10, 2011 | youtube.com

Republicans are not smart enough to vote for Ron Paul. Democrats are not lucky enough to have him.

Holy crap. Bill Maher is right about something! It's a sign of the Apocalypse!

RON PAUL 2012

I think Ron Paul as president would make a great and big change for America. He's finally starting to be heard, because Fox and other politicians do their best to censor him, and try to make

[Dec 10, 2011] Ron Paul 2012 Unmatched Intellect

Dec 10, 2011 | youtube.com

alandonald

Dear God, FFS how is Ron Paul not the OVERWHELMING front runner for the republican nomination? Is America too stupid to see what is patently obvious? The next election has serious implications for the entire world, as an Australian I'm literally begging americans to vote for Ron Paul. Before it's too late.

crikey

McCain looks like a baffoon....

@alandonald Americans are trained to be stupid. They just don't know better because all their lives they are thought to think one way through media and stupid ass distraction tv shows. So when they hear something logical they just don't get it. Its something new to them. But people need to wake up and start doing their own research. I believe self education is the best eduction.

This is man is extremely smart. holy shit

What can he do any different then anyone else is new pawn from the same pond!

songforamericans

@alandonald You Are Correct.....as it has been for 100+ years the rigged media is lying.... lying about the republican candidates....lying about their poles that they control and they report the results.....their chosen 1 Brobama must be challenged by the 1 they pick.....Never By The Peoples Choice....look at the 2008 elections NO ONE NEW RON PAUL WAS EVEN RUNNING....the medias pick was John Mcain......the media is shoving their picks down our throats and ignoring the rest.....

@QuackenInsanity

McCain and Romney were both giving him that treatment. They are an interchangeable pair of stooges for the international banksters that are destroying this country and imposing a murderous, collectivist world government. Since they're both made-men for that cabal, they no doubt hate & fear RP because he is genuine & good, rather than being long ago sold-out, totally compromised, degenerate political prostitutes as they are.

[Dec 9, 2011] Rick Perry tries to intimidate Ron Paul at GOP debate!

[Dec 9, 2011] Ron Paul Educates the person that thinks he knows

[Dec 9, 2011] Ron Paul 2012 - Why Ron Paul Must Be President

[Dec 9, 2011] A veteran speak out about Iraq and Ron Paul

[Dec 9, 2011] Ron Paul This Speech Gave Me Chills

catclifton

Ron Paul is a great man. His time has come to lead, and he will get us out of this mess that we are in, if we give him a chance to do it. Obama promised change, and all we got was more of the same. Let's think outside the box. Let's give Ron Paul a chance to get this country back on it's feet.

Ron Paul tells the real reason for the oil prices

adought3

Listen, Ron Paul isn't some all holy politician come to save us all. His policies have flaws and potential negative consequences like every other politician. However, Ron Paul basis his decisions on knowledge, facts, history, and truth. Neither party endorses him because he chooses to back what he feels is actually RIGHT for our nation and its people, regardless of party affiliation. I will be voting for Ron Paul in 2012 not because does no wrong, but because he is actually a LEADER in America.

It's not enough to say "Vote Ron Paul"

anyelina1111

In order for Dr.Paul to win, HE NEEDS THE PRIMARY. That's the toughest part.

IF YOU WANT TO VOTE IN PRIMARY YOU HAVE TO BE REGISTERED REPUBLICAN! If you don't switch parties in time, (3 months ahead in some states from now) YOU WILL NOT BE ALLOWED TO VOTE!!

Go to BLUEREPUBLICAN(dot)ORG and register ASAP! Copy and paste this everywhere! Thumbs up to help this be on top.

[Dec 8, 2011] How Fox News Makes You Stupid

[Dec 8, 2011] Banned Ron Paul Video That FOX Refused To Re-Air

November

[Nov 30, 2011] China's stop-and-go measures

From comments

(18) The enactment of the Federal Reserve Act
7 in 1913 by Congress effectively delegated the sov-
8 Foreign power to create money, to the Federal Re-
9 serve system and private financial industry.
10 (19) This ceding of Constitutional power has
11 contributed materially to a multitude of monetary
12 and financial afflictions, including—
13 (A) growing and unreasonable concentra-
14 tion of wealth;
15 (B) unbridled expansion of national debt,
16 both public and private;
17 (C) excessive reliance on taxation of citi-
18 zens for raising public revenues;
19 (D) inflation of the currency;
20 (E) drastic increases in the cost of public
21 infrastructure investments;
22 (F) record levels of unemployment and
23 underemployment; and
24 (G) persistent erosion of the ability of Con-
25 gress to exercise its Constitutional responsibilities to provide resources for the general welfare
2 of all the American people

http://kucinich.house.gov/UploadedFiles/NEED_ACT.pdf

[Nov 10, 2011] Mark Ames Why Finance is Too Important to Leave to Larry Summers

The oligarchy has spent decades on a project to "defund the Left," and they've succeeded in ways we're only just now grasping.
Nov 10, 2011 | naked capitalism

The oligarchy has spent decades on a project to "defund the Left," and they've succeeded in ways we're only just now grasping. "Defunding the Left" doesn't mean denying funds to the rotten Democratic Party; it means defunding everything that threatens the 1%'s hold on wealth and power. One of their greatest successes, whether by design or not, has been the gutting of journalism, shrinking it down to a manageable size where its integrity can be drowned in a bathtub. It's nearly impossible to make a living as a journalist these days; and with the economics of the journalism business still in free-fall like the Soviet refrigerator industry in the 1990s, media outlets are even less inclined to challenge power, journalists are less inclined to rock the boat than ever, and everyone is more inclined to corruption (see: Washington Post, Atlantic Monthly).

A ProPublica study in May put it in numbers: In 1980, the ratio of PR flaks to journalists was roughly 1:3. In 2008, there were 3 PR flaks for every 1 journalist. And that was before the 2008 shit hit the journalism fan.

[Nov 05, 2011] A Recent Rarity Forecast upgrades

Afghanistan is Obama's Vietnam.
Nov 05, 2011 | Calculated Risk

convexity

The book directly touches on subjects like this that somebody linked in the previous thread:

U.S. general relieved of duty for disparaging Afghan government – CNN Security Clearance - CNN.com Blogs

"Politico quoted Fuller as criticizing Afghan President Hamid Karzai for saying Afghanistan would side with Pakistan against America in war. "Why don't you just poke me in the eye with a needle?" Fuller said. "You've got to be kidding me. I'm sorry, we just gave you $11.6 billion, and now you're telling me, 'I don't really care'?""

And they canned him for this?

Afghanistan is Obama's Vietnam.

skk

Rob Dawg wrote:

Comments like that are for domestic consumption not in the face of the people who saved your ass.

Saving Karzai's ass ? he was safely ensconced out of the country surely. He was parachuted in surely. In that sense, he's the ultimate puppet. .gruntled wrote on Fri, 11/4/2011 - 7:27 pm (in to...) Rob Dawg wrote:

Comments like that are for domestic consumption not in the face of the people who saved your ass.

His ass was safe somewhere in Europe I believe until he was brought and installed as the head-looter of Afghanistan. .convexity wrote on Fri, 11/4/2011 - 7:28 pm (in to...) A minor point that you seem to miss is that the Nato coalition is an uninvited guest in Afghanistan that long overstayed its welcome.

I agree with that. We should get our people out of there and let the chips fall. Instead the administration is using Afghanistan to prove that it is "tough on terrorism". And of course the idiot R's would oppose exiting just because their only gambit is to oppose everything.

Icepick:

gruntled wrote:

Can you give some examples for those earlier revolutions? Tunisia was a first. So was Tahrir square. So was Libya, although the outside help provided by Nato sort of made things a little murky there.

Look up Nasser. Hell, look up Gaddafi! Qasim in Iraq and the Ba'athists more generally. What happens is that the reformers come to power promising people that everything is going to be great, and then reality happens, and before long the revolutions end up looking a lot like the regimes they replaced, though usually more ruthless.

You're hearing "democracy" now because that's the word everyone uses these days, socialism and communism being passe. But it's the same old same old.

Icepick:

lawyerliz wrote:

If we had done nothing in Iraq, perhaps the Arab Spring would be happening there now. Or be over with.

Well, things seem to be turning (predictably) for the worse in Egypt.

Icepick

In all seriousness, what evidence do we have that the Arab Spring is going to lead to anything other than a different set of bastards being in charge?

I expect theocracies will fill the void.

Rickkk:

Icepick wrote:

"...it ain't the land of milk & honey unless you love to use products from the poppy plant."

Opium production in Afghanistan - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

"Afghanistan has been the greatest illicit opium producer in the entire world..... Another obstacle to getting rid of poppy cultivation in Afghanistan is the reluctant collaboration between US forces and Afghan warlords in hunting drug traffickers. In the absence of Taliban, the warlords largely control the opium trade but are also highly useful to the US forces in scouting, providing local intelligence, keeping their own territories clean from Al-Qaeda and Taliban insurgents, and even taking part in military operations.

Former U.S. State Department Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs Thomas Schweich, in a New York Times article dated July 27, 2007, asserts that opium production is protected by the government of Hamid Karzai as well as by the Taliban, as all parties to political conflict in Afghanistan as well as criminals benefit from opium production, and, in Schweich's opinion, the U.S. military turns a blind eye to opium production as not being central to its anti-terrorism mission.[17][18] "

Icepick

iambroke wrote:

It is is misleading only to the very dense to believe that the US has spent "last several decades in a series of very nasty wars"...these were primarily instigated by the US. Go suck goat balls.

We instigated the war between the Soviet Union and Afghanistan? Wow, I didn't know we had infiltrated the Kremlin to that extent! Damn, we're smooth! Or the fuck up after the Soviets left and the eventual founding & rule of the Taliban? I didn't know we had infiltrated the ISI to that extent either. Damn, we're smooth!

Clue for the clueless, iamgboke: Not everything in the world happens because the US government wants it to happen. There are ~6,700,000,000 other people on the planet, mostly pursuing their own goals. Sometimes these have nothing to do with US interests, either directly or indirectly.

Oh, I see. You think I'm talking about us fighting a bunch of wars. I'm not, numbskull, I'm talking about decades of war on Afghan soil, most of those decades have seen Afghans doing the bulk of the killing of other Afghans.

Watson

Icepick:

We instigated the war between the Soviet Union and Afghanistan?

The USSR didn't 'invade' Afghanistan; it came to the aid of an ally besieged by US/Saudi-funded jihadis operating from bases in Pakistan.

Obama advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, then in the Carter administration, bragged of luring the soviets into his 'Afghan trap'. Many believe that the primary strategic significance of Afghanistan and Pakistan is pipeline transit routes, which is consistent with the analysis in The Grand Chessboard, Zbig's 1997 blueprint for 'American primacy'.

poic:

", I guess they came to the aid of an ally there like they did with with the DDR in 1953, Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia (sp?) in 1968."

A bit more complex than that. Russia invaded after the pro-rebellion Hubgarians were booted and they were "invited" in by the Russian backed Hungarian premier.

The rebels btw were promised support for their uprising via Radio Free America. Similar to the Kurds in the 90s.

My father fled Hungary in 1968 after the Russians invaded.

azurite

Icepick wrote:

How did the Sovs come to have allies in Afghanistan?

Democratic Republic of Afghanistan - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This was a pretty good period for women in Afghanistan, as the regime pushed literacy/education for both sexes, and the minimum age for marriage was raised.

[Nov 05, 2011] The Collapse of Our Corrupt, Predatory, Pathological Financial System Is Necessary and Positive

Submitted by Charles Hugh Smith from Of Two Minds

We are being throttled by the Big Lie: we're told that if the predatory financial system implodes, we'll all be ruined. The opposite is true: the only way to save our economy is to let the corrupt, pathological and flawed financial system implode.

I was recently challenged by a contributor to write something positive, and so I decided to write about the single most positive outcome of the current financial crisis in Europe: the complete collapse of the corrupt, predatory, pathological global banking sector and its dealers, the central banks. Exploring why this is so reveals the insurmountable internal conflicts in our current financial system, and also illuminates the systemic political propaganda which is deployed daily to prop up a parasitic, corrupting, pathologically destructive financial system.

Our first stop is modern finance itself. Modern financial "products" and "instruments" are often highly complex and abstract, but the entire edifice can be distilled down to this: the system is based on the assumption that all risk can be hedged, and the difference between the initial position's yield/gain (i..e. placement of capital at risk for a gain) and the cost of hedging the risk of the wager to zero can be skimmed from the system risk-free.

That is the entire system in a nutshell, and we can immediately see the advantages of this system over traditional Capitalism, where risk can be hedged but never to zero, and the return is correlated to the risk taken on.

In modern finance, high-risk "investments" (wagers) with high returns can be taken on without worry because any and all risk can be hedged to zero, even in super high-risk wagers.

And since even high-risk positions can be seamlessly hedged to zero, then there is no reason not to borrow money to increase the size of your wagers: since you can't lose, then why not? Wagering in risk-free skimming with borrowed or leveraged money is simply rational.

Put these together and we see how a system based on risk-free skimming eventually leverages itself to the point that the slightest disruption can bring down the entire over-leveraged, over-extended system.

Why is this so? Every hedge has a counterparty who is supposed to pay off if the initial wager blows up. A system based on risk-free hedging is ultimately a self-organizing system which maximizes return by increasing bet sizes, leveraging/borrowing to near infinity and hedging every hedge as well as every wager.

This creates long chains of hedges and counterparties. Here's an example based on an asset we all understand, a house. Let's say someone buys a house for $1,000 down, something that was common in the housing bubble. That $1,000 is leveraged up to buy a $200,000 house via a $200,000 mortgage.

The "owner" of the house then buys a hedge to protect himself from the house losing value, so the risk is reduced to zero: if the value rises, the owner reaps the gain and if it declines, then he collects the payoff of the hedge from the counterparty, for example, a Wall Street investment firm.

The counterparty calculated the risk of real estate declining and then priced the hedge accordingly. There is some small risk that the loss will exceed the cost of the hedge, so the issuer of that hedge bundles similar bets and then buys a hedge or "insurance" from another player, who makes the same calculations of risk and return.

Meanwhile, the mortgage has been tranched (sliced into principal and interest and into various pools of risk) and bundled with other "low-risk" mortgages and sold to investors, who also buy a hedge against any loss in the tranch, for example, a credit default swap (CDS) which pays out if a borrower defaults. Those hedges are sold or "insured" with another hedges.

All of this debt and all of these hedges are based on a mere $1,000 of actual capital. The players who originated each hedge are similarly leveraged, because since risk can be lowered to zero, who needs capital?

So what happens when one counterparty (issuer of a hedge) somewhere in the chain runs into trouble? The entire chain collapses. With razor-thin capital to cover any losses, then each link in the chain dissolves into insolvency if their counterparty fails to pay off.

This is how we get hundreds of trillions of dollars in "notational" derivatives: every hedged is hedged with another "instrument," "products" are bundled and insured, and so on. The system is based on the principle that risk can be reduced to zero, and so there is no need for capital.

Unfortunately, that premise is demonstrably false. Benoit Mandelbrot dismantled the notion that risk can be reduced to zero in his prescient masterpiece, The (Mis)behavior of Markets. The founder of fractal geometry showed that markets are fractal in nature, and are thus intrinsically prone to unpredictable disruptions. Simply put, risk cannot be massaged away.

Thus the fundamental premise of all modern finance is flat-out wrong, and this explains why systemic risk, rather than being eliminated, actually rises with every ratchet up in debt, leverage and counterparty hedging.

The entire global financial system is thus based on the equivalent of a perpetual motion machine: money can be borrowed or leveraged into existence in essentially unlimited quantities, and then deployed in risk-free skimming operations to harvest unlimited wealth.

What does this promise of using leveraged capital to skim risk-free fortunes do to the "real economy" of production and investment in plant and technology? It guts it. The risk of industrial Capitalism is real and cannot be hedged away; high-risk investments may blow up or they may return high yields. It literally makes no sense to risk real capital in productive Capitalism when a zero-risk skimming operation can be developed that essentially needs near-zero capital.

Thus financial capital has come to completely dominate industrial or productive capital. The pernicious consequences of this dominance have poisoned the economy and culture on multiple levels.

In the political sphere, the aggregation of hundreds of billions of dollars in skimmed profits gave Wall Street and the banking sector unlimited budgets to buy political influence. This created a monstrously pathological feedback loop: the more political influence Wall Street bought, the higher their returns on financialization skimming.

Consider housing as an example. Housing was once a simple, barely profitable long-term investment for both the buyer, who had to place substantial capital at risk (20% down payment) and the holders of mortgages, who took a modest yield for 30 years in trade for low risk.

Wall Street and the banks financialized housing via political influence. opening up a vast new territory to be exploited via skimming. Since capital wasn't necessary in no-risk skimming, then down payments were dispensed with to increase the pool of debtors, as they are the foundation of all skimming operations.

the cost of servicing that debt was manipulated via "teaser rates" and "interest only" loans, further leveraging up American home buyers' modest income streams. Mortgages were bundled, tranched and hedged, and the mortgage-backed securities (MBS) and collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) were sold to trusting investors aroudn the world.

It was a bonanza of unprecedented wealth creation from financial skimming. $1,000 down and a few hundred dollars a month for a "teaser rate" interest-only loan was leveraged into a global chain of "products" and counterparties that could be skimmed all along the chain.

That deepened the political corruption that fed the skimming operation, and introduced the "no risk" pathology into Mainstream America. Since real estate never went down in value, then buying a second, third or fourth home on leverage was simply rational; in a Federal Reserve-controlled world of near-zero yields on cash, it was irrational not to.

But there were two intrinsic flaws in the skimming operation: while the Wall Street players were hedged (or so they reckoned), the average Americans buying homes with near-infinite leverage were not hedged. That meant that when their razor-thin capital went to zero, they were insolvent. Once they defaulted, then the income stream feeding the chain of skimming went away and the chain collapsed.

Once one counterparty failed in the chain, the entire chain collapsed as well. As Mandelbroit explained, such disruptions were an intrinsic feature of the system; though the timing of a systemic disruption could not be predicted, the fact that disruptions would occur on a regular basis could be predicted.

Some players knew this, of course, but that led to another pathology: those investment players who avoided the "no risk" skimming casino could not generate the yields being "earned" by the leveraged skimmers with legitimate investing, and so their investors abandoned them for the fully rational reason that "no risk" yields were higher elsewhere.

This too created a feedback loop, where the capital available to be leveraged grew rapidly, while the pool of capital available for "patient" risky investments in actual productive assets declined. Capital available for productive investment thus became costly and scarce, while capital available for leveraged skimming became cheap and abundant.

The Federal Reserve bankrolled the skimming to the hilt. Indeed, the entire pathology of low-interest, unlimited leverage skimming was based on the Federal Reserve's manipulation and intervention. That remains true today.

What happens when the whole chain blows up and the foundation of debt is impaired? Since the whole system is based on the debt and the income streams devoted to servicing it, the entire edifice collapses when the debt is impaired--debtors default and the system clogs with bad debt, i.e. uncollectable debt.

In a transparent Capitalist system, the debt would be written down and all the insolvent borrowers, lenders and counterparties would be wiped out. But the political corruption that enabled modern finance to poison the American economy and culture has stopped that cleansing from occurring.

Such a systemic writedown of bad debt in a system with only razor-thin capital to support a mighty edifice of leverage and debt would wipe out Wall Street and the banks and reveal the skimming operation of modern finance as an impossible perpetual motion machine rigged to enrich a thin crust of citizenry at the expense of the rest. And since they skim enough money to buy political protection, Capitalism has been strangled and tossed in a shallow grave lest it disupt the skimming and the political corruption that keeps the machine running.

What we end up with is artificial valuations, endless propaganda and a zombie economy. When borrowers are left dangling in default and the assets left on the books at full value, you end up with zombie debtors, zombie lenders, a zombie government that only has one lever to pull to keep the whole corrupt pathology going--borrow and squander more money-- and ultimately a zombie economy, drifting and decaying in a fetid pool of lies, shadow banking, ceaseless official propaganda, jury-rigged "fixes," manipulated statistics, corruption, predation, exploitation and pathology.

That's the U.S. economy, and indeed, the economies of the E.U., China and Japan in a nutshell.

The only way to clear a zombie economy is to write off uncollectable debt and liquidate all the assets, loans and hedges. That would collapse our financial system, but since it is the cause of our political and economic dysfunction, that would be the highest possible good and extremely positive.

There is a great final irony in the scare-mongering threats of the skimmers and their political toadies. If the taxpayers don't bail out the skimmers, then we'll have martial law by the weekend, the smouldering fires of Europe will rekindle into open warfare, and so on.

The irony is the propping up of a deeply, intrinsically pathological and destructive financial system is not saving the economy, it's the reason the economy is imploding. The Big Lie technique of propaganda is to reverse the polarity of reality: we are told up is down until we believe it.

We are told that liquidating the overhang of bad debt, leverage and hedges would "destroy the world as we know it." The truth is that keeping the zombie system from expiring and covering up the corruption with propaganda is what's actually destroying the world as we know it.

Thus the collapse of the current financial system of central banks, pathological Wall Street and insolvent banks would be the greatest possible good and the greatest possible positive for the global economy and its participants.

[Nov 03, 2011] Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams calls for new tax on bankers -

Telegraph

Dr Rowan Williams said that the Church of England had a "proper interest in the ethics of the financial world" and warned that there had been "little visible change in banking practices" following the recession.

He urged David Cameron and George Osborne to drop their opposition to a European-wide tax on financial transactions, which is expected to be formally proposed by France and Germany at the G20 summit of world leaders starting tomorrow.

"The demands of the protesters have been vague. Many people are frustrated beyond measure at what they see as the disastrous effects of global capitalism; but it isn't easy to say what we should do differently. It is time we tried to be more specific," Dr Williams said.

The archbishop's intervention came after the Church and the City of London Corporation agreed to suspend plans to evict protesters who have been camped on the doorstep of St Paul's for more than two weeks. The issue has caused deep divisions within the Church and led to the resignation of three members of St Paul's clergy.

The archbishop said the rows over the handling of the demonstration had risked "forgetting the substantive questions that prompted the protest". "The protest at St Paul's was seen by an unexpectedly large number of people as the expression of a widespread and deep exasperation with the financial establishment that shows no sign of diminishing," Dr Williams said.

Related Articles St Paul's suspends legal action against protesters 01 Nov 2011 Timeline of the St Paul's protest 01 Nov 2011 Cloistered clerics who can only pray for an end to crisis 01 Nov 2011

"There is still a powerful sense around – fair or not – of a whole society paying for the errors and irresponsibility of bankers; of impatience with a return to 'business as usual' – represented by still-soaring bonuses and little visible change in banking practices." He added: "The best outcome from the unhappy controversies at St Paul's will be if the issues raised… can focus a concerted effort to move the debate on and effect credible change in the financial world."

The archbishop said he supported the main proposals of a recent report from the Vatican calling for widespread financial reform.

The central recommendation is for a financial transaction tax – known as the "Tobin tax" after the economist who developed the idea – levied on the sale of shares, bonds and foreign currency. It would be expected to raise billions of pounds that could be spent in the developing world.

The archbishop said: "This has won the backing of significant experts who cannot be written off as naive anti-capitalists – George Soros, Bill Gates and many others. It is gaining traction among European nations, with a strong statement in support this week from Wolfgang Schäuble, the German finance minister.

"The objections made by some who claim it would mean a substantial drop in employment and in the economy generally seem to rest on exaggerated and sharply challenged projections – and, more important, ignore the potential of such a tax to stabilise currency markets in a way to boost rather than damage the real economy."

The issue of the Tobin tax is expected to be on the agenda at the G20 summit in Cannes, with European countries considering introducing the levy to help fund the single currency rescue package.

Mr Osborne, the Chancellor, has said that he would only support the introduction of the tax on a global basis, because financial trading would simply move from London to other markets such as New York and Singapore. American and Asian governments are thought to be opposed to the levy. Government sources declined to comment on the archbishop's intervention last night. Dr Williams also called for wider controls on banks, saying they should be compelled to help "reinvigorate" the economy and not put the public's savings at risk.

Writing in today's Financial Times, the archbishop says: "The rolling-up of individual and small-scale savings into high-risk and high-return adventures in the virtual economy is one of the more obvious danger areas. Early government action in this area is needed. A second plea is to recapitalise banks with public money. Banks should be obliged in return to help reinvigorate the real economy."

He concluded: "These ideas, which have been advanced from other quarters, religious and secular, in recent years, do not amount to a simplistic call for the end of capitalism, but they are far more than a general expression of discontent.

"If we want to take seriously the moral agenda of the protesters at St Paul's, these are some of the ways in which we should be taking it forward."

The archbishop spoke out on a day in which senior bankers appeared in Parliament to defend their actions. Stephen Hester, the chief executive of RBS, said that bonuses paid to staff were "not the fount of all evils". Bob Diamond, the chief executive of Barclays, said that banks "can't be told to increase lending and capital at the same time" but backed the need for "strong regulation".

Dr Williams's article is his latest in a series of interventions in politics. Earlier this year, he warned that the public was gripped with fear over some government reforms and said that the Coalition lacked democratic legitimacy. Yesterday, it emerged that the St Paul's protesters would almost certainly still be in position during next week's Remembrance Sunday service and probably in the run-up to Christmas. Police had been expected to start attempting to move them on this week.

Following a meeting between senior figures at St Paul's and the Rt Rev Dr Richard Chartres, the Bishop of London, the authorities decided to abandon their eviction plans.

The bishop effectively told the Corporation of London that the Church would not sanction evictions on Church land, by saying: "The Chapter recognises the Corporation's right to take such action on Corporation land."

He added: "The alarm bells are ringing all over the world. St Paul's has now heard that call. Today's decision means that the doors are most emphatically open to engage with matters concerning not only those encamped around the cathedral but millions of others in this country and around the globe."

The cathedral asked Ken Costa, 62, an investment banker and Conservative Party donor, to draw up a plan to "reconnect the financial with the ethical", and also gave a voluntary role to the Rev Dr Giles Fraser, the cathedral's former Canon Chancellor, who resigned last week.

October

[Oct 30, 2011] "It Doesn't Get Any More Immoral Than This"

Financial capital owns the government and as such is out of control.
Yesterday, Ross Douthat argued that "higher taxes on America's richest 1 percent" won't solve the problems with government. Thomas Friedman explains why that's wrong, and why a more equitable distribution of income is essential to stripping the ability of those at the top to control government:
Did You Hear the One About the Bankers?, by Thomas Friedman, Commentary, NY Times: Citigroup is lucky that Muammar el-Qaddafi was killed when he was. The Libyan leader's death diverted attention from a lethal article involving Citigroup... The news was that Citigroup had to pay a $285 million fine to settle a case in which, with one hand, Citibank sold a package of toxic mortgage-backed securities to unsuspecting customers — securities that it knew were likely to go bust — and, with the other hand, shorted the same securities — that is, bet millions of dollars that they would go bust.

It doesn't get any more immoral than this. ...

This gets to the core of why all the anti-Wall Street groups around the globe are resonating. I was in Tahrir Square in Cairo for the fall of Hosni Mubarak... When I talked to Egyptians, it was clear that what animated their protest, first and foremost, was ... a quest for "justice." Many Egyptians were convinced that they lived in a deeply unjust society where the game had been rigged by the Mubarak family and its crony capitalists. Egypt shows what happens when a country adopts free-market capitalism without developing real rule of law and institutions.

But, then, what happened to us? Our financial industry has grown so large and rich it has corrupted our real institutions through political donations. As Senator Richard Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, bluntly said in a 2009 radio interview, despite having caused this crisis, these same financial firms "are still the most powerful lobby on Capitol Hill. And they, frankly, own the place."

Our Congress today is a forum for legalized bribery. One consumer group using information from Opensecrets.org calculates that the financial services industry, including real estate, spent $2.3 billion on federal campaign contributions from 1990 to 2010, which was more than the health care, energy, defense, agriculture and transportation industries combined. Why are there 61 members on the House Committee on Financial Services? So many congressmen want to be in a position to sell votes to Wall Street. ...

U.S. congressmen should have to dress like Nascar drivers and wear the logos of all the banks, investment banks, insurance companies and real estate firms that they're taking money from. The public needs to know.

Capitalism and free markets are the best engines for generating growth and relieving poverty — provided they are balanced with meaningful transparency, regulation and oversight. We lost that balance in the last decade. If we don't get it back..., the cry for justice could turn ugly. ...

To what extent is fear of inflation, fear of deficits, and other fears holding up more government help for struggling, unemployed households the result of the powerful interests who control Congress standing in the way? My answer, as ought to be clear from recent columns (here, here, and here), is that the imbalance in political power that comes with such a large degree of inequality is a large factor in the government's tepid response to the unemployment crisis.

DrDick

I have been saying for months that the reason we cannot get any effective stimulus to boost employment is because our managerial and rentier elites want to use high unemployment to drive down wages so that they can extract even more rents from the system that they are already sucking dry.

[Oct 29, 2011] Charlatans and Cranks

Economist's View

Fred C. Dobbs

The essential thing about our democracy is that every four years we have the opportunity to get swindled, one more time.

'Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice... Um, er... Can't get fooled again!'

As if!

Fred C. Dobbs
By all rights, given the unemployment situation, Republicans have every right to believe they should regain the presidency. Problem is, no one among them with more than half a brain actually wants the job (except maybe Jon Huntsman & of course Mitt Romney, but they are 'unacceptable'.)

But still, they have to run SOMEBODY.

And that somebody still 'should' win.

But, meanwhile, while nobody's paying too much attention, they expect to at least win the Senate & hold on to the House (& the Supreme Court.)

The question remains, other than Mormons, is there any Republican out there who is smart AND wants the job? Let them step forward.

And not smart like Herman Cain or Newt Gingrich, either.

(Personally, I have nothing against Mormons. On the whole, however, I'd really rather see a Unitarian run. What are the chances of that?)

Sasha
Fred C. Dobbs... "I'd really rather see a Unitarian run"

We've had 4 Unitarian presidents: John Adams John Quincy Adams Millard Fillmore William Howard Taft

Of course that was before the Unitarians merged with the Universalists.

Fred C. Dobbs
Sasha... And Taft was even largely a Republican!

That won't happen again soon.

denim
Fred C. Dobbs... Marriner Eccles, a Mormon, was a key economic advisor to FDR. He could see and a sighted man among the blind is good to have:

"...when he wrote in his Beckoning Frontiers: "As mass production has to be accompanied by mass consumption, mass consumption, in turn, implies a distribution of wealth ... to provide men with buying power. ... Instead of achieving that kind of distribution, a giant suction pump had by 1929-30 drawn into a few hands an increasing portion of currently produced wealth. ... The other fellows could stay in the game only by borrowing. When their credit ran out, the game stopped.".

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

Fred C. Dobbs
Fred C. Dobbs... I should have said 'except of course Jon Huntsman & maybe Mitt Romney'.

Romney is running because he has this compulsion to do so, because his dad was previously shut out, trying to get nominated, even though he was arguably more electable than his son.

Who is really, really wealthy.

Something to prove, Mitt?

Huntsman is running probably because he thinks he can do the job, and because his dad is really, really wealthy.

Is that so wrong?

Patricia Shannon
Fred C. Dobbs... At least their campaign spending is helping the economy, spreading the wealth.
roger
Fred C. Dobbs... No, Romney thinks he can do the job because he was a fairly successful governor. I'd say he is the odds on favorite to win the presidency. The Republicans are enthused, as they should be, about taking the White House, having won all political battles over the last year and a half - right after the shellacking in 2008 made the pundits wonder if the GOP would survive. When Romney seals the deal - and it looks like nothing so far is really standing in his way - he should defeat the Democrat, who has failed in four years to right the economy and spent most of his time ignoring unemployment, while trying to create a 'grand bargain' in which he cut social security and medicare. I dont think that Romney is even going to have to run that hard. The question is really whether he wins in a landslide, and the Dems lose the Senate, or whether he wins in less than a landslide, and the Dems retain enough people in the Senate to theoretically block legislation (not that the Dems would ever use that power).

The D.C. Democrats still expect their own version of expansionary austerity to work for them - they austerely warn their core that they shouldn't ask for anything but tidbits, and just swallow conservative policy, and they expect that core to get all enthusiastic and get out the vote. This didn't happen in 2010 and it won't happen in 2012. If Obama loses - and surely that is the safe bet at the moment - I'd say that 2011, when he did nothing from January to August but tried to compromise with Republicans, probably put the stake in the heart of his presidency. However, if Obama loses, I'm sure that the pundits will proclaim that it is because he was too liberal, just as if he wins, it will be because he 'went to the center'. In essense, the liberals have been written out of the current script of American politics. They have no party.

Darryl FKA Ron
roger... Roger,

You are all too real. Still, it's not quite a done deal since a year is a long time. Either way we are stilled screwed though and that you can bet on.

Fred C. Dobbs
roger... Romney was Governor of MA full-time (more or less) for about two years, then commenced a run at the White House, which went nowhere (more or less), during which time he was barely around.

He was successful at staying out of our heavily Democratic Legislature's way, which is all they ask.

Darryl FKA Ron
Fred C. Dobbs... "Huntsman is running probably because he thinks he can do the job"

I would add eventually. Huntsman entered on the assumption that Romney gets the nomination but Obama gets re-elected. That would make the 2016 Republican presidential primary essentially the presidential election. In 2016 Christie, Ryan, Jindahl, and possibly Partraeus will all be in and they already have plenty name recognition. If Huntman is to stand any chance in 2016 against that bunch, then he needed to enter in 2012. OTOH, Romney could not sit this one out and wait for 2016 as he would both lose credibility having already entered in 2008 and probably could not take the 2016 competition.

Nonetheless, Romney still may not get the nomination. Obama should surely beat any of the freak show crowd. If Romney fails to get the nomination then the 2016 hopefuls will be lining up quick.

EMichael
Darryl FKA Ron... Ryan cannot become POTUS.

His economic agenda would destroy him, even with the right.

Darryl FKA Ron
EMichael... You could be right, but he is awful pretty on tv. I am heartily amused at the present Republican primary preliminaries, particularly the polling of Herman Cain in the lead. At any rate, my observations are straight from the conventional wisdom, which is often flawed, and in no way represent my endorsement. I would prefer someone more like David Graeber or Michio Kaku myself, which is totally beyond any political possibility in the US.
Fred C. Dobbs
Last time out, the Democrats were pretty sure they were going to win, so there was a lot of competition for the nomination.

The same logic applies this time for the Republicans. Although they may be mistaken. They still have to run somebody.

One may compare this election to 1948, when Truman (who was pretty unpopular) was running against Tom Dewey (NY governor), who was a 'sure thing'. (He had his cabinet picked out BEFORE the election.) Truman had two '3rd party' people running specifically against him: Strom Thurmond, southern Democrat, & Henry Wallace, Progressive. Still Truman won in a landslide upset, somehow.

Next year is NOT going to be like 1948, exactly. As much as President Obama might like it to be.

Reality Bites
The problem is that neither side is willing to move towards the necessary actions required to get to a balanced budget. This is especially true of the Left which will not cut spending in any meaningful way. Of the various flat tax plans, Cain's 9-9-9 plan is revenue neutral, Perry's is set to create stimulus. But the real problem isn't with revenues, like Europe, the problem is with expenditures which are so high that it's estimated income taxes would have to rise to above 65% to bring the budget into balance, that is assuming there will be no drop in economic activity which defies standard economic theory.

It's also interesting to note that every tax plan is rigorously attacked for the "costs" of the plan by the left, but spending on social programs and such are never treated the same.

The demand for lower taxes reflects growing frustration with the current system where a shrinking few are increasingly asked to shoulder the burden. With around 47% of wage earners paying no income taxes whatsoever, the rest are being asked to pay more and more.

Reasonable people would adopt a revenue neutral plan that gets rid of tax breaks for special interests, corporations and the like, but unfortunately, there is an unreasonable side that refuses to bring expenditures in line with revenues.

I will ask this unreasonable side how they propose to bring the budget into balance using tax increases alone. As stated, income taxes would have to rise to above 65% and I've seen higher estimates. Add to that State income taxes, property taxes, and SS/Medicare taxes and the tax burden approaches 100%. This again assumes that there will be no change in economic activity with a nearly 100% tax on income. Once again, I ask how this proposal can be called reasonable by any thinking individual. Instead of rhetoric about the rich, I simply ask for a proposal that includes reality. There are simply some Americans that refuse to deal with the problem at hand and use rhetoric to try and preserve a system that is clearly unsustainable. We need to make changes because we have to. Unfortunately, the first stage is admitting that there is a problem in the first place and too many are not even at that first step.

Fred C. Dobbs
Reality Bites... Obviously, (progressive) Democrats think it would be ok, even essential, to print more money, rather than reduce expenses. And Republicans insist just the opposite.

Logic may dictate that printing more money, (just for a while, surely only a few years?) makes the most sense.

Min
Fred C. Dobbs... "Logic may dictate that printing more money, (just for a while, surely only a few years?) makes the most sense."

A look at the second debt growth chart on this page ( http://www.brillig.com/debt_clock/faq.html ), the one adjusted for inflation, reveals that the post-war debt held pretty steady at just under 2 trillion in year 2000 dollars, until Reagan. Then it shot up, and leveled off briefly at just under 6 trillion under Clinton, before shooting up again under Bush II.

A lot of people think that "printing" money, as opposed to borrowing, is inflationary. But the national debt, like private bank debt, represents money in the economy. Would it be inflationary to exchange some of the debt that we pay interest on for money that we do not pay interest on?

Sure, it might possibly at some point in the future make sense to reduce the amount of money in the economy to below a certain amount. But we did just fine with 2 trillion in year 2000 dollars, didn't we? Would it hurt to 2 trillion in cash? Really? It could hardly hurt to mint $2 trillion in platinum coins and deposit them with the Fed, could it? We could do that this year! For starters. :)

Fred C. Dobbs
Min... Quantitative Easing is, in effect, just like printing money, except the money doesn't go to the right people.
jonboinAR
Reality Bites... Reduce the defense budget by a lot.
Julio
Reality Bites... The rest are not being asked to pay more and more, they have been paying less and less as a percentage of their income. Of course if they make a greater and greater proportion of the national income, they will get a greater and greater total tax bill.

You can just look back at fairly recent history for periods when we had higher top rates and a vibrant economy. That is "unsustainable" how exactly?

Min
Reality Bites... "The problem is that neither side is willing to move towards the necessary actions required to get to a balanced budget. This is especially true of the Left which will not cut spending in any meaningful way."

You mean, this is especially true of the Republicans, who, while calling for fiscal responsibility, cut taxes! If you look at the post WWII era, the fiscally responsible party has been the Democrats.

As for balancing the budget, remember the Bible story of the Seven Fat Years and the Sever Lean Years. The gov't should tax in the fat years and spend in the lean years. That may balanced over fourteen years, but a balanced budget amendment or legislation would only get in the way.

EMichael
Reality Bites... Where does the thought process come from that talks about high taxes when the US has the lowest tax rates in its last 50 years?

I am missing that part.

Rune Lagman
Reality Bites... Straight out of the conservative dream-world, where Dems are bad and Rebs are good, unfortunately, for Reality Bites, it just ain't so.

Make a false statement, "...the Left which will not cut spending...", that is patently false, the beat it down. Progressives would love to see defense cuts in addition to cutting tax expenditures like corporate jets, big AG subsidies, and carried interest.

Or "...income taxes would have to rise to above 65%...", again patently false. We can balance the federal budget with ZERO income taxes on the lower 90% of tax-filers, and 40% on the top 10%.

Cain's plan may be "revenue neutral", but it will be an economic disaster because it will double the taxes paid by the lower 90%. Thus turning the Great Depression into the Little Depression in comparison.

Perry's plan will shower the top 1% with tax-cut while doing nothing for the economy. Perry's plan will double the budget deficits unless he cancels SS and Medicare.

Why would anyone defend the republican kabuki-theater considering how far removed they are from real people's problems?

I now know that Reality Bites is a tongue-in-cheek pen-name for promoting the conservative dream-world. I presume you were jokingly referring to yourself with: "There are simply some Americans that refuse to deal with the problem at hand and use rhetoric to try and preserve a system that is clearly unsustainable."

luvguv
The Republicans believe that too much socialism is harmful to the economy, and that is their reason for wanting to minimize taxes. There is probably some truth in that idea, some of the time, and Mark Thoma only pretends not to know that. He has acknowledged at this blog that going too far in the direction of either socialism or capitalism causes problems. So why pretend not to know this, or to not understand what the Republicans are saying?

Will more socialism cure a sick economy, or more capitalism? It depends, and maybe sometimes neither will. Why pretend that more socialism is always the answer? Why do loyal Democrats like Thoma always pretend Republicans hate poor people? Well obviously so they can play the left versus right game.

Fred C. Dobbs
luvguv... 'Republicans hate poor people'?

You ought not bite hands that feed you.

jonboinAR
luvguv... >>Why pretend that more socialism is always the answer?

No one is pretending that. Many of us believe, I'm assuming our gracious host does too, that currently we're a lot closer to the too-much-capitalism end than the too much socialism end, also that the momentum has been in that direction for a long time. Therefore right now socialist policies are no big legitimate concern. Capitalism run amuck, tending toward an oligarchical-parasitic end state with a fairly poorly functioning economy, like a prototypical third world economy, is.

roger
jonboinAR... Alas, the socialism has all gone to the wealthy. Why pretend that crony capitalism is the answer? When we see the government striving with might and main to give the rich free insurance in the form of 16 trillion dollars in below one percent loans - all of which supported the investor class, and was distributed to banks, hedge funds, and big businesses, supposedly on the basis that if we protected the investments of the wealthy, it would magically helpt the rest of us - we can see why crony capitalism fails everybody but the crony capitalists.

So, the choice seems to be, socialism (another word for not being a sucker) or capitalism (another word for socialism for the plutocrats). Choose "socialism", then, on the firmest of Adam Smith's principles: that of self interest.

Min
jonboinAR... "Many of us believe, I'm assuming our gracious host does too, that currently we're a lot closer to the too-much-capitalism end than the too much socialism end,"

When the capitalists own the gov't, how can you tell capitalism from socialism?

Darryl FKA Ron
Min... Kind of like the Nationalist Socialist Party, eh?
DrDick
Min... Easy. Who benefits from the arrangement. When the beneficiaries are the wealthy and powerful, it is not socialism, where the greatest benefits flow to the least powerful and wealthy ("from each according to his ability and to each according to his need."). What we are seeing now is exactly what capitalism has always been. Libertarian delusions aside, the capitalists have always "owned" the governments of the countries that they control and have employed them for their own ends (as Marx illustrates in *Capital*). Crony capitalism has been the only form of capitalism since its ascendance.
Darryl FKA Ron
DrDick... The English language has far too many meanings for indiviual words, such as socialism.

in Wikipedia: Socialism /ˈsoʊʃəlɪzəm/ is an economic system in which the means of production are commonly owned and controlled cooperatively; or a political philosophy advocating such a system.

There are other contexts: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socialism

But economic socialism has been further reduced to just mean state ownership (e.g. USSR) or state/corporate cooperation (not so much just the worker bee). I stepped in a deep hole bloggin here on that one when I referenced the American corporate socialist Charles Steinmetz, who seemed pretty tame to me when I read him 45 years ago between Edward Crankshaw on the Bolshevik revolution and Mao's Red Book. Today Steinmetz is likened by many as an American Nazi philosopher, but he was far more benign than Hitler.

Also Wiki on Nazi: The National Socialist German Workers' Party (German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (help·info), abbreviated NSDAP), commonly known in English as the Nazi Party, was a political party in Germany between 1920 and 1945. Its predecessor, the German Workers' Party (DAP), existed from 1919 to 1920.

So, state sponsored Capitalism is socialism, whether in the US or China.

DrDick
Darryl FKA Ron... While it is generally the case in casual usage, government ownership of the means of production is not the only model for socialism and, based on the available evidence, was not what Marx had in mind. Again, there is a massive difference between state ownership of corporations (modern state socialism) and corporate ownership of the state (our situation).
ken melvin
luvguv... There is no middle ground. For the past thirty plus, the nation has plied your waters all the while slowly sinking. Let's be clear about the disastrous state of affairs, and as to it's cause. We have to change course. The working class is sinking. Make no mistake, the ship of state goes with them. This myth that the middle class drives the economy is just that. the middle class depends on the working class. Always has. Lose them and the middle class, the professional class, ... starve.
ken melvin
ken melvin... Change was coming. By 1970, many of us saw the coming automation as an opportunity to lessen the workload while providing a high standard of living for everyone. The biggest challenge was going to be how to manage wealth distribution in an age when production workforces were being decimated. What would replace the unions and take on their role in wealth distribution? We forgot about the role of nostalgia, that wistful or excessively sentimental yearning for a return to some past period or irrecoverable condition that trumps reason. And, we forgot our own twisted history. Many of America's fortunes were built on the backs of the impoverished in sweatshops; a great swath of the nation still held dear the cheap labor economic model -- they hated unions; and, social jealousy was strong, even among America's working class there was something about believing that there were right and wrongs associated pay grade, and that some were created more equal than others; these, too, a form of nostalgia.
ken melvin
ken melvin... Now, forty years later, we have neither come to grips with automation nor this fit of nostalgia. Almost all the things we have done were based on making the old or never existent nostalgia ridden models work by: getting rid of unions; lowering the minimum wage, … Just as some Americans still fought the Civil War, many still fought the New Deal policies. Worse, at the very time automation was claiming so many good paying jobs, business and financial interests began a push to convince government to open the doors to imports. In the eighties, the nation's First Brothers, Reagan's, then Bush's, rushed off to China to reap the rewards – rewards at best mere pennies on the dollar for what American workers lost.
ken melvin
ken melvin... Given our high level of unemployment and cheap borrowing rates, there's no excuse for not doing the necessary repairs and making the needed additions to our infrastructure. It is one of those things that will pay big dividends. It is important to recognize that it is not a long-term solution to either the wealth distribution or the unemployment problem (good infrastructure is a quality of life issue and the maintenance thereof does require a workforce). Dot-com was not a solution, nor was Silicon Valley. Biotech is not going to do it. A new era Detroit wouldn't do it. These are mere examples of deniality enablers; the industrial age model is forever kaput. We need a new model that acknowledges the lessened demand for labor, one that addresses the role of limited resources. Nostalgia has led us to pile myth upon top of myth and call such a solution. Wealth distribution in a modern world and overpopulation are two of the world's biggest problems - denial ain't gonna git it. There will be change; an ever-increasing work force with a decreasing labor demand spells trouble. The question is, does change come before it's too late to save the nation?
Ranjit Suresh
ken melvin... I agree Ken, but actually the decrease in the demand for labor is evidence of an enormous growth in society's wealth as measured by productivity and technology. We just need to pry the fruits of that productivity out of the hands of the 1%.
jonboinAR
ken melvin... But what is the effective mechanism for this needed distribution of wealth? Taxation and government spending? A mandated 30 hour work week at current weekly/yearly salary combined with protectionist policy?
Min
luvguv... "The Republicans believe that too much socialism is harmful to the economy, and that is their reason for wanting to minimize taxes."

The Reps believe that socialism is harmful to vested interests, unless it means socializing their losses. They want to minimize taxes on the rich.

Sandwichman

This is an insult to charlatans and cranks!

Patricia Shannon

http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/political-animal/2011_10/can_the_rich_wage_class_warfar033119.php

October 27, 2011 12:35 PM By Steve Benen

As part of his pitch to the public in support of his jobs agenda, President Obama has a pretty standard argument when it comes to asking the very wealthy to pay a little more in taxes.

"Whenever I talk about revenue, people start complaining about, 'Well, is he engaging in class warfare,' or 'Why is he going after the wealthiest?' Look, because I've been fortunate and people bought a bunch of my books, I'm in that category now. And in a perfect world with unlimited resources, nobody would have to pay any taxes. That's not the world we live in. We live in a world where we've got to make choices. […]

"This is a matter of priorities. And it's a matter of shared sacrifice. And, by the way, if you ask most wealthy Americans, they'll tell you they're willing to do more. They're willing to do their fair share to help this country that they love." [emphasis added]

As it turns out, Obama's assessment is accurate. Warren Buffett isn't the only rich guy willing to pay more in taxes.

A new survey from Spectrem Group found that 68% of millionaires (those with investments of $1 million or more) support raising taxes on those with $1 million or more in income. Fully 61% of those with net worths of $5 million or more support the tax on million-plus earners. […]

Explains George Walper of Spectrem: "What this tells us is that there are a number of wealthy folks who said: 'Gee, we need to increase taxes to stimulate the economy. No one likes to be taxed more, but the reality is maybe it has to be done.'"

Ordinarily, this is about the time that Republicans start arguing that if some wealthy Americans want to pay more, they should just pick up their checkbooks and voluntarily contribute more to the treasury. No need to change tax rates, the right argues, when the government will just accept donations.

[...]

============================================================

Voluntary donations would result in the greedy who don't donate being better off than the decent folk.

jonboinAR
Patricia Shannon... If they were really willing, nay eager, to pay more in taxes in support of the common good, would it not make sense that they would invest some of that money in commonly beneficial ways, say, start up wind energy companies or make interest-free loans to ordinary Americans who wish to make their homes more energy efficient, stuff like that? I mean what's stopping them, some sort of psychological deterrent? They just can't put money into what might not be the most lucrative investment? "PLEASE! Take it from me before I invest it overseas!?
jonboinAR
Bill Jefferys... I'm not quite understanding something. Supposedly we need the government to invest/spend in areas that private business refuses to because it's not currently lucrative or completely safe to do so in a big way. I picked out green technology as an example. I assumed that Warren Buffett and them find some agreement with that thought when they call for their taxes to be raised. So I was thinking, if WB is feeling altruistic, why not just invest in these things himself and put people to work producing wind mills or solar panels, even if it's at a loss? Maybe I'm wrong, reasoning too far. WB may just be concerned about mounting debt and tax liability equity stuff when he calls for his taxes to be raised. I probably stayed up too late.
reason
Patricia Shannon... "Voluntary donations would result in the greedy who don't donate being better off than the decent folk."

Maybe not - lots of the greedy donate money to think tanks and lobbyists to - reduce taxes on the rich.

Fred C. Dobbs
Obviously, with interest practically at zero, there is almost a compulsion (for guv'mint at least) to borrow money. Since PEOPLE won't necessarily lend it (ought not to, really), then governments will just print it. There is no incentive to save, but a sort of compulsion remains.

This does not seem like a situation too healthy in the long run. But in the long run, we're all dead, so let's just get on with it.

Someday, we'll look back fondly to that ancient era when annual debt-interest payments weren't 25% of the annual budget. But we're not there yet, are we? Gather ye rosebuds, while ye may.

Fred C. Dobbs
Fred C. Dobbs... Perhaps interest rates ought to be set by the market & not by the Fed. Just sayin' - but this happens to be something Ron Paul advocates, so it's not necessarily a good idea.
Min
Fred C. Dobbs... Ron Paul is a likeable guy. Unfortunately, he has elevated the market to demi-god status. The Market giveth and the Market taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Market.
EMichael
Min... Ron Paul is a sociopath, not a likable guy.

He thinks it is 1776, and he can make sure people receive HC by incouraging churches to supply it.(among other things).

Darryl FKA Ron
EMichael... Ron Paul is vertically challenged. So was Milton Friedman. So was Noam Chomsky. Little rat terriers will do anything to get some attention.
EMichael
Darryl FKA Ron... He's short, too?

Didn't know that.

:)

Darryl FKA Ron
EMichael... Ron Paul fits the clinical defintion of short better than the clinical definition of sociopath. Neither trait makes one trustworthy :<)
Fred C. Dobbs
Darryl FKA Ron... Ron Paul this & Ron Paul that...

What about letting the market set interest rates?

Get us back to some decent savings interest rates, not seen since the glory day of the Carter era.

Darryl FKA Ron
Fred C. Dobbs... How about letting the market settle FOREX rates? Interest rates are a tool of monetary policy. FOREX rates are a tool of international economic exploitation. With modern techonology we could implement a real time Bretton Woods. However, we would probably need to also have international agreements on the elimination of holding foreign reserves, controls on DFI, and outlaw all off central exchange currency trades.

Ron Paul is simpler in many ways.

Darryl FKA Ron
Fred C. Dobbs... Besides, the market already does set almost all interest already. The Fed just buys up bonds to manipulate the price up (i.e., lower rates). The only rate the Fed actually controls is the Fed Funds overnight lending rate. That in turn forms most of the basis for the Banks to set their short business "prime" rate. Other rates are set by supply and demand with the Fed placing its big fat thumb on bond demand.
Darryl FKA Ron
Fred C. Dobbs... So, do you want to end the Fed like Ron Paul, who really does not want to end the Fed's transfer clearing process, just it's monetary policy controls. That's just like you.
Fred C. Dobbs
Darryl FKA Ron... I want nothing to do with Ron Paul, really. But he still might be right about the rates.

Does the Fed have to do it's thing always by fiddling the rates ever lower?

And I have always thought that the idea of digging money out of the ground has a certain loony appeal.

[Oct 13, 2011] Liquid modernity, solid elites

Asia Times Online

It's 1968 all over again
Italy - in all its trademark aesthetically pleasant complexity is so absorbing it's easy to make you forget about the rest of the world. Well, the New York Times didn't have this excuse when it ignored Occupy Wall Street - happening in its hometown for days. But now the whole world is watching, as Occupy Wall Street is fast becoming a US-wide national movement.

And as much as those representing 99% of the American population - peaceful, harmless rejects of liquid modernity are mad as hell and don't feel inclined to take it anymore, predictably the solid elites still don't have a clue about what's goin' on.

But make no mistake; fear is starting to eat their souls. It's visible in the way politicians and their corporate media shills deride the protesters as a "stagnant movement", a bunch of "nuts" or worse, "criminals".

Do these faces strike you as "criminal"?

In an interview with RT, world-system expert Immanuel Wallerstein stressed, "we've been living in the wake of 1968 ever since, everywhere." (See here). Yes, Occupy Wall Street is a grandson of May 1968, as in "be realist, demand the impossible".

So it was no surprise that none other than the Elvis of philosophy, Slovenian grandmaster Slavoj Zizek, an intellectual child of May 1968, stepped out in the open at New York's Tahrir Square this past Sunday to lay down the (new) law. At our lunch Gallo and myself also talked about Zizek; we had commented on how he's one of the few public intellectuals who still makes us laugh - and think.

Zizek said, "We are not communists, if communism means the system which collapsed in 1990. Remember that today communists are the most efficient, ruthless capitalists. In China today, we have capitalism, which is even more dynamic than your American capitalism, but doesn't need democracy, which means when you criticize capitalism, don't allow yourself to be blackmailed that you are against democracy. The marriage between democracy and capitalism is over."

To complement this conceptual Hellfire missile, Zizek added, "the only sense in which we are communists is that we care for the commons. The commons of nature; the commons of what is privatized by intellectual property; the commons of biogenetics. For this and only for this we should fight. Communism failed absolutely. But the problems of the commons are here.

They are telling you we are not Americans here. But the conservative fundamentalists who claim they are really American have to be reminded of something. What is Christianity? It's the holy spirit. What is the holy spirit? It's an egalitarian community of believers who are linked by love for each other, and who only have their freedom and responsibility to do it. In this sense, the holy spirit is here now and down there on Wall Street there are pagans worshiping blasphemous idols. So all we need is patience."

How's that for realists demanding the impossible, for rejects of liquid modernity exposing the lies and crimes of solid elites? I could not help being moved by this Florence-New York connection; the birth - perhaps - of a new humanism? The seeds of our neo-Renaissance?

[Oct 13, 2011] Cloud over Wall Street By Martin Hutchinson

First, there is a demand for deposit taking institutions to be mutualized, so that being owned by their depositors they could not engage in risky speculative activity. This to me has considerable merit; it would turn banks into mutual associations like the pre-1985 British building societies, entities that did their job well for over a century.
Asia Times Online

It's thus worth examining the inchoate demands of the "Occupy Wall Street" crowd to see what today's young businessmen and capitalists may have to deal with in their middle age.

The protesters have not published a manifesto detailing their requests; in this they are similar to the mob that stormed the Bastille in 1789 and the 1968 rebels, and unlike the American revolutionaries or the modern Tea Party. However like all modern movements, they have a website, which has a 50-page "Discussion Forum". By trolling through that, one can come up with themes common to several groups, some of which are obvious and some of which represent genuinely new lines of attack.

There is first a list of demands that have been put up for voting. These include a return to Glass-Steagall, the 1933 legislation separating commercial and investment banking, abolished in 1999. This will either happen or not happen in years to come; it in any case represents a backward-looking and very moderate demand that seems unlikely to form the nexus of a future revolution.

Similarly, demands to enforce President Barack Obama's "Buffett Rule" (which would prevent millionaires from paying less tax than their secretaries), for better funding of the Securities and Exchange Commission, limitations on lobbyists, and a reversal of the Supreme Court's "Citizens United" decision allowing corporate political contributions could all form part of the next Democratic Party platform.

Equally uninteresting are demands to prosecute "Wall Street criminals" - this was done after Enron, with the unfortunate CEO Jeff Skilling receiving a 25-year sentence; it may have satisfied the left, but it's not what I call justice. Free college education (like all lobbies, the Occupy Wall Street crowd have favorite government subsidies), the end of the war on drugs, an end to capital punishment and limits to lobbyists are likewise perennial and utopian wishes rather than representing substantive change.

A more interesting demand is for congress to repurchase the Federal Reserve for the $1 billion with which it was capitalized in 1913 and abolish its independence. There's a certain amount of overlap here with Ron Paul and the Tea Party, although this crowd seem to think Fed policy is too tight rather than too loose - presumably their ideal Fed chairman would have been the Weimar Republic's Rudolf von Havenstein.

There are however two common themes which are new, have substance and potentially could resonate through public life in the decades to come. First, there is a demand for deposit taking institutions to be mutualized, so that being owned by their depositors they could not engage in risky speculative activity. This to me has considerable merit; it would turn banks into mutual associations like the pre-1985 British building societies, entities that did their job well for over a century.

It essentially reverses the modern concept of a bank as an institution that lends money to people and reverts to the 19th century idea of a bank's main function being to safeguard its depositors' funds. With this structure, we would no longer need deposit insurance, since depositors would have the ability to control bank management directly. Bank management would return to being modestly paid Jimmy-Stewart-like custodians of their clients' money, another major improvement over current arrangements.

Of course, corporate finance, venture capital and even some derivatives operations would still be necessary, but they would be carried out by institutions that did not take deposits. Overall, I could support this reform, provided sensible people got to draft the legislation (a tall order).

The other theme of the "Occupy Wall Street" protesters is a call from a substantial minority of them for a "resource based economy". This was a new phrase to me, but with the assistance of the invaluable Google and Wikipedia, I was able to track it down to the thinking of a modestly fashionable nonagenarian guru, Jacque Fresco.

As with Karl Marx, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the 1960s thinker Herbert Marcuse (who said "Liberating tolerance means intolerance of movements from the right and toleration of movements from the left"), I have a nasty suspicion Fresco's bad ideas will be with us for many generations to come.

[Oct 10, 2011] Occupy Wall Street's Nattering Nabobs of Negativity

Yahoo! Finance

There are a lot of whackos in the movement but if you look beyond the fringe there's also a lot of people just like you and me: Working class and college-educated people who have a stake in the system but feel the playing field has been titled way too far in favor of the wealthiest Americans and their corporate brethren.

One critique of the protest is it lacks a unified message or mission. Indeed, in my reporting I found evidence of people supporting any number of issues, including:

So, sure, maybe the Occupy Wall Street movement is a bit unclear in its views and lacks leadership. But to those who mock the protesters, I have to ask: What exactly is it that you're defending? Crony capitalism? Bank bailouts? Rising income inequality and the slow death of the American dream?

To everyone out there dismissing the Occupy Wall Street movement, I say it's time we stop, and say 'hey what's that sound'
everybody look what's goin' down.

In the meantime, and For What It's Worth, the movement's deniers have been Taken to Task.

Aaron Task is the host of The Daily Ticker. You can follow him on Twitter at @atask or email him at altask@yahoo.com

[Oct 10, 2011] Chicago's 'Occupy' Protest

WSJ.com

CHICAGO—The local spin-off of the Occupy Wall Street protests born in Manhattan released 12 proposed demands during the weekend, some of the first specifics to emerge from collection of groups that have sprung up in recent weeks across the U.S.

The Chicago spinoff of the "Occupy Wall Street" protests released a list of proposed demands this weekend, in what appears to be the first time any affiliate of the movement has adopted a specific platform. WSJ's Jack Nicas reports. .Occupy Chicago, an independent group inspired by the New York protests, which take aim at corporations and the wealthy, appear to be the first in the movement to adopt official demands: Repeal the Bush tax cuts and prosecute "Wall Street criminals." At an open meeting Saturday in downtown Chicago, nine-tenths of the nearly 300 present voted to adopt those demands.

This week, the group plans to vote on other proposed demands, which include giving the Securities and Exchange Commission more regulatory power, forgiving student debt, reforming campaign-finance law and enacting the so-called Buffett Rule, a White House proposal to prevent millionaires from paying lower tax rates than middle-class Americans.

Occupy Wall Street has taken flak for not announcing specific demands in a protest that has engulfed sections of lower Manhattan and is now entering its fourth week. Bill Dobbs, a member of the Occupy Wall Street press committee, said he doesn't know of plans to adopt specific demands.

"I mean, I've got my own set of demands," he said. But "all our energy is going to ringing the alarm bells about economic conditions in this country."

Evelyn DeHais of Occupy Chicago said it became clear in early meetings that policy reform would be a part of the protests here.

More 'Leaderless' Group Organizes ."People wanted to talk about what real change can be made," said Ms. DeHais, who, with 20 others, condensed hundreds of suggestions from protesters into the group's proposed list of 12. She said she disagrees with some of the demands, "but that's the point. It's not about what one person believes. It's making sure the entire group is being spoken for."

Mr. Dobbs said his group isn't formally affiliated with the hundreds of copycat protests that have sprouted across the nation, "but we're really happy people are protesting.…There's mutual respect with our brothers and sisters in Chicago."

Occupy Seattle has posted 52 proposed demands on its website, asking people to vote on each. The proposals are less specific than Occupy Chicago's, such as "tax the rich and big business." Some are more radical, such as "nationalize the banks."

Other lists of proposed demands have circulated on the Internet, but none appear to have formal ties to the Occupy protest groups.

In Chicago, where protesters have occupied the sidewalks outside the Federal Reserve Bank for 17 days, the protests gained momentum during the weekend. The Rev. Jesse Jackson spoke at a Friday night meeting, and hundreds turned out for marches through downtown Saturday in conjunction with a long-planned anti-war protest.

[Oct 09, 2011] Reich: The Wall Street Occupiers and the Democratic Party

Robert Reich argues that Democrats will have trouble embracing the populist goals of Occupy Wall Street. Why? Just "follow the money, and remember history":

The Wall Street Occupiers and the Democratic Party, by Robert Reich: Will the Wall Street Occupiers morph into a movement that has as much impact on the Democratic Party as the Tea Party has had on the GOP? Maybe. But there are reasons for doubting it. ...

So far the Wall Street Occupiers have helped the Democratic Party. Their inchoate demand that the rich pay their fair share is tailor-made for the Democrats... But if Occupy Wall Street coalesces into something like a real movement, the Democratic Party may have more difficulty digesting it than the GOP has had with the Tea Party.

After all, a big share of both parties' campaign funds comes from the Street and corporate board rooms. The Street and corporate America also have hordes of public-relations flacks and armies of lobbyists to do their bidding – not to mention the unfathomably deep pockets of the Koch Brothers and Dick Armey's and Karl Rove's SuperPACs. Even if the Occupiers have access to some union money, it's hardly a match.

Yet the real difficulty lies deeper. A little history is helpful here.

In the early decades of the twentieth century, the Democratic Party had no trouble embracing economic populism. It charged the large industrial concentrations of the era – the trusts – with stifling the economy and poisoning democracy. In the 1912 campaign Woodrow Wilson promised to wage "a crusade against powers that have governed us … that have limited our development … that have determined our lives … that have set us in a straightjacket to so as they please." The struggle to break up the trusts would be, in Wilson's words, nothing less than a "second struggle for emancipation."

Wilson lived up to his words – signing into law the Clayton Antitrust Act..., establishing the Federal Trade Commission (to root out "unfair acts and practices in commerce"), and creating the first national income tax.

Years later Franklin D. Roosevelt attacked corporate and financial power by giving workers the right to unionize, the 40-hour workweek, unemployment insurance, and Social Security. FDR also instituted a high marginal income tax on the wealthy. ...

By the 1960s, though, the Democratic Party had given up on populism. Gone from presidential campaigns were tales of greedy businessmen and unscrupulous financiers. This was partly because the economy had changed profoundly. Postwar prosperity grew the middle class and reduced the gap between rich and poor. By the mid-1950s, a third of all private-sector employees were unionized, and blue-collar workers got generous wage and benefit increases.

By then Keynesianism had become a widely-accepted antidote to economic downturns – substituting the management of aggregate demand for class antagonism. ... Who needed economic populism when fiscal and monetary policy could even out the business cycle, and the rewards of growth were so widely distributed?

But there was another reason for the Democrats' increasing unease with populism. The Vietnam War spawned an anti-establishment and anti-authoritarian New Left that distrusted government as much if not more than it distrusted Wall Street and big business. Richard Nixon's electoral victory in 1968 was accompanied by a deep rift between liberal Democrats and the New Left, which continued for decades.

Enter Ronald Reagan, master storyteller, who jumped into the populist breach. If Reagan didn't invent right-wing populism in America he at least gave it full-throttled voice. "Government is the problem, not the solution," he intoned, over and over again. In Reagan's view, Washington insiders and arrogant bureaucrats stifled the economy and hobbled individual achievement.

The Democratic Party never regained its populist footing. ...

Which brings us to the present day. Barack Obama is many things but he is as far from left-wing populism as any Democratic president in modern history. True, he once had the temerity to berate "fat cats" on Wall Street, but that remark was the exception – and subsequently caused him endless problems on the Street.

To the contrary, Obama has been extraordinarily solicitous of Wall Street and big business – making Timothy Geithner Treasury Secretary and de facto ambassador from the Street; seeing to it that Bush's Fed appointee, Ben Bernanke, got another term; and appointing GE Chair Jeffrey Immelt to head his jobs council.

Most tellingly, it was President Obama's unwillingness to place conditions on the bailout of Wall Street – not demanding, for example, that the banks reorganize the mortgages of distressed homeowners ... as conditions for getting hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars – that contributed to the new populist insurrection. ...

This is not to say that the Occupiers can have no impact on the Democrats. ... Pressure from the left is critically important. But the modern Democratic Party is not likely to embrace left-wing populism the way the GOP has embraced – or, more accurately, been forced to embrace – right-wing populism. Just follow the money, and remember history.

Nothing will change until the interests of the powerful are threatened -- they won't give in until populist demands are the lesser of two evils. In the aftermath of the Great Depression, the fear that capitalism would be replaced by something much worse for business contributed to the acquiescence of the powerful to reform that stripped away some of their power and benefited the working class. But what threats do the powerful face now that would cause them to embrace reform as better than the alternative? Is there anything that makes reversing growing inequality, reducing the political power of the wealthy, and changing the view that the system is rigged in favor of the few the best political choice for those who have the most political influence? So far, I don't think there is -- we see pictures on the news of people on Wall Street sipping champagne and enjoying the show with no signs they feel threatened rather than amused -- and there is little sign so far that Democrats believe their reelection chances hinge on embracing this movement (and if this starts to happen, the powerful will do their best to undermine the movement with hippie bashing -- which has already started -- and other attempts to strip the movement of its ability to bring about change).

The powerful aren't going to worry about you, they, of course got where they are with hard work, brains, skill, etc., not a rigged system, family connections, inheritance, the Harvard buddy system, etc. If you weren't as talented as they are, that's your problem. But they will worry about themselves, and if their interests are threatened they'll demand change. Thus, the key will be to make the change the working class needs the only acceptable choice for the powerful, and as I see it we are still (unfortunately) quite a ways from that goal.

Julio:

Mark Thoma says: "The powerful aren't going to worry about you, they, of course got where they are with hard work, brains, skill, etc., not a rigged system, family connections, inheritance, the Harvard buddy system, etc. If you weren't as talented as they are, that's your problem. But they will worry about themselves, and if their interests are threatened they'll demand change. Thus, the key will be to make the change the working class needs the only acceptable choice for the powerful, and as I see it we are still (unfortunately) quite a ways from that goal."

This suggests that we need to wait until the powerful demand change. I don't see how that's going to happen. This is not the Vietnam demonstrations, where convincing a majority of the people was enough to win. Leaving Vietnam did not threaten the uberrich (and they were in any case less powerful than they are now).

Fairer distribution, and especially a government that enforces it, does threaten them. The powerful will demand repression, and get it.

The only peaceful way I see to move forward is to challenge Democratic incumbents from the left, and threaten to stay home if the Democratic candidate is just the lesser evil. I think that's how the Tea Party got its influence in the Republican party -- Democrats can learn from those tactics.

lineup:

The Vietnam War was popular until the middle class college grads were drafted and sent home wounded and killed in large numbers for a reminder 50K killed and 500K wounded, no small number and it has changed the way America goes about military adventures so massive public protest does impact public policy. The issue today is that the American consumer has been over promised from the house in the burbs with never ending refi's and kitchen remodels to that shinny new car and various electronic appliances. The idea that Obama or Bush or Clinton should be responsible for finding every American who wants a high paying job that what they desire seems magical thinking or wishful thinking.

[Oct 08, 2011] "The President Who Became an Actor": And This Year's Oscar Goes To… Barack Obama

If Ronald Reagan was known as the actor who became a president, then perhaps Barack Obama should become known as the president who became an actor.

For every facial movement evinced, every gesture of the hand, every word enunciated by the 44th president turns out to be a complete charade.

This is the guy who ran for the presidency presenting himself before the US nation, hand on heart, as the candidate who would end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; end the killing of civilians in those countries; and the brutalizing of young American men. Two years on, Obama has donned the costume of US commander-in-chief with ever-frightening zeal. Far from ending the wars, Obama has not only ramped up America's foreign wars of aggression, he has expanded them into new territories, including Pakistan, Libya and East Africa, adding countless more innocent lives to Washington's global death toll.

This is the guy who promised to close the American gulag of Guantanamo Bay where hundreds of men have been rendered by kidnapping from various parts of the world, tortured and held without trial, not one of them convicted. Two years on, promise broken. US rendition and torture is still standard practice, a fact to which American soldier Bradley Manning can testify simply because he showed the moral courage to tell the truth about such US crimes against humanity.

This is the guy who promised with unctuous sincerity to make a new beginning in US foreign policy, to respect universal human rights. "Universal human rights begin in the lives of each and every individual," he intoned with his by-now clichéd solemn voice and face. Two years on, US foreign policy has even less regard for human rights both abroad and at home. In Gaza, the world's largest outdoor concentration camp besieged by the US-fuelled Israeli war machine, Obama's rhetoric on respecting the rights of human beings stands as a grotesque mockery. Elsewhere in the Muslim world, this guy is seen as the genial peacemaker who let his mask slip to reveal an ugly warmongering face like all his other predecessors.

This is the guy who pretends to offer the best deal to the US public over the budget deficit by gallantly fending off Republican axemen. "I won't slash you by $6 trillion, I'll only slash you by $4 trilllion," to paraphrase his fake logic. As if this is a benign alternative that the American people just can't refuse. So the guy who once upon a time supposedly broke his heart over Chicago's inner-city poor will now unleash massive austerity on many more of America's poor and ground-down working class, by slashing $4 trillion worth of Medicaid and Medicare, public education, social welfare and jobs. Nowhere does our supposed chivalrous and cerebral hero Obama appear to be able or willing to think outside the box in which the corporate aristocracy has entombed their political vampires on Capitol Hill. How about ending the trillion-dollar wars he was supposed to end? Or re-appropriating the trillions of dollars that he lavished on the banksters? Or reversing tax breaks for the already obscenely wealthy. These alternatives would make a lot more economic sense, justice and peace than Obama's attack on the very people who voted him in to make a change.

Above all, this is the guy who has shown that he can lie with a pious face, smile sweetly when he refers to murdering innocent people with aerial drones, and can almost bring a tear to the eye when he talks about "not being able to ignore humanitarian values in Libya" [while then proceeding to oversee the bombing of civilians in that country and in the same breath not giving a pause to murder of civilians by a US ally in Bahrain].

So at the next Oscar ceremony, a special category should be opened for Barack Obama, the acting president of the USA. He can then hang that along with his Nobel peace prize – which, come to think of it, could also be nominated for "funniest screenplay ever".

[Oct 08, 2011] Managed Democracy in Russia Unmasking the Magic The Kremlin Stooge

hoct:
There is no actual democracy anywhere. If the public had greater influence on state policy in Russia there would actually be more Russian economic nationalism as well as a more hard-line foreign policy. Fetishization of democracy is laughable and tiresome. Russia is either stepping in place or liberalizing slightly, but the US is clearly becoming more and more illiberal. Finally if it were not democracy it would be something else.

The fault of Russia is not that it is not democratic enough, but that it is independent. Unlike (virtually) all the other Eastern European countries it is not interested in Western tutelage, but acts with the self-confidence befitting a bearer of a distinct (sub-)civilization and is therefore content to carve its own path. No wonder then this should fill the minds of Western intellectual types with terror, when in their mindset the role of Eastern Europe is as the internal foil to the refined, rational and developed West. Any Eastern European country that does not accept to copy the West is therefore doing something primitive, wild and barbarian by default.

Hysteria of the Western press isn't about democracy in Russia. It is about the need of Westerners for constant self-congratulation. At present this need demands they believe three things. One, they have democracy. Two, democracy is better than having hot steaming sex with Carmen Electra and more important than eating your breakfast. Three, the Russians (barbarians) don't have democracy. They're obviously wrong on at least two of their points, but you can't argue with articles of faith.

[Oct 07, 2011] The Backlash Right-Wing Radicals, High-Def Hucksters, and Paranoid Politics in the Age of Obama (9780061991714) Will Bunch Books

An entire class of American citizens whose fear over a changing country has led them to some irrational, paranoid beliefs.

Amazon.com

Susan E. Madrak: It's A Detective Novel About The Tea Party Movement, September 7, 2010

Will Bunch has an agreeable knack for writing about people's beliefs without attacking them personally. His friendly style is a pleasure to read, and the book reminded me favorably of Jess Walters' book about Ruby Ridge, which managed to convey the heartbreaking tragedy of Ruby Ridge -- without canonizing any of the participants.

This is about another kind of tragedy: An entire class of American citizens whose fear over a changing country has led them to some irrational, paranoid beliefs. Bunch manages to make these people likable and engaging -- without giving an inch on the glaring factual inaccuracies of their attacks.

I especially enjoyed the chronological structure of the book, because it reads almost like a detective novel. Who are these people? Why do they hate the President? What are they so afraid of? By the time you get done reading "The Backlash," you'll have a much better idea. Highly recommended.

Kelly Cooper: A Portrait of Reactionism, September 22, 2010

Will Bunch has written a decent piece of investigative journalism that covers large swaths of terrain already familiar to most political junkies. Even so, to read his book is instructive. Much of his effort is expended in trying to answer the question of why so many Americans have become acolytes of Glenn Beck and his hokey brand of libertarian politics. It turns out to be a more difficult task than one might expect. To begin with, many of those who self-identify with the "Tea Party" say that they are motivated by existential threats that are impossible to substantiate. Wading through the clutches of conspiracy theorists and profiteers of the apocalypse that populate the right-wing fringe, Bunch ultimately reaches some predictably pedestrian conclusions: people are motivated by fear and uncertainty, and their prophets are driven by profit.

Even though Bunch is an avowed progressive, he does a fairly decent job of presenting his case in a relatively objective and straightforward manner. Oddly, as someone who is more sympathetic to liberal ideology generally, by the time I finished the book I found myself less alarmed by the rise of Tea Party activism than I had been previously. Perhaps I'm naturally sympathetic to those who find themselves on the political fringe; which, incidentally, is an impulse manipulated to great advantage by those tasked with bringing fresh recruits into anti-government, anti-elitist, and anti-establishment movements. Mine is, to be sure, a sympathy for the underdog. Even as Bunch desperately tries to convey a sense of import in all this Tea Partying, the unmistakable and lasting impression is that this is a party of outliers and disgruntled misfits who mainly serve the purposes of those who are in the business of selling fear.

The almost inevitable obsolescence of the backlash against the Obama administration assumes a kind of omnipresence throughout the book, as Bunch relentlessly references the demographics involved: senior citizens, the unemployed, old school social conservatives, white people, more senior citizens, etc.

The available polling data indicates that, over the long term, traditional liberal values and classic freethinking are shaping the country's political future (i.e., increasingly open-minded attitudes towards homosexuality, non-theism, anti-xenophobic immigration policy, health-care reform, environmental law, the rights of women and children, etc.); meanwhile, the expanding Latino population and the social values of younger generations of Americans are threatening to swamp the old political worldview of which "The Backlash" appears to be but a vestigial polyp.

Viewed in this light, its hard not to feel some sympathy for the those who insist on haplessly protesting modernity.

Steven Daedalus: A Not-So-Silent Minority., May 15, 2011

Will Bunch has put a lot of effort into the 348 pages of this book. A good journalist, he doesn't start with high-falutin' theories or airy generalizations. Notebook in hand, he takes a reporter's bottom-up approach to the subject of the recent explosive reaction on the right to the election of Barack Obama as President of the United States.

The chapters are logically organized. After an introduction, he covers several Tea-Party-inspired groups and lets us know the character and personal histories of some of the people involved, the rank and file as well as the leaders.

He begins with a 2009 town hall meeting of a seventy-year-old establishment Republican Congressman, Mike Castle, of lower Delaware, and the moment when an unidentified middle-aged woman stands up and demands to know where Barack Obama's birth certificate is. The startled Castle hesitates as whoops of approval sweep through the audience.

That moment is emblematic of what is to come -- for Castle, for Obama, for the Tea Party and its ilk, for the Republicans and Democrats, and for the country as a whole. It's like the 60s all over again except that this time the anti-government sentiment is founded not on a few genuine issues like an unpopular war and civil rights, but on fantasies that drift around in the ether, insubstantial and sometimes delusional, and boosted by the profit motive and the immediate impact of electronic media undreamed of in the 1960s.

Bunch covers the gun aficionados who gather at Knob Creek in Appalachia and shoot old cars and refrigerators full of holes with .50 caliber guns while angrily describing the government's plans to confiscate all weapons from its citizens. Then he goes on in other chapters to cover similar subjects, like health care reform, and Arizona's movement to combat its influx of aliens -- and the pickle this put John McCain into. No chapter deals with the widespread belief that Obama is forcing a kind of socialism onto America, if only because every chapter deals with it.

The end result is a snapshot of a loosely integrated social movement that is, as a scientist once described the English Society of Psychical Research, "a mixture of folly and pathos."

Nobody in his right mind will wind up hating the people described in these chapters. Certainly Will Bunch doesn't. "I want to make it clear that in speaking with dozens of activists in Tea Party and related groups like the Oath Keepers or the 9-12 Project, I always tried to report fairly, to listen to what people had to say, and to report their words and their actions accurately. . . . We should always strive to see the humanity -- even in those we profoundly disagree with. Several activisists in the Tea Party movement were very generous with their time . . . and I am truly grateful. (Some) welcomed me in their home."

That quote is from Bunch's "Acknowledgements" and he means it. Even a politically motivated multiple murderer and his family are defined partly by their circumstances. Bunch is no bleeding heart humanist, though, and it's clear that he considers some of the beliefs a kind of collective derangement. And he's disgusted by what he sees as the obvious manipulation of the movement by those who are out to exploit it. Someone is already hawking tiny tea bag charms that are patented trademarks or something. He nails some of these weasels in the chapter titled "The Nashville Predators." Glenn Beck is compared throughout, explicitly or otherwise, to Orson Welles scaring the daylights out of the listening public during his Halloween' broadcast of "The War of the Worlds" in 1939.

I don't know that there is much that is new here, beyond the historical details and the description of some of the more obscure personalities. These are frightened people whose world is being invaded by aliens from Mars, marching inexorably across the land, killing everyone in their paths, destroying civilization. The backgrounds of these people are varied but the majority are over fifty, retired or underemployed, not highly educated, and white. Their terror has led to outrage, even though the sources of that terror may not exist.

That brings me to another consideration. There are occasional statistics in the text but I wish, in a way, the approach had amounted to more than a series of case studies leading to rather patent conclusions. That connection between "terror and rage," for example. These are two primitive and unmodulated emotions that are largely governed by an old part of the brain called the amygdala.

Charles Whitman, the mass killer at the University of Texas in the 60s, asked that his brain be examined after his death to see if there was a "tumor." There was, and it was nudging his amygdala. The amygdala was found in some recent studies to be larger in self-identified "conservatives" than in "liberals." It's the familiar "fight or flight" response, and when you're awash in a sea of threatening symbols, "flight" isn't a viable option. When you're forty-five and have just been laid off from the only job you've ever had, how do you flee?

Well, I don't want to go on about this. I don't mean to attribute the Tea Party movement to an excess of a particular neural knot. And there isn't space to cover much more of the book's contents either. But I wish someone would take up where Bunch left off and give us more substantial generalizations about the causes of these crazes. They occur with alarming regularity on both ends of the political spectrum.

As it is, Bunch hasn't left us with much in the way of references. During the Nashville convention -- the one that sold genuine patented Tea Party trinkets for outrageous prices -- Bunch writes "24 percent of Republicans will say in a survey that Obama is the Antichrist." Bunch was right, except that they say he MAY be the Antichrist. That was in March, 2010. It was a pretty shocking claim, and I was compelled to check it. Bunch doesn't provide footnotes but he gives a a web address for the book's end notes, which are usually just as good. The web address led to a blog that mentioned nothing about Bunch's book or its end notes, though I had little trouble looking up the survey results through Google. (At Live Science.)

The impression the book leaves -- at least with me -- is that these people are so frightened and so angry that they're about to pop like a zit. In my case, I was more curious than angry, but like the Tea Party people I was also scared as hell. All it takes is one.

James D. ODell: When Brave New Worlds Collide, February 14, 2011

"All that has happened is that the public has adjusted to incoherence and been amused into indifference" (Neil Postman, 1985). While that applies readily to society, today, it merely scratches the surface of the cultural cataclism that we have inflicted on ourselves, a collision of world views that formerly moved about in relative harmony before the Information Age knocked them out of orbit and into one another, a virtual chain reaction that threatens to atomize every ideal we associate with democracy.

Contrasting with advanced sophistication in communication technology, there is little substance in transmission. Dropped into an empty oil drum, a lead pellet masquerades as a cannon ball. Bubble-headed bombast is taken as brilliance. Differences, innocent, ordinary and old as dirt, are portrayed as posing a greater threat to national well-being than the latest strain of flu bug. "They're not like us."

The bizarre thing about all this is that we have known since the establishment of the nation how remarkably diverse we are. Indeed, there was a time, not so long ago, in relative terms, that we considered that a source of strength, not of weakness. We celebrated it as the core of national history, "From the one, many; from the many, one."

Reporting on an extensive search for meaning in the madness, Will Bunch offers valuable insight into the minds and hearts of people disturbed by changes they see as the result of a deliberate and concerted effort to destroy their way of life. It does not appear to have occurred to them that, sometimes, regardless of who sits in the White House, or the backhouse, "stuff happens." It happens on TV. Actors discuss the nuances of plots, taking a leak on camera. Nothing is sacred in la la land.

"Socialized medicine!" HMOs denied access to doctors and procedures for years before anyone bellowed about "death panels." Granted, there are myriad things that go on out of sight, beyond our control. And that, the author posits, may be what the fuss is all about, the sense that we have no real say in the things that affect us, promoting distrust of authority, and otherwise feeding a phobia of almost everything.

Think this to be unprecedented? The rancor and wrangling that plagued the Constitutional Convention of 1787 pales in comparison with the hoohah over ratification that followed, covered superbly by Pauline Maier in her hefty book on the subject. While some readers have attempted to draw a parallel between the mood in the country then and today, what is clear, whenever we come together to discuss something, Americans display an incredible degree of discordance, seeking a path toward mutual understanding. Face to face, we see eye to eye, though rarely, as through a glass, but darkly. And the lens bears all the colors of the rainbow.

What is not clear, as Bunch muses, is what the U.S. Constitution has to do with the present unrest, in reality. As testament to the media that pumps life into it, there is substantial evidence that public protest has become immoderately marketable, funneling millions into the coffers of latter-day broadcast Barnums.

Beyond the benighted ballyhoo, Bunch reports, lies genuine unease over the uncertainty of modern life. So much change, and so fast. Or so it seems. Every generation has stretched to embrace unexpected challenges. However, for a portion of the population, it is as though the fabric of society has reached its limit--the elastic has given out. It's not easy being a small town in a small world in an expanding universe.

Small towns have been bypassed by shifting economies for generations. The one this writer grew up in has changed enormously, the principal employer, a prominent manufacturer, having moved operations overseas, over time, and with the usual impact on local trade. Buffeted in the backwash, castaways rail at the Ship of State, ineffectual at reeling in corporate greed, plus the unabated concentration of wealth at the top one-percent that offers no relief for cash-strapped states, counties, cities and towns. Big business operates on the principle of profit, not philanthropy. Who sells stock in highways, bridges and other essential infrastructure? None of which seems to matter to the people who argue that government is the problem, as Bunch discovers.

If the past, however pictured, beckons to the populist imagination, it may be because the present is a blur.

Thankfully, the author manages to bring it more fully into focus, with the caveat that much remains to be told. Perhaps, an expanded view may return the nation to the time-honored agreement to disagree, assuming that we can agree on what the disagreement is about.

Lucas Goldstein: Beneath the Doom and Gloom Lies Money, December 30, 2010

There are many things that connect us all, no matter where we live, what color we are and which God we believe in. One of the deepest and most integral of those connections is fear. We all have it, whether it's worrying about the spread of Communism, the shortage of scientific breakthroughs toward a cure for cancer, or maybe just late night jitters about the foul-smelling thing hiding underneath the bed. Most of it can be boiled down to a simple phrase, "fear of the other". While some fears can be debated and argued as being justified, the underlying problem with fear is that once someone or something knows what your fear is, it can be used against you as a weapon. People throughout history have made their livelihoods based on that fact alone and it is on proud display here in the present day inside the formation of the Tea Party movement and the outlandish opposition to Barack Obama.

The Backlash by Will Bunch is a well thought out and deeply researched journey into the heart of the fear that sprung forth like snakes-in-a-can upon the inauguration of our new President. While many progressives and liberals clamor from the sideline, poking fun at the Tea Party and their growing membership, Bunch takes the honorable mission of tracing the movement to some of its more humble beginnings and the people actually at the ground level. What he discovers is real people with real fears who are being co-opted by big business and private interests in order to stop the change promised by the new administration.

One of the first things most people were introduced to when they saw the Tea Party crash onto the political scene was their fascination and fervor for protest signs and costumes. While this might have increased their news coverage, it also quickly devalued their message. From the subtle to the incredibly overt, racist slogans and imagery littered the reports of the fledgling movement giving an overall impression that everyone involved had the same color-coded mission, to purify the White House, and by extension, the country as a whole. On one side of the cable news spectrum (MSNBC, CNN, BBC, etc...) the Tea Party was characterized as rednecks that time had obviously left behind, while the other side (championed by Fox News) raised them onto the pedestal of patriots and grassroots revolution hailed as "real America". The problem here is that neither description is true, but labels are sticky and even removed they can leave a nasty residue behind.

Another factor behind the proliferation of the "real America" illusion was those pundits and political commentators who saw the Tea Party as the lightning-in-a-bottle moment they were waiting for. Once they grabbed onto the coattails of fear inside the Tea Party, people such as radio/TV/internet phenom Glenn Beck wove those coattails around and around into each other until the fear escalated into paranoia, which in the ratings world is a wonderful thing. Beck had actually boiled it down to a simple equation, the bumper-sticker solution to all the fear in the country:

"On his November 23, 2009 show, Beck went back again to the theme of a looming economic meltdown and recommended to his listeners what could just as well be a mantra of the right-wing movement in this new decade: "The 3 G system" of "God, Gold and Guns.""

Beck skyrocketed in popularity and influence, like many of the voices from the outer right-wing fringe, preying on the fears of people feeling like their country was forgetting about them. He wheeled out his chalkboard day after day, giving his viewers something familiar from their childhood, a symbol of learning which they all believed would never lie to them. Beck littered the surface of the chalkboard with various historical people and moments, drawing incredibly slippery and weak connections between them to prove any conspiracy theory he imagined that morning. Worse than that were those occasions where he blatantly misrepresented the views of historical figures to grant his own ideas more credence. Bunch illustrates that nicely in this section:

"Beck - and probably many of his listeners - would be turned off by many of the views of the real Thomas Paine. For one thing, while Beck has tried to argue that America's true roots lie in Christianity, the real Thomas Paine was a Deist who loathed organized religion, writing in "The Age of Reason" that all churches "appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit."

You can be sure that particular quote from Paine never graced the esteemed surface of Beck's chalkboard.

This is the thrust of Bunch's message, that much of the Tea Party is being towed along by puppeteers and plagiarizers, purposely mis-informing them to wean the money from their wallets and the devotion from their hearts. The fervent devotees of the Tea Party should not be written off as a joke, especially since some of them actually won seats in our government during the last election. They should be listened to, but filtered through a lens of mis-appropriated fear. If we do not try and understand where they are actually coming from, people like Beck and his cohorts will continue to wield them like a bludgeon against the wall of this country until its inevitable collapse.

The Backlash by Will Bunch is a staggeringly human look into the real fear behind the so-called grassroots revolution of the Tea Party and how it has been co-opted, controlled and ultimately, how it will be condemned.

[Oct 02, 2011] Amazon.com The Reactionary Mind Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin (9780199793747) Corey Robin Books

Late in life, William F. Buckley made a confession to Corey Robin. Capitalism is "boring," said the founding father of the American right. "Devoting your life to it," as conservatives do, "is horrifying if only because it's so repetitious. It's like sex." With this unlikely conversation began Robin's decade-long foray into the conservative mind. What is conservatism, and what's truly at stake for its proponents? If capitalism bores them, what excites them?

Tracing conservatism back to its roots in the reaction against the French Revolution, Robin argues that the right is fundamentally inspired by a hostility to emancipating the lower orders. Some conservatives endorse the free market, others oppose it. Some criticize the state, others celebrate it. Underlying these differences is the impulse to defend power and privilege against movements demanding freedom and equality.

Despite their opposition to these movements, conservatives favor a dynamic conception of politics and society--one that involves self-transformation, violence, and war. They are also highly adaptive to new challenges and circumstances. This partiality to violence and capacity for reinvention has been critical to their success.

Written by a keen, highly regarded observer of the contemporary political scene, The Reactionary Mind ranges widely, from Edmund Burke to Antonin Scalia, from John C. Calhoun to Ayn Rand. It advances the notion that all rightwing ideologies, from the eighteenth century through today, are historical improvisations on a theme: the felt experience of having power, seeing it threatened, and trying to win it back.

September

[Sep 27, 2011] Sorry Ralph Peters, Vladimir Putin Isn't Superhuman

See also in NYT Putin - Oh, What a Surprise! and interesting comments at Путин Какая неожиданность! ИноСМИ - Все, что достойно перевода
Forbes

Kievite:

I think Mark puts too much zeal trying to prove that Putin is just a regular politician. And that undermines his credibility.

A person who managed to move Russia in positive direction after Yeltsin gang raped Russia is a giant. I, for one, have had written Russia down in late 1990.

And problems that Russia faces now are immense. West definitely wants to weaken Russia. Also energy resources are finite and peak oil is not a hallucination. So any person that prevents the slide and first of all a slide in standard of living, in those circumstances is a political genius.

[Sep 27, 2011] The Return of Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin (and Why This is Bad News for Russia) By MARK ADOMANIS

The practical policy differences in the short and medium terms will be minor – Putin's economic "conservatism" has been blown vastly out of proportion by the Western media and Putin has, in the past, demonstrated extreme flexibility in the policies he has advanced. Putin has also recently gone out of his way to praise Pyotr Stolypin. Stolypin is a somewhat ambiguous figure, a man who did both quite awful things (violently and sadistically repressing the 1905 uprising and other anti-Tsarist political dissent) and quite forward-thinking and beneficial things (pro-market economic and land reforms), but someone who is nonetheless quite clearly on the "liberal/reform" spectrum of Russian history. This public embrace of a "great reformer," and other recent comments made to the media, suggests that Putin understands that some sort of drastic economic reforms are necessary to avoid stasis and to ensure the system's continued survival. In other words, while Putin might do a bit more populist posturing, there will not be a dramatic "reaction" against Medvedev's economic modernization: the partial privatizations of state corporations and the more aggressive courting of foreign investors will both continue apace.

But politics broadly understood is about far more than technocratic decision-making, and it is in the realm of image and perception that the real costs of Putin's decision to return to the presidency are to be found. From a PR standpoint, Putin's decision is a nightmare and projects exactly the sort of nasty, backwards, and arbitrary authoritarianism that investors fear and that Medvedev's friendly demeanor was specifically designed to counter. Although Putin is not (at least in my opinion) "Soviet" this is exactly how he will be perceived in the West, something that will only hurt him. All of the hard work courting investors in which the Russian authorities have engaged for the past 3 years, work which finally seemed to be bearing fruit, has thus been undone at a stroke. Whether or not this should happen is completely beside the point: as should be clear from the bizarre gyrations in stock markets over the past several years, sentiment and perception play enormous roles in the allocation of resources and if investors think that Putin will be less receptive to their concerns they will limit their exposure to Russia. This may change down the road, but Russia needs substantial investment right away, and any delays will be extremely damaging.

... ... ...

I will, at some point in the future, have to do a long post about the dysfunctions of hyper-centralized political systems. Keeping things brief for the moment, I'll just note that an individual leader never has as much practical authority as they might appear to, and their actual ability to keep their underlings in check is always in doubt. A pithy formulation is that such leaders can do anything but cannot do everything - they are simply unable to adequately process all of the information that reaches them (a human being, even a very nasty one, needs to sleep!) but, should something grab their attention, they can make almost any decision untrammeled by legal or institutional constraints.

markc

Anatoly pretty much said most of what I wanted to say. Putin couldn't make the west happy unless he accidentally hanged himself in his closet while dressed in his grandmother's clothes and titillating himself with naked pictures of Khodorkovsky. So why be overly worried what the west will think? Who cares??? Will investors who see the opportunity to make money be dissuaded by vituperative spitting on the part of the western press? Anyone who seriously thinks so must have a head that buttons up the back. Remember, we're talking about investors whose former Vice-President (while still CEO of Halliburton) continued to do business with Iran while the country was under strict economic sanctions, and angrily argued in public for those sanctions to be lifted. All western investors care about is the opportunity to get richer, and perhaps-unintentional casting of them as altruistic self-doubters is just comical.

The west, indeed, will drive the last nail in Russia's coffin – just as soon as it decides to liberate itself of its petroleum-based economy. When you see any sign of that happening in a serious way, let me know. Economists lined up 10 years ago to bleat that Russia was dead and merely waiting to have dirt shoveled over its face because of its stupid reliance on energy resources, as if it ought to think about branching out into Yeltsin action figures or cucumbers or pet food. And they have something else in common – they were all wrong. How many times in the past month have you seen the price of gas at the pump hiked on amorphous "supply fears" even though the price of oil was slipping? Suggestions of a falling-out with the world's biggest energy supplier is going to send the price of oil down and ruin Russia, is it? Say, got any bridges for sale?

Obviously, the west won't like it, but the west has serious troubles of its own, not to mention a slightly rusty halo as an investment destination. Is the roller-coaster stock market based on foreknowledge that Putin was going to run? Hardly.

I'm confident Russia will grow stronger under Putin's renewed leadership, not weaker. Whether observers like him or not, he has a wealth of political experience, and the alternative is the KPRF – liberal reformers are not even on the radar, and perhaps that's because Russian memories last longer than 5 minutes, and they recall the disastrous pre-Putin "reforms". Show me someplace where a "decentralization of power" is actually working.

Oh, and if you preface your comment with "Yulia Latynina was right", you might as well just write the rest of it in dog language, because credibility just left the building.

[Sep 25, 2011] The Bush-Obama-Neocon Doctrine

Obama is "a born-again neocon"
It's official: When it comes to foreign policy, Barack Obama's first term is really George W. Bush's third.

Bill Kristol, son of the late neoconservative godfather Irving Kristol and editor of the Weekly Standard, declared that Obama is "a born-again neocon" during a March 30 appearance on the Fox News Channel's Red Eye w/Greg Gutfeld. Kristol's remark came in the context of a discussion of Obama's consultation with Kristol and other influential columnists prior to his March 28 address to the nation about his military intervention in Libya. Gutfeld quizzed Kristol about the President's asking him for "help" with his speech. Kristol denied that Obama had sought his help. Instead, Kristol said,

He came to me to make sure I was supporting his sound policies. Of course, since his sound policies are now more like the policies people like me have been advocating for quite a while, I'm happy to support them, you know. He's a born-again neocon.

In case anyone missed the significance of Kristol's comment, Gutfeld made it clear: "We've got the drones. We've got military tribunals. We've got Gitmo. We're bombing Libya. People who voted for Obama got four more years of Bush."

Kristol agreed, adding: "What's the joke — they told me if I voted for McCain, we'd be going to war in a third Muslim country…. I voted for McCain and we're doing it."

Of course, to Kristol, calling someone a neocon is a compliment. Indeed, Kristol praised Obama's speech on the Weekly Standard blog, saying the President "had rejoined — or joined — the historical American foreign policy mainstream." The speech was "reassuring," Kristol explained, saying, "The president was unapologetic, freedom-agenda-embracing, and didn't shrink from defending the use of force or from appealing to American values and interests." In other words, it was a neocon speech, cloaking the use of violence in the language of liberty and treating the U.S. military as the President's personal mercenaries to reshape the globe rather than as defenders of the territorial United States.

This is not the first time Kristol and other neocons have lauded Obama's foreign policy. After Obama made a speech in 2009 announcing he was sending more troops to Afghanistan — that is, he was replicating Bush's Iraq "surge" in another location — Michael Goldfarb, a Weekly Standard writer, asked Kristol for his reaction to the speech. "He said he would have framed a few things differently," Goldfarb related, "but his basic response was: 'All hail Obama!'"

Similarly, when the President last August claimed that "the American combat mission in Iraq has ended" while asserting that "our commitment to Iraq's future is not" ending, New York Post resident neocon John Podhoretz applauded Obama for his "rather neoconservative speech, in the sense that neoconservatism has argued for aggressive American involvement in the world both for the world's sake and for the sake of extending American freedoms in order to enhance and preserve American security." [Emphasis in original.]

Sheldon Richman, writing in Freedom Daily, reminded readers of just exactly what neocon policies have wrought:

Just to be clear, the neocons were among the key architects of the war against Iraq in 1991, followed by the embargo that killed half a million children. That war and embargo set the stage for the 9/11 attacks, which were then used to justify the invasion and occupation of Iraq (an ambition long predating 9/11) and the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, American's [sic] longest military engagement — all of which have killed more than a million people, wreaked political havoc, and made life in those countries (and elsewhere) miserable. Let's not forget the drone assassination and special ops programs being run in a dozen Muslim countries. The neocon achievement also has helped drive the American people deep into debt.

Nice crowd Obama is hanging with these days. And that's no exaggeration. Frederick Kagan, one of the top neocon brains and a signatory of the Project of the New American Century imperial manifesto, now works for Gen. David Petraeus.

Barack Obama, the candidate of "change we can believe in," turned out to be the President of "more of the same." Lest there remain any doubt about this, one need only turn to establishment news organ Time magazine. There Mark Halperin, explaining "why Obama's Libya address was strong," states quite bluntly: "George W. Bush could have delivered every sentence."

You Should Be Ashamed! - By Julia Ioffe Foreign Policy

Commissar Ioffe (and she is really reminds me female commissar of Bolsheviks era -- cruel, inflexible, unforgiving) probably suffers from some psychic disorder: the intensity of hate is such that it's border with psychosis.
JAN Z. VOLENS:

Putin studied law and also specialized in African studies: He shared a room in Moscow with a student from Gabon, who later became an Economist in France and wrote a about the experience: Putin grumbling about the shameful slobs in the Kremlin and jogging each morning outside, no matter how cold and returning "red like a lobster". After seing a movie about heroic counter-intelligence agents - he decided to enlist in the KGB. In 1989 he war serving as intelliigence agent in Dresden/East Germany. - Look: Americans want "freedom from government" - since the 17th century, but Russians want a "strong government": Perhap conditioned about the centuries of clashes with the asiatic Tartars. Look at the map - in 1635 Russian frontiersmen reached Okhotsk on the Pacific, and in the early 19th century - the Russians reacher San Francisco in Spain's California: Russia's border with Spain in the Americas. A Russian commander wanted to marry the daughter of a spanisch Official , but had first to return to Moscow - via Alaska and Siberia - a three year roundtrip. The point: Do not discount the qualities of Russians - remember every real man around the world - has his Kalashnikov AK, and the U.S. Air Force had to buy good reliable russian helicopter for Afghanistan. In WW 2, the Germans soldiers prefered using capture soviets arms to their highly developed and breakdown-prone weapons - while the Germans laughed on the Western Front about the WW 1 infantry weapon of the U.S. soldiers ("we had them in the First War"!).

70% of German forces fought against the Soviets, with the help of the armies of Finland, Rumania, Hungary and several division from Italy, and volunteers from Spain, France and Scandinavia. Only 10% of German forces fought against the U.S. Army - and only the German B-team of elderly and semi-disabled: "Oh yeah the guys is old, but we drive him up to a foxhole and drop him in: The Amies don't do anything, they just come twice a day and bomb!" - a German officer explaining why he had only elderly men in his unit. 20% of German forces fought against the other allies: British, Canadian, British East Indian (in Italy), Free Polish, French/North Africa (Morocco, Algeria) in Italy.

Russia will weather its current complicated circumstances as the geopolitical balance shifts towards multipolarity - a surging China, an independent Latin America, a new Near East, the emergence of an islamic block, the geriatric decline of Europe, a USA that races towards a constellation of domestic and economic crisis...

RKKA:

"This is not the irresponsibility of specific individuals but the irresponsibility of the system that claims leadership." His finance minister had a few months before called Russia an "island of stability in a sea of world crisis" and argued that Russia's currency reserves would act as an "air bag" for the rest of the world during the collapse. "

And Russia has recovered her 2007 GNP. Those very currency reserves you show such contempt for allowed Russia to do the Keynesian thing as Lord Keynes intended, out of savings rather than by borrowing. Is the US anywhere close to doing so? No. In fact, the US and EU policy responses have not only failed to lead to recovery, but are dragging the whole world into another Great Depression.

The fact of the matter is, what really drives the outrage of Anglosphere bloviators about Russian governance was summed up by Putin in remarkably few words:

"We will react to preserve our interests."

[Sep 25, 2011] Hello, goodbye by Julia Ioffe

While Russophobka is a human psychic pathology that requires separate study, that should not shadow the simple fact that this woman is doing what representatives of the oldest profession are doing for ages. Looks like she is just a hired gun and from the quote below it is quite evident that she understands who she is ... And as for "I don't get orders for articles", money talks... At the same time she is very superficial, her writing luck any insights into Russian reality that would be useful for the US readershuip. It's a pure Agitprop. In Diary of a Madwoman" she was aptly called "possibly the most predictably stupid nutjob in America."
Jul 30, 2010 | Slant

To kick off the discussion, I wanted to offer commenter yalensis's taxonomy of a "Russophobe":

To my mind, the term "Russophobe" mostly involves a constellation of assumptions (stereotypes?) about that person's political views, i.e., they believe that: (1) Russia was on the right course towards democracy under Yeltsin, but then Putin came along. (2) Khodorkovsky was shafted, he should be released from prison and given his oil company back (3) hopefully during the upcoming Kasparov administration, but (4) none of this matters anyway because Russia is doomed due to low birth rate, alcoholism, and Islamic insurgencies. (5) The thought of Russia's demise makes the Russophobe feel happy, because Russia has been so mean to the Gruzians and Chechens; however (6) Russians will not go gently into that good night because they suffer from "neo-imperialist" ambitions and want to restore their lost empire, so (7) it is up to the noble West to confront them and keep them inside their shrunken borders…. etc etc I could rattle off a lot more cliches, but I think everybody gets the point.

I would say it's a helpful one, except it isn't. First, there is the fact that yalensis outlines what is basically an alternative political view. How having a different vision of Russia qualifies for hating Russia is unclear except it does reinforce the stereotype — since yalensis went that way — of the Kremlin brute who knows no truth but his truth and sees any alternative view through the sight of a rifle. It also is uncannily reminiscent of the thought process we saw in our mercifully unseated president, George W. Bush, as well as his spiritual heir, Ms. Mama Grizzly.

Furthermore, yalensis offers for our consideration a man made mostly of straw, a collection, by his own admission, of cliches. Because who really believes in the virgin peachiness of the Yeltsin era? Who really thinks Kasparov or his cohort are a realistic choice to lead Russia? And really — and this is a question for all the commenters who accuse me of subterfuge and of preparing the ground for an imminent American invasion of Russia — really who is rooting for Russia's demise? Who? To be brutally honest: no one in the world give that much of a shit about Russia to actively want America to take over. Maybe you've heard about how insular and navel-gazing Americans are? And maybe apathy is a more apt definition of a "Russophobe," but then it isn't much of the toothy ogre you're looking to beat your chest about and make you feel once again to be the fulcrum of world history, is it?

... ... ...

A Western colleague last night asked me about my "line" and accused me of hating Russia. (That's right, the Western media in Russia is not monolithically Russophibic, whatever that means.) It was a stupid question. I don't have a "line." I have the news and my sources on the ground in Moscow and when something happens I talk to them and then call it as I see it. If it's in the format of a blog, I get cheeky and pick only the funny things. The hard work I leave for my published pieces. I don't hate Russia, given all the friends and family I have living here. And I've never had an editor enforce "a line," have never had them turn down a paid assignment because they didn't agree with "my line" or wanted something more anti-Putin. I don't get orders for articles except as vague "Can you write about Phenomenon X?"

In Oral History, Jacqueline Kennedy Speaks Candidly After the Assassination By

NYTimes.com
In the early days of the Cuban missile crisis, before the world knew that the cold war seemed to be sliding toward nuclear conflict, President John F. Kennedy telephoned his wife, Jacqueline, at their weekend house in Virginia. From his voice, she would say later, she could tell that something was wrong. Why don't you come back to Washington? he asked, without explanation.

"From then on, it seemed there was no waking or sleeping," Mrs. Kennedy recalls in an oral history scheduled to be released Wednesday, 47 years after the interviews were conducted. When she learned that the Soviets were installing missiles in Cuba aimed at American cities, she begged her husband not to send her away. "If anything happens, we're all going to stay right here with you," she says she told him in October 1962. "I just want to be with you, and I want to die with you, and the children do, too — than live without you."

The seven-part interview conducted in early 1964 — one of only three that Mrs. Kennedy gave after Mr. Kennedy's assassination — is being published as a book and an audio recording. In it, the young widow speaks with Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., the historian and Kennedy aide, about her husband's presidency, their marriage and her role in his political life. They do not discuss his death. The eight and a half hours of interviews had been kept private at the request of Mrs. Kennedy, who never spoke publicly about those years again before she died in 1994. The transcript and recording, obtained by The New York Times, offer an extraordinary immersion in the thoughts and feelings of one of the most enigmatic figures of the second half of the 20th century — the woman who, as much as anyone, helped shape a heroic narrative of the Kennedy years. Though the interviews seem unlikely to redraw the contours of Mr. Kennedy or his presidency, they are packed with intimate observations and insights of the sort that historians treasure.

At just 34, and in what her daughter, Caroline Kennedy, describes in a foreword to the book as "the extreme stages of grief," Mrs. Kennedy displays a cool self-possession and a sharp, somewhat unforgiving eye. In her distinctive breathy cadences, an intimate tone and the impeccable diction of women of her era and class, she delivers tart commentary on former presidents, heads of state, her husband's aides, powerful women, women reporters, even her mother-in-law.

Charles DeGaulle, the French president, is "that egomaniac." The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is "a phony" whom electronic eavesdropping has found arranging encounters with women. Indira Gandhi, the future prime minister of India, is "a real prune — bitter, kind of pushy, horrible woman."

The White House social secretary, Letitia Baldrige, Mrs. Kennedy tells Mr. Schlesinger, loved to pick up the phone and say things like "Send all the White House china on the plane to Costa Rica" or tell them they had to fly string beans in to a state dinner. She quotes Mr. Kennedy saying of Lyndon B. Johnson, his vice president, "Oh, God, can you ever imagine what would happen to the country if Lyndon was president?" And Mr. Kennedy on Franklin D. Roosevelt: "Charlatan is an unfair word," but "he did an awful lot for effect."

She suggests that "violently liberal women in politics" preferred Adlai Stevenson, the former Democratic presidential nominee, to Mr. Kennedy because they "were scared of sex." Of Madame Nhu, the sister-in-law of the president of South Vietnam, and Clare Boothe Luce, a former member of Congress, she tells Mr. Schlesinger, in a stage whisper, "I wouldn't be surprised if they were lesbians."

Any shortcomings on the part of her husband are not mentioned. She speaks of his loyalty, sensitivity, courage — traits consistent with the Camelot template she had been the first to invoke. She presents herself as adoring, eager for his approval and deeply moved by the man. There is no talk of his extramarital affairs or secret struggle with Addison's disease, though she does speak in detail about his back pain and the 1954 back surgery that almost killed him.

He was, she says, kind, conciliatory, forgiving, a gentleman, a man of taste in people, furniture, books. Fondly, she recalls him ever reading — while walking, dining, bathing, doing his tie. She remembers with amusement how he would change into pajamas for his 45-minute afternoon nap in the White House. She lets slip a reference to a "civilized side of Jack" and "sort of a crude side," but she clarifies: "Not that Jack had the crude side."

He wept in her presence a handful of times. Mrs. Kennedy describes how he cried in his bedroom, head in hands, over the debacle of the attempted invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs in 1961 by Cuban exiles opposed to Fidel Castro and trained by the Central Intelligence Agency.

On the subject of her marriage, she presents herself in many ways as a traditional wife — one year after the publication of "The Feminine Mystique" by Betty Friedan had helped inspire a wave of rethinking of that role. Her marriage, she remarks, was "rather terribly Victorian or Asiatic." Her aim was to provide "a climate of affection and comfort and détente" — and the children in good moods. She suggests the couple never really had a fight. She insists she got her opinions from her husband. On that last point, at least, Michael Beschloss, the historian, who was enlisted to write an introduction and annotations to the book, said in an interview, "I would take that with a warehouse of salt."

In fact, he said, he found "a very high correlation" between the people Mrs. Kennedy runs down in the interviews and those known to have had difficulty in the Kennedy administration. In some cases, they were in danger of being fired. Those she praises, Mr. Beschloss said, tend to have flourished. To what extent that correlation reflects Mrs. Kennedy's influence on her husband, or vice versa, is open to interpretation and is likely to vary from case to case.

Recalling a trip to India and Pakistan with her sister, Lee Radziwill, in 1962, Mrs. Kennedy says she was so appalled by what she considered to be the gaucherie of the newly appointed United States ambassador to Pakistan, Walter McConaughy, that before even completing her descent from the Khyber Pass, she wrote a letter to her husband alerting him to "what a hopeless ambassador McConaughy was for Pakistan, and all the reasons and all the things I thought the ambassador should be."

She even named possible replacements.

"And Jack was so impressed by that letter," she tells Mr. Schlesinger, that he showed it to Dean Rusk, the secretary of state (whom Mrs. Kennedy disparages as apathetic and indecisive). According to her account, Mr. Kennedy said to Mr. Rusk, "This is the kind of letter I should be getting from the inspectors of embassies."

Even so, Mr. McConaughy, a career diplomat, remained ambassador to Pakistan until 1966.

There are men she praises, too, in the book, which is titled "Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life With John F. Kennedy" and published by Hyperion. She credits Joseph P. Kennedy Sr., the president's father, as the dominant influence in inculcating a sense of discipline in his children. Among the administration figures she admires are Robert F. Kennedy, the president's brother; Robert S. McNamara, the defense secretary; and McGeorge Bundy, the national security adviser. She calls André Malraux, the French novelist, "the most fascinating man I've ever talked to." She says she was impressed above all by the Colombian president, Alberto Lleras Camargo, whom she finds "Nordic in his sadness."

In many of her accounts of her marriage, the grieving widow in her early 30s appears to bear little resemblance to the woman who married Aristotle Onassis, the Greek shipping magnate, four years later, or who, after his death, embarked upon a career as a book editor in New York and later told a friend she had come to realize she could not expect to live primarily through a husband. Doris Kearns Goodwin, the historian and wife of Richard Goodwin, a Kennedy aide, said in an interview on Friday, "It's certainly not the Jackie that we knew later on."

But, she added, "By then, she's a different woman."

Mrs. Kennedy might have been intentionally projecting the image expected of women at the time. She also knew that she was speaking for the historical record, since the conversations were part of a larger oral history of the Kennedy presidency. But her self-confidence seems to have grown in the White House. For the first time, she became one of her husband's most visible assets. Her televised tour of the White House restoration that she had initiated was watched by 56 million viewers.

"Suddenly, everything that'd been a liability before — your hair, that you spoke French, that you didn't just adore to campaign, and you didn't bake bread with flour up to your arms — you know, everybody thought I was a snob and hated politics," she tells Mr. Schlesinger. All of that changed. "I was so happy for Jack, especially now that it was only three years together that he could be proud of me then," she says. "Because it made him so happy — it made me so happy. So those were our happiest years."

She humorously recounts a visit from Sukarno, the president of Indonesia, to the Kennedys' private sitting room. The briefing papers she had read in preparation had mentioned that Sukarno had been flattered by Mao's decision to publish his art collection. To impress Sukarno, Mrs. Kennedy asked the State Department for the volume, positioned it prominently on the table and invited him to sit on the sofa between her and Mr. Kennedy and admire the paintings.

Every single one turned out to be of a woman — "naked to the waist with a hibiscus in her hair," Mrs. Kennedy tells Mr. Schlesinger, who bursts out laughing. She says she could not believe what she was seeing. "I caught Jack's eye, and we were trying not to laugh at each other." Sukarno was "so terribly happy, and he'd say, 'This is my second wife, and this was.'..." Mrs. Kennedy says. "He had a sort of lecherous look" and "left a bad taste in your mouth."

Describing the night of the inauguration, she recalls that she was both recovering from a Caesarean section and exhausted. She skips dinner and takes a nap. But she finds herself unable to get out of bed to attend the inaugural balls until Dr. Janet Travell, who would become the White House physician, materializes and hands her an orange pill.

"And then she told me it was Dexedrine," Mrs. Kennedy says

Asked if Mr. Kennedy was religious, she tells Mr. Schlesinger, "Oh, yes," then appends a revealing qualification: "Well, I mean, he never missed church one Sunday that we were married or all that, but you could see partly — I often used to think whether it was superstition or not — I mean, he wasn't quite sure, but if it was that way, he wanted to have that on his side."

He would say his prayers kneeling on the edge of the bed, taking about three seconds and crossing himself. "It was just like a little childish mannerism, I suppose like brushing your teeth or something," she says. Then she adds: "But I thought that was so sweet. It used to amuse me so, standing there."

In her foreword to the book, Caroline Kennedy says her decision to publish was prompted by the 50th anniversary of her father's presidency. It would be a disservice, she said, to allow her mother's perspective to be absent from the public and scholarly debate.

People have certain impressions of her mother, Ms. Kennedy suggests in a video accompanying the electronic version of the book, but "they really don't know her at all." In her printed foreword, she says, "they don't always appreciate her intellectual curiosity, her sense of the ridiculous, her sense of adventure, or her unerring sense of what was right."

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: September 13, 2011

An article on Monday about an oral history of Jacqueline Kennedy that is being published this week paraphrased incorrectly, in some copies, from her recollections 47 years ago about her exhaustion on the night of President Kennedy's inauguration in 1961. She noted that she was recovering from a Caesarian section, not that she was nine months pregnant. The article also misspelled the brand name of a drug the White House doctor gave Mrs. Kennedy that night. It was Dexedrine, not Dexadrine.

[Sep 10, 2011] Employers Diss Obama Job Plan

"A post from last week discussed the 'Seneca Effect' and how it is rooted in an inability/refusal to comprehend that we're reaching the limits to growth, primarily brought on by a peak in worldwide oil production. The dominant paradigm, pace Kuhn, cannot solve problems, hence a pathetic/corrupt Obama and the Republican "candidates", who words of scorn and lamentation cannot begin to define. "
September 10, 2011 | naked capitalism

Clonal Antibody:

Anybody, who is at all likely to rock the status quo will be marginalized by the MSM and declared unelectable. To determine who will stand up to the financial powers, you just have to look at their records.

As long as the people of the US continue to buy into the vision presented by the MSM and the TV industry, there will be no change. One has only to look at Kucinich, and how he was sidelined by the MSM. He is a much better orator than Obama. He has a history of standing up to the banks. Also, he had Michael Hudson as his economic adviser in the 2008 campaign.

Anybody who has ever seen and heard Kucinich can vouch that he can our orate Obama. But because he has a history of standing against the banking industry, he was marginalized both in 2004 and again in 2008.

So I do not hold hope for any candidate that is likely to act in the best interests of the American people as opposed to acting in the best interest of "Wall Street"

lambert strether:

Putting the con in confidence! Amazing argument:

So even if there was just a symbolic message in President Obama's rhetoric, the points he made could inspire a little more hope and confidence – in the little people.

I guess in a financialized, rentier-driven economy where everything is bullshit, a world-class bullshit artist like Obama could be expected to make a difference — why, as much as half a point off the DISemployment rate!

Richard Kline

The individual in this article, and the focus on the negative response to the talking point in the article, is in _small business_. Bama Obama didn't clutch at the 'tax cuts' proferred by his Rubinite/Clintonista cabal of devisors to help small businesses 'hire.' Barack Obama hasn't done jackshit for small business EVER. The taxcuts, if any are passed, you may be sure will NOT be contingent upon new hires for the most part. They will be 'tax relief' for large corporations, to help them with 'the strain of operating in a poor retail environment. The same _large_ corporations who are raking in record profits by gaming the system, stealing the benefit money they had been paying their workers, and playing the financial markets. Barak's initiative is really just a give-away to the rich; the only thing given to the middling is the rhetoric; the poor get the bill in the form of eliminated services (to pay for those gifts of money to the rich through 'offsets.')

Oh, and since the proposals of his media-op have tanked already, he's pulled 'mortgage mods' out of his bag of tricks. Like the pittance, designed-to-fail first go round he had at that. I don't believe Obama has the slightest intention of _actual_ mods, i.e. principal reductions. Any mods that creep out of any such program will be simple schedule stretch-outs designed to make the debt slaves pay the holders of MBSs in full, since it is the latter set Obama works for; when he works, which is seldom. Oh, and any mortgage mod action won't even get onto the books sooner than Spring, 2012, and likely not even then. No help from that for the current economy; just more HOPE.

The system is a crime. What does that make the Systemitizer-in-Chief? This man has taken all the worst wholecloth of Bill Clinton's kiss-the-rich robes and woven the most odious, wealth-loving policy program we've seen since the 19th century; he's truly awful in proposal, policy, and act. If he'd just pose out on the Lawn holding a lantern, he'd look completely natural, and that's a sad, sad thing to contemplate. Not the least surprise. Historically, the first generation of ethnic outgroup politicians to make it to or near to the top are either grossly corrupt or contemptible lackeys to the powers that be (the exception being a handful of genuine reformers on the margin as concessions such as Thurgood Marshall). One doesn't get reformers in power until the second generation comes through. Powell, Rice, Obama, Thomas . . . yep, cemented into that profile, with Holder, and a few others who should be called out filling out the back row of the group portrait. I didn't say 'stupid;' some of these are able, as historically, but deeply corrupt to the system all. The Democratic Party deserves to have to haul this pile since they're the ones who trucked it in in the first place. But the country won't be better for (next) Summer of Discontent.

run75441:

Hi Richard:

While mostly I would agree with you on the lack of assistance to small businesses by Obama, I can say in the case of the ACA there are and already were provisions to assist small businesses with subsidies.

As far as My Lai Collin Powell, google Powell, My Lai, and Kovic to read on his contributions in Vietnam and in covering up My Lai. There is more to this man than meets the eye. http://www.consortiumnews.com/2000/121700a.html

USMC Sgt E-5 68-71

Hugh:

  1. The Obama jobs program is not much of a jobs program. There is only about $130 billion in new spending in it. We have 14 million unemployed. 25 million un- and under employed. And 29.4 million disemployed. I figure that $130 billion would create about a million jobs but it's only good for 12 months or so and that won't even keep up with increases in the labor force due to population growth over that period.
  2. Seeing as Obama wants the costs of his program taken out of other parts of the budget via the Cat Food II Commission, you may see some forward cost shifting but basically it comes out close to a wash so while Obama is creating those million jobs with this program we will lose a million elsewhere due to budget cutting.
  3. Business gets at least $70 billion in tax cuts even if they don't make a single hire. So their incentive to hire out of this program is zero.
  4. The extension of unemployment insurance only keeps things as they are. It doesn't create any new jobs. It just keeps old jobs from being lost.
  5. Cutting the employee side of the payroll tax is worth $170 billion but, as we saw in the original payroll tax cut from the December tax deal last year, that was sopped up by commodities speculation that drove up the cost of gasoline and groceries. It created no jobs. I don't see things playing out differently this time around.
  6. This is all a campaign ploy. I mean Obama had more than 2 1/2 years to get exercised about jobs and he waited until the 2012 election cycle had begun to come up with his jobs plan. It's not meant to work. It's meant to score political points. Obama expects most of this plan to be shot down by Republicans, at which point Obama will blame them for blocking his "eager and sincere" efforts to create jobs.

On another topic, I saw mention of Warren, Feingold, Sanders, and Dean as possible challengers to Obama. With all due respect, there are no Democrats (Republicans or independents) on the national scene who deserve either your respect or your vote. Warren in her farewell letter talked about how she stood side by side with Obama. Feingold has already endorsed Obama. Sanders isn't a Democrat and is one of the most cowardly serial cavers on the Hill. Dean lied so often and so much during the healthcare debate I stopped listening to him.

The problem we have in our country is that our elites (Establishment) are out to loot us. Backing Establishment liberals like those mentioned above is just going to give pretty much the same policies as Obama but just with a different face attached to them.

It is also misguided to think that if we could just replace Obama that the country's situation would improve. You have to look at the two equally corporatist parties that control the Congress. The House theoretically could be replaced at the next election, but only 1/3 of the Senate can be. So even if there was a mass movement for which there is no evidence whatsoever, it would take 4 to 6 years to gain complete control of the legislative and executive branches. And that doesn't even begin to touch on an extremist right wing Supreme Court and a deeply conservative judiciary. Put simply, we need to be more aware of just how very stacked the deck is against us. It is incredibly so.

lambert strether:

And the 99ers are written off entirely, since unemployment extension applies only to those who are still getting unemployment.

So we now have an official underclass of unpersons who are basically told to go die. Of course, we've always had that, but they used to be black. Now it could be anyone. Thanks, "progressives"!

•alex says: September 10, 2011 at 9:24 am "Warren in her farewell letter talked about how she stood side by side with Obama. Feingold has already endorsed Obama. Sanders isn't a Democrat and is one of the most cowardly serial cavers on the Hill. Dean lied so often and so much during the healthcare debate I stopped listening to him."

What, no saints in politics? Say it ain't so. What we need is someone like FDR who was always pure of heart and never played political games.

As flawed as Warren, Feingold, Sanders and Dean may be, I'd take any one of them over Obummer.

Dan B:

A post from last week discussed the 'Seneca Effect' and how it is rooted in an inability/refusal to comprehend that we're reaching the limits to growth, primarily brought on by a peak in worldwide oil production. The dominant paradigm, pace Kuhn, cannot solve problems, hence a pathetic/corrupt Obama and the Republican "candidates", who words of scorn and lamentation cannot begin to define.

[Aug 15, 2011] Video The Bankers as the Enemy of Humanity "

August 15, 2011 | naked capitalism

Valissa:

I know that it is emotionally satisfying to have a clear villain to blame for today's financial woes and more. I saw it earlier today over at Denninger's site and was both impressed and annoyed. Are the banks guilty of looting and undue influence? Most certainly, but they are not the only ones; not the only villains in the story. The power elite has many factions and most of them are participating in the looting or "extraction" (to use Ratigan's term) of the USA.

I read an interesting post over at Global Research today by Paul Craig Roberts. The title suggests it's about the S&P downgrade, and it is, but whether one agrees with his theory on that or not, the piece has a much more important message. Roberts discusses his view of one of the fundamental political power and money games going on in the US.

The Standard and Poor's (S&P) Debt Downgrade: What It Means http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=25941

It is always a challenge to get people's thinking into a new paradigm. Nevertheless, unless the effort is made, people might never comprehend the behind-the-scenes power struggle. A half century ago President Eisenhower in his farewell address warned the American people of the danger posed to democracy and the people's control over their government by the military/security complex. Anyone can google his speech and read his stark warning. Unfortunately, caught up in the Cold War with the Soviet Union and reassured by America's rising economic might, neither public nor politicians paid any attention to our five-star general president's warning.

In the succeeding half century the military/security complex became ever more powerful. The main power rival was Wall Street, which controls finance and money and is skilled at advancing its interests through economic policy arguments. With the financial deregulation that began during the Clinton presidency, Wall Street became all powerful. Wall Street controls the Treasury and the Federal Reserve, and the levers of money are more powerful than the levers of armaments. Moreover, Wall Street is better at intrigue than the CIA.

… Their struggle for supremacy could destroy the rest of us.

Paul Tioxon:

It is short on substance, but more the writing on the digital wall. Coming from those that are careful to respect the propriety of the middle class, who live by its reserved, delayed gratification ethos, the sumptuous orgy of the Billion Dollar a year hedge fund salary is shock and awe.

Here is some more substance on just what has transpired as capital which was under the control of the government, serving the public interest of full employment and stable prices, from FDR until Eurodollar crisis and the fall of Bretton Woods, has been completely transferred to the unregulated corporate community.

Capital is now, in almost its entirety, placed in the service of private endless profit making and accumulation.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6wLBtT7is-I&feature=related

The Commanding Heights: The Battle for The World Economy.

Josh says: August 15, 2011 at 6:20 pm Yves, you have got to be kidding me. That was a complete waste of time. You were kidding me, right? Just because he speaks slowly and with gravitas does not exempt him from providing evidence to back his claims. Is the spinning coin supposed to hypnotize us, while the angry rhetoric whips us up into a killing frenzy?

How did that POS make it through the filter?

• Yves Smith says: August 15, 2011 at 6:27 pm This is a zeitgeist watch item. And it's better done than most anti-banker rants and was picked up by Denniger, who can be a bit screechy but has been very on target in his critiques of industry practice.

[Aug 14, 2011] Austerity and Runaway Inequality Lead to Violence And Instability

August 14, 2011 | naked capitalism
  • anon says:

    August 14, 2011 at 5:50 am

    It seems like a good moment to revisit that interview with Larry Fink, BlackRock's CEO – the one in which he explained that that the market likes totalitarian governments.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qrq3NaCdLnU

    gs_runsthiscountry:

    Priceless…that is all I can say. For some reason when i log on here on Sunday mornings i seem to be spitting up coffee.

    —-

    I will trade one back, my personal fav recently, Peter Schiff slipped one in at the tail end of this clip (last 30 sec.). He explains how capital is more important than labor. We must have more machines…Umm, because what, capacity utilization is at record lows and the pull forward via tax incentives the past 2 years is going to make companies invest in more capital equipment, again?

    Peter schiff is living in the 70′s if he thinks corporations pull highschool graduates off the street to run machines. And this is the guy feeding Ron Paul Economic information? – scary. I find it strange he is Ron Pauls economic advosior.

    http://www.cnbc.com/id/15840232/?video=3000028586&play=1

    Peter Schiff should read this, and repeat it 10 times.

    "Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration." – Abraham Lincoln, 3 Dec, 1861

  • [Aug 14, 2011] Economist's View Romer The Hope That Flows From History

    The Hope That Flows From History

    By CHRISTINA D. ROMER Published:

    August 13, 2011 Recommend Twitter Sign In to E-Mail

    AFTER the grim economic developments of the last few weeks, it's easy to lose hope. Could the Great Recession of 2008 drag on for years, just as the Great Depression did in the 1930s? Adding to the despair is the oft-repeated notion that it took World War II to end the economic nightmare of the '30s: If a global war was needed to return the economy to full employment then, what is going to save us today?

    Associated Press With interest rates near zero in the 1930s — a situation not unlike today's — the Treasury Department under Franklin D. Roosevelt used monetary policy to ignite economic growth. Multimedia Weekend Business Related Buy, Sell, Hold (Tight): Eight Days of Market Frenzy (August 14, 2011) Look more closely at history and you'll see that the truth is much more complicated — and less gloomy. While the war helped the recovery from the Depression, the economy was improving long before military spending increased. More fundamentally, the wrenching wartime experience provides a message of hope for our troubled economy today: we have the tools to deal with our problems, if only policy makers will use them.

    As I showed in an academic paper years ago, the war first affected the economy through monetary developments. Starting in the mid-1930s, Hitler's aggression caused capital flight from Europe. People wanted to invest somewhere safer — particularly in the United States. Under the gold standard of that time, the flight to safety caused large gold flows to America. The Treasury Department under President Franklin D. Roosevelt used that inflow to increase the money supply.

    The result was an aggressive monetary expansion that effectively ended deflation. Real borrowing costs decreased and interest-sensitive spending rose rapidly. The economy responded strongly. From 1933 to 1937, real gross domestic product grew at an annual rate of almost 10 percent, and unemployment fell from 25 percent to 14. To put that in perspective, G.D.P. growth has averaged just 2.5 percent in the current recovery, and unemployment has barely budged.

    There is clearly a lesson for modern policy makers. Monetary expansion was very effective in the mid-1930s, even though nominal interest rates were near zero, as they are today. The Federal Reserve's policy statement last week provided tantalizing hints that it may be taking this lesson to heart and using its available tools more aggressively in coming months.

    One reason the Depression dragged on so long was that the rapid recovery of the mid-1930s was interrupted by a second severe recession in late 1937. Though many factors had a role in the "recession within a recession," monetary and fiscal policy retrenchment were central. In monetary policy, the Fed doubled bank reserve requirements and the Treasury stopped monetizing the gold inflow. In fiscal policy, the federal budget swung sharply, from a stimulative deficit of 3.8 percent of G.D.P. in 1936 to a small surplus in 1937.

    The lesson here is to beware of withdrawing policy support too soon. A switch to contractionary policy before the economy is fully recovered can cause the economy to decline again. Such a downturn may be particularly large when an economy is still traumatized from an earlier crisis.

    The recent downgrade of American government debt by Standard & Poor's makes this point especially crucial. It would be a mistake to respond by reducing the deficit more sharply in the near term. That would almost surely condemn us to a repeat of the 1937 downturn. And higher unemployment would make it all that much harder to get the deficit under control.

    Military spending didn't begin to rise substantially until late 1940. Once it did, fiscal policy had an expansionary impact. Some economists argue that the effect wasn't very large, as real government purchases (in 2005 dollars) rose by $1.4 billion from 1940 to 1944, while real G.D.P. rose only $0.9 billion.

    But this calculation misses two crucial facts: Taxes increased sharply, and the government took many actions to decrease private consumption, like instituting rationing and admonishing people to save. That output soared despite these factors suggests that increases in government spending had a powerful stimulative effect. Consistent with that, private nonfarm employment — which excludes active military personnel — rose by almost eight million from 1940 to 1944.

    The lesson here is that fiscal stimulus can help a depressed economy recover — an idea supported by new studies of the 2009 stimulus package. Additional short-run tax cuts or increases in government investment would help deal with our unemployment crisis.

    What of the idea that monetary and fiscal policy can do little if unemployment is caused by structural factors, like a mismatch between workers' skills and available jobs? As I discussed in a previous column, such factors are probably small today.

    But World War II has something to tell us here, too. Because nearly 10 million men of prime working age were drafted into the military, there was a huge skills gap between the jobs that needed to be done on the home front and the remaining work force. Yet businesses and workers found a way to get the job done. Factories simplified production methods and housewives learned to rivet.

    Here the lesson is that demand is crucial — and that jobs don't go unfilled for long. If jobs were widely available today, unemployed workers would quickly find a way to acquire needed skills or move to where the jobs were located.

    Finally, what about the national debt? Given the recent debt downgrade, it might seem impossible for the United States to embark on fiscal stimulus that would increase its ratio of debt to G.D.P.

    Well, at the end of World War II, that ratio hit 109 percent — one and a half times as high as it is now. Yet this had no obvious adverse consequences for growth or our ability to borrow.

    This isn't hard to explain. Everyone understood then why the nation was racking up so much debt: we were fighting for survival, and for the survival of our allies. No one doubted that we would repay our debts. We had done it after every other war, and raising taxes even before the attack on Pearl Harbor showed our leaders' fiscal resolve.

    Today, we can do much more to aid recovery, including a near-term increase in our debt. But we need to make the reasons clear and make concrete our commitment to deal with the debt over time.

    In place of the tepid budget agreement now in place, we could pass a bold plan with more short-run spending increases and tax cuts, coupled with much more serious, phased-in deficit reduction. By necessity, the plan would tackle entitlement reform and gradually raise tax revenue. This would be the World War II approach to our problems.

    Equally important, someone needs to explain to the nation and to world markets just why we must increase the debt in the short run. Unemployment of roughly 9 percent for 28 months and counting is a national emergency. We must fight it with the same passion and commitment we have brought to military emergencies in our past.

    Christina D. Romer is an economics professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and was the chairwoman of President Obama's Council of Economic Advisers.

    Greg:

    Romer is overdoing the parallels, I think.

    In the 1930s productivity growth was 6 or 8 percent per annum. Manufacturing was more than half of US non-farm employment. Rising commodity prices boosted farmers' incomes, providing a source of demand. The work programmes of the New Deal created another widespread source of demand.

    In the 2010s, productivity growth is about 1.5% per annum. Or less.

    Manufacturing is negligible as a source of employment, and it's not obvious that service jobs, say the teaching of economics, can be simplified the same way as manufacturing was.

    Income is increasingly concentrated. Wages are less than half of total income and falling - at least one of Kaldor's "stylized facts" is now history. Fiscal expansion looks unlikely, or very unlikely.

    Corporations are sitting on record-sized piles of cash, so there's no reason to think that injecting more cash will have any effect.

    Parallels with the 1930s can be overdone.

    kievite :

    Greg,

    I agree. And I see several additional factors that support your assessment and make analogy with 30th far from being convincing:

    1. The peak oil and not only oil. That's completely changes the "growth" equation and growth is traditionally is growth based in creased energy consumption per capita. It drives up costs of any military adventure especially in distant countries. A gallon of fuel costs around $400, if I remember correctly, to deliver to troops in Afghanistan.

    2. Financialization was helped by computer revolution and due to this and other factors reached levels which are simply unthinkable in 30th. At the same time the level of domination of financial elite is simply unprecedented in USA history. As Senator Durbin quipped:

    "And the banks -- hard to believe in a time when we're facing a banking crisis that many of the banks created -- are still the most powerful lobby on Capitol Hill. And they frankly own the place. "

    3. The ruling elite that reminds me Soviet Politburo of Brezhnev era. Bush was a perfect example of this process. Impression is that there is no will power to institute changes even with understanding that in a long run they are important for the elite survival. Taxes are classic example. Instead we have "let them eat cake" policy.

    4. Another complicating factor here that the key geopolitical rival, the USSR is long gone. I think it did served as a strong greed-inhibiting factor for the elite in the USA for all the period of its existence.

    [Aug 13, 2011] "Freedom Versus Markets"

    August 13, 2011
    mansoor h. khan:

    Yves,

    You are giving up on one dollar one vote far too easily.

    We need to separate industrial capitalism (production) from financial capitalism (financing).

    Market discipline has worked much, much better on the industrial side of the economy. Enron, Worldcom, the dot coms were toasted by the market and rightly so. one dollar, one vote worked just fine. The investors were also punished accordingly. And the clowns running these companies discredited as they should have been.

    This did not happen for Wall Street and the banks in 2008. Because the invisible hand if allowed to do its handy work in this case would have toasted our civilization itself.

    We need to make our payment clearing system (yes our currency system) a public good (with no private money creation) like the services our military are a public good.

    If that had been the case (public money system). We could have let these clowns (the private banks) go the way of Enron and Worldcom with proper punishment for the investors (in these banks) as well being meted out. There could not have been a better lesson for all of society on how not to behave than seeing investment bankers become taxi drivers.

    And any resulting deflation from the collapse of any mis-matching maturity private banks (AKA as the shadow banking system) could have been simply handled by government by printing money and spending it or just giving it to people to bring the economy back to balance (no deflation).

    As hard as it is to believe we still have tons of production capacity worldwide even with all this fraud, waste, abuse and mal-investments done by the bankers (yeah, yeah I know peak oil means we may not be able to use all this production capacity but that is a different issue).

    Mansoor

    run75441:

    Transparency as Brooksley Born suggested for the derivatives market, tax the crap out of non-labor intensive profits, place an emphasis on investments in Labor intensive profits, etc. Th fastest growing segment of the economy from the eighties till 2008 was Financial Services.

    " The figures on profits are even more striking. For example, the financial services industry's share of corporate profits in the United States was around 10% in the early 1980s but peaked at 40% last year. " http://www.bis.org/speeches/sp081119.htm

    Running out of time here...

    LeeAnne:

    hey man, it didn't work fine at all. Trust (essential) in stock markets was destroyed, investment professionals who didn't buy into 'earnings don't matter' were forced to resign to preserve their integrity, a generation of educated kids with no training or discipline in real jobs were seduced into pursuing millionaire status before age 25 or whatever, instead. VC money was freely handed around by the million-fold to anyone connected in the Ivy with a 'business plan' outline of an idea based on a little Internet technology (little known secret?).

    All this while the PPT (Plumbers Protection Team) -that's the head of the FED, TSY, Goldman Sachs, etc. were in full swing with all the tools they needed to bring about discipline,

    As established by Executive Order 12631 [never waste an opportunity; legalizing lawlessness took the big leap forward after the 1987 crash], the Working Group consists of:

    run75441:

    mansoor:

    "We need to separate industrial capitalism (production) from financial capitalism (financing)."

    Very true. Until an emphasis is placed on the former at the expense of the latter, the Labor Force is doomed and will cotinue to shrink.

    Toby:

    I agree, except that even hierarchies are groups self-organizing into stratified class arrangements they then justify with some ideology or other, the latest being 'free markets'. Within the hierarchy there is restricted self-organization along the lines of; play along and hope to "Do Well", or resist and risk being crushed.

    Human social hierarchies have the unfortunate side effect of selecting for growth. Our corporations and nation-states, in combination with a ponzi-scheme monetary system, are addicted to infinite growth. This dooms them to collapse, only the cost of their growing is difficult to impossible to assess, not least because value itself is immeasurable. However, despite this self-destructive property there has been so much energy invested in these hierarchies, including cultural and intellectual, that changing to the only reasonably sustainable alternative–anarchy–cannot be accomplished smoothly. Certainly not quickly. Nevertheless, the 'freer' self-organization anarchy must deliver is something we are obliged to learn, and it will not be easy, assuming for a moment we are to accomplish this enormous task at all.

    On a side note I'd like to point out that, in my opinion, there is no such thing as freedom, just as there is no uncaused cause. There are no actions, only reactions. Agency is an illusion, as is free will. Yet more embarrassing than failing to recognize this is thinking 'free' markets is a term that can possibly make sense, or refer to anything other than a cynical fantasy. To believe capitalism, which is about concentration of wealth to the 'successful' 'winners' in the 'open competition' of the 'free' market can be 'free' is to ignore the vast majority of reality. The only reason I can see that the word, the myth, the notion has such power over its meek adherents is that 'socialism' and 'communism' (also hierarchies) failed so spectacularly. Because the dominant global system is hierarchical, and therefore elitist, what alternative to capitalism could there possibly be? It 'beat' its 'enemies', case solved.

    The alternative is direct democracy, or autarky, or anarchy, which is, as far as I can tell, the only social arrangement or mode which can foster and live happily with steady-state growth, which is the stage of development humanity, at the economic-ecological level, has reached. Whatever 'growth' we can force upon ourselves from here on in can only be seen as such by ignoring all increasingly costly "externalities". As if there can be anything external to economic activity which is of the environment we all are part of.

    (Any relation of Peter Kropotkin by any chance, Mikhail?)

    SR6719:

    Toby:

    "On a side note I'd like to point out that, in my opinion, there is no such thing as freedom, just as there is no uncaused cause. There are no actions, only reactions. Agency is an illusion, as is free will."

    George Christoph Lichtenberg:

    "That a false hypothesis is sometimes preferable to an exact one is proven in the doctrine of human freedom. Man is, without a doubt, unfree. But it takes profound philosophical study for a man not to be led astray by such an insight. Barely one in a thousand has the necessary time and patience for such study, and of these hundreds, barely one has the necessary intelligence. This is why freedom is the most convenient conception and will, in the future, remain the most common, so much do appearances favour it."

    John Brockman:

    "Man is dead. Credit his death to an invention. The invention was the grasping of a conceptual whole, a set of relationships which had not been previously recognized. The invention was man-made. It was the recognition that reality was communicable. The process was the transmission of neural pattern. Such patterns are electrical not mental. The system of communication and control functioned without individual awareness or consent. The message in the system was not words, ideas, images, etc. The message was nonlinear: operant neural pattern. It became clear that new concepts of communication and control involved a new interpretation of man, of man's knowledge of the universe, and of society."

    John Brockman:

    "Traditional American intellectuals are, in a sense, increasingly reactionary, and quite often proudly (and perversely) ignorant of many of the truly significant intellectual accomplishments of our time."

    Anonymous Jones:

    Thanks for the article, Yves…and Toby, you are on fire today. Very interesting and well thought out comments. [Of course, I always think that when people write things agreeing with my pre-existing beliefs.]

    But seriously, very well put. I especially liked the "Value Delusion" discussion above. I tried to make a similar point this week in response to a silly Costard comment, but I had neither the time nor the talent to explain my thoughts as well you did.

    Of course, the "Value Delusion" cuts both ways, as many on this thread obviously don't understand.

    One other point. Wake me when we're free of jealousy and greed. Then we'll have "free" markets.

    Middle Seaman:

    Self organization provides a great mechanism for efficiency, evolution and strength at difficult times. The self organizing relies on rules, i.e. a policy, that the whole organization abides by. For umpteen years, the US, and for that matter the world's, markets performed with the policy agreed to. That reality has changed several decades ago, when some of market has instituted their own policy thereby deviating from society's policy.

    In a democracy, the justice system and regulators are in charge of enforcing society's policy. The US justice system has slowly but obviously started to allow market sub-organization to play according to their own separate policy. Politically, the justice system started to tilt way to the right. That was culminated by the Supreme Court decision, logically laughable, that companies are also citizens. That was the coup de grace

    Economist actually have very little to do with it. A society that has more than one policy is not a democracy. Since one of the policies, the market one, works against the original policy, citizens pay the price. When the citizen's elected government views the market policy as valid and significant, citizen lose even more and may get to where we will be in a year or two.

    When the Postal Service goes postal and pretends to be Chase or Citi, wants to fire 120k workers and take away workers' pensions, we get to a tipping point. If Obama allows that to happen, he will nullify the citizen's policy and adopt a single market policy for all.

    In simple English, this returns slavery for everyone.

    Maju:

    "The belief that citizens had to pay for the mistakes of a financial monopoly, that an entire nation must be taxed to pay off private debts was shattered"…

    What I do not understand is where this idea arose from to begin with. To me it seems so anti-natural, so criminal! It never happened before, it has no real precedents.

    ambrit:

    Dear Maju; I

    f one accepts the Christian Doctrine of Original Sin, such self serving and cupidity is only to be expected.

    A short perusal of the modern history of 'Prosperity Theology' will point the way. If one does not accept theological doctrine as a 'given,' recourse to the Theory of Entropy should give one all the intellectual support needed. When everything 'naturally' falls apart over time, where is the surprise when human constructs, like morality and 'good governance', follow suit? (Love those gambling metaphors.)

    The quote you open with can also easily be used to describe Wars of any and all kinds throughout human history. All you need is class divisions and an unequal distribution of power.

    jwbeene:

    Look no further than the NY Federal Reserve and Wall Street that gained control of the investment retirement funds of the states. This at a time when they're main interest is in privatizing Social Security and the states are trying to put people into SS because of failure of present marketing system. Think of bail out of car companies; profit was in having the government pick up the retirement and health care and permitting export of jobs. Great system we have developed thru deregulation and free trade

    Mitt Romney, Skips Iowa Straw Poll - Still Confuses NH with IA

    With Tim Pawlenty out of the presidential race, it is now fairly clear that the GOP candidate will either be Mitt Romney or someone who makes George W. Bush look like Tom Paine.

    Matt Stoller What Presidency " naked capitalism

    So why, if his Presidency has been such an unmitigated disaster, is he continuing to pursue this reckless course. My theory is that the key to the Obama administration's political strategy is not compromise or incrementalism. It is, quite simply, fooling liberals. When you look at Obama's governing role, he is clearly a servant of American oligarchs. But obviously he can't explicitly tell liberals this (unlike Republicans, who are explicit in saying they favor "job creators"), because liberals like to think of themselves as favoring economic justice. So how do you acquire support from liberals, as he did in the primaries in 2008 and will need to do again in 2012, while pursuing oligarch-friendly policies?

    You do it by ensuring that liberals only focus on the ceremonial non-governmental aspects of the Presidency. You do it by making sure that they focus only on the televised aspects of the Presidency.

    When Obama is criticized as not fighting Republicans hard enough, it's an implicit endorsement of the "legislator-in-chief" role. As such, the blame for illiberal policies like bailouts, poorly designed health care plans, cuts to entitlements – well, these are the Republicans fault. Obama is simply helpless before the onslaught. Similarly, every time an establishment liberal says in the newspaper that "Obama's policy choices are jeopardizing his reelection chances", they are implicitly endorsing the narrator-in-chief role, and ignoring his role as an incompetent and highly radical President causing enormous damage to millions of people. Again, he's helpless before a mean-spirited press corps and Republican establishment bent on his destruction. This is easy to show on TV – just pop up some video of mean Republicans.

    It is only by focusing on the governor-in-chief role that one sees a different focus of the Presidency. It is absolutely the case, as Krugman notes, that Republican detachment from reality is a threat to democracy. But it is worth noting that in ascribing to this the sole cause of our political situation is to diminish the notion that creatively using power can achieve good things for people. For instance, it's true that having a press corps with more balance about the goals of Republicans and Democrats would create a healthier democratic society – but then, it's probably also true that a real foreclosure prevention plan in 2009 would have dramatically restored faith in government by touching the lives of millions of people in an affirmatively positive instead of malevolent way.

    All of this is to say that how one sees government is critical to how one judges Obama. And if the only consideration is the boundaries of television, then of course, Obama is going to look like a mediocre narrator-in-chief constrained by wild forces he cannot control. Of course, Congress will make him seem like a somewhat inept but well-meaning legislative leader or party leader. It is only in turning off the boundaries set by a narrow TV-dominated discourse that one truly sees Obama's real handiwork – the wars, the bailouts, and most tragically, what could have been but never was.

    sandra:

    And I had just written this and posted it at The Washington Post before I read your column:

    "The immorality is staggering. And to think everyone thinks Obama is weak, and here in his moment of triumph he has gone against the wishes of over 80 percent of America, handing the decision making in this country over to some of the most dishonest and uneducated and vicious characters we have seen on our public stage in my lifetime.

    Obama proposes that hundreds of thousands of people should lose heath care coverage, and many will die, but Bank of America and General Electric and Exxon will not be required to pay any taxes.
    It is warfare by drone — the target is America– the sickest first, and then affecting every man, woman and child in the country.

    I will never vote for anyone who signs on to this monstrosity. It presupposes that our democracy is dead and buried and no longer functions. Ahem, and that is what it proves."

    Dog Days:

    It's great to see the comments "blow away", or completely demolish the relentless, pendantic politic-newspeak sludge. Well done – indeed, we have a war criminal, human rights destroying speech maker up in da' house.

    Middle Seaman:

    Like TV, this post obscures the real problem. The American people have to fight against their nemesis president Obama in order to survive. Dividing the presidency into classes is of no use.

    True, Obama represents the oligarchs. But he is also inept, not very smart and a real reactionary. I am not even sure that yesterday's deal serves the oligarchs well.

    Destroying the country even more serves only the Tea Party; oligarchs do not make more money off ruins.

    July

    [Jul 30, 2011] The Empty Bully Pulpit by Robert Reich

    I think Robert Reich overestimated the intelligence of the president as a politician. After all his mentor in the senate was Joe Lieberman.
    July 27, 2011

    How did we get into this mess?

    I thought I'd seen Washington at its worst. I was there just after Watergate. I was there when Jimmy Carter imploded. I was there during the government shut-down of 1995.

    But I hadn't seen the worst. This is the worst.

    How can it be that with over 9 percent unemployment, essentially no job growth, widening inequality, falling real wages, and an economy that's almost dead in the water — we're locked in a battle over how to cut the budget deficit?

    Part of the answer is a Republican Party that's the most irresponsible and rigidly ideological I've ever witnessed.

    Part of the answer is the continuing gravitational pull of the Great Recession.

    But another part of the answer lies with the President — and his inability or unwillingness to use the bully pulpit to tell Americans the truth, and mobilize them for what must be done.

    Barack Obama is one of the most eloquent and intelligent people ever to grace the White House, which makes his failure to tell the story of our era all the more disappointing and puzzling. Many who were drawn to him in 2008 (including me) were dazzled by the power of his words and insights — his speech at the 2004 Democratic convention, his autobiography and subsequent policy book, his talks about race and other divisive issues during the campaign.

    We were excited by the prospect of a leader who could educate — an "educator in chief" who would use the bully pulpit to explaini what has happened to the United States in recent decades, where we must go, and why.

    But the man who has occupied the Oval Office since January, 2009 is someone entirely different — a man seemingly without a compass, a tactician who veers rightward one day and leftward the next, an inside-the Beltway dealmaker who doesn't explain his comprises in light of larger goals.

    In his inaugural address, Obama warned that "the nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous." In private, he professes to understand that the growing concentration of income and wealth at the top has robbed the middle class of the purchasing power it needs to keep the economy going. And it has distorted our politics.

    He is well aware that the Great Recession wiped out $7.8 trillion of home values, crushing the nest eggs and eliminating the collateral that had allowed the middle class to keep spending despite declining real wages — a decrease in consumption that's directly responsible for the anemic recovery.

    But instead of explaining this to the American people, he joins the GOP in making a fetish of reducing the budget deficit, and enters into a hair-raising game of chicken with House Republicans over whether the debt ceiling will be raised.

    Never once does he tell the public why reducing the deficit has become his number one economic priority. Americans can only conclude that the Republicans must be correct — that diminishing the deficit will somehow revive economic growth and restore jobs.

    Instead of powerful explanations we get the type of bromides that issue from every White House. America must "win the future," Obama says, by which he means making public investments in infrastructure, education, and basic R&D. But then he submits a budget proposal that would cut nondefense discretionary spending (of which these investments constitute more than half) to its lowest level as a share of gross domestic product in over half a century.

    A president can be forgiven for compromising, if his supporters understand why he is doing so. That the health-care law doesn't include a public option, that financial reform doesn't limit the size of the biggest Wall Street banks, even that cuts may have to be made to Medicare or Social Security — all could be accepted in light of the practical necessities of politics, if only we understood where the President is leading us.

    Why is Obama not using the bully pulpit? Perhaps he's too embroiled in the tactical maneuvers that pass for policy making in Washington, or too intent on preserving political capital for the next skirmish, or cynical about how the media will relay or distort his message. He may also disdain the repetition necessary to break through the noise and drive home the larger purpose of his presidency. I have known (and worked for) presidents who succumbed to all these, at least for a time.

    A more disturbing explanation is that he simply lacks the courage to tell the truth. He wants most of all to be seen as a responsible adult rather than a fighter. As such, he allows himself to be trapped by situations — the debt-ceiling imbroglio most recently — within which he tries to offer reasonable responses, rather than be the leader who shapes the circumstances from the start.

    Obama cannot mobilize America around the truth, in other words, because he is continuously adapting to the prevailing view. This is not leadership.

    The Centrist Cop-Out, by Paul Krugman, Commentary, NY Times

    Let me give you an example... As you may know, President Obama initially tried to strike a "Grand Bargain"... To do so, he ... offered extraordinary concessions on Democratic priorities: an increase in the age of Medicare eligibility, sharp spending cuts and only small revenue increases. ...

    But Republicans rejected the deal. So what was the headline on an Associated Press analysis of that breakdown in negotiations? "Obama, Republicans Trapped by Inflexible Rhetoric." A Democratic president ... who leans so far to the right that he's in danger of falling over ... is treated as being just the same as his utterly intransigent opponents. Balance!

    Which brings me to those "centrist" fantasies..., what's with the buzz about a centrist uprising? As I see it, it's coming from people who recognize the dysfunctional nature of modern American politics, but refuse, for whatever reason, to acknowledge the one-sided role of Republican extremists in making our system dysfunctional. And it's not hard to guess at their motivation. After all, pointing out the obvious truth gets you labeled as a shrill partisan, not just from the right, but from the ranks of self-proclaimed centrists.

    But making nebulous calls for centrism, like writing news reports that always place equal blame on both parties, is a big cop-out — a cop-out that only encourages more bad behavior. The problem with American politics right now is Republican extremism, and if you're not willing to say that, you're helping make that problem worse.

    Lafayette:

    A SIMPLE "HOW TO DO IT"

    What the debt is all about by the numbers - see here: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2011/07/28/us/charting-the-american-debt-crisis.html?src=ISMR_HP_LO_MST_FB

    Note also which presidents raised the debt and why. What are the principle conclusions to be made?

    War and the M-I-C is one recurrent reason for overblown spending, but deficit spending of all kinds is another. Meaning what?

    Certainly DoD spending must be brought (yet again) under control. And if we had the courage to raise taxes, we could probably balance the budget. How's that?

    This multiple measures approach:

    MY POINT

    It for all the above reasons that the Replicants are stonewalling any measure that increases taxes. But such measure go right to the heart of their constituency.

    The cherry on top of this cake is the additional revenues that would be created for not only Stimulus Spending but some real Social Investments to put the US on par with the rest of the developed world. (In a world where 20% of the population garner 93% of the economic riches generated and the rest of us poor slobs are left with 7%, nobody is as "free" as they would otherwise be.)

    POST SCRIPTUM

    It is also likely that we can lower, in the above manner, income taxation on the 52% of American households that live below the income level of $50K per annum. That would open Discretionary Income in a population that most needs it and most is willing to spend it - thus providing the Demand consumption that creates jobs.

    ilsm:

    The republican extortionists need to begin repealing appropriations.

    They are cowards since their scam is to tie the hands of future legislators.

    The extrortionists do not wash their hands as they destroy the weak and innocent.

    Otherwise the president should furlough military employees, and terminate the wasted weapons' contracts. Starting with those in Ohio.

    beezer:

    I've been saying for months that the Tea Party, and the Free Staters, are radicals. They are a new phenomenon and they truly believe government needs a severe trimming.

    For them a default, and the subsequent defunding of much of government, is just the medicine we need in order to reduce government down to providing 'essentials.' They do not acknowledge in any detail just what that means, and go into denial mode when opponents point of the very real consequences.

    But there are plenty of clues laying around for anyone who looks. Ryan's voucher program is exhibit one. Social Security constraints, instead of simply raising the cap and paying the bills, is another exhibit.

    Cuts in social programs benefitting the disadvantaged, most particularly women and children, provide another example.

    Defunding government has the added advantage, these groups believe, of reducing taxes and regulations which inhibit private market growth.

    This is their over-riding belief and no one should be surprised at all that they would willingly push us into default in pursuit of their goals.

    Complacency and false equivalencies in the media mask this radicalism, but it's right there in our face.

    Ron said in to Fred C. Dobbs...

    Not all stupid ideas can be spread by a committed minority with equal ease. Americans like to eat. Any idea that gets in the way of that will meet with massive resistance. Once the bread basket effect of Tea Party madness is realized then their foolishness will become no more than a grease spot on the map of history.

    anne
    July 29, 2011

    Mystery Man
    By Paul Krugman

    I'm not alone in feeling deep frustration over Obama's systematic destruction of his own bargaining power. Bruce Bartlett thinks he's too young and lacks the tempering the Cold War used to provide: *

    "Now we are in the midst of a debt crisis that stems largely from Obama's inability to accept the intransigence of his political opponents. Last December, he caved in to Republicans by supporting extension of the Bush tax cuts even though there is no evidence that they have done anything other than increase the deficit. There were those who told Obama that he ought to include an increase in the debt limit, but he rejected that idea, believing that Republicans would behave like responsible adults and raise the debt limit just as they did routinely when their party held the White House....

    "Obama has continued to reject any proposal that might give him leverage in the negotiations even as House Republicans appear unwilling or incapable of raising the debt limit before a default occurs.

    "I think if Obama had the sort of experience that Cold War presidents had in dealing with the Soviet Union or that corporate executives and union leaders had in negotiating labor contracts he wouldn't have been so naïve about the Republicans, who have never hidden the fact that their only objective is defeating him next year regardless of the cost. It's not too late for Obama to play hardball, but I fear that it is just not in his nature."

    Yves Smith is more caustic: **

    "It is hard to come up with words that are strong enough to describe what an appalling display of misguided ego, inept negotiating postures, bad policy thinking, and utter disregard for the public interest are on display in this fiasco. But as a friend of mine likes to say, 'Things always look darkest before they go completely black.' "

    It's really hard to talk about this without getting into armchair psychoanalysis. I'll try to refrain. But let's just say that Obama's continuing insistence on compromising, his continuing faith in bipartisanship despite two and a half years of evidence that these people don't do compromise and will never make a deal, is looking obsessive and compulsive. It's deeply frustrating.

    * http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Columns/2011/07/29/Debt-Crisis-Was-Fueled-by-Obamas-Weak-Negotiations.aspx#page1

    ** http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2011/07/team-obama-fiddles-while-debt-ceiling-fires-burn.html

    [Jul 29, 2011] Is President Obama a Trojan Horse

    12/12/2010 | BuzzFlash.org
    DAVIDSON LOEHR FOR BUZZFLASH

    Do you agree or disagree with the following commentary by Davidson Loehr? Enter your comments in your Facebook box at the bottom of the page.

    If President Obama is a liberal, he's had a funny way of showing it, especially in the total cave-in on his proposed tax package. It may earn a spot in history as one of the few times a President received more votes from the opposition party than he did from his own. Those who remember his campaigning against "stupid" wars are having trouble recognizing this man who seems to be speaking from inside the military's pocket. His increase in government secrecy, apparent duplicity, and schizophrenic military policies now have General Petraeus saying it's unlikely that our soldiers will be home from that doomed killing zone by 2014 - and that we may be there for a very long time.

    Since Obama took office, many Democrats have provided their own rationalizations for his bizarre political walk on the wild Republican side: they're footholds, he's softening the Republicans up for the big revolutionary liberal programs that he'll be announcing any day now. Except that it's been nearly 23 months, he hasn't done it yet, and he seems to be moving farther to the right every month.

    There's a deeper and darker fear here. I voted for Obama, and hadn't been this hopeful since JFK. I didn't vote for him because he was black -- though for me that was a wonderful bonus -- but because he was brilliant, articulate, and articulated hopes that had remained outside the realm of probability for over 40 years. The only serious concern I heard from liberals between November 4, 2008 and January 20, 2009 was whether he would be assassinated before he could even take office, because of the clear and present danger he represented to the rule of plutocrats and military hawks. Then, if that nightmare happened, would we see that quality of hope come again in our lifetimes?

    Now I wonder if Barack Obama was a Trojan Horse. Liberals and moderates opened the gates of trust and anticipation wide to bring in this apparent gift from and to the better angels of our nation's nature. What if the reality is that he was never going to be a gift to liberals, to freedom, to democracy, to America or to the world? What if the reality is that he was the perfect candidate in the dramatic - perhaps final - segue into a full-fledged plutocratic style of American fascism? He's the first American president to openly put out a "hit" on a U.S. citizen and to claim the right of the Executive Branch -- bypassing everyone else -- to deem a U.S. citizen a "terrorist" and order him killed.

    Author Chris Hedges believes Obama's years at Harvard and the University of Chicago immersed him in an elite system of manipulative people who feel entitled to benefits due only to their economic or intellectual class. As someone who spent seven years at one of those schools (the better one), I know that seductive fantasy of belonging to a virtuous aristocracy, categorically beyond the reach of ordinary people.

    On October 30, 2008 - the week before Obama was elected - conservative social commentator Roger Kimball wondered whether Obama was a "Moderate, Or Radical in Moderate's Clothing?" (http://pajamasmedia.com/rogerkimball/2008/10/30/obama-moderate-or-radical-in-moderates-clothing/) In April of this year, Bill Maher defined Obama as "a moderate Republican by '70s standards." (http://www.newsbusters.org/blogs/noel-sheppard/2010/04/24/bill-maher-barack-obama-moderate-republican-70s-standards). A month earlier, the blogger "Faithful Progressive" saw Obama as a Moderate President, and noted that on all four of the biggest issues in 2009, Obama was distinctly to the right of the "hard left": The Bush/2008 economic collapse, health care reform, Afghanistan, and Torture
    (http://faithfulprogressive.blogspot.com/2010/03/why-president-obama-is-moderate.html). And columnist David S. Broder recently congratulated Obama on being a "raging moderate," staking his claim to "the independent center."

    It's hard to imagine those in the "independent center" are in favor of continuing tax breaks for the very rich. The Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi was closer to the mark when he wrote a year ago that Obama shifted right as soon as he got elected: "Obama had a clear mandate to rein in Wall Street and remake the entire structure of the American economy. What he did instead was ship even his most marginally progressive campaign advisers off to various bureaucratic Siberias, while packing the key economic positions in his White House with the very people who caused the crisis in the first place."( http://www.theatlanticwire.com/opinions/view/opinion/Is-Obama-Too-Moderate-1896)

    Since taking office, President Obama's actions have been somewhere between Right and Far Right. To progressives and liberals, the only theory that seems to fit the facts is the depressing and hopeless admission that Barack Obama campaigned as a progressive, but took power as a transitional figure toward a United States with continuing wars abroad - almost certainly including the invasion of Iran - and a more repressive police state at home, in a two-tiered society of the rich and the rest. What a nauseating irony it will be if historians look back at us and say that our country was led over the line into a full-fledged American fascism by the first Black President in our history.

    Carly Corday:

    He isn't brilliant. I voted for him too, BTW. If all it takes to be deemed "brilliant" is to speak out loud without slurring or lapsing into babytalk, the junior high school classrooms worldwide are packed to overflowing with it. Please, at least CONSIDER rethinking the implanted auto-notion that Obama is "brilliant brilliant brilliant brilliant brilliant!"

    Michael P. Kaehler:

    I think that it is very easy for us to make excuses and rationalize the transition to fascism that has become increasingly evident since the end of WWII with the elimination of the fascist imperialist competition that has been on steroids since the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980. Obama just demonstrates fallacy the myth that one has to white to be a fascist.

    I suggest that if one really wants to understand what has taken place, that they locate a copy of R. Palme Dutt's "Fascism and Social Revolution" as it explains how this all took place as a perspective of 2010-2011 from 1934. Dutt's analysis of fascism and how the transition is made is flawless and well worth reading.

    [Jul 24, 2011] Debt talks bring tensions between Democrats, Obama to surface - The Washington Post

    It was an interesting variant of "change we can believe in": to turn black population into republican supporters by using a Trojan horse with black skin .

    hit4cycle:

    When push comes to shove, Mikulski and her cronies will find themselves under the bus. Unlike most of them, Obama is facing a tough election in less than 16 months and knows he needs those voters in the middle and he also knows he can take the black vote for granted and that extreme leftists will hold their noses and vote for him anyway. BTW.....kudos to the house for passing Cut, Cap and Balace. They've done their job and now the senate needs to end it's obstructionism and pass it as well.

    [Jul 23, 2011] Sachs: America Needs a Third-Party Movement

    Jeff Sachs wonders why military spending isn't a large part of the budget talks:

    Obama could have cut hundreds of billions of dollars in spending that has been wasted on America's disastrous wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Yemen, but here too it's been all bait and switch. Obama is either afraid to stand up to the Pentagon or is part of the same neoconservative outlook as his predecessor. The real cause hardly matters since the outcome is the same: America is more militarily engaged under Obama than even under Bush. Amazing but true. ... The American people ... have said repeatedly that they want a budget that sharply cuts the military, ends the wars, raises taxes on the rich, protects the poor and the middle class, and invests in America's future

    I've been wondering the same thing. Military spending has hardly been mentioned in the budget debate.

    He's pretty hard on both Republicans and Democrats, e.g.:

    The Republicans also misrepresent the costs and benefits of closing the deficit through higher taxes on the rich. Americans wants the rich to pay more, and for good reason. Super-rich Americans have walked away with the prize in America. Our country is run by millionaires and billionaires, and for millionaires and billionaires, the rest of the country be damned. Yet the Republicans and their propaganda mouthpieces like Rupert Murdoch's media empire, claim with sheer audacity that taxing the rich would kill economic growth. This trickle-down, voodoo, supply-side economics is the fig leaf of uncontrolled greed among the right-wing rich.

    And:

    at every crucial opportunity, Obama has failed to stand up for the poor and middle class. He refused to tax the banks and hedge funds properly on their outlandish profits; he refused to limit in a serious way the bankers' mega-bonuses even when the bonuses were financed by taxpayer bailouts; and he even refused to stand up against extending the Bush tax cuts for the rich last December, though 60 percent of the electorate repeatedly and consistently demanded that the Bush tax cuts at the top should be ended. It's not hard to understand why. Obama and Democratic Party politicians rely on Wall Street and the super-rich for campaign contributions the same way that the Republicans rely on oil and coal. In America today, only the rich have political power.

    I've been hoping to help to change the course that Democrats have been on recently, and frustrated at every turn. Jeff Sachs seems to have given up. In his view, a third party is the only answer:

    America needs a third-party movement to break the hammerlock of the financial elites. Until that happens, the political class and the media conglomerates will continue to spew lies, American militarism will continue to destabilize a growing swath of the world, and the country will continue its economic decline.

    I'm not quite there yet (and I should note that I don't agree with everything he says in the article). I worry a fractured party would open the door to GOP control (though it could fracture both parties?), but what do you think? Is he correct?

    bob mcmanus:

    A third party would have little to no positive electoral effect, but is a useful and legal way to organize, and somewhat harder for the government to oppress when the serious authoritarianism begins.

    "I've been wondering the same thing. Military spending has hardly been mentioned in the budget debate."

    ...is answered by...

    "Our country is run by millionaires and billionaires, and for millionaires and billionaires, the rest of the country be damned."

    when you understand that the oligarchy is now completely global. Saudi and Chinese and Russian billionaires have much input into US military policy. This was clear by 1991.

    bakho:

    The problem is that progressives are not even 20 percent of the electorate. Third party would make the less influential, not more.

    People should get involved in party activities first hand before thinking about third parties. Being involved gives you some access to candidates and an opportunity to voice your concern and form caucuses.

    A progressive caucus needs to form within the Dem Party to counter the DLC. In 2008, Obama managed to charm the progressive wing and then told them to go home.

    FRauncher :

    There is already a Progressive caucus in the House, with about 70 members. Obviously if they split now, the Democrats might well lose in 2012. If so, and if President Romney does not veer strongly to the left, the US will be ready for revolution or a third party in 2016. Is everyone ready to suffer for six more years to realign the the political landscape? If not, be ready to descend for the rest of the century into the lumpen proletariat.

    This is obviously a moment of enormous social disruption not only in the USA but in the world. In such moments the US has always responded with a new political party, or a profound realignment. Remember that Fremont lost in 1856, but the momentum continued to build, and the new Republicans won with Lincoln in 1860.

    So enough of this chickenshit response. Fight and hang tough for six more years.

    Mark A. Sadowski:

    Thanks for the reminder that there really is a Congressional Progressive Caucus. In fact here is their FY 2012 budget proposal:

    The People's Budget

    "The People's Budget eliminates the deficit in 10 years, puts Americans back to work and restores our economic competitiveness. The People's Budget recognizes that in order to compete, our nation needs every American to be productive, and in order to be productive we need to raise our skills to meet modern needs.

    Our Budget Eliminates the Deficit and Raises a $31 Billion Surplus In Ten Years Our budget protects Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and responsibly eliminates the deficit by targeting its main drivers: the Bush Tax Cuts, the wars overseas, and the causes and effects of the recent recession.

    Our Budget Puts America Back to Work & Restores America's Competitiveness • Trains teachers and restores schools; rebuilds roads and bridges and ensures that users help pay for them • Invests in job creation, clean energy and broadband infrastructure, housing and R&D programs

    Our Budget Creates a Fairer Tax System • Ends the recently passed upper-income tax cuts and lets Bush-era tax cuts expire at the end of 2012 • Extends tax credits for the middle class, families, and students • Creates new tax brackets that range from 45% starting at $1 million to 49% for $1 billion or more • Implements a progressive estate tax • Eliminates corporate welfare for oil, gas, and coal companies; closes loopholes for multinational corporations • Enacts a financial crisis responsibility fee and a financial speculation tax on derivatives and foreign exchange

    Our Budget Protects Health • Enacts a health care public option and negotiates prescription payments with pharmaceutical companies • Prevents any cuts to Medicare physician payments for a decade

    Our Budget Safeguards Social Security for the Next 75 Years • Eliminates the individual Social Security payroll cap to make sure upper income earners pay their fair share • Increases benefits based on higher contributions on the employee side

    Our Budget Brings Our Troops Home • Responsibly ends our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to leave America more secure both home and abroad • Cuts defense spending by reducing conventional forces, procurement, and costly R&D programs

    Our Budget's Bottom Line • Deficit reduction of $5.6 trillion • Spending cuts of $1.7 trillion • Revenue increase of $3.9 trillion • Public investment $1.7 trillion"

    http://cpc.grijalva.house.gov/index.cfm?sectionid=70&sectiontree=5,70

    I don't recommend forming a third party. But I do recommend a determined, radically experimentive and outspoken (salty tongued if necessary, as people remember it better) challenge to Obama from the left (a la Huey Long).

    PeakVT:

    "America needs a third-party movement to break the hammerlock of the financial elites."

    No, it doesn't. Given America's FPTP voting system, all it would do is split one side, because no party could position itself so perfectly as to draw equally from the two existing parties. Also, to the extent that it is actually something new (which isn't all that much), the third party movement called "The Tea Party" has made things worse in this country. So a third party isn't by itself a panacea. Of course Sachs is fantasizing about a third party that defers to elite pundits like Jeffrey Sachs for all of its policy positions, not a third party that could actually be formed in the real world.

    If Sachs wants to help the public debate, he should instead figure out what side is worse (that's not hard) and apply pressure accordingly, instead of blathering on about a deus ex machina like a third party.

    Fred C. Dobbs:

    Military spending is 'not mentioned' because National Security is one issue that both parties ostensibly agree on. Woe betide the political party that is soft on Defense. Plus, lots of congressional districts do quite well on this, $$$-wise.

    One area where 'Made in U.S.A.' is a pretty strict requirement is manufacturing-for- the-military. (A mere vestige of what got US out of the Great Depression. The last one, that is.)

    Lee A. Arnold:

    Third party would be an electoral disaster. It splits your field, and the opposition wins. Look at how the Republican Party may now disintegrate, because the Tea Party is such a coherent force within them!

    Multiple parties leads to the sort of coalition politics we see in most other countries. Look at the Israeli Knesset. It is a crooked mess. When this approach ever starts solving problems any better than a two-party system, let us know.

    The real solution is to understand that Washington is already a perfectly serviceable system, a mechanical chess game, a puppet-show whose strings YOU can pull, too. Advance the interests of a party to keep power, as you advance your own interests.

    We are now over half the way there on universal healthcare; it is an inevitability if we can prevent its reversal. The hijacking of the debt-ceiling by the right to prevent tax hikes on the wealthy (up to only Clinton levels!) is almost defeated. It's a slow process, but so what?

    If you really want to change politics in the United States, then change what people believe.

    There is a complete, across-the-board rhetorical intellectual failure on the left. What the hell is going on? Why is there no simple, complete formulation of means and ends in public economics? I don't mean a string of mathematical models, I mean a synoptic prose presentation for the general public. Why is there no simple, complete explanation of how debt can jumpstart an economy and then be paid back afterward, without harm? Where is the material that the public should have access to? Why does everyone think it is sufficient to toss off snarky generalities?

    Teach real principles of economics. Most people still don't know this stuff:

    (1) Government spending on non-market necessities cannot hurt the market economy.

    (2) Tax cuts aren't the only thing that causes economic growth.

    (3) Rich people don't create most of the jobs -- most jobs are created by little people with good ideas and access to credit (and healthcare).

    (4) There is no such thing as a free lunch, but innovations and institutions BOTH can make it cheaper.

    (5) Short-term and long-term are different discussions.

    (6) Politicians either can be believed or not be believed, but partisans can't have it both ways. And guess what: a new third party won't solve that.

    comma1:

    We don't need three parties, we only need two -- which is one more than we have now. If Democrats would stop campaigning on progressivism and then ruling as conservatives, we would be in an entirely better place.

    supersaurus:

    a third party would be useful if it split the right along the lunatics and liars line (tea party and the rest). if 20% of the right would vote for lunatic 3rd party candidates a lot of state-wide offices would turn over. unfortunately that would do nothing to replace obama with a decent president.

    FRauncher:

    You've got to look past the next election. It's going to take at least six years to realign the parties.

    DakotabornKansan:

    One of the reasons Obama has been able to go so far to the right is because there no primary opposition to him.

    Sam:

    A fractured left here in Britain between two leftist parties since 1900 has been the means for the Conservative Party to dominate 20th century politics as the 'natural party of government' - it's risky. And how would a leftist party get the grassroot support in this climate? America sort of does have a third party - Tea Party Republicans (Ross Perot voters).

    Jim Harrison:

    In the absence of a credible threat from a genuine left, American progressives will never gain control of the Democratic party, much less the government. Why should the plutocrats and technocrats give up their duopoly unless they must? The New Deal, the emergence of Social Democracy in Europe, and the relatively peaceful dismantling of the British, Dutch, French, and Portuguese empires all took place in an era when Communism presented an alternative to liberalism.

    Viewed abstractly, the only room for a new party in American politics is to the left of the Democrats. Inserting yet another conservative party between the two existing conservative parties would just be an exercise in vanity by the billionaire who would have to foot the bill for it, but the establishment holds far too many cards to allow a serious challenge from even a moderate left coalition. A national crisis might change things, but nationalism is actually quite a weak force in America where interminable and noisy shows of patriotism are simply hysterical compensation for the fact that a great many of us have never bought into the project of a real country on these shores. e pluribus nihil is the most likely outcome of an emergency.

    Carol:

    The Democratic Party is already fractured, but I don't think a third party is feasible. It would take a lot of money, which is hard to come by unless you toe a corporate line, and strong leaders on the center left which are yet to be born, or more hopefully, already among us but not ready for prime time yet.

    Patricia Shannon:

    The right-wing extremists were not able to form third parties. So they took over the Republican party, or at least gained a lot of clout. They got elected to a lot of school boards and other local political posts.

    I remember years ago, when I told people the Christian Coalition was plotting on taking over the Republican party, people told me superciliously that I was paranoid. But it was true, and they were successful because they put effort into it, making plans and working for it for years.

    I think there is a lesson in there for progressives.

    [Jul 13, 2011] Revenue Raisers That Aren't Tax Increases Capital Gains and Games

    reflectionephemeral

    useful stuff, in a parallel universe Republicans don't care about the deficit, or the size of government (see, e.g., NCLB, Raich, Medicare Part D, Patriot Act, occupation of Iraq, etc.).

    They care about using the government to reward their friends and punish everyone else. These proposals don't subsidize campaign donors, nor target unions or minorities, so the Republican Party will never embrace them.

    Some of these ideas might work well, as policies, but the Republican Party doesn't care about policy.

    [Jul 06, 2011] Obama's Short-Sighted View Of U.S. Politics The New Republic

    As a shill of financial oligarchy Obama has chances, but they are smaller then the author suggests. Latino and blacks are hit by unemployment hardest. So the fact the Obama betrayed them will not go unnoticed. Essentially all Barack (former Barry) Obama presidency is the act of serial betrayals.

    ...liberals, and the Democratic presidents they support, have been on the defensive for decades. Since the racial crisis of the 1960s and the debacle of the Vietnam War, they have been afraid to assert the justice of their beliefs and the value of their accomplishments. Although Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton temporarily managed to win back some white Southerners who had fled the party of civil rights, neither put forth a fresh notion of what the government should do or found ways to unite progressive activists, unionists, black and Latino voters, and sympathetic businesspeople behind a common program. While each had sound reasons to abandon the old liberalism, they offered nothing to replace it other than vague talk about "a government as good as its people" and a "Third Way." As a result, conservatism has remained the default ideology of the political class.

    Meanwhile, on the right, Republicans have consistently appreciated the value of long-term planning. In the 1970s, they mobilized the troika of movement conservatism—religious traditionalists, business-minded libertarians, and neocon cold warriors (who later morphed into cheerleaders for the war in Iraq)—to supply the ideas, money, and institutions to push a simple message about slashing government (except the military) and supporting "family values." That formula has helped the GOP win a majority of white votes in every presidential election since Richard Nixon squashed George McGovern.

    By the turn of the century, Karl Rove and George W. Bush realized the nation's changing demography would soon jeopardize their party's electoral edge. So they proposed immigration reform to appeal to Latinos, and No Child Left Behind and the faith-based initiative to woo African Americans. That program, notes historian Gary Gerstle, "possessed a coherence that liberal critics of the administration too often overlooked." The multiple disasters of Bush's second term made a hash of the administration's dreams. But, if Republicans are able to use the electoral foundation that the last White House built and win even two-fifths of the non-white vote—which, admittedly, would require softening their views on immigration—they would still be likely to cement a majority for several decades to come.

    DESPITE HIS DISAPPOINTING performance so far, Obama still has an opportunity to prevent this from happening. With nativists in command of the GOP, his base among the swelling number of Latino and Asian American voters is relatively strong, and he enjoys the unshakeable support of African Americans. Against a party still led by evangelical foes of homosexual rights, Democrats can also count on the growing ranks of culturally tolerant professionals who live in most metropolitan areas. What's more, Republicans are not likely to nominate a candidate in 2012 who can appeal to young whites the way the affable Reagan did. As Ruy Teixiera and John Judis have been arguing for the past decade, the demographic potential for a Democratic majority is there.

    Yet, if Obama wants to realize this potential, he will have to do more than just win re-election, which may be difficult enough. He will have to show confidence and execute a strategy that clarifies what is at stake in our politics. Toward the end of his own second presidential campaign, FDR asserted,

    "Government by organized money is just as dangerous as government by organized mob. Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me, and I welcome their hatred."

    Obama should speak so forcefully today.

    It is important to remember that, contrary to liberal legend, Roosevelt did not glide from triumph to triumph. In fact, during the 1930s, a majority of Americans often disagreed with a given New Deal policy and were troubled by the growth of federal power it represented. Still, they were hungry for protective and vigorous leadership and trusted FDR's concern for their plight, which he expressed and acted upon, clearly and often. This trust helped anchor the Democrats' majority for years to come. Obama might not be another FDR. But he can become a tougher, more farsighted politician; that would be a change worth believing in.

    Michael Kazin is the author of American Dreamers: How the Left Changed a Nation, to be published in August. He teaches history at Georgetown University.

    Guest Post The U.S. Monetary System And Descent Into Fascism An Interview With Dr. Edwin Vieira zero hedge

    Submitted by David Galland of The Casey Report

    The U.S. Monetary System And Descent Into Fascism An Interview With Dr. Edwin Vieira

    The following interview with Dr. Vieira was conducted in early June of 2011 for the subscribers of The Casey Report – but after careful consideration, we decided that the content is so important; it needs to be shared with a wider audience. Feel free to pass it along.

    David Galland
    Managing Editor
    The Casey Report

    For more than thirty years, Edwin Vieira, Jr., has practiced law, with emphasis on constitutional issues. In the Supreme Court of the United States, he successfully argued or briefed the cases leading to the landmark decisions Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, Chicago Teachers Union v. Hudson, and Communications Workers of America v. Beck, which established constitutional and statutory limitations on the uses to which labor unions, in both the private and the public sectors, may apply fees extracted from nonunion workers as a condition of their employment.

    He has written numerous monographs and articles in scholarly journals, and lectured throughout the county. His most recent work on money and banking is the two-volume Pieces of Eight: The Monetary Powers and Disabilities of the United States Constitution (2002), the most comprehensive study in existence of American monetary law and history viewed from a constitutional perspective.

    He is also the co-author (under a nom de plume) of the political novel CRA$HMAKER: A Federal Affaire (2000), a not-so-fictional story of an engineered crash of the Federal Reserve System, and the political upheaval it causes.

    His latest book is: How to Dethrone the Imperial Judiciary... and Constitutional "Homeland Security," Volume One, The Nation in Arms.

    We first met Dr. Vieira at our Casey Research Boca Raton Summit and were sufficiently impressed to want to hear more, and to share more, of his work with readers of The Casey Report.

    DAVID: Before kicking things off, I'd refer readers to Dr. Vieira's in-depth and excellent paper, "A Cross of Gold," as that provides a more detailed analysis on how the corrupt U.S. monetary system might transition into something more honest and effective.

    Getting started, from a big-picture perspective, technically speaking, is the current U.S. monetary system actually constitutional?

    EDWIN: Well, technically speaking, factually speaking, legally speaking, no. In a word, no.

    DAVID: Why not?

    EDWIN: There are two levels to consider. First, there's the straight currency level – what is supposed to be the official monetary unit. Then there is "other," which I distinguish as different from the official monetary unit because the Constitution doesn't prohibit private parties from creating media of exchange for their own uses, as long as those media of exchange are non-fraudulent and they're operated in an otherwise honest commercial fashion.

    But the official unit of currency is supposed to be the dollar, and I'll tell you exactly what a dollar is – it's 371.25 grains of silver in the form of a coin. That was determined as a historical fact in 1792. Actually the dollar was adopted before the Constitution was even written. It was adopted by the Continental Congress under the Articles of Confederation, the so-called Spanish milled dollar, which was the actual unit that was circulating then, because there had been essentially no coinage under the various colonial regimes in colonial America. So that's the dollar unit.

    Well, do we have that now? The answer is, "Well, essentially, no." First, obviously they are not coining a true dollar, they coin a Liberty Silver Dollar, but that's 480 grains, not 371.25 grains. And you have various gold coinage with dollar denominations on it, but those dollar denominations have no real relationship in terms of market exchange ratio to a silver unit of 371.25 grains.

    So the short answer is that within the coinage system we don't have what we're supposed to have. We have silver coins, we have gold coins, but they're not properly weighted or regulated. And then, of course, we have these base metallic coins, which have no constitutional status at all – at least with respect to being legal tender for their face values. So on the coinage side, we have a mélange and a mess. At least there is some silver and gold coinage, but it doesn't meet the constitutional requirements.

    On the other side, the so-called official paper money side, the Constitution does not provide for official paper money. What it does address are two provisions; the first, dealing with the states, specifically says, "No state shall emit bills of credit." As a word of explanation, bills of credit were the founding fathers' terminology for paper currency.

    This is interesting because the paper currency they actually used and emitted were bills of credit that promised to pay something, typically gold and silver coins, specified on the face of the bill. So even those types of paper currency, fully redeemable paper currency, were outlawed for the states because the states had emitted them in vast excess. That was the historical basis for the outlawry.

    Now, turning our attention to Congress, you need to recall that Congress only has the powers that are granted to it. You don't look in the Constitution for prohibitions on Congress's authority and assume that it can do everything that isn't prohibited. You look for delegations of authority, and you assume that anything that hasn't been delegated is prohibited.

    If you look at the original draft of the Constitution in the Constitutional Convention, the Federal Convention of 1787, it said, "Congress shall have the power to borrow money and emit bills on the credit of the United States."

    That language was taken from the Articles of Confederation. The Congress operating under those articles had the power to borrow money and emit bills – emit paper currency – and they did it. They emitted the so-called continental currency from which came the phrase "not worth a continental" because they emitted so much of it that it depreciated very close to worthlessness.

    At the Constitutional Convention, you had people in attendance who had been members of the Continental Congress. They had been members of various state legislatures. These were the leading political figures in the country. They had to a large extent been the ones who had emitted continental currency or had emitted various state bills of credit. So this was a question that wasn't in some way alien to them as they had been involved in it only a few years earlier.

    So the first draft of the Constitution was put forward with the same power that the Continental Congress had, and there was a debate. You look at Madison's notes, and it was a rather vociferous debate, and they threw out the words "emit bills," so that now that provision of the Constitution says, "Congress shall have the power to borrow money on the credit of the United States." It says nothing about emitting bills.

    Well, by hypothesis, if the power is proposed and then stricken from the final version, it doesn't exist, right? You don't need to be a Harvard law school graduate to understand that.

    So we look at those two provisions of the Constitution: One explicitly prohibiting the states from emitting bills of credit, because otherwise the states would retain that power. And the other with respect to Congress, where they didn't grant the power, even though the power was proposed to be granted and that proposal was overruled, and so it wasn't granted. Based on that it is clear, I would say, that there is no power in Congress or in the states to issue bills of credit.

    What we have now is something I think goes almost beyond the bill of credit, though it's not really fiat currency because the Federal Reserve note, according to the statute, is supposed to be redeemed in "lawful money." So in principle one could go back to the Federal Reserve Bank or one could take it to the Treasury – both have the obligation of redemption – and you could exchange a Federal Reserve note for one of these base metallic coins now in circulation. So, I guess it still could be called a bill of credit in the sense that you can actually receive some coinage, but what is the coinage that you receive?

    Interestingly, we had an example of this type of problem in the period around the Civil War. During the Civil War and just after, the Union Government issued "greenbacks" – legal tender U.S. Treasury notes – and that was the first time that the government had purported to issue any kind of paper currency under the Constitution.

    They did it once again under a wartime emergency – and for a short time, those things were not redeemed because the government was not paying out gold except as interest on bonds. They had to suspend specie payments during the war, but the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of that issuance of those greenbacks, I think erroneously, but they upheld it specifically on the basis that the greenbacks were to be redeemed in the constitutional currency of gold and silver.

    All right, so even the furthest extent of error that has been made by the judicial system, with respect to paper currency, was premised on that paper currency being a true bill of credit in that it would be redeemed in the constitutional coinage of the country.

    Well, if you look at the Federal Reserve note, you have a number of problems with it: Number one, it's not issued by the Treasury. It's issued by this banking cartel. No Federal Reserve note can come into existence unless one of the 12 regional banks, each of which is a private corporation, goes to the Board of Governors with certain assets defined in the statute and asks the Board of Governors to generate Federal Reserve notes.

    The Board of Governors can't generate Federal Reserve notes on its own, neither can the Treasury. So these things are being generated by a private corporation, and they're not redeemable as a matter of law in the official constitutional silver or gold currency of the country. So they probably have four or five constitutional strikes against them. Especially if you look at the difference between U.S. Treasury notes and Federal Reserve notes. Treasury notes were always the product of some specific statute enacted by Congress, where Congress would say that so many millions of dollars' worth of these notes are to be emitted.

    DAVID: Right, and emitting those notes obviously falls within their right to borrow money.

    EDWIN: Well, assuming that that's what they're doing – and that was the Supreme Court's decision in the legal tender cases after the Civil War – they said, well, that's a form of borrowing money. It really isn't because it's a form of generating money. You don't borrow money when you generate money – the concept is nonsense – but even assuming that that's the case, Congress has the power to borrow money and they specify a certain amount of money.

    Well, they haven't specified a certain amount of money to come out of the Federal Reserve system ever. There's absolutely no specification – that's all left to the whim of the Federal Reserve banks. So assuming that Congress had the power to generate Treasury notes, they would do it in a controlled fashion by telling us exactly how much is supposed to come out with each emission. Here they have purported to delegate this power to a consortium of private bankers, so this is like six or seven strikes. This is worse than baseball.

    DAVID: And at this point, you really cannot redeem your Federal Reserve notes for anything anywhere. I mean, you can trade them with other people for other goods, and then you can take them to the bank and redeem them in base metal coins worth a fraction of their face value.

    EDWIN: Well, initially Federal Reserve notes were required to be redeemed in gold, and then that was removed in '33 and '34 with the gold seizure. So now we have notes that, as John Exter used to say, are an IOU-Nothing Currency – because with respect to the banks and with respect to the Treasury, they owe you nothing, and if you go into the marketplace, you may be able to get whatever someone will give you for them, but you have no legal right to demand any particular amount of anything.

    A redeemable currency, by law, is a currency that has a requirement that the issuer redeem it in something that is specified, a certain weight of gold, a certain weight of silver, whatever. So at one time, Federal Reserve notes were redeemable currency.

    Now, I suppose, as I said, they're not a fiat currency because you can get this base metallic stuff for them, but the constitutional requirement, assuming that you could have a bill of credit at all, would be that it had to be paid in the constitutional coinage unit. So this is the problem. Constitutionally, the thing is a first-class mess.

    DAVID: So you've got eight strikes or so against this currency, constitutionally speaking, and yet the situation persists. Why hasn't there been a successful challenge to the system in the courts?

    EDWIN: Looking at challenges that have come up over the years, I would start by looking back to the '30s, because in the '30s you had two events. The first was a gold seizure followed by the second, the prohibition of gold clauses in contracts.

    You had one set of cases that came up to the Supreme Court dealing with the prohibition of gold clause contracts, and one can only look at those and shake one's head and say, "Well, this is just, you know, fraud, complete double talk, nonsense." And interestingly enough, they never took on the gold seizure. They never decided a case on the gold seizure, even though cases were brought to them. They refused to hear them, and I think the reason was even they knew they couldn't figure out how to justify that one, how to rationalize that.

    Subsequently, you've had attempts by people to challenge the Federal Open Market Committee in particular, because the Federal Open Market Committee of course is composed not only of the members of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.

    Now, arguably, because they're appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate, you could say they're officials of the government, although that's an open question that's never really been decided. But the other members of that committee are representatives of the private Federal Reserve regional banks, about which there have been a number of challenges brought on the ground that you can't allow private parties to participate in that kind of a committee – a committee that is essentially making governmental monetary policy.

    Every one of those challenges has been thrown out without reaching the merits. They've been thrown out on some kind of standing ground – either the courts have refused to hear them at all, or they've thrown them out on what I would call tangential grounds, really not getting to the merits. I think the ultimate reason for that is probably out of fear or prudence, depending on how you want to characterize it.

    I mean, if I'm a judge and somebody comes to me with one of these cases and says, "I want you to overturn this entire monetary structure by knocking out this important provision or that important provision," I say to myself, "Well, yes, I guess I could do that, legally speaking. I can write an opinion saying that this provision of the law is unconstitutional and it's no longer effective."

    But then what happens?

    I can't write, in my opinion, an order to Congress to pass a particular statute to correct that situation, so although I can throw a judicial monkey wrench into the gears, I can't do anything to prevent the disaster that will then occur as a result of blowing up that mechanism. Ergo, wearing the hat of a judge, I'm going to stand back and not get involved but rather leave it to Congress to solve, if possible.

    DAVID: But once you start down that path where you have, let's say, a certain amount of elasticity on when you follow the Constitution and when you just look the other way, doesn't that set the stage for all sorts of gyrations and further miscarriages of justice and even fraud? As Doug Casey has commented on numerous occasions, at this point the country is being operated on a very corrupt basis.

    EDWIN: Well, I agree with him 100%. After the Civil War, in the Knox v. Lee legal tender case, the Supreme Court could have said, "Yes, we understand this was done during the Civil War, but it's unconstitutional, and you can't continue with this. And so any contracts that were made in this illegal money will be revalued in constitutional money." If they had taken that position back then, they could have worked it all out because they did just that for the confederate states.

    The confederate states were considered to be an illegal operation entirely, a criminal rebellion. The confederate states generated a huge amount of paper currency, and a number of cases came to the Supreme Court after the Civil War dealing with the enforcement of contracts in the confederate states that had been made implicitly or explicitly in confederate money. What were we going to do with these contracts?

    And the Supreme Court said, "Well, to the extent the contracts were for an illegal purpose, such as supplying arms to the Confederate Army, then they were void, but if it was a contract to buy wood or something from a farmer or whatever, these people were forced into using that currency because that's where they were, they had no choice, and we will simply revalue those contracts and enforce them for their fair worth, that's just simple equity."

    They could have done the exact same thing with respect to the greenbacks of the Civil War – saying that the greenbacks were unconstitutional and let's never do this again. But they didn't, and as a result set a precedent, and one precedent leads to another, and that's precisely why we're here.

    The same thing during the 1930s with the gold clause cases: They could have declared that statute unconstitutional right then and there because nothing had yet happened, but they played this game in the Supreme Court.

    DAVID: So, the Supreme Court ducked crucial issues and allowed precedents to be set for the creation of a monetary system that is clearly unconstitutional and, importantly, unsound. So here we are today, with everything totally screwed up. Do you think the monetary system now operating in the U.S. – and around the world, for that matter – can survive as is? Or is it going to have to change, and relatively soon?

    EDWIN: Well, it's going to have to change, raising the questions, "In what direction and under whose control?" Historically, the United States has seen each one of these faulty systems go into self-destruction mode, followed by the government ratcheting things up to the next-higher level.

    Thus the First Bank of the United States was followed by the Second Bank of the United States, neither of which was really a central bank. They were just private banks that operated as fiscal agents for the government. And there were a lot of state banks, and these all went into some kind of failure mode.

    Along comes the Civil War, and they come up with the National Banking System, which was a cartelization of banks tied into the U.S. Treasury, so they moved it from the level of individual banks – that might have been state chartered or chartered by Congress but were nevertheless essentially separate private entities – into a cartel structure that had a direct connection to the Treasury.

    Now that direct connection to the Treasury was that those banks had to buy U.S. Treasury bonds, and then they would deposit those with the Treasury, and they'd get 90% of the value of the bonds back in currency, which they could then use for their own private purposes. That system didn't work because at that point in time, people were not interested in amassing ever greater federal debt, and the expansion of that banking system depended upon amassing ever greater amounts of federal debt.

    Well, that system goes into crisis and what do they do? Do they correct it? No, they go to the next level and give us the national lender of last resort, the Federal Reserve System. Essentially improving the cartel structure. That thing lasts only from 1914 to 1932, about 20 years, before it collapses. Does Roosevelt solve this problem by dealing strictly with fractional reserve? No, he raises it to another level by expanding the powers of the Federal Reserve System and taking gold away from the American people.

    That lasts until after World War II, at Bretton Woods, when the United States Federal Reserve System and the Federal Reserve note become the World Central Bank and the World Central Reserve Currency, as a matter of fact, and how long does that last? Until 1971, right? By then, so much gold has left the country because of the profligate policies of Congress, especially the war in Vietnam and Johnson's War on Poverty, that Nixon finally has to stop gold redemption in 1971.

    Which brings us to the present, and we are again back in crisis mode, and what are they telling us? "Oh, we've got to go to the next level. We've got to create a New World Central Bank." Maybe this will be the IMF or whatever, but we are going to expand the thing to the next level until we have the final blowout. Because this is what they've always done.

    DAVID: It seems to me that once the U.S. government starts talking about a global currency that Americans will finally say, "No, enough, we're just not going there." For a lot of reasons, nationalism and because of the negative examples being provided by the failing experiment with the euro?

    While I have long been shocked at the depth of the apathy of the American people, I have a hard time believing they would turn our currency over to the IMF or any international body. If you agree, doesn't that mean that we could be at the point now – in this crisis – where it's not going to go any further? That the madness stops here?

    EDWIN: Yes, I was not saying that their plan will work, rather I was just restating what their plan is. I don't think it's going to be successful. The euro gives us a good example of why it's not going to be successful. Also, they have another difficulty; to set up a system of this kind, they're going to have to pass some serious legislation to tie us into some kind of world currency system.

    DAVID: Which will never happen.

    EDWIN: That's right. Can you imagine what the deadlock would be in Congress over that? So actually we have an opportunity here. The door has finally opened for some serious monetary reform because the other side has come essentially to a dead end.

    DAVID: Because they can't keep amassing ever-increasing amounts of national debt. We're reaching the limit on that.

    EDWIN: That's right. So here we are, and now the question really comes back to whether there are enough people in America who understand this and are willing to take the appropriate steps to start putting in some alternative?

    I don't think this can be done from the top down. I don't think Congress is going to solve this problem, and certainly the bankers are not going to give them the right legislation to solve this problem. It has to be solved from the bottom up.

    DAVID: Bottom up?

    EDWIN: The beauty of the constitutional system is, we have these intermediate political bodies called the state governments that have certain reserved constitutional authority. They haven't been exercising it for a long time, but it's there, and part of that is monetary, and interestingly enough this has already been decided by the Supreme Court. It's not as if I'm inventing this idea.

    After the Civil War, we had a similar situation. Before they went back to gold redemption, you had depreciating legal tender Treasury notes circulating, and there was gold and silver circulating as well. That had not been withdrawn from circulation, so in the first case of this kind, the State of Oregon had a law that required that its taxes be paid in gold and silver coin and someone tried to pay in legal-tender Treasury notes on the theory that Congress has made these legal tender for all debts and therefore that overrides the laws of the State of Oregon requiring payment of taxes in gold and silver.

    Well, the case gets all the way to the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court says "No, wrong. The states have residual sovereignty." They are sovereign governments, except to the extent that they've surrendered certain powers to the national government, and one of the powers they have not surrendered is the power of taxation – one of the basic governmental powers. I guess you could include borrowing and spending, so forth and so on, but they have the right to perform basic governmental functions, taxation being one of them.

    If a state determines for its own purposes it needs to tax in gold coin and silver coin or bullion, then the state can do it and Congress has nothing to say about it. From which it would follow that step number one would be for a state to start saying, "We're going to tax or spend or borrow," or whatever, in gold coin, silver coin, gold bullion, silver bullion.

    DAVID: Recently there was legislation in Utah defining gold as being legal for settling debts and so forth. Correct?

    EDWIN: Well, there's a statute that just came out in Utah, which I would call more of a "making a statement" statute than a substantive statute, because they recognize the United States gold and silver coin as legal tender. Well, they have no choice – it is, that's constitutional. The statute merely recognizes that people can make contracts, enforceable contracts using gold and silver coin, and that's also their right. But it's the first time that a state has actually stood up and said something about monetary policy. Even so, a journey of a thousand leagues begins with a single step, right?

    DAVID: Looking at the descent of the dollar and its steep downtrend since 2002 – against other currencies and, of course, gold – one can't but wonder, how much further can it fall before you get a real crisis? One that the government won't be able to deal with?

    Based on the historical precedent you mentioned, it just continues to go down until it reaches the point they have to come up with something else. Given the strong probability that, in time, the Fed is going to have to step back in with another round of quantitative easing, do you think that could be the trigger for the bottom falling out from under the dollar?

    EDWIN: I think so, because of the large percentage of debt required to finance the government at this point – I think it is now running around 46%. Victor Sperandeo has done some work on hyperinflations and found that apparently once that number gets over around 40-41%, that's the end.

    According to his work, in every big example of hyperinflation since the French Revolution, that number is apparently the tipping point on the rollercoaster. You've gone over the top, and now gravity takes over and down you go to the bottom. They can't stop the thing. So we're now at 46%, at least it was on the 12th of May, 46%, and it doesn't seem to me there's any will or intelligence in Congress to correct this, and it's not going to be the Federal Reserve that corrects this, it's going to have to be done legislatively.

    Of course, the government could do something radical to correct the situation – there is always the "if-then" type analysis, but assuming that they don't take radical steps to correct it, which seems a safe assumption, that's the direction we're heading in.

    DAVID: So we could already be over the top on this, as far as this is concerned.

    EDWIN: Yes, that's the fear – and once we're over the top, that's the end of the game. The rollercoaster goes to the bottom. There's no stopping it.

    DAVID: Interesting in this whole discussion is that the U.S. has been the driver in the global adoption of the monetary system we now have, starting with Bretton Woods and then when Nixon stopped gold redeemability. At that point, everybody just sort of went along, continuing to use the U.S. dollar as a de facto reserve currency. But all of a sudden, today, you look around and can't help realizing the problem is global in scale, leaving none of the paper currencies as a viable alternative. Are there any conceivable solutions to a crisis of this scale?

    EDWIN: If you want to go back to a sound currency system and a sound political system – and by sound political system, I mean one in which the political powers can't manipulate money – then it has to be tied to some free-market commodity, right? Historically the two that have worked have been gold and silver, and that actually is the constitutional standard, so unless we want to change the Constitution, we have to work with that.

    Fortunately it will work, so we can do that. The mechanism for doing it is the question, and as I say, it's got to come through the states. Looking at this from the investor's point of view, I don't know if there are good investments in the collapse of Western civilization. Which is what we're facing.

    DAVID: A lot of people think that if you own gold, enough gold, that you'll come out of this okay. What is your general view on that?

    EDWIN: In the hyperinflationary event, if you held something like 15% or 20% of your total portfolio in gold and the rest of it goes to zero, you won't gain anything but you will not lose anything. That said, my interest has never really been in this from an investment point of view, except investment in a political sense.

    Looking down the road in an attempt to see what this country will look like if we go through a hyperinflationary event – and if out of that doesn't come a sound currency and restrictions on the government's power to manipulate money and credit – it appears to me that what could emerge is a first-class fascist police state.

    DAVID: Because restricting the government's ability to manipulate the money also restricts their ability to do everything that they are currently? Putting in those restrictions would then limit them from being involved in so many parts of the economy, as they now are. Obviously, in a monetary system built around sound money, they couldn't keep spending money at this level.

    EDWIN: That's right. If you have a system based on real money, we would not have this elephantiasis of government. So that was the great failure of the Supreme Court not asking, "Wait a minute, if we let them have this, where will that lead?" They didn't look down the road. Maybe they did. Maybe that's what they wanted. Maybe they were extreme nationalists of the Hamiltonian view of "The more power the better," but an intelligent person will look and say, "Wait a minute, we can't put these powers into the hands of mere politicians."

    DAVID: So do you really think a collapse of the Western civilization is avoidable at this point?

    EDWIN: No. That's what I'm worried about.

    DAVID: It seems avoidable if the politicians acknowledged the reality of the situation and dealt with it accordingly, but do you see any hope that it's politically likely?

    EDWIN: Well, I'm going to give it a year or two to see what the states start doing here. We're seeing more and more resistance, at least verbally, coming out of state legislatures and even out of some state governors to various encroachments by the people in Washington. We've seen some push-back in the healthcare area, TSA, and then there's this business with illegal immigration, and now some states are beginning to talk about monetary reform.

    There's not too much the states can do about TSA. There's probably not too much they can do about healthcare, because that would have to be decided in the courts, and god knows that's a wasteland. Immigration is kind of back and forth/up and down, but on monetary reform, if a state passed the right statute, they could potentially bring that about within 30, 60, or 90 days. Especially if they put in one of these electronic gold/electronic silver type systems, which is off-the-shelf technology.

    DAVID: How could it work?

    EDWIN: Within 90 days of the passage of the statute, you could have everybody in that state with electronic gold debit cards dialed into the price structure in all of the supermarkets and so forth. People could essentially opt out of the Federal Reserve System if they wanted to.

    DAVID: So watching the states for a hopeful plan is something we can do.

    EDWIN: That's right, and if they don't do it within the next year or 18 months, then I would begin to become very pessimistic.

    DAVID: Since we're talking about being pessimistic, let's talk a bit about the real dark side of all of this – namely that it appears to many that the U.S. is in the early stages of becoming a police state. Supporting that view, there are things I thought I'd never see in my lifetime, institutionally sanctioned renditions and torture, Guantanamo, the recent Supreme Court ruling that police can kick down your door based upon hearing what they consider to be a suspicious noise – the list of things the government is doing these days goes on and on, including the current blatant attempt to assassinate Gaddafi. So where do you think we are on the scale from 1-10, 1 being perfect liberty and 10 being full-on police state?

    EDWIN: About 6-1/2 to 7, because they've set up the principles for it. You don't have to have the police breaking in every day to have a police state, you simply have to have the judiciary saying, "If they break in, we'll let them do it." It's the principle of the thing. The NKVD didn't arrest everybody in Stalin's Russia, but the principle was in place so they could arrest anybody, and that's the problem.

    If you type "police brutality" into Google or some other search engine, how many YouTube hits do you think you'll get? Huge number, right? And they become more grotesque every day. If I were a Supreme Court justice, I might look at this and say, "This is the real problem in the country," but of course those people live in an ivory tower, so they don't know or perhaps care about reality. If they did, they would know enough to know this is becoming a real problem.

    So, as a Supreme Court justice, would I want to give them a principle that allows the police to solidify and expand that kind of oppressive behavior? And the answer would have to be, "No, I don't." The Constitution could never have foreseen this or allowed for this, right?

    DAVID: Right.

    EDWIN: And yet they allow for it. Now, either this is the biggest bunch of idiots that has ever been assembled in judicial robes in the history of humanity, or there's some other agenda going on here.

    DAVID: Assuming that they are not complete idiots, what could that other agenda be?

    EDWIN: In my view, and I've written about this for years, the people at the top levels of government understand that their monetary system is inherently flawed. That we're on the Titanic, in a sense, and they know that this ship is going to sink. They don't know when, but they know when it sinks, they're going to have a huge amount of economic dislocation, social crisis and civil unrest to the level of revolt.

    So they started developing this police state mechanism in the hopes of keeping the lid on the garbage can when the monetary system breaks down. The upper echelons of the judiciary have been going right along with this because they know what the program is. This is obvious. No one in his right mind would stand by and allow the sort of excesses we've seen.

    Just the other day, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled that the Fourth Amendment doesn't apply at all because you can sue the police after they've mistakenly broken into your home. But when they break into your home and they kill you, then what?

    DAVID: Not a lot of recourse then.

    EDWIN: Right, like that poor ex-marine that was shot 60 times in Arizona, and he's dead – now what, can he bring a lawsuit? Have we lost our minds? I mean, you don't have to be a Harvard-educated lawyer to know that this is insanity. This does not rise to the level of just mere error. No one in his right mind can write these kinds of opinions, which means that either they're insane, which I don't believe, or they have another agenda, and the judicial opinions are simply camouflage – they're propaganda to convince us that "Oh well, this is all right" because Judge Flapdoddle told us that it's all right.

    DAVID: Likewise, when you look at what's been going on with the government's spending, which is clearly insane, I mean, who would have thought they could even conceive of running a $1.5 trillion annual deficit?

    EDWIN: And going up.

    DAVID: And going up, and planning on this continuing well into the future. In your paper "A Cross of Gold," you mentioned that all told, the U.S. government's total outstanding obligations at this point add up to something like 200 trillion dollars?

    EDWIN: Yes, that's Professor Kotlikoff's, at Boston University, figure, not mine.

    DAVID: So it's hard to draw any other conclusion than that the government is operating in a complete fantasy. That everything is completely off the rails. Then you look at the judiciary and some of the things they have approved and looked the other way on, and it sure begins to look like fascism to me.

    You and I see it, a lot of our readers look at it, but most people are so passive about it. Everybody is so quiet, and there is nobody making any waves – is that because it's too late? Before you answer, I'll give you just a quick anecdote that I think makes the point.

    I was at a party not too long ago with a bunch of young people, and we were talking about some topic that was mildly controversial, and one of them said, "I'd love to look up more about that online, but I don't want it to be part of my permanent search record." So, the youth of America already have it in their heads that anything they do online is being monitored and will be in their search records forever and accessible to the government.

    Back to my question, have we reached that stage where people are quietly huddling behind the doors of their houses, trying to keep a low profile so the government will leave them alone?

    EDWIN: Given the current state of things, I'm sure there are a lot of people deliberately deciding to adopt a low profile, politically or socially. A lot of this has to do not so much with politics but what your neighbors or your coworkers will say about you, right? If you tell them something that is actually happening in the world, you will be labeled a conspiracy theorist; they'll look at you as if you're crazy.

    But what about the activists? At a certain stage, the great mass of people will look around for leadership figures. When the economic crisis comes, they're going to want someone to tell them how to get out of it. They're not going to know the answers themselves. The question is, will there be activists, leadership figures, proposing the right solutions – and how soon will they come along?

    That's why I look at this Tea Party Movement, using that in a generic sense, an indication of the ground swell of discontent that's out there. There's a huge amount of that, but at this point it's not particularly directed. Of course the establishment is trying to co-opt it, with Gingrich and others trying to claim that they're leadership figures in this movement, and that deflects it from the direction in which it ought to go.

    By contrast, you do have the Ron Paul-type movement. I mean, look at Ron Paul as an example. This is not a charismatic figure. He's a very diffident individual, a very shy individual, not someone that you could possibly imagine as a man on a white horse in a political sense. He certainly has had very little real effect in Congress. He's been the gadfly, he's been the critic, but he hasn't put in any legislation of consequence that has been passed. He's made a lot of noise about the Federal Reserve, but he's constantly being blocked by the real power structure in Congress in terms of getting anything done there. Yet nevertheless a whole political movement has essentially crystallized around him.

    I look at him as the surfer on the wave. The surfer is not the important thing, the wave is the important thing. The surfer would be nowhere without the wave. That wave is out there, and it's just waiting for the right surfer. He's the first one that's come along, but there will be others, perhaps some state governor who is actually competent, and he looks at this monetary system and he says, "To hell with this. Here's what we have to do," and they put in that alternative currency statute, the proper one, not the kind of statement that was made in Utah, but a proper functioning one. In which case he will become the next president of the United States, and then we will see what will happen.

    DAVID: Any time the states try to go their own way on issues that the federal government doesn't like, the federal government starts to threaten them with losing their highway funds or education funds, or whatever. Isn't that part of the problem?

    EDWIN: Well, it certainly is part of the problem, and that's why you're going to have to have some real leader in the state who is going to say, "We have priorities, and our first priority is correcting the monetary problem, the currency problem, and we'll worry about those federal education funds later. In fact, what we may do is stop paying some money to the federal government."

    Unfortunately, once you allow the federal government to have the kind of influence they now have over the states, the states have essentially rolled over. So, at some stage, they have to say no.

    That's why I say that at some point down the line, if we see nothing happening on the state level – if we see these bills being put in and being constantly defeated, and no one comes forward to take leadership on these issues – well, I'll throw up my hands and say, "We just don't have the leadership group, we don't have the Patrick Henrys, we don't have the Thomas Jeffersons, we don't have the Sam Adams, we just don't have those people anymore, and that's the end."

    But I don't believe it will come to that. We have over 300 million people in this country, we can't find a few hundred?

    DAVID: Well, we will certainly keep an eye on the states for somebody to show up one of these days. Governor Christie in New Jersey seems like a pretty sound guy.

    EDWIN: I want to see just two things, because there are two things of real consequence right now in terms of the major powers of government historically and in terms of political philosophy. Those two things are the power of the purse and the power of the sword. In order to continue spending at the levels it now is, the government has to maintain control over the monetary system, and it has to have some kind of control over military and police force.

    Under our Constitution, those two powers are supposed to be ultimately in the hands of the people. We're supposed to have a free-market-oriented and -controlled monetary system based on gold and silver, so the politicians really do not have control over the purse. They have to come to us and ask for taxes. They can't manipulate the money and use inflation as a hidden tax. We've lost that. We failed to assert it – let's put it that way.

    On the other side, we see this police state developing, with a centralized Department of Homeland Security in Washington that has tentacles reaching down into every local and state police force. This is completely contrary to the Constitution because the Constitution tells us that the thing that's necessary for the security of a free state is what? A well-regulated militia. And what is a well-regulated militia? It's composed, as the Virginia Declaration of Rights in 1776 said even before the U.S. Constitution, of the body of the people – the people organized in a certain way. Think of Switzerland.

    Well, we've lost control over those two key elements, and until we get them back, we can only continue down this road to the full-blown police state. So in sizing up any politician, I'd start by asking them these two things: "What are you going to do in the state to return us to a system of constitutional currency with an alternative system in this state because we can't do it in Congress?" And, number two, "What are you going to do to revitalize some kind of state militia structure, perhaps using Switzerland as the model because they've been very successful over the years, so that we are no longer under the control or answerable to Janet Napolitano?"

    If the states can't regain control over those two things, the rest of it is a waste of time. If you don't have control over the high ground, as the military people would say, then you've lost the battle. Education funds, transportation funds, all the rest of this stuff is not even icing on the cake if you let the federal government continue to have those two powers.

    They took power over the money a long time ago, and they have been systemically organizing this police state since well before 9/11; in fact, the plans for the Patriot Act were drawn up before 9/11. They understand where the high ground is, and that's why if you are a state politician and you can't answer those two questions – if you don't tell me that those are your number one and number two priorities – forget it, we'll look to somebody else for leadership.

    DAVID: It seems to me that unless and until there is some sort of a push-back on the state level, the situation is going to grow increasingly dangerous, looking for a trigger, so to speak. Much in the way the Arab Spring blew up almost overnight. People looked at that and said, how did that ever happen? These are some of the most oppressed people in the world, ignorant and backwards and everything else, and all of a sudden they are in the streets, risking their lives for more freedom. So, it would seem that it's just a matter of time before we see something akin to an American Spring here.

    EDWIN: Oh, I think so, yes. It's just terrible to think that we have to take second seat to the Egyptians in the promotion of liberty. Not to criticize the Egyptians, but Egypt has never been considered to be a country that philosophically was in the forefront of that area.

    DAVID: Speaking of Egypt, I think the jury is still out on whether the military will allow the freedom movement there to take power. The Saudis are falling all over themselves to give the Egyptian military money, as is the U.S. government, so it would appear that we're now trying to solidify their power.

    EDWIN: Please don't say "we" when referring to the people in Washington. Don't include me in that list.

    DAVID: (laughs) Doug Casey often says the same thing. And on that note, I'll sign off by thanking you very much for your time. Let's do it again some time.

    For those of you who wish to hear more from Dr. Vieira, James Turk of the GoldMoney Foundation recently posted a video interview that you may find of interest. Here's the link.

    June

    [Jun 23, 2011] Tom Ferguson: "Standstill Nation" as the New Abnormal?

    naked capitalism

    By Tom Ferguson, Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. Cross posted from New Deal 2.0

    Gridlock is not a reflection of 'the way things have always been'. It's the result of a GOP-conjured tide of money that emerged in the mid-80s and 90s, leaving us polarized and paralyzed.

    On Sunday, the New York Times closed out its "Week in Review" section after a run of 76 years. With Republicans and most Democrats back singing the praises of deregulation, smaller government, and tax cuts less than three years after that old song brought the world to its knees, we should probably have expected a grateful "Invisible Hand" would drop by to wave goodbye.

    And so it happened. Times correspondent Peter Baker celebrated the famous Hand's magical ability to resolve not economic complexity, but political stalemate. "Mad at Beltway gridlock and can't take it anymore?" asked the headline. To which Baker answered: "Paralysis (alas) is one way things are supposed to work." He went on to explain that "for all the handwringing about how the system is broken, this is the system as it was designed and is now adapted for the digital age." In support of this complacency, Baker enlisted Vice President Joe Biden, who "emerged last week to defend the system's ability to get things done despite all appearances to the contrary. It may be maddening, it may be drawn out, but he argued, at the end of the day, Washington does what it has to do."

    Thus Baker's argument continued, leavened only by a few careful hedges noting that reality has not as yet conformed to this Panglossian script and that unemployed Americans might assess the government's paralysis a little differently. At the very end, Baker cautiously put forward a suggestion first broached by Peter Orzag, formerly President Obama's budget chief before he fled to Citigroup, that the Hand might, like so many other aging Americans, benefit from a prosthesis: legislation that would remorselessly chop government programs unless Congress acted to stop it.

    Let's try to clarify why Congress is actually gridlocked. The bottom line is, alas, a bottom line. It is not complicated. And it has nothing to do with any design for a digital age, as Baker proposes.

    In the mid-1980s, a group of insurgent Republicans broke with the long established norms governing how the U.S. House of Representatives transacted business. Led by Newt Gingrich, it derided older Republican House leaders as timid, unimaginative, and too inclined to compromise with Democrats. Self-styled "revolutionaries" launched vigorous public attacks on Democrats as they trumpeted their own agenda of deregulation, budget cuts, lower taxes, and a baker's dozen of social issues, from abortion to opposition to all forms of gun control.

    Result? The House boiled over. Statistical measures of Congressional behavior show that party line votes jumped sharply.

    Gingrich and his allies were painfully aware that transforming the GOP's gains at the presidential level into a true "critical realignment" of the political system as a whole required breaking the Democratic lock on Congress. So they shattered all records for Congressional fundraising in their drive to get control of the House. Their success in this and their parallel campaign to rally major parts of the media to their standard are what polarized the system. The GOP insurgents emphasized fundraising, not just through the usual publicly reported vehicles like the national party committees, but also GOPAC, a political action committee that Gingrich had controlled since 1986, which operated mostly in secret.

    In 1992, in the midst of a recession, the Republicans lost the White House. But their dreams of a sweeping political realignment did not die. In fact, by clearing centrist Republicans out of their perches in the White House, the loss probably helped Gingrich and his allies.

    Completely undaunted, Gingrich, Republican National Chair Haley Barbour, and National Republican Senatorial Committee Chair Phil Gramm orchestrated a vast national campaign to recapture Congress for the Republicans in the 1994 elections. With the economy stuck in a "jobless recovery" and Democratic fundraising sputtering, the Republicans won control of both houses of Congress.

    The tidal wave of political money they conjured allowed Gingrich, Gramm, Barbour and Co., to brush aside older, less combative center-right Republican leaders and persist in their efforts to roll back the New Deal and remake American society in the image of free market fundamentalism. Once in power, the Republicans institutionalized sweeping rules changes in the House and the Republican caucus that vastly increased the leadership's influence over House legislation. They also implemented a formal "pay to play" system that had both inside and outside components.

    On the outside, DeLay and other GOP leaders, including Grover Norquist, who headed Americans for Tax Reform, mounted a vast campaign (the so-called "K Street Project") to defund the Democrats directly by pressuring businesses to cut off donations and avoid retaining Democrats as lobbyists. Inside the House, Gingrich made fundraising for the party a requirement for choice committee assignments. Senate Republicans, led by Phil Gramm and other apostles of deregulation, emulated the House.

    And so, alas, did the Democrats. Watching the Republicans restructure their national political committees into giant ATMs capable of financing broad national campaigns left the Democrats facing the same dilemma they had in the late seventies, as the GOP's Golden Horde first formed up behind Ronald Reagan. Democrats could respond by mobilizing their older mass constituencies. Or they could emulate the Republicans and just chase money. That battle had been settled in favor of so-called "New Democrats" (see Thomas Ferguson and Joel Rogers, "Right Turn"). Dependent for many years on campaign money from leading sectors of big business where regulation kept recreating divisions – notably finance and telecommunications (Ferguson, "Golden Rule") – the Democrats reconfirmed their earlier decision to go for the gold.

    They followed the Republicans and transformed both the national party committees and their Congressional delegations into cash machines, with leaders in each chamber, but especially the House, wielding substantially more power than at any time since the famous revolt that overthrew Speaker Cannon in 1910-11. As the Republicans moved further and further to the right, the Democrats did, too, constrained only by the need to preserve something of their mass base.

    A feedback loop running between Congress and the mass media intensified the whole process: Congressional leaders of both parties now focused intently on creating sharper party profiles ("brands") that would mobilize potential outside supporters and contributors. So they spent enormous amounts of time and money honing messages that were clear and simple enough to attract attention as they ricocheted out through the media to an increasingly jaded public. And they and the Republican leadership staged more and more votes not to move legislation, but to score points with some narrow slice of the public or signal important outside constituencies. For the same reasons, they made exemplary efforts to hold up bills by prolonging debate or, in the Senate, putting presidential nominations on hold.

    Contrary to what popular pundits may say, there is nothing "normal" or constructive about a Congress dominated by centralized parties. We should not accept a Congress presided over by leaders with far more power than in recent decades, running the equivalent of hog calls for resources, trying to secure the widest possible audiences for their slogans and projecting their claims through a mass media that was more than happy to play along with right thinking spokespersons of both parties. The idea that putting government programs on an automatic chopping block is a step forward is equally outlandish. This is hardly government "doing what it has to do." It may be what it is paid to do. But no one should confuse this with public policy that serves the interests of all Americans.

    sglover :

    The Senate is designed to act as a brake. I think it's time to admit that

    1) The political design document known as the Constitution is obsolescent; the structures it describes are easily manipulated by concentrated power (which in practice means wealth), so that the government — which really is a crucial institution — is less and less able to serve public needs.

    2) Since the sainted founders were primarily concerned with maintaining and extending the privileges of their class, this is EXACTLY what they intended.

    Seeing clearly is the prerequisite to acting intelligently.

    Dan:

    The problem with "Smash the constitution and rewrite it" is the same people in power now will be the ones rewriting it in their favor. Imagine a nation with the founding fathers being Limbaugh, Gingrich, the Koch brothers and Rupert Murdoch.

    sglover:

    I agree. Honestly, I don't see any legal/political fix in store for America. There's no cosmic law that says there has to be one, after all….

    Woodrow:

    "the Koch brothers" -

    You do realize that they, like many others, regardless of party, back winners? It doesn't matter who the source of the money comes from, it's going to whoever that is currently occupying that seat in Congress, regardless of Party.

    http://www.opensecrets.org/news/2011/05/koch-industries-exxonmobil-switch-party-allegiances.html

    Hugh :

    This is another in a long line of pointless posts that blames those mean old Republicans and casts our recent history in terms of conflicts between the two parties. First and foremost, it misses the central reality of kleptocracy. These were not men and women of good faith who got snookered by this or that political grouping. They were crooks building for themselves and their paymasters a kleptocratic state. Second, the political and economic foundations of our current kleptocracy started being laid back in the Carter Administration.

    Third, kleptocratic trends accelerated under Reagan. Democrats had a majority in the House for all 8 years of Reagan's two terms. Fourth, Clintoncare crashed and burned back in 1993 when Democrats had control of both Houses. And even though in the last 6 years of the Clinton Administration, Republicans controlled both Houses and there was Monica Lewinsky and impeachment, Clinton in political terms ran circles around Congressional Republicans. At the same time, it was Clinton who signed Gramm-Leach-Bliley that undid Glass-Steagall and the CFMA that deregulated derivatives, this last owing more to Larry Summers, Clinton's Treasury Secretary, than to the Republicans per se. Finally, this whole creating sharper, more partisan profiles is all kabuki. Both parties are profoundly corporatist and hostile to the interests of ordinary Americans. No amount of meaningless revisionist history can change that.

    Yves Smith:

    Did you actually read the piece? Ferguson clearly states the Dems chose to emulate the Republicans rather than choose other options:

    "Democrats could respond by mobilizing their older mass constituencies. Or they could emulate the Republicans and just chase money." Which as he describes they did.

    In fact, in another Ferguson piece I posted here, he detailed the Dem "pay to play" system, and I have referred to that post repeatedly.

    Funny how attacks on the Republicans elicit more angry responses than ones on the Dems, when we feature those here regularly. The overview statement in italics is likely from ND 2.0, not Ferguson himself, but that is accurate albeit stated an a way that is likely to annoy.

    Yearning to Learn:

    Yves: let me personally thank you for putting up with these commenters.

    My goodness, either they don't read the article, or they simply can't understand plain English.

    America is doomed if this is all we've got.

    @Hugh:

    "This is another in a long line of pointless posts that blames those mean old Republicans and casts our recent history in terms of conflicts between the two parties"

    are you insane? you clearly didn't read the article.

    there IS continual conflict between the two parties (or don't you read the newspapers). there is no question in my mind that much of the conflict is Kabuki theater for the masses, but conflict there still is. Thus the need for Obama's $1 BILLION war chest.

    the political and economic foundations of our current kleptocracy started being laid back in the Carter Administration

    irrelevant to the full point of the article, although if it makes you feel better add that. it's always hard to peg a "start" to a conflict. this author chose a time sequence that is defensible, but it doesn't mean that one couldn't choose an earlier time period as well. regardless, one can easily state that the setup in DC accelorated during the 1980′s and 1990′s and 2000′s as the author stated

    These were not men and women of good faith who got snookered by this or that political grouping. They were crooks building for themselves and their paymasters a kleptocratic state

    pretty broad brush, huh? again, this doesn't matter to the point of the article, and it enhances the article. the problem, as was discussed in the previous article as well, is that your so-called Kleptocrats have much more CONTROL than they did 100 years ago. This allows them to weed out centrists and anybody else they don't like, and neuter those who do make it in despite them. Thus, you see things like the major change in Rand Paul from candidate to congressman…

    you NEVER see a Paul Wellstone anymore. I wonder why that is??? now people speak about Obama as though he is a communist. shows just how centralized the control within congress and among the media has become.

    Clinton in political terms ran circles around Congressional Republicans. At the same time, it was Clinton who signed Gramm-Leach-Bliley that undid Glass-Steagall and the CFMA that deregulated derivatives, this last owing more to Larry Summers, Clinton's Treasury Secretary, than to the Republicans per se

    this line of thinking falls EXACTLY along the thinking of the article. Again, you must not read well. It clearly discusses how BOTH parties have become beholden to moneyed interests, and thus they BOTH are going after their money bags while neglecting the populace. they do so somewhat differently,, but nowhere does it say that the Republicans are "better" at going after money than the Democrats.

    hence: Obama's $1B war chest.

    Geez… please READ before POSTING. please UNDERSTAND before ARGUING.

    Sufferin' Succotash:

    Read before posting? Understand before arguing? Surely you jest. This is America in the year 2011, which is like saying this is Spain in 1630 or Austria-Hungary in 1905. In other words, the falta de cabezas has become chronic and the situation is hopeless but not serious. What began 50-some years ago as a frivolous and intellectually half-baked rebellion by the overprivileged is now cooking our goose. The U.S. had a century or so to be great or something close to it, but now it's time for the Silly Century.

    [Jun 23, 2011] fighting-corporate-power-1776 by Erik Curren

    The Boston Tea Party, claims liberal talk radio host Thom Hartmann, wasn't really a protest against higher taxes and unrepresentative government. Instead, its target was the excessive power of a large corporation -- the British East India Company.

    In Unequal Protection: How Corporations Became "People" -- and How You Can Fight Back Hartmann explains that, at the behest of the East India Company, which counted members of Parliament and even the King himself as shareholders, the Crown put a tax and other restrictions on small colonial businesses in the tea trade while exempting the Company, essentially creating a monopoly and helping it to crush competition from American entrepreneurs.

    Dumping the monopoly's tea into the harbor was a way for the small businesspeople of Boston to protest the corporate plutocracy of their day.

    Behind the history of world revolutions -- battles and riots, congresses and assemblies, ditsy queens and thuggish caudillos -- is an ongoing tug-of-war between citizens and the largest businesses over who would ultimately rule: the broad public or a few rich people.

    Back in the US, Hartmann finds that after the colonists liberated themselves from King George and the East India Company, the Founding Fathers called on their fellow citizens to remain vigilant against the power of moneyed interests.

    "Let monopolies and all kinds and degrees of oppression be carefully guarded against," said Samuel Webster in 1777. Madison and Jefferson feared a pseudo-aristocracy of corporations and echoed the sentiment that large corporations needed to be subordinate to ordinary citizens. Jefferson even wanted to control the size of corporations, as Hartmann explains:

    Jefferson kept pushing for a law, written into the Constitution as an amendment, which would prevent companies from growing so large that they could dominate entire industries or have the power to influence the people's government.

    For the next century, federal and state governments passed laws to prevent any future corporations from gaining as much power over government as the East India Company had exercised over Boston -- and over London.

    In 1833, Andrew Jackson shut down the Second Bank of the United States, a private entity with authority over public finance much like today's Federal Reserve. Throughout the nineteenth century, most states had laws that limited corporations to a specific purpose, such as building a certain bridge, canal or toll-road, and prevented them from expanding beyond it. According to Hartmann:

    •After it had completed its assigned task, a corporate charter would expire and the company would be dissolved. Corporate charters were not given, as they are today, "in perpetuity." •The state could revoke a corporation's charter if it either exceeded or did not fulfill its stated purpose or if it misbehaved. •To keep them out of politics, corporations were prohibited from making any political contributions, directly or indirectly through other groups. •To prevent them from extending their economic power inappropriately, corporations could only own real estate necessary to complete their stated business and were prohibited from owning shares in other companies. Corporate charters were revoked on a regular basis during the first half of the nineteenth century when companies tried to overstep their limited bounds. Then, as today, most Americans did business without starting corporations, as sole proprietors, partnerships or without any business structure other than keeping track of receipts for taxes, so most Americans saw clear benefit in keeping the economy safe for small and medium-sized businesses and preventing the rise of monopolies.

    But the period during and after the Civil War saw the rise of large monopolies, particularly in railroads and oil. And with a hunger for power to match their massive wealth, Gilded Age Robber Barons like Rockefeller, Carnegie and Jay Gould chafed under the limits on corporations prescribed by the Founding Fathers.

    The original Supreme Court coup Before the onset of mass media brand marketing and corporate-disinformation campaigns like today's Tea Party Patriots, Americans had a healthy distrust of the rich and big business. Since popular opinion was strong against monopoly power, the plutocrats knew that they'd have little luck with the president or Congress, so they used the forum where their money really meant something, the Supreme Court. With an ability to hire expensive lawyers and file a seemingly limitless number of court cases until they finally prevailed, the corporations hit on a strategy.

    Why not use the Fourteenth Amendment, passed after the Civil War to give equal protection to all citizens, to free corporations from popular control? It's the theory of corporate personhood.

    Of course, only a psychopath -- and 5% of American corporate managers qualify as psychopaths, according to Jon Ronson -- could come up with the idea that an amendment to free the slaves should also help rich white men to become even more powerful. But the Robber Barons obviously knew that this devilishly clever strategy would eventually work with their audience, the men of the SCOTUS.

    And work it did, in a kind of backdoor way. The 1886 case of Santa Clara County vs. Southern Pacific Railroad has been interpreted as a precedent that corporations have the same rights as natural born persons to "equal protection" under the law guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment, including freedom of speech and freedom from search and seizure.

    But what almost nobody recognizes is that the prevailing interpretation of the Santa Clara case is wrong. It is perhaps Hartmann's biggest historical bombshell that the Supreme Court decision explicitly stayed away from the issue of whether corporations qualified as persons under the US Constitution. Instead, the court chose to narrowly rule on the tax issue at hand between the railroad and the county.

    Corporations being persons is only mentioned in the headnote to the case, an add-on written by court reporter JC Bancroft Davis as his own personal opinion that carries no validity in law.

    In other words, the whole edifice of corporate power in America for the last 125 years was built on a misunderstanding. According to Hartmann, no case has ever ruled that corporations are people too.

    But what does it matter? Thousands of cases since have taken Santa Clara as precedent, and by now, the weight of corporations-are-persons law is just too huge to go back and correct the mistake from 1886.

    Legally, that may be the case. But morally and politically, Hartmann wants us to know that corporations enjoy all the benefits of being people without any of the inconveniences of being a mortal, such as having to face death or prison, because of an underhanded and sneaky effort rather than through legitimate legal process.

    And why does it matter that corporations are treated like people? Well, it means, for example, that almost any law passed to restrain corporate misbehavior can be challenged in court as discrimination.

    Why corporations shouldn't be people In politics, corporate personhood guarantees plutocratic rule. Limits on campaign contributions from corporations? That's unfair, since it would limit their free speech, as the recent Citizens United case decided.

    Hartmann details many examples of corporate chicanery and outlines the extent of corporate power over government today, confirming what anyone who cares seriously about climate or energy policy already knows: that corporate interests trump the will of the people for clean energy time and time again.

    But Hartmann doesn't despair. Instead, he enjoins us all to join the movement to dethrone the new East India Companies of the world and take back America and other western democracies for their people. In the US, that would start with a campaign to declare that corporations do not have the same rights as people do, such as Free Speech for People.

    On the federal level, we'd need to change the Fourteenth Amendment or pass a new amendment. This won't be easy, so Hartmann suggests that in the meantime localities can start to pass ordinances denying corporate personhood one community at a time. That will help create momentum for a national effort.

    It sounds daunting. But then fighting climate change and preparing for peak oil both present such a threat to the profits of so many big corporations, from Big Oil and Big Coal on down to automakers and big box retailers, that there may be no other way than fighting plutocracy to stop America from committing national suicide and taking the rest of the world down with us.

    Until we take corporations back down to size, big polluters like ExxonMobil, BP, Massey Energy and their agents at the US Chamber of Commerce will keep bankrolling climate-science deniers and fighting against a rational energy policy that would take America away from fossil fuels and towards conservation and clean energy.

    As Annie Leonard says in her video The Story of Citizens United,

    So keep fighting for renewable energy, green jobs, healthcare, safe products, and top-notch public education. But save some energy for the battle of our lifetimes. A battle that can open the door to solving all of these things. It's time to put the corporations back in their place and to put the people back in charge of our democracy.

    -- Erik Curren

    [Jun 19, 2011] Marxism without revolution Class — Crooked Timber

    And even after decades in which the upper 1 per cent has steadily gained ground, they remain far from omnipotent. Despite continuous attack, the basic structures of the welfare state remain intact, and there have even been some important extensions[2].

    The existence of those structures mean that a relatively simple set of feasible political demands, primarily involving reversal of the losses of the past few decades, could form a basis for political opposition to the rule of the top 1 per cent. The key elements are fairly obvious, and include

    Of course, setting out a policy program is one thing – the political movement needed to bring it into being is another. And for now, the ruling 1 per cent has managed to turn the anger generated by their failures to their own political advantage. But, far more than in the 1980s and 1990s, or even the first decade of the 2000s, the opening is there for a radical alternative. Even within the dominant class, faith in the beneficience of markets in general and financial markets in particular, has largely dissipated. What remains is a grimly determined class view that "what we have we hold".

    shah8

    Ben-Gurion types will always beat Weizman types (heh, Mapai over Mapam!). Stalin types will always beat Trotsky types. Right wingers usually wins over leftwingers. Do you know why? People with lots of coercive control over a hard nugget of capability have the edge in intergroup interaction. A coercive ideology about heirarchy with a few carrots and simple scams that appeal to an individual member's narcissism is much easier to hold together over the short term—especially with the help of some adversarial function. Any left-wing group that hopes to be able to survive has to do the same, at least long enough to let the greater inefficiencies of authoritarian rule take its toll. For example, there are reasons why the NEA does what it does—for example, insists on taking senority in account, even though that seems like such an inefficient way of paying for quality teachers, according to Matt Yglesias! Called instilling empathetic identification—of the sort that gets people to do the work of punishing those who endanger the greater project, like strike-breakers. In group/Out Group stuff.

    Gaspard

    Could you expand on this, or point me elsewhere: "they consume far more of the wealth of society than they actually contribute"

    Do you mean "they receive as income far more than the value they add" e.g., the rent-extracting aspects of the financial sector? In terms of the effects of their consumption as such, or their value added, this doesn't seem to be true for the JK Rowlings or Steve Jobs, etc. who work in the "real economy".

    I understand that if you take the financial sector out of the statistics, the shift in inequality since the 1970s practically disappears. And shrinking this sector long term is a matter of technocratic opposition from one section of the ruling to the other (i.e. taxation and unionisation would do little here)

    [Jun 19, 2011] You say you want a revolution by John Quiggin

    "A socialist revolution is neither feasible nor desirable."
    June 19, 2011 | Crooked Timber

    As promised in my previous post, I'm setting up a separate thread for discussion of my premise that a socialist revolution is neither feasible nor desirable. My own thoughts, taken from an old post are over the fold.

    The idea that a single violent irruption, followed by a (supposedly temporary) revolutionary dictatorship, can break unending cycles of oppression, and achieve permanent change for the better is intuitively appealing and gains support daily from the failures of more modest attempts at reform, from the peaceful protest march to the Winter Palace in 1905 to the shoddy compromises of day-to-day democratic politics (and particularly in this context, social-democratic politics).

    Yet the appeal of revolution is an illusion. Most attempts at revolution fail, leaving the participants and the oppressed worse off than before. Even where revolution is successful, attempts by the revolutionary party to hold on to power usually lead to reactionary dictatorship in short order. The French Revolution, the model on which Marxist analysis was based, lasted five years from the liberation of the Bastille to Thermidor, and ten years to the 18 Brumaire seizure of power by Napoleon. The Bolshevik revolution lasted four years until the adoption of the New Economic Policy and seven years before Stalin's rise to power.

    At a deeper level, the appeal of revolution has a substantial residue of aristocratic sentiment. In the course of the last 200 years, and even allowing for the defeats of the past 20 years or so, the achievements of the Left have been impressive, starting with universal suffrage and secret ballots, going on the creation of the welfare state, continuing with progress towards equality without regard to race, gender and sexuality, preserving the environment from the disastrous impact of industrialism and so on. Yet most of this progress has been achieved in a thoroughly bourgeois fashion, through long agitation, boring committee reports and so on. Gains that are ground out in this way, with two steps forward and one step back, are not noble enough for an aristocratic sensibility: far better to fail gloriously.

    Asteri:

    Hmm, it seems that over the last 20 years or so its been the reactionary right that has developed a taste for revolution and now the job for the Left is to be counter revolutionary if they want to maintain free education, the welfare state and environmentalism.

    Phil

    This is very poor.

    followed by a (supposedly temporary) revolutionary dictatorship … attempts by the revolutionary party to hold on to power

    You're reading Lenin back into Marx (some would say Stalin back into Lenin). To believe in proletarian revolution is not to believe in the dictatorship of a revolutionary party over the proletariat.

    The French Revolution, the model on which Marxist analysis was based, lasted five years from the liberation of the Bastille to Thermidor, and ten years to the 18 Brumaire seizure of power by Napoleon.

    How tragic that Marx never lived to comment on the 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte. Who can say how it would have affected his model of revolution?

    Gains that are ground out in this way, with two steps forward and one step back, are not noble enough for an aristocratic sensibility: far better to fail gloriously.

    This is a valid critique of people who denounce, criticise or abstain from campaigns for moderate reforms in the name of a belief in revolution. It's not in any way a critique of the belief in revolution itself, because that belief is held by many people who are not abstentionist revolutionary maximalists.

    sg:

    going entirely off the terribly-written summary, John Q, it seems the revolution failed on that occasion because of the lumpen proles and the peasants, who do not constitute a class but chose to back Napoleon, except for the ones who rose up against Napoleon, who don't present a challenge to Marx's convenient class divisions or an indication of a need for a deeper analysis of the movement of history than a class-based one. But fortunately, the working class saw all this coming and actually wanted Napoleon to take over so they could turn the state on itself (which isn't a 10 year old's excuse for failure at all). In future they will destroy the state in its new, hyper-concentrated form, and then everyone will say "wow! you guys are cool. Can you rule all of us in your benevolent wisdom?"

    Napoleon's victory was like in the old Godzilla cartoons, when the good guys force the monster to eat too much radiation/seawater/trees and then it gets bigger and bigger and then it explodes.

    bobbyp:

    Only 250 years or so into this Industrial Revolution thingie, and you write the effort off in a matter of three short paragraphs? It's really too early to tell, John.

    [Jun 19, 2011]vMoney Talks on Right-Wing Radio

    Will Wilkinson:

    Politics' new cash nexus, by Will Wilkinson: Rush Limbaugh loves the Heritage Foundation. ... Sean Hannity is also a vocal Heritage fan. Mark Levin likes to talk up Americans for Prosperity... For his part, Glenn Beck prefers Freedomworks. If you ask these popular right-wing talkers why they promote these groups on air, they'll tell you they believe in the work they do. Also, the pay's pretty good.

    In Politico, Kenneth Vogel and Lucy McCalmont report on the cozy financial relationships between conservative talk-radio stars and a number of right-leaning research and advocacy institutions.

    In search of donations and influence, the three prominent conservative groups [Heritage, Freedomworks, and AFP] are paying hefty sponsorship fees to the popular talk show hosts. Those fees buy them a variety of promotional tie-ins, as well as regular on-air plugs ... often woven seamlessly into programming in ways that do not seem like paid advertising. ...

    The Heritage Foundation pays about $2 million to sponsor Limbaugh's show and about $1.3 million to do the same with Hannity's – and considers it money well spent. ... While the deals differ, most provide the sponsoring group a certain number of messages or so called "live-reads," in which the host will use a script, outline or set of talking points to deliver an advertisement touting the group and encouraging listeners to visit its website or contribute to it.

    Some sponsorship deals also include so-called "embedded ads" in which the sponsors' initiatives are weaved into the content of the show... But officials with the groups stress that they sought out the hosts because they were already ideologically in sync with their causes.

    ... More interesting than the superficial pay-to-play aspect of this story is what it reveals about the increasing integration of the conservative economy of influence. What we're seeing is a set of once disparate pieces coming together into a powerfully unified persuasion machine. Rich and not-so-rich people give to think tanks and advocacy groups because they believe, mostly correctly, that these organizations can do more with their money to promote their political values than they can do on their own. But the influence of these organizations is limited both by their budgets and their ability to get their messages out. Conservative talk radio has proven itself an incredibly popular and powerful persuasive force. They offer Washington politics and policy shops both a huge potential donor base and a megaphone. It helps Heritage immensely to have Mr Limbaugh citing their studies on air. But the persuasive force of their message is even greater when Mr Limbaugh's listeners choose to literally "buy in" to the Heritage Foundation by becoming donors. Over time, Heritage's financial support subtly and not-so-subtly shapes Mr Limbaugh's message. He, and thus his audience, comes to think ever more like Heritage. And his audience, who become ever more personally invested in Heritage, become correspondingly more receptive to his Heritage-influenced messages. The partisan public has its independent general policy instincts, but it tends to adopt its more specific policy opinions from trusted partisan elites. Traditionally, these elite opinion-leaders have been politicians. But I think we're witnessing a process through which professional "movement" elites in Washington, DC political non-profits are actively shaping public opinion via sympathetic mass-media intermediaries. Conflict between the Republican "establishment" and the tea-party movement may well reflect this shift in the balance of elite persuasive power.

    (Are analogous forces at work on the left? I imagine there are, and I would like to hear about them. But I know that world much less well.) ...

    When money talks, it doesn't always know what to say. Those trusted to write the scripts wield real power. The amplification and consolidation of this power through explicit financial deals between "freedom movement" institutions and conservative talk-radio superstars is a potentially profound development in American politics. If you ask me, the progressive fixation on campaign finance is badly misguided. Money shapes the course of our democracy at least as much through the complex confluence of popular mass media, Washington's institutional ideologues, and their far-flung multitude of impressionable donors. This a tricky story to tell, and it's hard to say what, if anything, should be done about it. But this is where a lot of the action is.

    I don't have much to add, so I am mostly interested in hearing your thoughts on this. My thoughts, which I haven't considered very carefully, are first that if this is actually advertising in some form, and it seems clear that it is, don't we have rules about presenting products honestly to the public? When outright lies are used to sway the public, and there's no doubt this happens, should regulators step in and take action? If a producer can't make false claims about a competitor, why do we allow it in the political context? Is it simply the difficulty of picking referees, defining truth and lies, etc.? The other thought is about anti-trust legislation (and our failure to enforce it). To what extent is this all driven by concentrated ownership of media outlets? If there was more competition in this industry, would this be less of a problem?

    But as I said, I'm mostly interested in your thoughts.

    [Jun 12, 2011] Chris Dillow: The Importance of Class

    What do you think of Chris Dillow's ideas on class, power, and ideology?

    Class, power & ideology, Stumbling and Mumbling: "Nothing makes sense without class" says Owen Jones. He's right, if we understand "class" in its Marxist sense.

    To Marx - though the idea was implicit in other classical economists such as Ricardo - class was not about lifestyle, but about one's relationship to the economy. If your income comes from wages, you're working class. If it comes from capital, you're a capitalist.

    You might that, by this criterion, we are almost all working class now. True. Even people who think of themselves as "middle class" are in many cases only a P45 away from poverty. They are objectively working class even if they are not subjectively so.

    In this sense, Marx was right to predict that capitalism would produce an increase in the numbers of the working class. Remember, 200 years ago the yeoman farmer, the master craftsman, or the comfortably off idle wife were all significant social roles. They are, I suspect, less significant now.

    What's more, class in this sense is correlated with power: capitalists have it, workers don't*. This is because economic power flows to scarce resources and capital is scarcer than labor.

    This perspective yields answers to three key questions which cannot be answered without the concepts of class and power:

    This raises the question. If class is so central to an understanding of the economy, why is it so little discussed?

    The answer lies in another of Marx's insights - that false consciousness prevents people from seeing how capitalist power operates. In this sense, the cognitive biases research program throws up some new theories that vindicate Marx. For example:

    And here, I part company with Owen. We cannot have a reasonable debate about class, because cognitive biases such as these are ubiquitous. Successful power structures persist in large part because the way in which power is exercised is hidden from us. The importance of class and the lack of discussion of it are two sides of the same fact.

    * I'm simplifying horribly here. Many workers - most obviously the bosses who control firms owned by external shareholders - do have power. I'll leave this for another time, as I don't think it much affects the main thrust of my point.

    foosion

    It's class warfare, my class is winning.
    -- Warren Buffett, 2005

    eightnine2718281828mu5

    ---
    why has inequality increased since the 1980s?
    ---

    Profits have to go somewhere, so capitalists bent over backwards selling cheap debt to workers, driving up the cost of housing for the workforce.

    And since that wan't enough, they bid up the prices of commodities (and anything else that has futures contracts) effectively increasing the cost of these items as well.

    eightnine2718281828mu5

    to eightnine2718281828mu5...

    ---
    What's more, class in this sense is correlated with power: capitalists have it, workers don't*. This is because economic power flows to scarce resources
    ---

    What's interesting is that in our current environment, interest rates are very low, which indicates that capital isn't scarce at all. So maybe it isn't scarcity alone that determines economic power; maybe its organization?

    ie, labor is diffuse, while capital is concentrated; this disparity probably has both direct economic effects as well as political effects.

    beezer
    The concept of capital being more scarce than labor therefore those with capital benefit the most from economic activity seems a no brainer.

    We don't discuss class because of the heterogeniety bias and the illusion of control bias, in my opinion. What would explain why private labor so hates public labor other than a failure to realize they're both in the same boat?

    Mikhail

    Marx's structural conception of class is correct. Also, his broader materialist conception of history predicts its own continued relevance (it is rooted in the material facts of society) - so long as we have an economy defined by some who own the means of productions and those who own only their own labor power, i.e. capitalism, we will have a working class which is 'exploited' in the technical sense of made to produce surplus value.

    I have not seen this cognitive biases research but I would add another to the list of false consciousness - identity politics, groups which are social constructs and not rooted in the material facts of society (i.e. ethnic, racial, gender loyalties). These false consciousnesses are purposely emphasized while de-emphasizing the structural conception of class - we have a 'black' president, we have 'women' breaking through the glass ceiling, and we are told these are victories for 'us' if we belong to these groups.

    But capitalism is anti-human and so does not care about these human traits - members of these abstract identity groups can belong to the capitalist class and participate in working class exploitation. Take Herman Cain and ask with whom does he share more life experiences and have an equivalent position of power to in society - the black, minimum wage worker at one of his fast food joints or the white capitalist, say Bill Gates?

    Sandwichman
    "The importance of class and the lack of discussion of it are two sides of the same fact."

    I couldn't agree more.

    Arijit Banik
    Lest we forget, the Marxian Ressurection in terms of ideas, particularly those of crises and class relations --at work and in society at large-- still provides a useful framework in which to view society. Can anyone make a viable argument for the capture of corporate profits to the executive managerial class has been a result of managerial skill alone? Is it truly talent or is it a combination of supressing labour costs (courtesy of trade globalization) and liberalized capital flows that has increasingly encouraged a growing rentier economy in the West at the expense of one that still makes goods.

    Nothing is going to usurp capitalism as the dominant form of economic structure --I happen to like capitalism's dynamism in its ability to remake itself-- and markets do work for some things but not all of the time. The ideological illusion of markets working in an efficient and effective atomistic fashion belies the myriad complexities of reality and is lost in the dogma.

    It is ironic that a country that has championed free enterprise, the United States, and has steadfastly refused to address the notion of class now finds itself in the quagmire of increasing inequity with a select upper class elite overlooking a middle class that has been gutted with little hope of upward mobility.

    Min

    Dillow: "If class is so central to an understanding of the economy, why is it so little discussed?"

    Maybe I am wrong, but hasn't class infected mainstream economics? For instance, officially the recession ended in '09. Unemployment is called a lagging economic indicator. What does it indicate, besides itself? It is largely ignored, or assumed away, as in arguments about trade.

    Economists talk about "the economy", as though the effects of economic activity were uniform across class lines. The argument is made that gov't stimulus is ineffective because the recipients save in order to pay future taxes. To anyone with a clue about class that claim is ludicrous. Now some pundits are pointing out that poor people won't save stimulus money, which punctures that argument. Where were these pundits two years ago? Even those who did not buy the argument did not point out the classist aspects of it.

    I am not one of those who thinks that economists are apologists for the rich. Witness our host, among others. But it does seem that the worldview of mainstream economics at this point in time is that of the creditor class. It lies in the background, in assumptions and values that are not questioned.

    Edward Lambert

    Self-interest is said to be good for the economy.

    Why wouldn't powerful self-interest directing government policies be good for the economy as well?

    Edward Lambert

    I suspect there is an enlightenment moment for a politician when they realize that they must protect and serve the interest of powerful businesses over and above other interests, thinking that this is best for the overall economy, including job creation.
    If you look at surveys it seems working class people know the rich are eating their lunch. It is the opinion makers and official Washington that are in denial about these realities.

    I think cognitive biases in the academy and media have become stronger as Marxism has declined, in practice and as a theory of society.

    We substituted interest groups and identity politics for unions and class based analysis. The latter became passe.

    This meant the rise of free market uber alles (efficient markets, 'free' trade, outsourcing, deregulation, crushing of labor) was treated with a gullibility and eagerness that now seems astonishing. And astonishingly dumb.

    Mark A. Sadowski

    "why has inequality increased since the 1980s? It's because a mix of technical change and the emergence of a mass supply of cheap labor from China and India have increased the power of capital relative to labor."

    I have a problem with this thesis, particularly the literature he cites in support of it. From the abstracts:

    1) "New information and communication technologies, we argue, have been 'power- biased': they have allowed firms to monitor low-skill workers more closely, thus reducing the power of these workers. An efficiency wage model shows that 'power-biased technical change' in this sense may generate rising wage inequality accompanied by an increase in both the effort and unemployment of low-skill workers. The skill-biased technological change hypothesis, on the other hand, offers no explanation for the observed
    increase in effort."

    http://www.ecineq.org/milano/WP/ECINEQ2005-06.pdf

    2) "Marx argued that, as capitalism evolved, workers would receive a declining share of national income. The experience of the last century has not supported this prediction. But the entry of the vast labor forces of China and India into the world economy might just prove Marx right after all. In any case, it suggests that study of the shares of national income going to different factors of production will be interesting once more."

    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1752-5209.2006.00005.x/pdf

    The first article offers a theoretical model in support of PBTC. I'm always suspicious of theoretical models (I've seen RBC used to justify almost anything). And the second paper doesn't even support the author's claims. It actually shows that labor's share of income in the US has been remarkably constant though 2004, which is in contrast to what I've read elsewhere.

    The rest of what Chris Dillow makes a great deal of sense. That's why if he had a more conventional explanations for the increased inequality in the US his story would work better.

    Skills based technical change (SBTC) is the most oft used explanation for the rise in inequality. However it strains credibility when one realizes how income structure has really changed since 1978. Almost all of the change in inequality has been the result of the top 1% going from having 8% of national income to having 24%. This obviously has nothing to do with education and training because the top 1% are no better educated than the next 4%.

    The best explanations are the most simple:
    1) The declining quality of public education
    2) The declining progressivity of the tax system
    3) The declining real value of the minimum wage
    4) The privitization of state owned enterprises
    5) The declining rate of unionization

    So what has led to all of these changes? The loss of class consciousness. It's a simple story of "what's the matter with Kansas" where people have been conned into voting against their own class. People who have a few stocks in a 401k somehow have managed to delude themselves into thinking they're a Rentier. Since the late 1970s we've seen the decline of the Treaty of Detroit and it's replacement with the Washington Consensus. Goodbye middle class, hello New Gilded Age.

    Here's what Levy and temin have to say about the causes of rising inequality in the US.

    "We provide a comprehensive view of widening income inequality in the United States contrasting conditions since 1980 with those in earlier postwar years. We argue that the income distribution in each period was strongly shaped by a set of economic institutions. The early postwar years were dominated by unions, a negotiating framework set in the Treaty of Detroit, progressive taxes, and a high minimum wage – all parts of a general government effort to broadly distribute the gains from growth. More recent years have been characterized by reversals in all these dimensions in an institutional pattern known as the Washington Consensus. Other explanations for income disparities including skill-biased technical change and international trade are seen as factors operating within
    this broader institutional story."

    http://web.mit.edu/ipc/publications/pdf/07-002.pdf

    Min

    to Mark A. Sadowski...

    "1) The declining quality of public education"

    That's a dubious proposition.

    Mark A. Sadowski

    to Min...

    Actually I had doubts about it myself after I posted. In a way it contradicts my argument against SBTC for example. I was concerned about lack of investment in public provisioned enterprises with positive externalities. Trim it to four propositions if you prefer.

    P.S. I used to be a public high school mathematics teacher. So I have great respect for the institution. I'm just concerned about adequate funding.

    Grizzled

    to Mark A. Sadowski...

    Google up "What's the Matter With What's the Matter With Kansas?" and read it before drawing strong conclusions on this matter.

    Mark A. Sadowski

    to Grizzled...

    I'll better that. I've read the book. Moreover I've read Larry Bartels' criticism of it (and I actually like Bartels, recommending his "Unequal Democracy"). And I've read Thomas Frank's rebuttal.

    The key question is why do the richer than average support the Rentier class? In my opinion Franks nails it. Bartels rebuttal, on the other hand, completely misses the point.

    Noni Mausa

    Fifth bullet point must be that the labour of the labouring class is, in fact, the only wealth and the source of all the wealth upon which the capitalist class depends. The smaller the latter class is, the more true this is.

    It is hardly surprising, then, that this apparently powerful, but actually dependent class has for many decades worked without pause to demonize the very name of communism and socialism, and minimize the strength of unions, abstract thought and factual education, and all the other tools that the working class might use in self defense.

    Noni

    lark

    "Fifth bullet point must be that the labour of the labouring class is, in fact, the only wealth and the source of all the wealth upon which the capitalist class depends. "

    With globalization, our capitalist class is dependent on the Chinese labouring class. Our wealthy have thus sheltered themselves from the demands of American workers (by sending jobs overseas) and (with the Chinese govt as a sort of shield) from the demands of Chinese workers.

    anotherBudgetWonkasaurus

    I think I've always held the point of view that class isn't about money, because no one really knows for sure what anyone is worth (Bernie M anyone? What did he end up being worth? Did he have "power"?). And your socio-economic level doesn't exactly translate into direct power. What is the socio-economic condition of most of the members of AARP? Do you think they wield a lot of "power" as a "class"?

    The brilliant thing about the Republican party was that they got people to believe that they belonged to a class (I prefer socio-economic group) that they didn't...witness the fact that most wage slaves hate unions. The very institutions that would help them now. But they've been taught by the lower business class (NOT the "capitalist" classes, as they could care less and the true capitalist class doesn't work. And probably doesn't vote, btw, even if they come out from behind their high walls and estates) that make up the Republican party what to think. And let's be clear, we know who these people are. Most rich capitalists people I know are very nice, generous, charitable, and liberal in fact socially. These are not the people you're talking about who are NOT nice - insular, clinging to religion, and extremist in being conservative. And feeling that the world is out to get them. It's partially true. It is. Their way of life is dying.

    The Republican part is NOT representative of these upper classes. It used to be. It is now representative of the classes below - the ones who are clinging to what little they have and are scared to death. Scared to death of immigration, scared of people getting darker colored in general, scared losing their savings (if you're worth more than, say 25M, what are you afraid of?), losing their station, their power, their kids now "have to go to college to get somewhere" etc. THOSE are the people that did this and are responsible and they aren't the capitalist class. Don't kid yourself for a minute about class. This is a nice deception, but far from where this is all coming from. This isn't Marxian. This is Rovian.

    hapa

    to anotherBudgetWonkasaurus...

    you need to separate the politics from the policy. why cranky retirees advocate lowballing other people's public services is different from why masters-of-universe get their debts erased while ground-dwelling humans lose their homes & useful jobs.

    hapa

    to hapa...

    there's a causal relationship but it doesn't run uphill from the VFW to goldman sachs.

    FRauncher
    to anotherBudgetWonkasaurus...

    Isn't this just Dillow's 2nd bullet:
    " the in-group heterogeneity bias ... causes people in similar economic positions to exaggerate the differences between themselves and so fail to see their common class position." ?

    Carlyle 145

    We will reach a tipping point where the desperation of a large portion of the population will cause protests with mobs marching on state, local and national governments.

    Those that still have jobs and feel they have a future will go along with the beating and prosecution of these domestic terrorists.

    Those with jobs and those with capital will feel protected by the Police State and the Supreme Court that is designed to protect capital.

    The huge minority of the hopeless and the homeless will be treated as rabble needing tight control. Some sort of camp may be necessary to house them as jobs for a third of our population cannot be created without discomfiting capital.

    I hope I am not a prophet.
    It is time for a New Deal.

    Mark A. Sadowski

    "We will reach a tipping point where the desperation of a large portion of the population will cause protests with mobs marching on state, local and national governments."

    It's already happening.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NThHTV5XOK0&feature=player_embedded#at=0

    luvguv

    No you can't squeeze reality into Marxist ideology. How can anyone believe there are two classes? Is a small business owner with a middle class income a capitalist? What is a self-employed writer, or electrician or plumber, or whatever? What is a high-paid director of a company?

    It's hard to escape poverty in America, although it is possible. But it isn't all that hard to escape being a worker if you are educated and highly paid. Anyone is free to become self-employed. And anyone can try to start a business. Admittedly, that is hard. But anyone can try.

    And if you don't want to start a business or be self-employed, you can change jobs any time (unless you're over 50 and we're in a recession).

    Very silly trying to resurrect Marx in this way. What is the "means of production" anyway, in the context of high tech? Everyone has computer access, so anyone can start a high tech business. What about Facebook?

    You could contrast the extremely rich and powerful with the extremely poor and powerless. But dividing America into two classes shows lack of thought.

    denim
    to luvguv...

    I agree with you that reality cannot be squeezed into Marxist ideology. Marxist ideology dates from the era of Abraham Lincoln and maybe merits study by historians. But by economists and politicians? Not really. Let's study ethics. Then apply it to how we account for each other's wealth as well as our own.

    A subtitle might be can we live by the rule "swindle others as you would have them swindle you"?

    Nemi

    to luvguv...

    Yes. And what is short and tall, thin and fat, rich and poor etc. Most words is obviously useless and we, the enlightened, of course never use them.

    Grizzled

    to luvguv...

    "How can anyone believe there are two classes?"

    It's not that hard. For each of you examples ask yourself "does this person have power over national economic policy?" I'd say the question answers itself in each case. The other dimensions you talk about are irrelevant.

    Davis X. Machina

    Der Alter had a little to say about alienation, too, and interest in that phenomenon seems to also have made a comeback of sorts.

    http://us.macmillan.com/thestatussyndrome

    benamery21

    Is a small business owner whose "middle-class income" depends largely on his direct production a worker a capitalist, NO.

    Rentier versus worker is pretty simple. Can you sustain a middle-class lifestyle without working or drawing down your capital?

    benamery21

    Fewer than 2M self-employed people made more than $100K in 2009 in the U.S.

    "How can anyone believe there are 2 classes?"

    Anyone who escapes the:

    "•the in-group heterogeneity bias (which is the flipside of the out-group homogeneity bias) causes people in similar economic positions to exaggerate the differences between themselves and so fail to see their common class position."

    will clearly see that the vast majority of the population belongs to the same wage and salary income "working" class, whether they work for minimum wage or have a household income of $250K.

    ARE there dramatic differences between the opposite ends of that continuum? Of course. But these pale in comparison to the differences between the whole group and the tiny rentier class.

    Mark A. Sadowski

    to benamery21...

    There ought to be an income chart with little arrows and that say "you are here."

    http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/05/24/where-do-you-fall-on-the-income-curve/

    Hint: if agency securities, structured finance instruments or derivatives don't form a significant share of your financial assets then you are probably not part of the "Rentier Class".

    America and the Imperial Project A Talk with Anatol Lieven Asia Society

    Dec 21, 2004 | Asia Society

    In the wake of nationalist movements in the colonial world, imperial powers - in particular Britain - slowly ceded a variety of powers to local elites, in effect developing sophisticated ways of ruling through them (what Marxists called a "comprador elite"). Is it possible to say that the US empire runs the Third World - of which the Muslim world is an important part - through such a model of what has been called "indirect rule"?

    Yes, to a considerable extent this is the case. Of course the comprador model, in the strict Latin American sense, never quite fits because very few governments elsewhere in the world have been so completely subservient as some of the Latin American elites in the past. After all, Egypt still tries to take a different line on Israel; Jordan supported Saddam Hussein in 1991; Saudi Arabia could be seen as a comprador state in that it exists to produce and export oil, but clearly in its internal arrangements, it is not at all responsive to what America would like.

    Perhaps it may be more difficult these days to run such manifestly comprador systems given that, as I suggested earlier, there does tend to be more democratic pressure from below than in the 19th century. A good example is Russia, although admittedly Russia also has its tradition of Great Power status and so forth which prevents it from becoming completely subservient to America. As I wrote in a previous book on the reasons for Russia's defeat in Chechnya between 1994 and 1996, there was a real attempt by America in the 1990s, with tremendous help from the Russian elites themselves, to turn Russia into a kind of comprador state, whose elites would be subservient to America in foreign policy and would exist to export raw materials to the West and transfer money to Western bank accounts. In the end, neither the Russian state nor the Russian people would accept that. The Yeltsin order was replaced by a kind of authoritarian, nationalist backlash under Putin. One sees the same thing in a rather different form in Venezuela, for example.

    So I think there are strong elements of this comprador tradition in the present American-dominated international system but at the same time it is a troubled and contested setup.

    [Jun 07, 2011] "Lifting the Veil"

    June 7, 2011 | naked capitalism

    Mark Ames referred me to the documentary "Lifting the Veil." I'm only about 40 minutes into it and am confident it will appeal to NC readers, provided you can keep gagging in the sections that contain truly offensive archival footage (in particular, numerous clips of Obama campaign promises).

    Ames' mini-review:

    It begins with John Stauber, one of the great anti-PR writers, and historian Sharon Smith laying out the flat rancid truth: That the Democratic Party of today is the Big Co-apter. The Republicans have always been the party of corporate interests; and the Democrats portray themselves as agents of social change and progressive/populist opposition to corporate power, but the Democratic Party's job is to co-apt these anti-corporate movements and subvert them to the same (or a different faction of) corporate interests.

    To complete our two-corporate-party farce, we have an alleged third choice, a so-called opposition "Third Party," the largest "neither left nor right"/"neither Democrat nor Republican" third party for the past three decades. And that party is…ta-dum!…Libertarianism. Which was nothing but a corporate PR project designed to co-apt the whole realm of Third Party opposition and subvert it to the most radical corporate agenda of all. In other words, even our Third Party/outside-the-system party is nothing but the most purified, most extreme pro-corporate party of all!

    At this point you have to assume that the oligarchy is just laughing at us. "Hey, here's an idea–let's make the opposition to our fake-two-party system nothing but our corporate wish-list we send to Santa every year, and package that as the radical opposition." "No way Mr Koch, there's no way they'll buy it–everyone today who's against the two-party system is on the radical Left." "Just give me a couple of decades, and a few billion dollars, you'll see…" CUT TO TODAY: "Holy shit, you were right, Chuck! Ah-hah-hah-hah! The suckers have nowhere to go but right into our mouths–doors one, two and three our ours! Mwah-hah-hah!"

    As black activist Leonard Pinkney says, "The Democrats are the foxes, and the Republicans are the wolves–and they both want to devour you." So what does that make Libertarians? Avian flu viruses?

    You can watch it below or at Metanoia:

    Foppe

    5:12 am While it is quite obviously true (given earlier discussions) that both parties are pro-corporate, it seems to me that there is two moderately interesting points to be made: First of all, to note that, given the fact that politicians are beholden to their sponsors, the political dynamics were different (and the pro-financial-interests stance of the democratic party was less absolute) when the unions could still buy more candidates. Secondly, and this will sound rather obvious: not all corporations are the same, as not every US firm is interested in having the maximum amount of competition between nations, or in having a heavily financialized economy. These 'other' (sometimes called Main Street, but given the forays of auto companies into the lending business and Enron in the derivatives business I am not sure this is quite accurate any more) businesses used to also be able to gather political support, but they too seem to have been relegated to the sidelines. Why is that? One part of the answer can, it seems to me, be found here: (David Harvey, Cosmopolitanism and the Geographies of Freedom)

    In his Whitehall speech Bush made much of the fact that the last person to stay at Buckingham Palace was Woodrow Wilson, "an idealist, without question." Bush recounted how at a dinner hosted by King George V in 1918, "Woodrow Wilson made a pledge. With typical American understatement, he vowed that right and justice would become the predominant and controlling force in the world." Yet this was the same Woodrow Wilson whose attorney general launched the infamous "Palmer raids" against immigrants and "anarchists" that culminated in the executions of Sacco and Vanzetti (now pardoned as innocent). The Wilson administration ruthlessly crushed the Seattle general strike in 1918 and exiled the leaders to the newly minted Soviet Union. It imprisoned Eugene Debs for speaking out against the war and escalated its interventionism in Central America to put U.S. Marines into Nicaragua for more than a decade. Wilson: "Since trade ignores national boundaries and the manufacturer insists on having the world as a market, the flag of his nation must follow him, and the doors of the nations which are closed against him must be battered down. Concessions obtained by financiers must be safeguarded by ministers of state, even if the sovereignty of unwilling nations be outraged in the process. Colonies must be obtained or planted, in order that no useful corner of the world may be overlooked or left unused." … A populist nationalism has often dominated and operated as a powerful check upon liberal international engagements.

    The isolationism of the 1920s, centered at the time within the Republican party, stymied Wilsonian internationalism at home (the Senate rejected joining the League of Nations), while the imperialist policies of the European powers checked it abroad. Bush's subsequent advocacy of Wilsonian liberal international idealism, including attempts at democratization and nation building in Afghanistan and Iraq, suffused with the rhetoric of individual liberty and freedom, signaled a major political break in how this strain in U.S. foreign policy was to be articulated. The September 11 attacks and the subsequent declaration of a global war on terror allowed populist nationalism to be mobilized behind rather than against Wilsonian internationalism. This is the real significance of the widespread claim (accepted within the United States but not elsewhere) that the world fundamentally changed with September 11. That this is where the neoconservatives wanted to be all along is also deeply relevant.

    By contrast, large segments of the Democratic party, along with the traditional Republican right wing, have become comfortable with ideas of protectionism and isolationism (eventually looking to abandon the Iraq venture to its ugly fate). True-blue conservatives, such as William Buckley, mindful of the strong tradition of noninterventionism in the affairs of others that stretches back at least to Edmund Burke, became ferocious critics of the Iraq venture.

    russell1200
    "As black activist Leonard Pinkney says, "The Democrats are the foxes, and the Republicans are the wolves–and they both want to devour you." So what does that make Libertarians? Avian flu viruses?"

    By that description, you could call them the useful idiots. They are the people working for corporate well being through individual liberty. To the extent that some (many) of them by the corporate line, the way that liberal democrats bought the communist line, I think that would be a useful description.

    Foppe
    With regard to the video, it is quite amusing to hear how much Obama promised.. I wonder what would've happened if someone had just compiled a video like this of all the promises he'd made made during the campaign, and run it before the vote between Hilary and Obama.. Wouldn't it have made people slightly skeptical? Or was the atmosphere really that crazy that this sounded possible?
    F. Beard
    "So what does that make Libertarians?"

    The only hope? True libertarians are opposed to central banking. Of course there are fascist poseurs too including those who desire a government enforced gold standard.

    aet
    "True libertarians"?

    I have some of those living down the street from me, right next door to some "true Scotsmen"!

    F. Beard
    It's true that "true libertarians" are not in total agreement of what the proper role of government should be. I'm not sure myself. But one thing is blindingly obvious – the government backed banking and money system must be abolished. After that is accomplished the need for government should "wither away" in time leaving many arguments about the role and size of government mute.

    We really need a broad coalition between liberals, progressives and libertarians against the banks.

    Praedor
    Fairly silly. The government (as per Constitution) owns/operates the money. It is NOT the purview of businesses, it is not the purview of banks. It is the absolute domain of the government.

    The problem with the Fed is it isn't actually federal, it is private. A truly government/people owned/operated bank should replace the Fed…and no, gold should not be the basis of money. Not enough gold in the world to work AND…the value of virtually worthless gold is entirely subjective. It has no magical inherent value. It is less useful than silver or platinum, being largely relegated to mere jewelry, caps on teeth (so fascists can pry them out when convenient), and a small (but actually useful) role in nanomedicine and electronics.

    You didn't mention gold but being a libertarian…you are all infected with the religious belief in the magic of gold.

    liberal
    Most libertarians are crypto-feudalists.
    auskalo
    A couple of months ago DownSouth put here, at NC, in a comment about an article by Chris Hedges, the link to Lifting the Veil and Metanoia, getting lots of comments.

    It is also in Vimeo: http://www.vimeo.com/20355767

    tz
    I am really tired of "If I want your opinion I'll give it to you".

    There are not a few libertarians like me that consider corp(se)orations the undead monsters created by the Frankenstate. I would have them slain. Then the Koch brothers would just have the power two individual had, not the power they seized when liberals concentrated it in DC.

    I know of no country where they want stalinist-maoist like power in the centralized government that doesn't have a nomenklatura, oligarchy, or other elites living lavishly and breaking all the rules.

    I do not think it would be any gain to change which people are the oligarchs crushing me, which elites get to steal my property.

    Most libertarians are their core are about liberty, so any power, and the corruption that attends, needs to be broken, destroyed, scattered, opposed, or mitigated.

    One thing I can say is almost universal about libertarians is they care about THE RULE OF LAW. You know – the laws against fraud that if they were enforced, even from the old english common law, most of the wall street and DC elite would be in prison serving long sentences.

    But what is your solution? Arbitrary assassination? Basically destroying the rule of law in the other direction with bills of attainder or ex post facto laws – with your supreme court justices gutting the meaning of plain words after being "educated" by your group?

    We will replace a corrupt king with a reign of terror. Why should I want that? I want a second AMERICAN revolution, not a second French revolution. I want to destroy the cozy relationships that mirror the East India company. You just want to start robbing and shooting the incumbents. I wish to reestablish justice and the rule of law – then change the laws to make individuals powerful, not bureaucrats, oligarchs, corpseorations, or nanny-dearest progressives that don't think I know how to run my life or protect myself.

    liberal
    Most libertarians are their core are about liberty…

    Yes; about crushing it in favor of feudalism.

    Praedor
    Nah. Most libertarians are, at their core, merely greedy and self-centered. Their true core orbits around "I got mine so f*ck you!" They all love them some Ayn Rand.
    Jack Straw
    I am surprised that no mention is made of the Green Party, which unlike the libertarians or LP hold a significant number of offices. Jesse Ventura won office "with" the Reform Party, which later re-branded itself locally the Independence Party as Pat Buchanan became more prominent in the RP nationally.

    While political promises are occasionally dangerous to break, they're also almost always impossible to keep.

    I've noticed that grade school kids don't seem to have class elections anymore – anywhere. While it always seemed like BS when I was a kid, not having them seems worse.

    ScottW
    "Lifting the Veil" is one of the best movies I have seen that should be mandatory viewing for every Obama supporter.

    I remember after Obama was elected, a mainstream pundit commented that of course he will not keep any of his promises–no President ever does. Obama may have just snookered more people with his mesmerizing sermon like speeches following on the the heels of 8 years of Bush Administration terror.

    Obama's attempt to capture the conservative independent voter is going to backfire as he loses millions of former supporters who will either stay home, or vote for someone else. There is no chance he will be re-elected unless unemployment falls below 8% (maybe 7.5%) and it is unlikely that will occur before November 2012.

    Praedor
    9:45 am The opponent field is fairly weak so I give Obama better chances of staying in.

    All bets are off if Huntsman actually gets the GOPer nod (fat chance him OR the hypocrit mormon guy getting the nod) with the teabaggers ruling the roost. They are likely to go for Bachman or Palin or Mr Macaca: none with the slightest chance in hell of ever getting elected.

    DownSouth
    10:51 am What great choices, no?

    We're given the option between shitty and shittier.

    ZADOOFKA FLORIDA
    And they can't have another "census" to make the unemployment numbers go down falsly for 6 months.
    kievite
    10:50 am I really don't understand why the statement of the fact that both parties represent business interests generates so much excitement. The possible role of Libertarians as "spoiler" party is the only interesting tidbit.

    I think the idea that the central foundational principle of the capitalist nation-state is that it is a reflection of its economic constituencies (those who own and control the means of production shape the state in the form that they desire) is with us since around early 1800th. And if you ignore all this nonsense about proletarian revolution and proletariat as a new ruling class Marx's analysis of capitalism is still worth reading.

    The iron law of oligarchy was discovered in 1911. Financial capitalism as a natural and inevitable stage of development of capitalism was analysed by Lenin in his famous "Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism" (1916).

    The real question is what are the political possibilities for countervailing forces and which of them can at least temporarily survive and prosper within the polyarchy framework without being co-opted iether by Repug or Dermocrats (this is a term from modern Russia political vocabulary "dermo" is turd in Russian) ?

    Political parties are organizations composed of blocs of major investors who come together to advance favored candidates in order to control the state. They do this through direct cash contributions and by providing organizational support through the contacts, fundraisers and think tanks. Candidates are invested in like stocks. For them electoral success is dependent on establishing the broadest base of elite support. Candidates whom best internalized investor values see their political "portfolios" grow exponentially at the expense of candidates who have poor level of internalization.

    So what you have is a filtering system in which only the most indoctrinated and business friendly advance to state power. Representatives of the major business groups are also often chosen to fill political appointments after a favored candidate is elected (GS is a nice example).

    This is a polyarchy, a political-economic model in which the state by-and-large functions to advanc

    e elite business interests on the domestic and international fronts.

    And that is what is meant in promoting "democracy abroad". Like Mark Curtis said

    "polyarchy is generally what British leaders mean when they speak of promoting 'democracy' abroad. This is a system in which a small group actually rules and mass participation is confined to choosing leaders in elections managed by competing elites."

    Cynthia
    I don't see how Obama can sleep at night after he continues to pack his inner circle with key figures from the banking cartel, banksters like Bill Daley and Gene Sperling, especially after knowing that virtually all independent financial experts have said, as Barry Ritholtz points out, that the economy cannot recover until the cartel's member banks are broken up:

    http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2011/01/virtually-all-independent-financial-experts-say-that-the-size-of-the-big-banks-is-hurting-the-economy/

    Only a sociopath with a heart of stone could lie for the banksters. And it sounds like Glen Ford, who co-founded the Black Agenda Report, would agree with me that Obama fits the profile of a stone-hearted sociopath:

    http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=6075

    Doug Terpstra
    Obama has now left a highly visible and smelly trail of slime and snakeskin, but such sociopaths apparently have no trouble sleeping at all.

    Obama may be an especially talented case afflicted with something called "narcissistic personality disorder" (also from DownSouth, I believe) — an incurable sociopathy wherein empathy is exquisitely feigned but utterly nonexistent.

    As one shrink aptly put it — the snake pits of Wall Street and Washington are full of such "snakes in suits".

    Particularly dangerous variants are also sadists.

    Hugh
    Yes, it is all kabuki. Distraction is the primary weapon of class warfare, and the illusion of choice in politics is a central example of it.

    Because people love sports analogies, I use the one that Democrats and Republicans are like two football teams. One year, one wins; another year, the other does. But at the end of the season, it's all football. It is not like one is pro-football and the other is anti-football.

    The illusion of choice is not, however, restricted to just the two main parties. Libertarians, the Tea Party, the unions, the liberal orgs and A list blogs of the left, all claim to be legitimate alternatives to the two party system. But the Tea Party and the libertarians are largely creatures of Republican politics, and unions, the liberal orgs, and the A list "progressive" blogs are largely stand-ins for the Democratic party. Yes, all of these contain slivers of the uncoopted. There are authentic Tea Partyers, true libertarians, real progressives and liberals, but these can be and are discounted by our elites. For the most part, it comes back to the two parties, and they are just branches of the over-arching corporatist party of the kleptocrats.

    A good rule of thumb is that any organization or group that supports any Democrat or any Republican has been coopted. They are not there to protest against the Man or the System, and push for real change. They are there to disperse, defuse, and redirect such protest to make sure real change never happens.

    DownSouth
    It's a bona fide nightmare.

    The racial factor that Glen Ford (see link in Cynthia's comment above) raises I believe also plays a role. As he says, Black America is so "psychologically invested" in Obama that the president has been able to neutralize the black community, which constitutes 50% of progressive America.

    So the old racial passions raise their ugly head again, destroying solidarity and any hope for an honest democratic community.

    Why haven't we developed immunities to this evil?

    I was watching the final episode of Adam Curtis' latest film last night All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace (Ep. 3) – Full. Any hope of democracy in the former Congo was been destroyed by racial strife.

    Cynthia
    DownSouth,

    Most blacks in the US don't see Obama as an Uncle Tom. They instead see him as a fellow African American who will give them a leg up in life. To them, having a black guy in the White House is their golden ticket to wealth and power.

    But little do they understand that the US is far more divided along economic lines than it is along racial lines. So Obama being a fellow African American should be totally irrelevant to them.

    Once they realize that Obama's primary goal as president is to further enrich the wealthy, regardless of their skin color, they'll finally see him for what he truly is: a colorblind Uncle Tom.

    alex
    "To them, having a black guy in the White House is their golden ticket to wealth and power."

    Evidence for that assertion?

    Cynthia
    Alex,

    Living just a stone's throw away from the Black Belt, which can easily double as a Bible Belt, as well as being a white minority in a black majority workplace, I can vouch for the fact that many southern blacks view Obama as a Messiah for the black cause. And because many of them run neck and neck with their white counterparts when it comes to their bigotry against Muslims, if the Christian Right had been successful at convincing them that Obama was a practicing Muslim at some point in his life, believe me, there's no way in hell southern blacks would have come together to form a voting block for Obama.

    Strange though it may sound, there's sizable number of Hagee-types among the southern black population, who view Arab Muslims as devils at work to wipe out the Angels of the Middle East, the Israeli Jews. I'm sure that Obama isn't blind to this and thus will go above and beyond to make sure that he doesn't inflame his faithful followers of the South into believing that he's working on behalf of the devils against Christ.

    Doug Terpstra
    Alex, this is a case where absence of evidence is evidence of absence. The Congressional Black Caucus has evaporated, and progressive champions like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharptongue are all but invisible. What happened to these camera-hungry publicity-hounds? And why did it take so long for Cornel West to finally come out and say Obama was a water-boy for the oligarchs?

    The circumstantial evidence for the race-based neutering of the black progressives is overwhelming, and their silence is deafening! In a case of massive co-optation, the death of the liberal class among blacks was a massacre—a brilliant (so far) bloodless coup by the oligarchs.

    See some discussion of this in "Smiley vs.Sharpton: A Potemkin Drama"

    http://blackagendareport.com/content/smiley-vssharpton-potemkin-drama-0

    stockdude
    Why is everyone so much into political "labels"?
    Foppe
    If you'll allow me to be slightly facetious: they are into labels because all they do do is talk. Many people seem to have an immense fascination with working together only with those people whose beliefs they can approve of. And rather than not asking, they want to know everything, only to find out that they really cannot agree with anyone, because they are all "wrong".

    Liberals (and to a slightly lesser degree libertarians) have this down to an art form, yet they never realize that this is exactly what is keeping them from organizing politically.

    Republicans, on the other hand, (and I am overgeneralizing here only to make a point) are mostly uneducated, and thus don't really have all that many (refined) beliefs to begin with. So they don't really care what others believe, so long as they agree on abortion/war/communists.

    stockdude
    And another thing… Lets all stop calling "the financial behemoths, the purchased politician"—–lets stop calling them the elites.

    They are criminals, deceptors, actors, thugs, thieves, news generators and controllers. They understand the mass workings of human nature much as Jim Morrison did, however, in no way proper way are they "elite".

    Elite is a description of honor and well honed skill.

    Well then again…maybe they are the "master thieves". Regardless, lets stop using the term elite.

    In the linguistic/mind ties that are part of the human condition, the use of the term elite is almost the same as conceding the battle right out of the gate.

    rafael bolero
    I think this film's p.o.v. is more true more often at the national, rather than the state level : the difference between a Scott Walker and a Jim Doyle is huge, despite Doyle's corporate future path now. Walker, the republican, is savagely grabbing power for his corporate masters, as we are seeing in the other red-tide states under The Inquisition. A democratic governor would not being doing what Walker is doing, or certainly not at this pace. So, nationally, yes, this is a more correct perspective, but at the state level less so. I think one possible solution is each state must become its own lab to reset representative government and the social contract those people want. Is it Vermont or New Hampshire that is setting up the single-payer health care? That's what I mean : and WI with the recalls. To what extent the Fed Govt. then moves in to block the state(s) from doing business regionally and coerce it/them to toe the corporate line will show how close we come to actual rebellions, which, if they do not remain non-violent, are doomed.
    hell
    To go back the the Adam Curtis documentaries from the earlier post……the electorate has been win over?/brainwashed?/surrendered to the idea that there is no other political system than the Reaganonomics model.

    This country needs New Deal II. However Obama/Democratic Party won't deliver it either because they are closest Reaganistas or don't have the political spine to push New Deal II onto the political agenda.

    hello
    oops, meant to sign-in as "hello," not "hell." lol. apologies.
    Schofield
    As Mahatma Gandhi replied on his visit to Britain when asked by a reporter what he thought about British democracy, "Yes, that would be nice!"
    alex
    Sounds good, but I thought that's what he said when he was asked about Western Civilization.
    ambrit
    alex; I think, (tongue firmly in cheek,) that the former quote was elicited when Ghandi first came to England to study for the Bar at the appropriately named Temple.
    Schofield
    stockdude. "Looters" would be a fair description.
    Anonymous Jones
    It has always confused me how much people are drawn to politicians, something about human nature, I guess.

    The latest Wikipedia-Sarah Palin-Paul Revere thing is instructive in this regard. The people who are rabid supporters of this clearly incompetent and ignorant woman are not able to understand that she is at heart a self-interested politician (only she's just not very good at it other than being attractive and an ignorant blank slate upon which they can project their hopes and dreams)? Why do they work so hard to be duplicitous on her behalf? I don't know.

    You could basically say the same things about Obama or Nixon (well, except that they are/were intelligent to the extent one can have an objective measurement of intelligence (which, yes, is difficult)).

    And libertarians. Yikes. Define "liberty." You cannot. Just like you cannot define "equal treatment" or "equal protection," which is either "treating people in different situations the same" or in some cases "treating people in different situations differently." I know, I really know, you *think* you can. You really believe you can. But you cannot. I've seen smarter people try. Trust me. These concepts are more subtle than you can possibly imagine. You could write tomes devoted to each one.

    In any event, I've said it before (and I'll probably say it again), it's my experience that placing your faith in politicians is not as productive as you might hope and working locally within your own community to make life better for yourself and others is likely more productive (but that is just my opinion, I cannot prove it.)

    Foppe
    Define "liberty." You cannot. Just like you cannot define "equal treatment" or "equal protection," which is either "treating people in different situations the same" or in some cases "treating people in different situations differently."

    So drop the philological stuff and just let people decide for themselves what they judge to be an instance of liberty, or equality. And when both sides have done this, we are in the situation to which Marx's Dictum applies: "Between equal rights, force decides." But you are correct. Life is messy. And (as the corporatists show time and time again): you don't have rights, you fight for them.

    Foppe
    To put it differently: many people who dislike politics have the idea that there is such a thing as the "right" definition of "equality" or "just behavior".

    Yes, there are some definitions that do not even work at first glance, but most definitions of what is just or equal or fair will pass this test. And at that point, epistemic considerations ("the right meaning") fall by the wayside, and it becomes a political battle over who gets the right to define the meaning of 'justice' in that country.

    F. Beard
    Define "liberty." You cannot. AJ

    Maybe so but tyranny is pretty dang obvious. The banking and money system is an obvious example.

    Praedor
    I can define it for a certain crowd (libertarians and the GOP): "liberty" is a standin for "I got mine, ha-ha! Hooray for me and YOU CAN'T HAVE ANY!" It is also, "Every man for himself!".

    Libertarians add 3 specifics as religious dictates: liberty equals "private property" that they can pollute, trash, despoil, wreck, stripmine, burn as they see fit no matter what the greater consequences to neighbors or the environment (as if "private property" is some law of nature and exists outside of being a mere social convention), guns, and a gold standard. Three things and only three things that they can CLEARLY define as "liberty": private property, guns, gold standard.

    F. Beard
    Actually, a government enforced gold standard is fascist, not libertarian.

    Guns and private property are cool though I don't rule out the justice of wealth redistribution since we've had fascism in the US since 1913 at the latest.

    Praedor
    Here is a great layout of what is in store for the USA given the realities of our time – the dysfunctional politics, the hollowed-out economy, the social decoherence:

    http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article23242.htm

    lambert strether
    Shout out to Black Agenda Report. They knew Obama was a fraud before it was cool!
    Susan Truxes
    Lifting the Veil was painful. All my heroes were there. Some of them still alive. And things never manage to change significantly. The chips are really down now for reasons we did not even imagine in the 60s. Things like the absurdity of the banking system; global degradation and massive overpopulation; uncontrollable exploitation of resources; disregard of lessons learned the hard way, etc. So maybe the most encouraging thing about Lifting the Veil is that they haven't won anything either. Both sides are still where they were 45 years ago. And the guy I miss the most is George Carlin.
    John Bennett
    As I watched this video, I asked myself how we got here from our ideal of the US. Then I came across this BBC series called The Century of the Self. It concerns the influence of Freud on history, political science, politics. and economics and ultimately on public policy. It is a four part series, each part is about 55 minutes long. The websites are all over the map. If you don't have time for all of it, at least do the first and last.

    Enjoy if you can and then ponder.

    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-678466363224520614#docid=-3986506414855430309

    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-678466363224520614#docid=-6203861489953762931

    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-678466363224520614#docid=-6111922724894802811

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

    Philip Pilkington
    I must say, I've never stopped loving Ames. He calls a spade a spade.

    The US is probably the only country in the world that has 'discovered' the liberty of libertarianism.

    That either means it's highly advanced culturally — or it's sinking into a quagmire and justifying its own demise through absurd rationalisations that most of the world scoff at.

    I'm not saying anything… I'm just saying…

    F. Beard
    There's nothing libertarian about our banking and money system.
    Philip Pilkington
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ideology
    F. Beard
    http://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fascism
    Philip Pilkington
    Alright, for once — I'm not even sure why — I'm going be a little less allusive than usual.

    America is in a ditch. This is reflected in the minds of its people. They are confused about how to run the country. They think legitimate rule is equal to fascism and think that government is equal to tyranny.

    They think that money is worthless and meaningless. They think that social institutions are lying to them.

    In short: they are nihilists.

    These are the ideologies of a failed power. And the citizens that partake are the discontents that reflect this. It's a tragedy and I wish it weren't so — because I like many American ideals.

    But this is where we live.

    F. Beard
    Phil,

    You guys have had 317 years to get central banking right and now you've plunged US into Great Depression II but you STILL think you have all the answers?

    "Forever learning but never coming to the knowledge of the truth" comes to mind.

    When will you give up on a money system that is based on theft, particularly from the poor?

    Philip Pilkington
    Never… of course…

    Because you people keep chasing perfection, while others just try and keep the whole circus running.

    Don't you get it? You're either a saint or a clown… and if you're a saint then you're irrelevant.

    Be the best clown you can be and shut the fuck with your nonsense… Think FDR… not Lenin…

    skippy
    LMAO…I would like to put PP, Berady and DownSouth in a *Ranger Bear Pit* see:

    http://www.pipesmokerforum.com/forum/showthread.php?652-What-s-A-Bear-Pit

    Not to see whom won but, to see which two would form a team, to defeat the stand alone.

    Skippy…in the tooth and claw days in was a pit, with mud and water in the bottom. Object was last man standing.

    PS. Gnawing on the head is a no no, one way ticket to the psych ward for observation. Old chum did the no no, funny how under duress certain unobserved traits pop out….eh.

    F. Beard
    Because you people keep chasing perfection, while others just try and keep the whole circus running. PP

    Few are laughing any more. Plus, reform would not require perfection. It would only require that money creation be ethical.

    Be the best clown you can be and shut the fuck with your nonsense… Think FDR… not Lenin… PP

    Both believed in central banking so no thanks.

    Philip Pilkington
    "Few are laughing any more. Plus, reform would not require perfection. It would only require that money creation be ethical."

    …or it might require you to get off your ass. But I have a stark feeling that you prefer complaining.

    Armchair nonsense.

    The fact is that things are only going to change when you get OFF YOUR ASS and get out into the real world. When you join political groups — not to discuss gold-standard or whatever — but to engage in trying to change the political process.

    Many Americans have forgotten this — and so they spend their time moaning on the internet. This will be your destruction — trust me.

    F. Beard
    But I have a stark feeling that you prefer complaining. PP

    No, I prefer coming up with a solution and I pretty much have. If no one is interested, that's really not my problem. Seeds are sown but sometimes the soil isn't receptive.

    alex
    Philip Pilkington: "They think legitimate rule is equal to fascism and think that government is equal to tyranny."

    Which subset is "they" and about which _specific_ issues do "they" think legitimate government is tyranny? Are you talking about finance? Do you have, for example, poll results indicating that the majority of Americans oppose financial regulation, are in favor of TBTF bailouts, or oppose prosecution for financial crimes?

    Or are you reacting to editorials and (warning: confirmation bias trap) listening to the opinions of a few posters on the Internet?

    "They think that money is worthless and meaningless."

    Stand on the street and see how many Franklins you can hand out. Remember, don't coerce anyone into taking them! Perhaps you're confusing a grand notion of "worthless and meaningless" with a simple concern about inflation.

    "In short: they are nihilists."

    No, they're disgusted and pessimistic.

    Paul Tioxon
    Depending on how disillusioned you already are or prepared to become as a committed, politically aware and active individual, THE VEIL, starts to get at the structure of the modern liberal state. We are all managed, we are planned for, it is just hard for people to accept how unconscious they are. But at the same time, trying to get at the truth, the solution, the movement for a more democratic society, more democratic than what? It is clear that the banking crisis has lead to a questioning of the people who have the power to safeguard our social order in the most fundamental way and revealed the structure of power as it is, not as compared to what is real, which is a synonym for too many people for some ideal, some set of notions that only exist by virtue of language, and only in their minds. The banking crisis is as big a cultural change event as the JFK assassination was for many people. The lies were so thick you could could cut them with a knife and today is no different. But what is revealed in addition to all of the bad loans, the cheating investment bankers, the short sellers, the hedge funds is the naked power of the people who this entire economy serves better than the millions unemployed, the millions foreclosed upon and millions without health care. It serves them better than the people who retained their jobs and their homes intact. It serves them better than the city of Detroit that used to be a city of 2 million people and is falling to 700,000 and is entire city blown up into ruble, not just one big city square at NYCs ground zero. And Detroit, bombed back into the stone age looks worse than NYC, because their has been no sanctimonious rebuilding, no legends of the heroes, no how could this have happened to Americans in American and how do we prevent it from ever happening again.

    Detroit almost had its brains blown out with point blank bullets to the head, but for the industrial bailout fought for by Obama. It is no accident that Detroit has been systematically defenestrated by corporate management and the rest of big business trying to kill the biggest and most powerful industrial union, based on auto industry workers and rippling out through its supply chains into the steel industry and the coal industry, all heavily unionized. Obama saved that union, its jobs, its health care fund, its pensions, at the cost of shareholders and bondholders. I still have not seen an adequate answer to these facts. There is a difference, and that is a big enough of a difference for me. The fact that so much corruption is part and parcel of American business is not news to the people who work on assembly lines, coal mines and steel mills. People die in industrial accidents in these lines of work every day, have been beaten, shot and seen their union leaders assassinated and disappeared in the struggle to unionize. Jimmy Hoffa, is a punch line of jokes that you would never hear about Martin L King or Robert Kennedy, but a union leader, is the shithead under the goal post at Giant Stadium. No holy marble monument for him. The people who the establishment are most worried about are NOT the people who actually have the guts to rise up and tear this country to piece when they finally have had enough torture and eating the shit shoveled out as the American Dream. The problem, for the liberal state is to not have a enough ameliorating social welfare reforms, including widespread healthcare, public education, higher education, good housing and a dignified old age without a broken down body and an adequate pension. If there are a 10000 billionaires, IF I still have a good LIVING, I really don't give a shit how much more money banksters make MORE than the pure and holy naked capitalism crowd.

    The fact of the matter is, my living IS diminished along with my humanity by the actual policies that have been set in motions by the people who are in the process of setting a police state to contain the political upheaval heading our way, that they know for a fact is heading our way, because they are doing everything in their power to instigate a class conflict explosion. Attacking unions is part of a strategy, as is strangling the middle class. But that CAN turn around by policy changes, that are clear signals of a better alternative to shooting us down in the streets like they did at Kent State, Jackson STate and all across the country when we took to the streets. All of the social sciences are measures of society to make sure there is not a bloody revolution. Yes, to coopt to us so we do not kill one another. The number of bombings in the USA during the height of the SDS, was 3 a day. IEDs going off all over America, and in Europe. And since I am not a Rockefeller or an Emir or Sultan, I don't want a bloody insurrection, but the republicans on the other hand. Just listen to the 2nd Amendment final solution they regularly mouth. I would rather live through a political struggle than take my chances against the state and the reactionary armed NRA in a bloody conflict that would not change things much more than the French Revolution permanently improved the lot of workers. So yea, Obama is a brand, that is how you communicate to 310,000,000 people in a modern 21st century nation state. Surprise surprise. We are coopted instead of being beaten and shot. Well good, pick a side and push to take control of the state bureaucracy for the sake of green jobs, electric cars, solar panels, organic farming, credit unions, please, co opt all of these ideas asap. I can't wait to sell out.

    Sy Krass
    Paul Tioxon, it's that kind of attitude that will gurantee blody anarchy. :(
    Septeus7

    An am Interesting discussion so I decided to put in my two cents.

    I think we are lacking a vision of what American civilization is about and what we want to do with our civilization. The lack of vision for a future results in two kinds of confusion resulting in two kinds of reactionary factions.

    The above mention synthetic third party movement aka the "Tea Party/Libertarian" uses the rhetoric of freedom and liberty but being rooted in philosophical Neoliberalism they can only define those ideas in terms of freedom and liberty for property owners and therefore representative government must act to defend the "freedom and liberty" proportional to the distribution of property. However, since the rules governing the acquisition of property i.e. markets (primarily though the state supported FIRE sector as F. Beard is always pointing out) are rigged institutionally toward the concentration of wealth thus increasing "freedom and liberty" will only result in true liberty and freedom being eroded for those lacking oligarchical privilege.

    On the other hand, seeing the failure of traditional paths of resisting the loss of political power because of self appointed institutional sellout "Liberals" and "Progressives" a few folks around here have began to look more deeply into the fact the all the institutional "Liberal Progressives" have in fact historically functioned as Mark Ames says " Big Co-apters."

    After such disillusionment, I believe the reaction by many here at Naked Capitalism appeals to Anarchism, Malthusian doomerism and rejection of the very idea of "progress" and the hierarchies that the division of labor will make necessary.

    The result is that it seems that the "Left" or democratic/republican/populist forces of all stripes are tempted into nihilism; saying that liberty, freedom, progress, and even the development of civilization itself are meaningless and cannot be defined and even if they could be, there would be no reason to believe in those things.

    I don't think this kind thinking represents the best we can do nor is it a positive development for society. Rather, it is something that Adam Curtis has ripped off the mask of it's pretenses of Nietzschian superhuman ascension above the "Good and Evil" of civil society or Rousseauian romantics trying to liberate man from the "evil" constraints necessarily imposed by civil society and restoring him to the "balance of nature."

    In the following film and interview (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CjEsk2lBj8c http://www.littleatoms.com/adamcurtis.htm) Adam Curtis has I think demonstrated that such ideas rather than being scientific and politically neutral represent retreat from the culture and society. And can, in fact, be tools of oligarchs in much the same way that far right Libertarianism functions to capture populist outrage and neutralize threats to the Oligarchy.

    The antihierachical movements, just like the hippy communes, have no chance of being the basis of reorganizing society and in truth represent nothing but cowardice. It is irresponsibly turning away from what is really required to have true republican government. What is required is the willingness to exercise pure, brutal, unrelenting political power.

    The truth is that only way to change the system is to become the system for ourselves just as the Oligarchy has been more than willing to exercise the power of brute politics to become our current system through parallel organizations of government and bureaucracy. We democratic republicans must do the same.

    Rather than something to be feared power must be embraced for what it really is…self government.

    We must set up our own and superior form of government and assert it's authority over existing institutions and impose those truly republican institutions into the current structures and when we meet resistance we must declare all resistance illegitimate and an invalid usurpation of the rights of a sovereign people. We are the People…so "there is no alternative."

    I have a very clear vision of exactly we in this country need to institute in order to create a more perfect union. If folks are interested, I will write another post for what I call "Republic 2.0″ because we need a reboot.

    May

    [May 17, 2011] Congress Proposes Bill to Allow Worldwide War … Including INSIDE the U.S.

    A very apt saying: "The bellicose frivolity of senile empires"
    May 17, 2011 | naked capitalism
    scraping_by:

    In truth, the war on terror is a fiction conducted as a domestic theatre. For instance, it's known where the money for al Qaeda comes from:

    http://tribune.com.pk/story/86289/wikileaks-saudi-critical-finance-base-for-qaeda-taliban/

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/wikileaks/8182847/Wikileaks-Saudis-chief-funders-of-al-Qaeda.html

    And yet, they allow the supposed enemies to keep their funding. There's no ulitmatum to the house of Saud to stop the support, active or passive, backed up by an invasion, or at least a Seal raid. Elementary military doctrine says cut off the enemy's resources. This is past military incompetence; this is keeping the game alive.

    On the other note, that American combat troops are being stationed in the US, there's this from Abu Dhabi:

    http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2011/05/blackwater-founder-building-mercenary-army-to-put-down-arab-revolts/

    Ghaddaffi has survived while other dictators have fallen in the Arab Spring by protecting himself with an army of foreign mercenaries, augmented by military refugees from Tunisia and Egypt. In other countries, the national military sided with their fellow proles when it came time to start shooting. In Libya, non-citizens are made part of the fight.

    http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/features/2011/04/20114818291705627.html

    China put down the Tienamin Square demonstration with units of the PLA made up of Mongolians. The genocide in Bahrain is being carried out mostly by Sunnis from Saudi Arabia. This is nothing new: Cinco de Mayo commemorates the defeat of an army of mercenaries supporting a foreign dictatorship.

    Is there any way to get the demographics of this unit? American citizenship is not required to join the US military. The officers can be trusted to see that serving with honor is about their careers, not their country. But it would be better if the rankers were dragged in by the economic draft rather than just visitors.

    felix:

    The unmistakable sign of a dying empire: all political diplomatic, economic action, initiative, takes a back seat to pure, bare faced militarism, to armed aggression. When was the last time that a U.S. Sec. of State toured the Middle East, Asia, Latin America, moving things up, proposing new ideas, setting the ground for improvements in international relations, creating ties with other world powers? In fact, the last time we saw that was during the Clinton adm. The days were Nixon shocked the world with his ping-pong diplomacy, establishing diplomatic relations with Red China, when Kissinger used to make the rounds between Cairo, Tel Aviv, Damask and Moscow, seem long gone. And at the end, all what's left of the former greatest empire in Human History is an empty shell, a mock up of its old self; and military aggression to the outsiders and bread and circus to its own masses, at least while the bread lasts and the circus is still entertaining for them.

    Sufferin' Succotash:

    "The bellicose frivolity of senile empires"…Barbara Tuchman's reference to Austria-Hungary before 1914.

    Tony says: May 17, 2011 at 10:24 pm "old men with beautiful manners…" -Ezra Pound, I think

    Sauron:

    Obama's a tool.A Potemkin-Progressive. A smooth, likable, engaging tool, but a tool nonetheless. (There's my well-reasoned response.)

    He's a compromiser down to the core, a man who sees himself an facilitator between everyone at the table. But of course only the big boys have a seat at the table. But that's ok, 'cause he doesn't have the independant values to tell him it's wrong.

    Doug Terpstra:

    Dang it! Did anybody bring a map? Please tell me that wasn't the Rubicon River we crossed ten years back! Holy Shiite!

    Blinded by greed and powerlust from top to bottom, our leaders are guided by AIPAC, who are masking their justified panic with outsize bravado. War on the American people is the inevitable conclusion.

    "Where there is no vision, the people perish" (Isaiah)

    "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." George Santayana

    Doug Terpstra: The vision thing was from King Solomon (Proverbs 29:18)

    Max424:

    Tremendous thread.

    I would only add; this is just the beginning — the real game hasn't started yet. What we've been witnessing, the last decade or so, are pre-game warm-ups.

    [May 10, 2011] Global capitalism and 21st century fascism

    William I. Robinson forgot to tell us what is the countervailing force for all those nasty thing he predicts will happen...

    The crisis of global capitalism is unprecedented, given its magnitude, its global reach, the extent of ecological degradation and social deterioration, and the scale of the means of violence. We truly face a crisis of humanity. The stakes have never been higher; our very survival is at risk. We have entered into a period of great upheavals and uncertainties, of momentous changes, fraught with dangers - if also opportunities.

    I want to discuss here the crisis of global capitalism and the notion of distinct political responses to the crisis, with a focus on the far-right response and the danger of what I refer to as 21st century fascism, particularly in the United States.

    Facing the crisis calls for an analysis of the capitalist system, which has undergone restructuring and transformation in recent decades. The current moment involves a qualitatively new transnational or global phase of world capitalism that can be traced back to the 1970s, and is characterised by the rise of truly transnational capital and a transnational capitalist class, or TCC. Transnational capital has been able to break free of nation-state constraints to accumulation beyond the previous epoch, and with it, to shift the correlation of class and social forces worldwide sharply in its favour - and to undercut the strength of popular and working class movements around the world, in the wake of the global rebellions of the 1960s and the 1970s.

    Emergent transnational capital underwent a major expansion in the 1980s and 1990s, involving hyper-accumulation through new technologies such as computers and informatics, through neo-liberal policies, and through new modalities of mobilising and exploiting the global labour force - including a massive new round of primitive accumulation, uprooting, and displacing hundreds of millions of people - especially in the third world countryside, who have become internal and transnational migrants.

    We face a system that is now much more integrated, and dominant groups that have accumulated an extraordinary amount of transnational power and control over global resources and institutions.

    Militarised accumulation, financial speculation - and the sacking of public budgets

    By the late 1990s, the system entered into chronic crisis. Sharp social polarisation and escalating inequality helped generate a deep crisis of over-accumulation. The extreme concentration of the planet's wealth in the hands of the few and the accelerated impoverishment, and dispossession of the majority, even forced participants in the 2011 World Economic Forum's annual meeting in Davos to acknowledge that the gap between the rich and the poor worldwide is "the most serious challenge in the world" and is "raising the spectre of worldwide instability and civil wars."

    Global inequalities and the impoverishment of broad majorities mean that transnational capitals cannot find productive outlets to unload the enormous amounts of surplus it has accumulated. By the 21st century, the TCC turned to several mechanisms to sustain global accumulation, or profit making, in the face of this crisis.

    One is militarised accumulation; waging wars and interventions that unleash cycles of destruction and reconstruction and generate enormous profits for an ever-expanding military-prison-industrial-security-financial complex. We are now living in a global war economy that goes well beyond such "hot wars" in Iraq or Afghanistan.

    For instance, the war on immigrants in the United States and elsewhere, and more generally, repression of social movements and vulnerable populations, is an accumulation strategy independent of any political objectives. This war on immigrants is extremely profitable for transnational corporations. In the United States, the private immigrant prison-industrial complex is a boom industry. Undocumented immigrants constitute the fastest growing sector of the US prison population and are detained in private detention centres and deported by private companies contracted out by the US state.

    It is no surprise that William Andrews, the CEO of the Corrections Corporation of America, or CCA - the largest private US contractor for immigrant detention centres - declared in 2008 that: "The demand for our facilities and services could be adversely affected by the relaxation of enforcement efforts … or through decriminalisation [of immigrants]." Nor is it any surprise that CCA and other corporations have financed the spate of neo-fascist anti-immigrant legislation in Arizona and other US states.

    A second mechanism is the raiding and sacking of public budgets. Transnational capital uses its financial power to take control of state finances and to impose further austerity on the working majority, resulting in ever greater social inequality and hardship. The TCC has used its structural power to accelerate the dismantling of what remains of the social wage and welfare states.

    And a third is frenzied worldwide financial speculation - turning the global economy into a giant casino. The TCC has unloaded billions of dollars into speculation in the housing market, the food, energy and other global commodities markets, in bond markets worldwide (that is, public budgets and state finances), and into every imaginable "derivative", ranging from hedge funds to swaps, futures markets, collateralised debt obligations, asset pyramiding, and ponzi schemes. The 2008 collapse of the global financial system was merely the straw that broke the camel's back.

    This is not a cyclical but a structural crisis - a restructuring crisis, such as we had in the 1970s, and before that, in the 1930s - that has the potential to become a systemic crisis, depending on how social agents respond to the crisis and on a host of unknown contingencies. A restructuring crisis means that the only way out of crisis is to restructure the system, whereas a systemic crisis is one in which only a change in the system itself will resolve the crisis. Times of crisis are times of rapid social change, when collective agency and contingency come into play more than in times of equilibrium in a system.

    Responses to the crisis and Obama's Weimar republic in the United States

    In the face of crisis there appear to be distinct responses from states and social and political forces. Three stand out: global reformism; resurgent of popular and leftist struggles from below; far-right and 21st century fascism. There appears to be, above all, a political polarisation worldwide between the left and the right, both of which are insurgent forces.

    A neo-fascist insurgency is quite apparent in the United States. This insurgency can be traced back several decades, to the far-right mobilisation that began in the wake of the crisis of hegemony brought about by the mass struggles of the 1960s and the 1970s, especially the Black and Chicano liberation struggles and other militant movements by third world people, counter-cultural currents, and militant working class struggles.

    Neo-fascist forces re-organised during the years of the George W Bush government. But my story here starts with Obama's election.

    The Obama project from the start was an effort by dominant groups to re-establish hegemony in the wake of its deterioration during the Bush years (which also involved the rise of a mass immigrant rights movement). Obama's election was a challenge to the system at the cultural and ideological level, and has shaken up the racial/ethnic foundations upon which the US republic has always rested. However, the Obama project was never intended to challenge the socio-economic order; to the contrary; it sought to preserve and strengthen that order by reconstituting hegemony, conducting a passive revolution against mass discontent and spreading popular resistance that began to percolate in the final years of the Bush presidency.

    The Italian socialist Antonio Gramsci developed the concept of passive revolution to refer to efforts by dominant groups to bring about mild change from above in order to undercut mobilisation from below for more far-reaching transformation. Integral to passive revolution is the co-option of leadership from below; its integration into the dominant project. Dominant forces in Egypt, Tunisia, and elsewhere in the Middle East and North America are attempting to carry out such a passive revolution. With regard to the immigrant rights movement in the United States - one of the most vibrant social movements in that country -moderate/mainstream Latino establishment leaders were brought into the Obama and Democratic Party fold – a classic case of passive revolution - while the mass immigrant base suffers intensified state repression.

    Obama's campaign tapped into and helped expand mass mobilisation and popular aspirations for change not seen in many years in the United States. The Obama project co-opted that brewing storm from below, channelled it into the electoral campaign, and then betrayed those aspirations, as the Democratic Party effectively demobilised the insurgency from below with more passive revolution.

    In this sense, the Obama project weakened the popular and left response from below to the crisis, which opened space for the right-wing response to the crisis - for a project of 21st century fascism - to become insurgent. Obama's administration appears in this way as a Weimar republic. Although the social democrats were in power during the Weimar republic of Germany in the 1920s and early 1930s, they did not pursue a leftist response to the crisis, but rather side-lined the militant trade unions, communists and socialists, and progressively pandered to capital and the right before turning over power to the Nazis in 1933.

    21st century fascism in the United States

    I don't use the term fascism lightly. There are some key features of a 21st century fascism I identify here:

    1. The fusion of transnational capital with reactionary political power
      This fusion had been developing during the Bush years and would likely have deepened under a McCain-Palin White House. In the meantime, such neo-fascist movements as the Tea Party as well as neo-fascist legislation such as Arizona's anti-immigrant law, SB1070, have been broadly financed by corporate capital. Three sectors of transnational capital in particular stand out as prone to seek fascist political arrangements to facilitate accumulation: speculative financial capital, the military-industrial-security complex, and the extractive and energy (particularly petroleum) sector.
    2. Militarisation and extreme masculinisation
      As militarised accumulation has intensified the Pentagon budget, increasing 91 per cent in real terms in the past 12 years, the top military brass has become increasingly politicised and involved in policy making.
    3. A scapegoat which serves to displace and redirect social tensions and contradictions
      In this case, immigrants and Muslims in particular. The Southern Poverty Law Centre recently reported that "three strands of the radical right - hate groups, nativist extremist groups, and patriot organisations - increased from 1,753 groups in 2009 to 2,145 in 2010, a 22 per cent rise, that followed a 2008-9 increase of 40 per cent."

      A 2010 Department of Homeland Security report observed that "right wing extremists may be gaining new recruits by playing on the fears about several emergency issues. The economic downturn and the election of the first African American president present unique drivers for right wing radicalisation and recruitment." The report concluded: "Over the past five years, various right wing extremists, including militia and white supremacists, have adopted the immigration issue as a call to action, rallying point, and recruitment tool."

    4. A mass social base
      In this case, such a social base is being organised among sectors of the white working class that historically enjoyed racial caste privilege and that have been experiencing displacement and experiencing rapid downward mobility as neo-liberalism comes to the US - while they are losing the security and stability they enjoyed in the previous Fordist-Keynesian epoch of national capitalism.
    5. A fanatical millennial ideology involving race/culture supremacy embracing an idealised and mythical past, and a racist mobilisation against scapegoats
      The ideology of 21st century fascism often rests on irrationality - a promise to deliver security and restore stability is emotive, not rational. 21st century fascism is a project that does not - and need not - distinguish between the truth and the lie.
    6. A charismatic leadership
      Such a leadership has so far been largely missing in the United States, although figures such as Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck appear as archetypes.

    The mortal circuit of accumulation-exploitation-exclusion

    One new structural dimension of 21st century global capitalism is the dramatic expansion of the global superfluous population - that portion marginalised and locked out of productive participation in the capitalist economy and constituting some 1/3rd of humanity. The need to assure the social control of this mass of humanity living in a planet of slums gives a powerful impetus to neo-fascist projects and facilitates the transition from social welfare to social control - otherwise known as "police states". This system becomes ever more violent.

    Theoretically stated - under the conditions of capitalist globalisation - the state's contradictory functions of accumulation and legitimation cannot both be met. The economic crisis intensifies the problem of legitimation for dominant groups so that accumulation crises, such as the present one, generate social conflicts and appear as spiralling political crises. In essence, the state's ability to function as a "factor of cohesion" within the social order breaks down to the extent that capitalist globalisation and the logic of accumulation or commodification penetrates every aspect of life, so that "cohesion" requires more and more social control.

    Displacement and exclusion has accelerated since 2008. The system has abandoned broad sectors of humanity, who are caught in a deadly circuit of accumulation-exploitation-exclusion. The system does not even attempt to incorporate this surplus population, but rather tries to isolate and neutralise its real or potential rebellion, criminalising the poor and the dispossessed, with tendencies towards genocide in some cases.

    As the state abandons efforts to secure legitimacy among broad swathes of the population that have been relegated to surplus - or super-exploited - labour, it resorts to a host of mechanisms of coercive exclusion: mass incarceration and prison-industrial complexes, pervasive policing, manipulation of space in new ways, highly repressive anti-immigrant legislation, and ideological campaigns aimed at seduction and passivity through petty consumption and fantasy.

    A 21st fascism would not look like 20th century fascism. Among other things, the ability of dominant groups to control and manipulate space and to exercise an unprecedented control over the mass media, the means of communication and the production of symbolic images and messages, means that repression can be more selective (as we see in Mexico or Colombia, for example), and also organised juridically so that mass "legal" incarceration takes the place of concentration camps. Moreover, the ability of economic power to determine electoral outcomes allows for 21st century fascism to emerge without a necessary rupture in electoral cycles and a constitutional order.

    The United States cannot be characterised at this time as fascist. Nonetheless, all of the conditions and the processes are present and percolating, and the social and political forces behind such a project are mobilising rapidly. More generally, images in recent years of what such a political project would involve spanned the Israeli invasion of Gaza and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians, to the scapegoating and criminalisation of immigrant workers and the Tea Party movement in the United States, genocide in the Congo, the US/United Nations occupation of Haiti, the spread of neo-Nazis and skinheads in Europe, and the intensified Indian repression in occupied Kashmir.

    The counterweight to 21st century fascism must be a coordinated fight-back by the global working class. The only real solution to the crisis of global capitalism is a massive redistribution of wealth and power - downward towards the poor majority of humanity. And the only way such redistribution can come about is through mass transnational struggle from below.

    William I. Robinson a professor of sociology and global studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

    The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.

    Superman Renounces US Citizenship

    Pat Caddell, who was Carter's pollster, sent this tidbit and considers it to be a meaningful indicator:

    Superman may be a comic book character, but he is very much an iconic cultural figure to Americans, particularly the Baby Boom generation.

    ... ... ...

    This, as befits a comic book story line, is an upbeat reason for Superman deciding to become a citoyen du monde. Reader gs_runsthiscountry gave a darker take yesterday:

    One of the most tragic things I have heard the last 18 months, is sitting in the student union talking to younger students and have them tell me they want to move to Canada. Seriously, I have heard this more than once and have to believe this has traction in the 18-28 yr gen. Seeing students so disgusted with our politicians at such a young age, it is eye opening to say the least. It is incomprehensible to me a students frustrations are so high they have shifted their studies to health sciences, in the hopes they may get a work visa in Canada if all else fails.

    Then there is the story of a former beer league softball teammate. I was asked to be a sub, they know I don't play anymore, but I ask why? Well, he is gone and didn't know that, because he signed up for the National Guard. I was floored – this person has a degree in business and a Law degree and is also tri-lingual. At the age of 29, having not found work, and faced with loan default, he felt joining the NG was his only option. WHOA!

    What is there to tie people to a country if they are at odds with its values and lack mercenary reasons to stay? The prized idea of neoclassical economists and libertarians, that people are isolated actors in markets and social organizations don't matter, is now being played out on a large scale and the results don't look too pretty.

    [May 09, 2011] Paul Krugman- Shadow of the Torturers

    On the psychology of the George W. Bush administration. I believe he is correct:

    Paul Krugman: Shadow of the Torturers: After reading John Yoo's attack on the president for not taking Osama alive and bringing him to Gitmo, I thought I might take a minute to explain something I sometimes say. Once in a while I mention, in passing, that the Bush administration saw torturing people as a plus, not a cost. And whenever I do, some readers clutch their breasts and reach for the smelling salts: how dare I say such a thing? But it's true — not because they're sadists, but because it suited their self-image.

    From day one of the War on Terror (TM), it was clear that the Bush people reveled in the notion that they were tough guys, willing to Do What Needs to be Done. They were all wannabe Kiefer Sutherlands. Far from showing qualms about suspending the rule of law and using torture to extract information, they obviously enjoyed the idea that they were willing to go all the way, unlike those wimpy liberals. Of course, they never admitted that, probably not even to themselves. But did you ever see the slightest hint of reluctance or discomfort? Or did you see tremendous self-satisfaction as the acts became ever more abusive?

    And so they are, inevitably, deeply upset that someone who isn't a tough guy by their standards seems to be doing a better job of getting the terrorists than they did.

    Neal

    Is it surprising that torture-chic became cool in an administration of chicken-hawks? Remaking reality every day.

    Joe Smith

    Let's face it. They thought they were "uber mensch", when they were by and large moral weaklings

    dilbert dogbert

    As this is an economics blog, how about Gresham's Law? Torture drives out good intelligence techniques. Would Jesus torture?

    [May 04, 2011] Opinion Columnist Osama is dead but not bin Ladenism

    THE DAILY STAR

    Osama is dead but not bin Ladenism May 03, 2011 01:36 AM (Last updated: May 03, 2011 01:36 AM) By Rami G. Khouri The Daily Star
    Osama bin Laden is dead, and many will rightly rejoice that a killer has been killed and justice has been done. However, bin Ladenism persists, because the conditions that created it remain prevalent in much of the Arab-Asian region.

    The United States and allies will justifiably enjoy a sense of political vindication, and intelligence and operational success. Tens of thousands of families around the world that have suffered the pain of Al-Qaeda's criminal attacks will feel a small but vital sense of relief. We should rejoice at their satisfaction.

    The celebrations, though, should not cause us to repeat the same mistake on bin Laden's death that many around the world made during his life: to exaggerate the individual and the institution of Al-Qaeda, thus downplaying the two much more important operational dynamics that have consistently defined his world and ours. When the celebratory moment dissipates and we grapple again with the challenge of how to address the terrorism phenomenon that Al-Qaeda crafted into a global monster, we should keep in mind two key facts.

    First, Osama bin Laden, Al-Qaeda and many smaller copycat organizations it spawned in the past two decades are small, clandestine, cult-like movements that have gained little or no traction among the masses of citizens in the Arab-Asian region that is the heartland of Islamic societies. The masses of Arabs, Asians and other Muslims have regularly repudiated bin Laden and his deputy Ayman Zawahiri's repeated attempts to rally public opinion to their cause.

    Bin Ladenism and associated terrorist groups must be fought with the police tools used to fight cults and gangsters, not the global ideological and military weapons that waged the battle against communism or fascism. The death of the charismatic leader will clearly diminish Al-Qaeda even further, given that it never connected widely with its preferred Arab-Islamic audiences and has been hit hard by coordinated counterterrorism actions around the world.

    Second, bin Laden's death should force us to remember the reasons for Al-Qaeda's birth. This movement crystallized and expanded in the decade from 1991 to 2001 primarily as a reactionary response to policies by three parties principally – Arab autocrats, Israel and the United States – that angered bin Laden's followers to the point of feeling that they felt that Islam itself was under assault and needed to be protected through a defensive military holy war, or jihad.

    The vast majority of Muslims thought the bin Laden response was nonsense. But, much more importantly, clearly documented majorities of Arabs (Muslims and Christians alike), like many other Muslims around the world, shared the basic grievances that bin Laden articulated. These were mainly about three inter-connected issues that Al-Qaeda defined as predatory policies of America and the West to dominate the Islamic world with their armies, economies and culture; Israel's assault on the rights of Palestinians, Lebanese and other Arabs, with full Western backing; and the abusive, un-Islamic conduct of dictatorial Arab police states that were structurally supported by the United States and other Western powers.

    The politically important aspect of all this is not about Osama bin Laden's complaints. It is the fact that these same grievances have been and remain very widely shared across the entire Arab-Islamic world, which keeps open the door for other bin Ladens to materialize.

    In the post-bin Laden world, therefore, moving toward a safer, more stable world requires focusing on the legitimacy of these important and pervasive grievances, and then working sensibly to resolve them. It is worth recalling that foreign armies in Islamic societies were the two principal catalysts for Al-Qaeda's initial birth and expansion – the Soviets in Afghanistan and the Americans in Saudi Arabia. So, removing American, British and other foreign armies from wars they wage in Islamic-majority societies would seem to be pivotal for the defeat and disintegration of Al-Qaeda and its clones.

    Bin Laden has left behind a legacy of many small cult-like movements that allow discontented, disoriented and disenfranchised young men to find empowerment and meaning in life through terror campaigns justified through wildly distorted readings of Islamic texts and traditions. These dead-end fringe cults will be defeated mainly by their own societies, as evidenced by the fact that such groups today can only operate in remote desert, mountain or other lawless areas. An overwhelming majority of Arabs, on the other hand, are demonstrating these days that they wish to address their grievances through populist transitions to democracy, citizenship rights and human dignity.

    As the Islamic and Western world ponders next steps toward a more secure world after the death of Osama bin Laden, we should focus more on policies than personalities, especially on why mass discontent prevails in so many Arab-Islamic-Asian countries. This requires acknowledging who has a hand in causing this condition, and how we can all work together more effectively to redress the ideological distortions, corruption and abuse of power, and aggressive state policies that fertilize the fields of discontent that remain so widespread and vibrant.

    Rami G. Khouri is published twice weekly by THE DAILY STAR.

    Read more: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/May/03/Osama-is-dead-but-not-bin-Ladenism.ashx#ixzz1LLmcbCvp
    (The Daily Star :: Lebanon News :: http://www.dailystar.com.lb)

    [May 02, 2011] Michel Bauwens - FriendFeed

    THE SIMPLIFICATION OF COMPLEX SOCIETIES - Global Guerrillas - http://globalguerrillas.typepad.com/globalg... Wednesday from delicious - Comment - Like - Share

    If this is true, then the question for all of us is: is our global society an interlocking nightmare of complexity on the verge of trying to solve one crisis too many?

    I believe it is. When is the last time that anything big got done without more negatives, tradeoffs, corruption, or unintended consequences than it was worth?

    - Michel Bauwens

    April

    [Apr 25, 2011] "Inequalities and the Ascendant Right"

    Daniel Little cannot understand why the majority of Americans seem to accept recent societal and political changes that tilt the playing field in favor of those at the top:

    Inequalities and the ascendant right, by Daniel Little, Understanding Society: The playing field seems to keep tilting further against ordinary people in this country -- poor people, hourly workers, low-paid service workers, middle-class people with family incomes in the $60-80K range, uninsured people... 75% of American households have household incomes below $80,000; the national median was $44,389 in 2005. Meanwhile the top one percent of Americans receive 17% of total after-tax income. And the rationale offered by the right to justify these increasing inequalities keeps shifting over time: free enterprise ideology, trickle-down economics, divisive racial politics, and irrelevant social issues, for example. ...

    Meanwhile, the power of extreme wealth in the country seems more or less unlimited and unchallenged. Corporations can spend as much as they want to further candidates -- as "persons" with freedom of speech rights following Citizens' United v. Federal Election Commission (link). Billionaires like the Koch brothers fund the anti-labor agendas of conservative governors. Right-wing media empires dominate the airwaves. Well-financed conservative politicians use the language of "budget crisis" as a pretext for harshly reducing programs that benefit ordinary people (like Pell grants). Lobbyists for corporations and major economic interests can influence agencies and regulations in the interest of their clients, more or less invisibly. And billionaire lightweights like Donald Trump continue to make ridiculous statements about President Obama's birth status.

    The political voice of the right, and the economic elite they serve, has never been louder. And it is becoming more reckless in its attacks on the rest of society. Immigrants come in for repressive legislation in Arizona and other states. Racist voices that would never have been tolerated a generation ago are edging towards mainstream acceptability on the right. Self-righteous attempts to reverse health care reform are being trumpeted -- threatening one of the few gains that poor and uninsured people have made in decades. And the now-systematic attack on public sector unions is visibly aimed at silencing one of the very few powerful voices that stand in the political sphere on behalf of ordinary working people.

    The big mystery is -- why do the majority of Americans accept this shifting equation without protest? And how can progressive political organizations and movements do a better job of communicating the basic social realities of our economy and our democracy to a mass audience? Social justice isn't a "special interest" -- it is a commitment to the fundamental interests and dignity of the majority of Americans.

    I'm not so sure that it is being accepted. People feel powerless to do anything about it, so in that sense it is accepted as a reality that cannot be changed. But when I talk to people I get the sense that there is a growing sense of frustration that could, at some point, explode into something more forceful, a Tea Party of sorts. I'm not saying that will happen, or even that it's inevitable that people will rise up against this. People may simply come to see it as the unchangeable new normal that must be tolerated, like it or not (which is where the "political organizations and movements" mentioned above have a role to play). But I do think, more than ever, members of the middle class are wondering who is looking out for their interests.

    Jeffrey Rothstein

    The better question is how much the average American cares about such things, while they're busy watching American Idol and reading US Weekly...

    Edward Lambert said in to Jeffrey Rothstein...

    The latest American Idol program had a song called uprising... about revolution against the fat cats...

    The song is very popular on youtube and is said to be fueling more revolution sentiment among the young...

    I foresee a revolution in the US within two years.

    Here in Hawaii, the teenage (16-19) unemployment just hit a record... 27%. Even though unemployment in general has come down to 6.1%. Older workers are taking away jobs normally given to youth ...

    http://www.google.com/publicdata?ds=usunemployment&met=unemployment_rate&idim=state:ST150000&dl=en&hl=en&q=unemployment+rate+in+hawaii

    Matt Young:

    When Dan Little implies our only weapon is the federal bureaucracy then our tactics are severely limited.

    Min said in to Matt Young...

    Unfortunately, it is a self-imposed limitation.

    Tim Worstall:

    "middle-class people with family incomes in the $60-80K range, "

    Well, if we're to be honest about it, there's something right about an economy which provides that high a standard of living for the "middle class".

    "75% of American households have household incomes below $80,000; the national median was $44,389 in 2005."

    There's similarly something right, as in correct, about an economic system that provides the highest living standard for the average family that any economic system has ever provided for the average family.

    It may not be perfect, entirely true, it might even be that it can be made better. But in the attempts to do so, worth making sure that we've got this baby and bathwater thing right, eh? Don't throw out what has made this the richest society in the world while trying to make is less unequal perhaps?

    ken melvin said in to Tim Worstall...

    You like medians? Take a look at the median for the lower 70% and the lower 50%.

    Main Street Muse said in to Tim Worstall...

    "Don't throw out what has made this the richest society in the world while trying to make is less unequal perhaps?"

    What's making the country more unequal has created diminished opportunity for many, exacerbating the inequality. A financial sector that invests in its own bonuses at the expense of the nation is a terrible burden for the country to bear.

    To suggest that because we've been upwardly mobile for a long time, we should do nothing to correct the excesses that are draining our nation of capital and resources is shortsighted.

    urban legend said in to Tim Worstall...

    The richest society in the world? I'm afraid your beliefs are about 10 years out of date.

    And take some of these medians -- like $74,000 for a family of four -- and try figuring out how much discretionary income is left after housing, utilities, food, transportation and other basic necessities. It ain't much.

    $1000 from a typical family in higher taxes decimates what is left of discretionary income. $10,000 from a millionaire prevents absolutely zero in the way of lifestyle reductions. That's why flat tax rates are totally unfair anbd fundamentally in decent.

    MrInvestor said in to urban legend...

    If you increase the income tax of every millionaire in the US by $10,000, you will not reduce the deficit by a detectable amount. If you took ALL of the income above $250,000 from everyone making more than $250,000, you would reduce the annual deficit by approximately half. In doing so you would create the greatest event of capital flight and spiraling economic contraction in history.

    Let's get real people, this is a spending and regulatory problem, not a taxing problem. It arises from the government trying to replace a multi-sector speculative bubble with a government spending bubble. The original speculative bubble was created by the combination of Fannie/Freddie implicit guarantees of mortgates (a government "policy" to help those who could not afford homes to buy them - logically absurd) and the repeal of Glass Steagall, which allowed speculative traders (think Solomon Brothers) to access the cheap capital of banks (think Citibank) and erase their risk managment cultures, creating a "race to the bottom" as CitiGroup and others paid huge bonuses to people to create and trade toxic waste.

    The annual government deficit is around 10% of GDP. Only solution, stop the speculative incentives/risks (re-institute key provisions of Glass-Steagall), cut goverment spending over 4 years to a balance budget, provide incentives for long term investment, reduce lunatic environmental regulation (not all environmental regulation, just the crazy stuff - the CO2 regulations, effective ban on oil drilling, licensing rules on nuclear plants).

    We have to stop listening to "politcal economists" like Krugman (and please ignore his Nobel Prize, it is as credible as Obama's) and return to Econ 101. If we follow Krugman's absurd advice, we will end up with an "Atlas Shrugged" result.

    Rune Lagman said in to MrInvestor...

    Flat out wrong.

    $3 Trillion from everybody making $200,000 and over would balance the budget, pay for medicare for all, create 20 million jobs, and allow zero tax from anyone making less than $200,000.

    http://www.irs.gov/taxstats/indtaxstats/article/0,,id=96981,00.html

    Please stop lying.

    MrInvestor said in to Rune Lagman...

    You presume that the money will be available to tax. The effect of even suggesting that level of taxation will create a severe reduction in investment (at least investment in the US), which, combined with the likely capital flight, will make tax revenues decline further. If you wish to have an opinion about economics, you must understand something about capital flows. Do you disagree with that? I have successfully invested over $7BN over many years. I know something about this subject. I am afraid your ideology is standing in the way of your objectivity.

    Rune Lagman said in to MrInvestor...

    Your facts are still wrong; regardless of your opinion of my "ideology".

    realpc:

    Well nonsense. He thinks there are only two voices -- the big baddies on the right and the poor little goodies on the left. It is more complicated than that, and the reason you goodies are so baffled is because it all looks so simple to you. The only reason anyone would have any conservative beliefs is because the big baddies own the media. There are no conservative beliefs that would make sense to any sane American, in your opinion, so it has to all be the devilish work of the big baddies.

    So what can the little goodies do about it? Take framing lessons from George Lakoff? When your message is good and true in all respects, yet the majority of Americans think it's partly nonsense, something must be very wrong. It must be that we're all brainwashed, hypnotized by Fox news into thinking Obama was born in Afghanistan and raised as a Muslim terrorist.

    Even though we all KNOW for a fact that the progressive Democrats know exactly how to straighten out the economy, and everything else, we still vote against them. Has to be a conspiracy. It's all because of Fox news.

    hapa said in to realpc...

    dan little left the ball out over the plate by blending cultural concerns and plutocratic beltway influence and you hit that ball hard dead on, to take personal insult at the criminalization of corruption. that's some major league chatter right there.

    Min said in to realpc...

    "Even though we all KNOW for a fact that the progressive Democrats know exactly how to straighten out the economy"

    If progressive Democrats knew how to straighten out the economy, why didn't they do it when they had the chance?

    Rune Lagman said in to Min...

    Because they weren't in power.

    Stop lying.

    Grizzled:

    "There's similarly something right, as in correct, about an economic system that provides the highest living standard for the average family that any economic system has ever provided for the average family."

    Careful about the term "average." The text immediately preceding used "median" which is quite different. The US does not provide the highest living standard at the median; several European countries do better.

    And God help you if you're poor. Some of us care about that, too.

    Sam CB said in to Grizzled...

    I read this all the time on this site. XYZ is better.

    Stop comparing the US with some small non-diverse countries that may be slightly richer as whole Per Capita GDP, or Median Income. Norway, Luxembourg, Qatar, Switzerland, Singapore.....etc. Those countries have a population much smaller than NYC.

    Find me a large country that is similar to the US? Japan is the closest in population and income, but they are not a diverse immigrant population. You really can't compare the US to anyone else. We have to find our own solutions, to our own problems.

    realpc said in to Sam CB...

    And those small homogeneous countries have not been flooded with immigrants dying to get in, as we have in the US. We are diverse and people come here from poor countries, and they don't immediately get rich the minute they arrive here.

    It is a very unfair and biased comparisons, but progressives do it all the time to show how Europe is so much better.

    KKye said in to realpc...

    You better do a little more research on immigration into Europe.

    Tim Worstall:

    "And God help you if you're poor. Some of us care about that, too."

    Aye, and I've written at length about that elsewhere in my time too. Using the statistics from the State of Working America (ie, from the EPI, so not "right biased") we can show that the income of the bottom 10% in the US is equal to the income of the bottom 10% in Sweden or Denmark.

    I agree absolutely that the US is a more unequal society. But the jury's still out on whether that means that the poor live worse in the US than the poor do in more equal societies.

    http://www.ideasinactiontv.com/tcs_daily/2006/08/america-more-like-sweden-than-you-thought.html

    Nicolas said in to Tim Worstall...

    I think there's enough evidence for your jury to come up with a verdict.

    http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_ifykMHnntl8/S4rEb2tsFLI/AAAAAAAACro/DBjiVhTVWa8/s1600-h/b.png

    http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_ifykMHnntl8/S4rEmbG0F5I/AAAAAAAACrs/9MKdUx4tyPA/s1600/c.png

    dollared said in to Nicolas...

    Great links. Exactly the point. If you're poor in the US, how are your schools? Uneven. Who pays for daycare if you get a job? you do, so you have no incentive to get a job. What's your health care? None, if the Republicans have their way and cut Medicaid. Who pays to send your kid to college? Nobody, so it doens't happen.

    anne:

    Using the statistics from the State of Working America (ie, from the EPI, so not "right biased") we can show that the income of the bottom 10% in the US is equal to the income of the bottom 10% in Sweden or Denmark.

    [This is right biased nonsense telling us nothing about life in Sweden or Denmark for lower income people as compared to life in America, but always expect right biased nonsense about Europe making our own living conditions impossible to compare.]

    davidt:

    Mark,

    I find it so frustrating to read this and also hear surprise in your and the author's voice. For thirty years we've heard that "the government is the problem" with very very little counter to this (if anything some amount, though much less, of anti-government elements on the other side of the spectrum, for whatever reason, like civil liberties or military budgets). The more one tears away at our collective institutions, the less able they will be to effectively address our challenges. Its one thing to decry business and its excesses. Trouble is that so many who are invested in the market or believe that their chance at a Nescape or a Google or a Microsoft is still available if someone would just bring the punch bowl back.

    When the frame is "business vs. government" tie goes to business by a mile since our government is designed to not be easy to work the levels of power and so many people believe their interests and business interests are in concert. Until one can reframe the thinking to be "powerful current business interests vs. our long-term growth and well being" the anti-government forces will win.

    anne:

    Simply look to universal health care in Sweden and Denmark, to the cost of higher education, to working conditions or benefits for relatively low income men and women and we begin to understand the need to look beyond income alone in understanding what it means to be low income.

    Shen said in to anne...

    Who give a F about some unimportant Caucasian country with a population of less than 10 million? Let's see how well their system handles large numbers of poor people from North Africa and the Middle East.

    If the the US gets overtaken by China, India. Brazil, or Russia on per capita GDP or median income, then I will listen to them and their ideas; not some small European democracy.

    Rune Lagman said in to Shen...

    Immigration into Sweden from Vietnam, Kurdistan, Somalia, etc. far exceeds immigration into U.S. from Latin America (relatively speaking).

    Main Street Muse said in to anne...

    If we look to the increases we've seen in the costs of health care and college, we can begin to understand the cracks and fissures that are threatening the middle-class in America today (not just the lower income subset). Stagnant wages + higher costs that aren't even associated with inflation/cost of living = a middle class that is increasingly financially stretched.

    Nicolas:

    "People feel powerless to do anything about it, so in that sense it is accepted as a reality that cannot be changed."

    I disagree with this and agree with realpc. Half of the population vote Republican. Democracy may be imperfect, but in the long run, it always end up representing the values of the electorate.

    One explanation I always liked: In response to Communism's claim that only it could guaranty justice and decent standard of living to workers, US's powerful interest had no choice but to allow unions and progressive taxation to emerge in 20th century US. But since the collapse of the Soviet Union, American politics has been nothing but a slow drift back to the robber barons era.

    realpc said in to Nicolas...

    We try to find a balance between communism and robber barons. Conflict and dynamic tension is our only hope, as the American founders understood. There are no wise compassionate goodies who we can trust to run our lives. That is a childish progressive fantasy.

    Nicolas said in to realpc...

    The progressive goodies that run Sweden, Netherlands, Norway, Japan and Finland seem to be doing a pretty decent job.

    Dave K said in to Nicolas...

    If you're going to look to foreign examples, you could also point to Britain, Canada, and Germany, all of which are considered fairly conservative governments by European standards and raving socialist loonys by US standards.

    Masonboro said in to realpc...

    I am just finishing a biography of Alexander Hamilton and was amazed by the viciousness of politics during say the 1790's. There were very different visions of the role of the federal government similar to today. Hint: You didn't invite Hamilton and Jefferson (or his VP) to the same party.

    Jim

    realpc said in to Masonboro...

    True, this country was not founded by a bunch of wimpy goodies. The Soviet Union was founded by a bunch of idealists who thought they could end all conflict and dissent. And look what happened. So yes, the role of the central government has always been a problem.

    Min said in to realpc...

    "We try to find a balance between communism and robber barons."

    Well, we got rid of the Commies. So far, so good. Now let's go after the Robber Barons. :)

    anne:

    "Who gives a - about some unimportant --------- country with a population of less than 10 million?"

    [This is nonsense of course. Simply put say Germany and France and the Netherlands and Sweden and Denmark and Norway and Switzerland and the United Kingdom and Spain and Italy and Belgium and more together and we have all the size we supposedly need. Me, I prefer respecting all sorts of peoples in countries small and large and trying to learn from them.]

    realpc said in to anne...

    But Europe is not one big country with one big government. That is the point.

    anne:

    "Find me a large country that is similar to the US?"

    The Europe Union or the Eurozone has all the size needed, but Australia and Canada seem large enough, and why should size always be an issue in any event when the matter is learning from other political-economic or social systems?

    Masonboro:

    People have been distracted by guns, gays, and god. That is where the emotional responses are vented. Knowledge of finance in the general population is poor at best.

    Jim

    realpc said in to Masonboro...

    So, if we had better knowledge of finance (and wasted less time on our gods and guns), then we would see the light and trust the progressive ideology?

    Min said in to realpc...

    If we had better knowledge of finance we would not be bombarded with all the bullshit that we are now. Furthermore, reporters would point out the bullshit.

    anne:

    "But Europe is not one big country with one big government."

    Actually, Europe, both the European Union and the Eurozone, are one big country with one big government in many political-economic respects. Germany has more than 81 million people, France has more than 61 million, Britain has more than 61 million, Italy has more than 60 million. Spain has about 46 million. The Netherlands had more than 16 million. Sweden is smaller at more than 9 million, but the numbers really do add up.

    anne:

    "Who gives a - about some unimportant --------- country with a population of less than 10 million? Let's see how well their system handles large numbers of poor people from...."

    Interesting enough, West Germany was able to integrate East Germany, a decidedly poor people with remarkable success in a remarkably short time. We have given far too little attention to the integration of East Germany by the West. There likely was never such a scale of poverty program relative to the population of West Germany in 1990.

    We should pay more attention to this integration.

    Ron said in to anne...

    Doesn't count. The Germans are smart.

    anne:

    "Who gives a - about some unimportant --------- country with a population of less than 10 million? Let's see how well their system handles large numbers of poor people from...."

    West German with a population of say 60 million in 1990, integrated East Germany with a population of about 16 million. East Germany and East Germans were decidedly poor and the success of the integration should be much credited.

    kievite said in to anne...

    Do you have facts to support this IMHO questionable statement:

    East Germany and East Germans were decidedly poor and the success of the integration should be much credited.

    I think that integration was a disaster that destroyed East Germany industries for no apparent reason due to artificially high exchange rate with deutschmark. In a way it was colonization of East Germany by West Germany.

    My feeling is that East Germany was so much superior is social services to West Germany (like in turn West Germany is superior in social services to the USA) that now that creates a distict feeling of nostalgia for a considerable part of population. See

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

    It's gotten so bad that a new poll shows that a majority of folks in eastern Germany believe life was better under the old East German communist system.

    http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/0,1518,634122,00.html

    anne:

    "Don't throw out what has made this the richest society in the world while trying to make it less unequal perhaps?"

    Perhaps, what needs to be done is to look at just how rich America became while the country was becoming more equal from the time of Franklin Roosevelt through the time of Kennedy and Johnson (war on poverty and Medicare).

    http://www.measuringworth.com/growth/

    February 22, 2011

    Annualized Growth Rates

    Roosevelt & Truman

    1933 to 1952 Real GDP = 6.19%
    1933 to 1952 Real GDP per capita = 4.96%

    Eisenhower

    1953 to 1960 Real GDP = 2.71%
    1953 to 1960 Real GDP per capita = 0.90%

    Kennedy & Johnson

    1961 to 1968 Real GDP = 5.21%
    1961 to 1968 Real GDP per capita = 3.89%

    hapa:

    "how can progressive political organizations and movements do a better job of communicating the basic social realities of our economy and our democracy to a mass audience? "

    bite the bullet and ignore the culture war junk. it's not only low priority, it's a shadow cast by economic displacement. get people good pay, give people good support.

    Ron said in to hapa...

    If the Left did not constantly shoot itself in the foot with the culture war rhetoric, then who would ever vote for Republicans? A few rich people still would, but no one else. I can only imagine that the self-destructive rhetorical excess of the Left is done out of their deep sense of charity for the Right wing lunatics for which there is insufficient mental health facilities to accomodate.

    hapa said in to Ron...

    demagogues will always get a significant minority believing that the bible's days are numbered in america and that lending a hand to locally unpopular groups is a gateway drug to stalinism. the further paradox of thrift is that people mired in the politics of artificial scarcity get cynical about anti-austerity advocacy.

    anne:

    "Don't throw out what has made this the richest society in the world while trying to make it less unequal perhaps?"

    http://www.measuringworth.com/growth/

    February 22, 2011

    Annualized Growth Rates

    1933 to 1968 Real GDP = 5.13%
    1933 to 1968 Real GDP per capita = 3.74%

    1969 to 2010 Real GDP = 2.80%
    1969 to 2010 Real GDP per capita = 1.74%

    Of course, care to look to what was easily the quickest growth from 1969 through 2010 and we have the Clinton years when there were remarkable gains for middle income households and remarkable declines in poverty.

    anne:

    "Don't throw out what has made this the richest society in the world while trying to make it less unequal perhaps?"

    The Clinton years marked easily the quickest growth since the Kennedy-Johnson years but look especially to the dramatic gains in Black household median income which had been virtually unchanged from 1972 to 1992, and which were fearfully low in 1992 relative to median income in general, and wonder whether making society a little less unequal in the least limited general growth.

    Banicki said in to anne...

    Everyone forgets that the '90's benefited from the end of the cold war.

    Banicki:

    "People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public or in some contrivance to raise prices.' (Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations, 1776).

    What does the American auto industry, the health care industry, wall street firms and the banking industry all have in common; other than they were all on the brink of failure?

    These are industries where the production side of the industry is no longer a free market with many producers competing head-to head to earn the business of consumers, or customers, of the industry. Instead each of these industries are controlled by a relatively small number of very large corporations that have transformed these markets into oligopolies. More: http://goo.gl/u0oua

    mrrunangun:

    The current and next most recent Progressive presidents did not exactly battle against the malefactors of great wealth on behalf of the working families. Unless those families worked for a government or another union which contributed generously to the party. Things having changed in the world of work since the Carter era, this categorization leaves out most workers earning below median wages. The Bushes, Clinton, and Obama have all taken the bankster and big biz cash and taken their part against the working people in the eyes of the working people. Their policies have done no good for unorganized labor. The Progressives claim to be on their side, but once elected push hard for their social change and environmental agendas while making excuses for failing to bring employment or improved working conditions to the bulk of privately employed workers. Progressives simply deny that there is any serious tension between their environmental and immigration goals versus their purported employment agenda. The spotted owl threw the loggers out of work and progressives regarded that as a triumph. Little sympathy was wasted on the loggers. The President's degrading remarks about working folks clinging to God, guns, etc. Do nothing to persuade them that his heart is in the right place.

    mrrunangun said in to mrrunangun...

    Oh by the way, our progressive President has begun a new war in which more of the lives of working folks' kids will be jeopardized, and entered it with less study and circumspection than those people expend on the purchase of an automobile.

    Ron said in to mrrunangun...

    Spotted owls aside, sustainable logging practices are a good thing for the future of that sector. Ideology is for idiots. America is dumb enough to keep both groups of wing-nuts rolling along for now. That which cannot be sustained must eventually come to an end. Hopefully, my great grand children will only know about Republican and Democrats from history class.

    anne:

    "Don't throw out what has made this the richest society in the world while trying to make it less unequal perhaps?"

    Think carefully about this comment, and ask what we would have become without the New Deal. The New Deal legacy gave us an American middle class, allowed for the fastest productivity growth of the last century, gave us dramatic general growth, and gave us increasing equality. Nothing was lost and ever so much gained:

    http://www.measuringworth.com/growth/

    February 22, 2011

    Annualized Growth Rates

    Roosevelt

    1933 to 1940 Real GDP = 7.22%
    1933 to 1940 Real GDP per capita = 6.46%

    gordon:

    Maybe somebody can recommend a reasoned defense (maybe a book or long article) of the mixed economy, including a substantial role for Govt. regulation and Govt. enterprise (ie. before the deregulation/ privatisation mania set in)? I hope not just a pile of statistics of growth rates, family income, inequality stats etc., but a reasoned defense.

    Min said in to gordon...

    I don't know if it is a question of reason so much as experience. We learned in the 20th century that socialism does not work. We learned in the 19th century that laissez-faire capitalism does not work.

    Ron:

    How many "isms" must we go through before we start making sense?

    anne:

    Banicki:

    Everyone forgets that the '90's benefited from the end of the cold war.

    [Agreed, basic military spending though high was about constant through the Clinton years which at a time of high non-resident domestic investment could have meant that there was less competition from military investment. What the Clinton years represent however above all is an emphasis on job creation that focused economic policy.]

    bakho:

    "What matters, they argue, is not how the pie is divided but the size of the pie. That argument is fundamentally wrong. An economy in which most citizens are doing worse year after year—an economy like America's—is not likely to do well over the long haul. There are several reasons for this.

    First, growing inequality is the flip side of something else: shrinking opportunity. Whenever we diminish equality of opportunity, it means that we are not using some of our most valuable assets—our people—in the most productive way possible. Second, many of the distortions that lead to inequality—such as those associated with monopoly power and preferential tax treatment for special interests—undermine the efficiency of the economy. This new inequality goes on to create new distortions, undermining efficiency even further. To give just one example, far too many of our most talented young people, seeing the astronomical rewards, have gone into finance rather than into fields that would lead to a more productive and healthy economy.

    Third, and perhaps most important, a modern economy requires "collective action"—it needs government to invest in infrastructure, education, and technology. The United States and the world have benefited greatly from government-sponsored research that led to the Internet, to advances in public health, and so on. But America has long suffered from an under-investment in infrastructure (look at the condition of our highways and bridges, our railroads and airports), in basic research, and in education at all levels. Further cutbacks in these areas lie ahead."

    -Stiglitz

    http://www.vanityfair.com/society/features/2011/05/top-one-percent-201105

    Ron said in to bakho...

    Joe has gotten his second wind late in life. He used to fall into the redistributionist rhetorical hole more often. That won't sell even among most of the poor. The poor want jobs and dignity, not the dole, although it beats homelessness and starvation. The poor want their children to get decent education and a chance at a better future. What I have read of JS recently is staying more on point and away from black holes. Getting to the critical success factor points and then holding them is the way to build a progressive narrative.


    Many educated elite progressives would learn a lot from eating dinner and sipping a little scotch in the homes of working poor minorities. It would do wonders for their rhetoric and appeal.

    anne:

    Gordon:

    Maybe somebody can recommend a reasoned defense (maybe a book or long article) of the mixed economy, including a substantial role for Govt. regulation and Govt. enterprise....

    [John Kenneth Galbraith: "American Capitalism: The Concept of Countervailing Power" (1951). I think this is quite relevant, but perhaps Mark Thoma will have an immediately better suggestion.]

    Ron said in to anne...

    John Kenneth Gailbraith, both literally and figuratively, had shoes to big to fill by anyone since, at least along the lines of institutional economics. Ha Joon Chang has taken up that banner with regards to developing economies. Not apropos for the US at this time, but if you wait a while!!!

    DHFabian:

    In the past, the poor to middle class would unite, particularly on issues involving labor and poverty (fair wages, adequate jobs, etc.). Those days are gone. The middle class simply turned its back on all who fall into poverty. To today's working class, you're no longer really a person if you lose your job. Divide and conquer. The charm of "trickle down economics" has worn off, and people figured out that standing with the more fortunate who still have jobs won't change anything for the jobless. There isn't even a meager welfare entitlement to enable you to keep your family together and housed until conditions improve, thanks to our fellow Americans. Now the competition for jobs is so fierce, and the cost of failure so high, that there is little chance of Americans uniting for anything.

    [Apr 15, 2011] Walker admits during testimony that collective bargaining law doesn't save money

    Like a dog going at a bone, U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, didn't stop until he got the answer he was looking for from Gov. Scott Walker during the governor's testimony Thursday before the House Oversight and Goverment Reform Committee.

    Kucinich said he could not understand how Walker's bill to strip most collective bargaining rights from nearly all public workers saved the state any money and therefore was relevant to the topic before the committee, which was state and municipal debt.

    When Walker failed to address how repealing collective bargaining rights for state workers is related to state debt or how requiring unions to recertify annually saves money -- one of the provisions in Walker's amended budget repair bill -- Kucinich tried one more time.

    "How much money does it save Gov. Walker?" Kucinich demanded. "Just answer the question."

    "It doesn't save any," Walker said.

    "That's right. It obviously had no effect on the state budget," Kucinich replied.

    Kucinich said it was clear the attack on collective bargaining rights was a choice and not a fiscal issue. "It's a political issue," he said.

    Economist's View Paul Krugman The President Is Missing

    mmckinl:

    Obama is a neoliberal and is using the Republican threats to advance neoliberal IMF austerity measures ...

    Obama's real constituency are the banksters, the MIC and the plutocracy in general. We've seen this since before he was in office as he picked Summers and Geithner for his team.

    Obama's picks foretold everything one needed to know about how Obama would approach policy gong forward. For Krugman to assume that Obama isn't just a shill for business as usual is a very dangerous and naive position ...

    chriss1519:

    Yep. Before he was even elected, Obama's FISA vote as senator was another big fat hint.

    But then, with these two parties thus constituted, can we expect anything more?

    EricT:

    Whenever anyone brings up Obama's capitulation to the powers that be, I'm reminded back during the Ohio primary, Hillary charged that Obama's campaign had contacted the Canadian government and told them not to worry about renegotiating the Nafta treaty and disregard his comments. At the time I thought that the Clinton campaign was playing dirty politics and generally a lie or misquote and how could a candidate who hadn't won the Democratic nomination was worried about the diplomatic implications of what he said, but the more I see Obama do during his presidency, the more I realize, that's when Obama knew he was going to be president, that the report was true, and the ruling class had made there choice. Would anything of serious importance to the general population be different if GW was still in the white house?

    BrianTH:

    First, Obama and the Senate Democrats did not "cave in completely". They got a lot fewer cuts than the Republicans had campaigned on, and a lot better mix of cuts than they had proposed, and got most of the really bad riders out. This is turning into yet another case where people like Krugman imagine they could do much better in negotiating these issues without ever having to prove it.

    Second, the White House statements against Ryan's plan have been just as firm as everyone else's. People who claim otherwise simply prejudged the issue and refuse to actually reconsider their prejudgments.

    Third, if Obama had followed Krugman's political advice to this point, we'd very likely be in a much worse place right now. If Obama did what Krugman would have found emotionally satisfying and refused to compromise, becoming a shrill, non-stop scold of Congress, one of two things would have happened: Congress would have locked up completely and we would have gotten an unending series of government crises that would have been economically disasterous, or Congress would have started to make compromises completely without Obama and his allies in Congress participating, and we would have gotten a lot less stimulus already.

    And the same is true going forward. If Obama marginalized himself from the legislative process in the way that Krugman wants him to--and becoming Scold in Chief would have that effect--then either the government would shut down or the compromises Congress produced would get a lot worse. Of course it sucks that the Republicans control the House, but they do, and Obama has to deal with that reality for the next two years and try to get the best possible result under the circumstances, not play for satisfying the emotional desires of people like Krugman.

    Oh well. Krugman plays a useful role in the public discourse when he explains exactly what is so awful about the Republican agenda, and why it is terrible to have to compromise with them. But his political and legislative advice is consistently terrible, and he never has to worry about it being tested in the real world.

    joe in Okla :

    ... actually, the original GOP ask was for 32 billion, and Obama gave them 39. How is that less? or do I not understand math?

    BrianTH:

    The original Republican number was $100 billion in cuts this fiscal year, and their ultimate goal for this Congress is a return to 2008 spending levels. That is what they campaigned on.

    Supposedly Boehner and the House Republican leadership at one point were willing to agree to $32 billion. But the House Republicans in general weren't willing to agree to that number. Moreover, that was $32 billion in cuts in the exact way they wanted to cut PLUS a bunch of policy riders. The deal the Democrats eventually got is much better than that, despite a slightly larger cut number, because they were able to shift around the cuts to do less harm, and they were able to eliminate most of the riders.

    Michael Pettengill :

    To expand on BrianTH, it was $32B AND wiping out everything in the previous Congress: - undo health reform - undo financial reform plus more: - kill NPR funding - kill women's reproductive health funding

    denim:

    Obviously, propaganda techniques work not only on the population masses but also on the President and his dumb-as-a-rock advisors. Let me uncorrupt our memory for a moment. The Problem was that G W Bush and the financial community had bankrupted the country and nearly completely crashed the entire global economy. Worse yet the ruling class sent the bill to ordinary Americans. Now they want more blood from us turnips. Hell no! Bail us out! Return the values of our houses, 401k's, IRA's, jobs, retirement and health benefits. How is that for a compromise?

    calmo:

    Marvelous BOINKING with that one line history. "The Problem [financial colitis] was that G W Bush and the financial community had bankrupted the country and nearly completely crashed the entire global economy."

    Thanks for reminding us that European troubles are not separate and distinct and of entirely different origin than US troubles. Such a marriage of endoscopy and communication: "Let me uncorrupt our memory for a moment."

    Like your sensitivities rightaway denim...what do we turnips need to give you for more frequent digs?

    denim:

    I am feeling a bit cynical this morning. What I see is a ruling class, of which Obama is a part, that is running a circus act to distract us from the fact that they are not helping the common man. It is Good Cop (Democrats) and Bad Cop (Republicans). Both are colluding to sucker us, the turnips. See? Now they cannot afford to help us! Cut spending. That is the spending on programs that help us.

    denim

    "Give them bread and circuses and they will never revolt". Juvenal.

    "In politics, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way." Franklin D. Roosevelt.

    calmo:

    Thanks for joining us and adding those efforts somewhat "cynical" maybe but also critical and reasonable...and not without a sense of humor for us common turnips.

    Michael Pettengill:

    Yep all the people shafted by the job killing tax cut after job killing tax cuts just voted the Republicans back into control after seeing over the past four years the Republicans have remained pretty much in control.

    Why do voters vote against themselves?

    Tracy:

    Krugman's main point is correct. The President is stuck in his self image as the man who can bridge the divide between the two sides. The problem is, what do you do if one of the sides proposes nonsense? Almost half of the stimulus went to tax cuts which are less stimulative than direct spending. So the stimulus was less effective than it could have been and for his trouble he got no Republican votes. The fact that a large block of Americans believes something (especially in the Fox news era) does not mean that they are correct.

    calmo:

    The fact that a large block of Americans believes something (especially in the Fox news era) does not mean that they are correct.

    Good one with Fox News Era..also Fox News Errors, not to be outdone by Fox New Errs or crowded out by Fox News As (whateva yer lil heart desires)

    So hardly a fact...but a marketed impression "large block" which can be adjusted and sweated down to a miserable few should pesky Misty readers start diggin, yes?

    People read Krugman...not for entertainment.

    jonboinAR:

    No, but he got enough Blue Dog Democrat (Republican in disguise) votes. It worked. Should he've insisted on a more effectual mix of stimulants and sold it more forcefully, hoping to compel enough votes by making his mix popular with average 'mericans? I donno. I kinda woulda liked to see him try, as others around here would, I guess.

    dorkface:

    Krugman worked for Reagan. Now he has principles? What a joke. I guess having tenure, a house in Princeton and a column in the Times makes you brave and give you special insight that the unwashed lumpen Americans don't have.

    Michael Turner:

    No, dorkface, Krugman worked for Martin Feldstein (under Reagan). Feldstein is a pretty rational and (for center/right) unblinkered economist, not to mention a brilliant one. Even so, Krugman admitted long ago that, as instructive as that depressing experience was, it was mainly a matter of learning about how stupidly policy is generally made at those levels.

    tinbox:

    So your defense of PK is that it was a good career move for him to work for Feldstein?

    I wouldn't hold it against him at all, but that's not the argument I would use.

    calmo said in to dorkface...

    And Lovelyface, what distinguishes your fine pedigree from us unwashed Americans again?

    kharris:

    I do wish Krugman would stop enshrining Shrubs "negotiate with myself" bon mot (sic). What Shrub meant was that deciding was lots easier if you didn't think about the decision first. If "negotiating with himself" had its original meaning - thinking - it is a proud label to wear. Otherwise, all we have is Krugman adopting a Bushism as if it somehow represents cleverness. Bushisms, by their very nature, cannot be clever.

    OK, with that out of the way, I think it was a bit late for Obama to play the tough guy on this budget deal. Goading the GOP into shutting down government would have been largely a political act, not good governance. Fun to watch, but probably some folks would suffer, some maybe face foreclosure, if paychecks had been delayed.

    Yeah, Obama has been giving in to GOP talking points for a long time. Krugman seems to have phoned in this comment, making the same points about this specific budget event that he has been making about Obama's negotiating style all along. Krugman is probably right about the negotiating thing, but about the specifics of this budget deal? It's not at all clear he's right about the budget deal.

    anne:

    What have they done with President Obama? What happened to the inspirational figure his supporters thought they elected? Who is this bland, timid guy who doesn't seem to stand for anything in particular?

    -- Paul Krugman

    [This bland, timid President we elected is busily waging war in Afghanistan and Pakistan and Libya, militarily occupying Afghanistan and repeatedly trying to convince the Iraqi government that we should be allowed to continue to occupy Iraq. Oh, there are the bombings of and military operations in Yemen....]

    Main Street Muse:

    All I know is that the change we needed back in 2008 was not supposed to be more of the same crap offered up by Bush. And that's what we're getting today with Obama.

    My message to Obama - remember Neville Chamberlain! Appeasing lunatics is lunacy in and of itself. And tends to backfire spectacularly.

    denim said in to paine... I agree. Obama pretended to be progressive as perceived by the uninitiated voter. So, to me, his firm win over the maverick conservative proves the voters are functionally progressive when put to the test of voting. Americans say they are conservative to pollsters, but the pollster incorrectly thinks that means fascist conservative politics. I think I am conservative (respectful of proven traditions and history), but functionally a political progressive because those values are corrupted by the influential fascists in today's society and need to be changed.

    [Apr 06, 2011] Libya Politics of humanitarian intervention by Mahmood Mamdani

    ...the most likely outcome of a military resolution in Libya will be an Afghanistan-type civil war.
    Al Jazeera Iraq and Afghanistan teach us that humanitarian intervention does not end with the removal of the danger it purports to target.

    It only begins with it. Having removed the target, the intervention grows and turns into the real problem. This is why to limit the discussion of the Libyan intervention to its stated rationale – saving civilian lives – is barely scratching the political surface.

    The short life of the Libyan intervention suggests that we distinguish between justification and execution in writing its biography. Justification was a process internal to the United Nations Security Council, but execution is not.

    In addition to authorising a "no-fly zone" and tightening sanctions against "the Gaddafi regime and its supporters", Resolution 1973 called for "all necessary measures to protect civilians under threat of attack in the country, including Benghazi." At the same time, it expressly "excluded a foreign occupation force of any form" or in "any part of Libyan territory".

    UN conflicts

    The UN process is notable for two reasons. First, the resolution was passed with a vote of 10 in favour and five abstaining.

    The abstaining governments – Russia, China, India, Brazil, Germany – represent the vast majority of humanity.

    Even though the African Union had resolved against an external intervention and called for a political resolution to the conflict, the two African governments in the Security Council – South Africa and Nigeria – voted in favour of the resolution.

    They have since echoed the sentiments of the governments that abstained, that they did not have in mind the scale of the intervention that has actually occurred.

    The second thing notable about the UN process is that though the Security Council is central to the process of justification, it is peripheral to the process of execution.

    The Russian and Chinese representatives complained that the resolution left vague "how and by whom the measures would be enforced and what the limits of the engagement would be."

    Having authorised the intervention, the Security Council left its implementation to any and all, it "authorised Member States, acting nationally or through regional organisations or arrangements."

    As with every right, this free for all was only in theory; in practise, the right could only be exercised by those who possessed the means to do so. As the baton passed from the UN Security Council to the US and NATO, its politics became clearer.

    Money trail

    When it came to the assets freeze and arms embargo, the Resolution called on the Secretary-General to create an eight-member panel of experts to assist the Security Council committee in monitoring the sanctions.

    Libyan assets are mainly in the US and Europe, and they amount to hundreds of billions of dollars: the US Treasury froze $30bn of liquid assets, and US banks $18bn. What is to happen to interest on these assets?

    The absence of any specific arrangement assets are turned into a booty, an interest-free loan, in this instance, to US Treasury and US banks.

    Like the military intervention, there is nothing international about the implementing sanctions regime. From its point of view, the international process is no more than a legitimating exercise.

    If the legitimation is international, implementation is privatised, passing the initiative to the strongest of member states. The end result is a self-constituted coalition of the willing.

    War furthers many interests. Each war is a laboratory for testing the next generation of weapons. It is well known that the Iraq war led to more civilian than military victims.

    The debate then was over whether or not these casualties were intended. In Libya, the debate is over facts. It points to the fact that the US and NATO are perfecting a new generation of weapons, weapons meant for urban warfare, weapons designed to minimise collateral damage.

    The objective is to destroy physical assets with minimum cost in human lives. The cost to the people of Libya will be of another type. The more physical assets are destroyed, the less sovereign will be the next government in Libya.

    Libya's opposition

    The full political cost will become clear in the period of transition. The anti-Gaddafi coalition comprises four different political trends: radical Islamists, royalists, tribalists, and secular middle class activists produced by a Western-oriented educational system.

    Of these, only the radical Islamists, especially those linked organisationally to Al Qaeda, have battle experience.

    They – like NATO – have the most to gain in the short term from a process that is more military than political. This is why the most likely outcome of a military resolution in Libya will be an Afghanistan-type civil war.

    One would think that this would be clear to the powers waging the current war on Libya, because they were the same powers waging war in Afghanistan. Yet, they have so far showed little interest in a political resolution. Several facts point to this.

    The African Union delegation sent to Libya to begin discussions with Col. Gaddafi in pursuit of a political resolution to the conflict was denied permission to fly over Libya – and thus land in Tripoli – by the NATO powers.

    The New York Times reported that Libyan tanks on the road to Benghazi were bombed from the air Iraq War-style, when they were retreating and not when they were advancing.

    The two pilots of the US fighter jet F15-E that crashed near Benghazi were rescued by US forces on the ground, now admitted to be CIA operatives, a clear violation of Resolution 1973 that points to an early introduction of ground forces.

    The logic of a political resolution was made clear by Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, in a different context: "We have made clear that security alone cannot resolve the challenges facing Bahrain. Violence is not the answer, a political process is."

    That Clinton has been deaf to this logic when it comes to Libya is testimony that so far, the pursuit of interest has defied learning political lessons of past wars, most importantly Afghanistan.

    Marx once wrote that important events in history occur, as it were, twice – the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce. He should have added, that for its victims, farce is a tragedy compounded.

    Mahmood Mamdani is professor and director of Makerere Institute of Social Research at Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda, and Herbert Lehman Professor of Government at Columbia University, New York. He is the author, most recently of Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, The Cold War and the Roots of Terror, and Saviors and Survivors: Darfur, Politics and the War on Terror.

    The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.

    [Apr 02, 2011] Where Am I To Go, Now That I've Gone Too Far – Paul Goble's Caucasian Epiphany

    The Kremlin Stooge

    Yalensis:

    Hi, everybody making a lot of good points. sinotibetan would make a very great Kremlinologist, IMHO, and could easily outclass all those overpaid and under-achieving "analysts" at CIA. But Giuseppe also making a very good point that a split in the elite (United Russia Party) could be a normal thing for a parliamentary democracy country. Realistically, since United Russia is only viable party in Russian landscape nowadays, then political differences within ruling party would manifest themselves as factions, possibly even leading to new political parties (say, a Medvedev party vs a Putin party).

    There are many unknowns, foremost, whether Putin actually wants to run again as Prez. Maybe he wants to retire and do something else, like run the Olympics or save endangered animals. But if he thinks that Medvedev has turned on him and starts to treat him like some kind of aging Margo Channing , then maybe his machismo will kick in, and he will decide to run, just to spite his ungrateful protege.

    sinotibetan

    Wow, great discussion! Everybody has very good points, I agree with yalensis!
    @ Mark

    1. He was Putin's pick for leader when Putin could no longer legally continue as leader: but if he proved to be as disloyal as some would now have us believe, Putin could unmake him nearly as fast.
      It depends on the 'relative' power between Putin and Medvedev. Yes, Putin is more popular amongst the Russians. And still has a hold on most of the elites – especially those from the security forces. Putin certainly can 'unmake' Medvedev. However, I think the political cost(not to mention turmoil) would be increased at each passing day of inaction from Putin's part, if it's true that Medvedev has 'turned traitor'. I am sure Medvedev is finding his 'own men' and filling them into governmental structures. Even amongst the siloviki, they are not united – some might be willing to be part of Medvedev's good books. Etc.Etc. What I 'm trying to say is that should the struggle and clash between Medvedev&co. vs Putin&co occur, Russia may well destabilize even though one of them becomes 'unmade' in the end. Or is there someone(Surkov maybe?) instigating the struggle so that in the end 'the watcher' and 'shadow' wins just like the end of the Three Kingdoms era of China, where none of the three parties won but the Sima clan instead united the whole empire and started a whole new regime? Too many unknowns to speculate on the outcome and current internal dynamics thus I wouldn't dare say that Putin can unmake Medvedev 'fast' even if he wanted to.
    2. "If anyone is still not clear on this, the west does not want to see western-style reforms in Russia because it wants to see Russia succeed. It sees Russia as a competitor, and wants to see it reeling once more as it did under Yeltsin – it's not averse to the possibility of picking up a few dollars in the process of overseeing Russia's collaps, either."

    Perhaps not just a Russia totally collapsed. A Russia smaller and weaker to be 'manageable' within the Western's hold and grip. Some sort of a Poland-sized Russia geographically , demographically and politically(no offence to the Polish people!). Thus Russia at its current form collapsed and 're-emerged' from the ruins: a weak, Western-oriented and dominated political elites, 'Russia' surrounded by seceded 'new countries' – Siberia -mostly new independent states which might end up being gobbled up by China or dealt with individually by the USA and China; Caucasian 'republics' squabbling against each other 'influenced' by the powers-that-be in the Middle East and the West; and other 'new European states'(Chuvasia nation, Tatarstan etc.) all easily incorporated into 'the EU' etc.

    I think that's the dream and wish of the political elites in the West. And of course, no more 'global posturing' by Russia – doubtful if such occur that Russia can remain as a 'permanent member' of the Security Council with veto votes or maybe can- as a weaker power akin to France maybe. As I've said elsewhere, Russia(and by extension Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova and the Balkan states) are 'pet projects' of the Western political elites – 'these wayward whites/Europeans' should be 'civilized' into the West and they'll push it till they 'become and accept it' by whatever methods at their dispense- economic means, political means, etc. Belarus, for example, though ruled by an authoritharian – is far less authoritharian than Middle Eastern regimes propped up by the USA yet Lukashenko is a 'special target' of the West – latest using the IMF and Standard and Poor ratings to 'punish' that nation because Lukashenko crossed the 'higher-ups' in Washington and Brussels when he 'won' the Presidential elections again. IMF and Standard and Poor are all Western(basically American)-controlled/influenced. Seems to me their actions are motivated more by politics than just 'good economic practices'. The West is 'selective' in their criticisms and political posturing which negate their high-moral rhetorics.

    A Belarus and Ukraine 'absorbed' into NATO/EU is strategic on Western machinations on the real target: Russia. So 'Western-unfriendly' politicians in Belarus and Ukriane must be 'snuffed off'.

    @Giuseppe and yalensis

    "I belong to the latter category, but I don't see it as a near catastrophic event. IMO, it can be the start of a competitive political system in Russia. "

    "That is to say, Putin and Medvedev may split, and along with them United Russia so as to form two parties that will compete for power on an equal footing. "

    "Realistically, since United Russia is only viable party in Russian landscape nowadays, then political differences within ruling party would manifest themselves as factions, possibly even leading to new political parties (say, a Medvedev party vs a Putin party)."

    This is quite possible. Putin seems to be not particularly 'worried'(at least he does not seem so) about Medvedev's rebukes or recent drives to 'remove his allies' which either means 1.) He's plotting to counter Medvedev internally rather than show it in public or 2.)He is actually in 'agreement' with Medvedev and that they should actually have two separate political 'platforms' so as to give choices to the people – much in line with your suggestions.
    Two thoughts on the latter possibility:-

    1.) The timing. Why now? I think Russia is still 'not settled' politically to start with this trend as yet. I agree there should be more political choices for the people but the plurality should be done progressively over a longer period of time – not within even two presidential terms. Too speedily done risks political turmoil.

    2.)Although the Communist Party, 'liberal parties', 'A just Party' etc. are poor opposition – I think it is they that should form a coalition to challenge United Russia rather than two factions within United Russia – 'civiliki-dominated' vs 'siloviki dominated' which to me seem a recipe for political chaos. As Giuseppe pointed out, these parties are weak because they have antiquated political thought/ideals – Communist Party too reminiscent of a long gone Soviet Union and 'liberal parties' who love Washington than their Russian compatriots. If these parties can form a coalition with the Communist, being more conservative and patriotic as analogous to the 'siloviki' within United Russia and the 'liberals' – broken from their allegiance to Washington and committed in their loyalty to Russia instead analogous to the 'civiliki' within the United Russia – perhaps then they could be a choice to consider by ordinary Russians? For that to occur, Zyuganov, Nemtsov, Kasyanov, Kasparov, Zhirinovsky et al should be replaced by leaders who are more creative…. What do you think?

    sinotibetan

    Yalensis:

    @sinotibetan:

    "For that to occur, Zyuganov, Nemtsov, Kasyanov, Kasparov, Zhirinovsky et al should be replaced by leaders who are more creative…. What do you think?"

    I couldn't agree more. I am a socialist myself, and I would love to see a brand-new labor-union based socialist party that isn't burdened by shadow of Communist Party (while still recognizing great achivements of Soviet past). I realize that socialistic-minded people like me are a minority in Russia, as in any capitalist country, and are often branded as "sovki" and dismissed with ridicule. However, I think in future there could be minority socialist party in Russia that could form coalitions with other parties, such as Communists, etc., in order to win seats in Duma. Realistically, it would take a coalition of several parties to counter weight of United Russia, even if the latter splits into factions. Socialist party could have political platform attractive to many voters, for example defending rights of labor, raising salaries and pensions, increasing public sector, resisting more privatizations, etc. Russians naturally like these ideas, but it may take one more generation before Russian people stop equating "socialism" with Stalinism. Also, nothing can really be done politically right now until Putin's future status is clarified.

    Flavio:

    Hi sinotibetan,

    about the timing, I don't have enough knowledge about the current Russian conditions to say if it is too early. For now it is only a possible start of a long process, i.e. I don't expect that in 2012 we'll see Putin and Medvedev competing for the Presidential election. I think that Putin wants to see a stable country that doesn't need to use exceptional measure because of exceptional circumstances (Assad style, so to say). I came to this idea seeing Putin renouncing the third term in 2008.

    Also, it is generally difficult to make predictions, even more so for Russia, because, as Bismark said "The Russians harness slowly, but they ride fast", i.e. Russians are slow at the start but all of a sudden become very quick (Note: even Russian popular music alternates between slow and fast tempos).

    About your second point, I agree with you that most of the current leaders have to be replaced. Currently, I don't see any of these parties (besides the Communists) trying to do anything more than occupying a political niche, so their leaders have adapted to this role. IMO, this situation arises from the fact that UR is too strong, so I think that for other parties to develop outside their niches, UR has to break. As you pointed out it's a risk, but as we say in Italy "chi non risica, non rosica" (nothing ventured – nothing gained).

    marknesop:

    That's also a very interesting analysis; although I still think Putin is far too clever and connected to allow himself to be outmaneuvered by the neophyte he himself installed. It's possible indeed that it could all be a big show for the media, and like Oleg Penkovsky (a fascinating spy story; some suggest he arranged – once he knew attention had been focused upon him and detection was inevitable – to have himself betrayed by his successor so that the spying could continue. Others say that's romantic hogwash, and he was betrayed by a KGB double agent named Jack Dunlap), he is deliberately building up Medvedev by allowing Medvedev to tear him down in public.

    If any of those scenarios are true, it's a dangerous game, because it has the potential to weaken the party at a time when others see the stars aligning for a new power grab. However, the most interesting scenario to me was the possibility of a third party moving the pieces against both. I don't see that actually happening, because such a group or such an individual would have to be pushing their own candidate, and there's no sign of that although it's far past time for such a candidate to have appeared. So far it looks like the same old tired opposition.

    sinotibetan:

    @ Mikhail Regarding the Caucasus, you said one statement that binds them all and I agree completely:- "Moskva's only demand is loyalty, no matter at what cost. The implementation is up to the national rulers."

    Regarding Dagestan – it's almost like a Caucasus within the Caucasus! A smorsgabord of peoples living within a small territory. Yup – without central control(and money from Moscow!), the Avars, Dargins, Lezgins and Kumyks would probably slug it out amongst themselves and the country will descend to the level of Afghanistan. Just like Yugoslavia broken down into 'ethnic-enclaves' 'independent states' – all too small in population to be economically viable.

    Ingush and Chechens probably have less of these inter-ethnic clash possibility within their territories. But you correctly pointed out that the some aspect of the culture of these Vainakhs are hardly examples of 'human rights virtues' and a Western 'painting' of 'innocent and freedom-loving Chechens' vs 'autocratic Russians' is but fictional painting.

    I think, if Russia remains 'stable' and develop itself, these republics would be unlikely to rebel against Moscow. However, I doubt these republics will be hot-spots for investment because low-level insurgencies and rampant corruption will remain for a very long time, if even it can be eliminated at all!

    The peoples of the Caucasus are proud of their disparate identities and have markedly different cultures from Russia proper to have their inklings for full independence totally stamped out from their minds. ...

    sinotibetan

    kievite:

    Actually splitting UR into two parties which are just replica of the USA structure with Democratic/Republican parties is a fascinating idea. As the USA experience proved it can be pretty stable politically as one branch of the same "united oligarchy party" would marginalize left and the other can marginalize extreme right.

    As Gore Vidal said

    "There is one political party in this country, and that is the party of money. It has two branches, the Republicans and the Democrats, the chief difference between which is that the Democrats are better at concealing their scorn for the average man."

    This might be an interesting political innovation for Russia: substituting single party regime with the "dualism without choice" (or "choice we can believe in" if we use politically correct language ;-) . This dual party structure can serve as a powerful force for marginalizing opposition both on left and right. reform. In this case both parties are the necessary and vital parts of the same bait-and-switch system.

    As for Medvedev actions I think that few people either in mass population or elite forgot economical and political rape of Russia under Yeltsin.

    As unforgettable George W. Bush said: "There's an old saying in Tennessee — I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can't get fooled again."

    A popular mock word for "democrats" — "der'mokcats" and for "liberals" — "liberasts" reflects the common attitude after Yeltsin reforms.

    March

    [Mar 30, 2011] Who's Really Behind Recent Republican Legislation in Wisconsin and Elsewhere (Hint It Didn't Start Here) Scholar as Citizen

    Looks like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is an important element of Busheviks movement. In a way this is a Politburo.
    March 15, 2011 | Scholar as Citizen

    A Study Guide for Those Wishing to Know More

    After watching the sudden and impressively well-organized wave of legislation being introduced into state legislatures that all seem to be pursuing parallel goals only tangentially related to current fiscal challenges –- ending collective bargaining rights for public employees, requiring photo IDs at the ballot box, rolling back environmental protections, privileging property rights over civil rights, and so on –- I've found myself wondering where all of this legislation is coming from.

    The Walker-Koch Prank Phone Call Reveals A Lot, But Not Nearly Enough

    The prank phone call that Governor Scott Walker unhesitatingly accepted from a blogger purporting to be billionaire conservative donor David Koch has received lots of airplay, and it certainly demonstrates that the governor is accustomed to having conversations with deep-pocketed folks who support his cause. If you've not actually seen the transcript, it's worth a careful reading, and is accessible here:
    http://host.madison.com/wsj/article_531276b6-3f6a-11e0-b288-001cc4c002e0.html

    But even though I'm more than prepared to believe that David and Charles Koch have provided large amounts of money to help fund the conservative flood tide that is sweeping through state legislatures right now, I just don't find it plausible that two brothers from Wichita, Kansas, no matter how wealthy, can be responsible for this explosion of radical conservative legislation. It also goes without saying that Scott Walker cannot be single-handedly responsible for what we're seeing either; I wouldn't believe that even for Wisconsin, let alone for so many other states. The governor clearly welcomes the national media attention he's receiving as a spear-carrier for the movement. But he's surely not the architect of that movement.

    So…who is?

    Conservative History Post-1964: A Brilliant Turnaround Story

    I can't fully answer that question in a short note, but I can sketch its outline and offer advice for those who want to fill in more of the details.

    I'll start by saying –- a professorial impulse I just can't resist -– that it's well worth taking some time to familiarize yourself with the history of the conservative movement in the United States since the 1950s if you haven't already studied the subject. Whatever you think of its politics, I don't think there can be any question that the rise of modern conservatism is eat turnaroundf 1964 –- managed quite brilliantly to remake itself (and American politics) in the decades that followed.

    I provide a brief reading list at the end of this note because many people from other parts of the political spectrum often seem not to take the intellectual roots of American conservatism very seriously. I believe this is a serious mistake. One key insight you should take from this history is that after the Goldwater defeat in 1964, visionary conservative leaders began to build a series of organizations and networks designed to promote their values and construct systematic strategies for sympathetic politicians. Some of these organizations are reasonably well known -– for instance, the Heritage Foundation, founded in 1973 by Paul Weyrich, a Racine native and UW-Madison alumnus who also started the Moral Majority and whose importance to the movement is almost impossible to overestimate -– but many of these groups remain largely invisible.

    That's why events like the ones we've just experienced in Wisconsin can seem to come out of nowhere. Few outside the conservative movement have been paying much attention, and that is ill-advised. (I would, by the way, say the same thing about people on the right who don't make a serious effort to understand the left in this country.)

    It's also important to understand that events at the state level don't always originate in the state where they occur. Far from it.

    Basic Tools for Researching Conservative Groups

    If you run across a conservative organization you've never heard of before and would like to know more about it, two websites can sometimes be helpful for quick overviews:

    Both of these lean left in their politics, so they obviously can't be counted on to provide sympathetic descriptions of conservative groups. (If I knew of comparable sites whose politics were more conservative, I'd gladly provide them here; please contact me if you know of any and I'll add them to this note.) But for obvious reasons, many of these groups prefer not to be monitored very closely. Many maintain a low profile, so one sometimes learns more about them from their left-leaning critics than from the groups themselves.

    I don't want this to become an endless professorial lecture on the general outlines of American conservatism today, so let me turn to the question at hand: who's really behind recent Republican legislation in Wisconsin and elsewhere? I'm professionally interested in this question as a historian, and since I can't bring myself to believe that the Koch brothers single-handedly masterminded all this, I've been trying to discover the deeper networks from which this legislation emerged.

    Here's my preliminary answer.

    Telling Your State Legislators What to Do: The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)

    The most important group, I'm pretty sure, is the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which was founded in 1973 by Henry Hyde, Lou Barnett, and (surprise, surprise) Paul Weyrich. Its goal for the past forty years has been to draft "model bills" that conservative legislators can introduce in the 50 states. Its website claims that in each legislative cycle, its members introduce 1000 pieces of legislation based on its work, and claims that roughly 18% of these bills are enacted into law. (Among them was the controversial 2010 anti-immigrant law in Arizona.)

    If you're as impressed by these numbers as I am, I'm hoping you'll agree with me that it may be time to start paying more attention to ALEC and the bills its seeks to promote.

    You can start by studying ALEC's own website. Begin with its home page at http://www.alec.org

    First visit the "About" menu to get a sense of the organization's history and its current members and funders. But the meat of the site is the "model legislation" page, which is the gateway to the hundreds of bills that ALEC has drafted for the benefit of its conservative members.

    http://www.alec.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Model_Legislation1

    You'll of course be eager to look these over…but you won't be able to, because you're not a member.

    Becoming a Member of ALEC: Not So Easy to Do

    How do you become a member? Simple. Two ways. You can be an elected Republican legislator who, after being individually vetted, pays a token fee of roughly $100 per biennium to join. Here's the membership brochure to use if you meet this criterion:

    http://www.alec.org/AM/pdf/2011_legislative_brochure.pdf

    What if you're not a Republican elected official? Not to worry. You can apply to join ALEC as a "private sector" member by paying at least a few thousand dollars depending on which legislative domains most interest you. Here's the membership brochure if you meet this criterion:

    http://www.alec.org/am/pdf/Corporate_Brochure.pdf

    Then again, even if most of us had this kind of money to contribute to ALEC, I have a feeling that membership might not necessarily be open to just anyone who is willing to pay the fee. But maybe I'm being cynical here.

    Which Wisconsin Republican politicians are members of ALEC? Good question. How would we know? ALEC doesn't provide this information on its website unless you're able to log in as a member. Maybe we need to ask our representatives. One might think that Republican legislators gathered at a national ALEC meeting could be sufficiently numerous to trigger the "walking quorum rule" that makes it illegal for public officials in Wisconsin to meet unannounced without public notice of their meeting. But they're able to avoid this rule (which applies to every other public body in Wisconsin) because they're protected by a loophole in what is otherwise one of the strictest open meetings laws in the nation. The Wisconsin legislature carved out a unique exemption from that law for its own party caucuses, Democrats and Republicans alike. So Wisconsin Republicans are able to hold secret meetings with ALEC to plan their legislative strategies whenever they want, safe in the knowledge that no one will be able to watch while they do so.

    (See http://www.doj.state.wi.us/dls/OMPR/2010OMCG-PRO/2010_OML_Compliance_Guide.pdf for a full discussion of Wisconsin's otherwise very strict Open Meetings Law.)

    If it has seemed to you while watching recent debates in the legislature that many Republican members of the Senate and Assembly have already made up their minds about the bills on which they're voting, and don't have much interest in listening to arguments being made by anyone else in the room, it's probably because they did in fact make up their minds about these bills long before they entered the Capitol chambers. You can decide for yourself whether that's a good expression of the "sifting and winnowing" for which this state long ago became famous.

    Partners in Wisconsin and Other States: SPN, MacIver Institute, WPRI

    An important partner of ALEC's, by the way, is the State Policy Network (SPN), which helps coordinate the activities of a wide variety of conservative think tanks operating at the state level throughout the country. See its home page at http://www.spn.org/

    Many of the publications of these think tanks are accessible and downloadable from links on the SPN website, which are well worth taking the time to peruse and read. A good starting place is: http://www.spn.org/members/

    Two important SPN members in Wisconsin are the MacIver Institute for Public Policy: http://maciverinstitute.com/

    and the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute (WPRI): http://www.wpri.org

    If you want to be a well-informed Wisconsin citizen and don't know about their work, you'll probably want to start visiting these sites more regularly. You'll gain a much better understanding of the underlying ideas that inform recent Republican legislation by doing so.

    Understanding What These Groups Do

    As I said earlier, it's not easy to find exact details about the model legislation that ALEC has sought to introduce all over the country in Republican-dominated statehouses. But you'll get suggestive glimpses of it from the occasional reporting that has been done about ALEC over the past decade. Almost all of this emanates from the left wing of the political spectrum, so needs to be read with that bias always in mind.

    Interestingly, one of the most critical accounts of ALEC's activities was issued by Defenders of Wildlife and the Natural Resources Defense Council in a 2002 report entitled Corporate America's Trojan Horse in the States. Although NRDC and Defenders may seem like odd organizations to issue such a report, some of ALEC's most concentrated efforts have been directed at rolling back environmental protections, so their authorship of the report isn't so surprising. The report and its associated press release are here:
    http://alecwatch.org/11223344.pdf
    http://www.nrdc.org/media/pressreleases/020228.asp
    There's also an old, very stale website associated with this effort at
    http://alecwatch.org/

    A more recent analysis of ALEC's activities was put together by the Progressive States Network in February 2006 under the title Governing the Nation from the Statehouses, available here:
    http://www.progressivestates.org/content/57/governing-the-nation-from-the-statehouses
    There's an In These Times story summarizing the report at
    http://www.inthesetimes.com/article/2509/
    More recent stories can be found at
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/miles-mogulescu/alec-states-unions_b_832428.htmlview=print
    http://www.inthesetimes.com/article/6084/corporate_con_game (about the Arizona immigration law)
    and there's very interesting coverage of ALEC's efforts to disenfranchise student voters at
    http://campusprogress.org/articles/conservative_corporate_advocacy_group_alec_behind_voter_disenfranchise/
    and
    http://www.progressivestates.org/node/26400

    For just one example of how below-the-radar the activities of ALEC typically are, look for where the name of the organization appears in this recent story from the New York Times about current efforts in state legislatures to roll back the bargaining rights of public employee unions:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/04/business/04labor.html
    Hint: ALEC is way below the fold!

    A Cautionary Note

    What you'll quickly learn even from reading these few documents is that ALEC is an organization that has been doing very important political work in the United States for the past forty years with remarkably little public or journalistic scrutiny. I'm posting this long note in the conviction that it's time to start paying more attention. History is being made here, and future historians need people today to assemble the documents they'll eventually need to write this story. Much more important, citizens today may wish to access these same documents to be well informed about important political decisions being made in our own time during the frequent meetings that ALEC organizes between Republican legislators and representatives of many of the wealthiest corporations in the United States.

    I want to add a word of caution here at the end. In posting this study guide, I do not want to suggest that I think it is illegitimate in a democracy for citizens who share political convictions to gather for the purpose of sharing ideas or creating strategies to pursue their shared goals. The right to assemble, form alliances, share resources, and pursue common ends is crucial to any vision of democracy I know. (That's one reason I'm appalled at Governor Walker's ALEC-supported efforts to shut down public employee unions in Wisconsin, even though I have never belonged to one of those unions, probably never will, and have sometimes been quite critical of their tactics and strategies.) I'm not suggesting that ALEC, its members, or its allies are illegitimate, corrupt, or illegal. If money were changing hands to buy votes, that would be a different thing, but I don't believe that's mainly what's going on here. Americans who belong to ALEC do so because they genuinely believe in the causes it promotes, not because they're buying or selling votes.

    This is yet another example, in other words, of the impressive and highly skillful ways that conservatives have built very carefully thought-out institutions to advocate for their interests over the past half century. Although there may be analogous structures at the other end of the political spectrum, they're frequently not nearly so well coordinated or so disciplined in the ways they pursue their goals. (The nearest analog to ALEC that I'm aware of on the left is the Progressive States Network, whose website can be perused at http://www.progressivestates.org/ but PSN was only founded in 2005, does not mainly focus on writing model legislation, and is not as well organized or as disciplined as ALEC.)

    To be fair, conservatives would probably argue that the liberal networks they oppose were so well woven into the fabric of government agencies, labor unions, universities, churches, and non-profit organizations that these liberal networks organize themselves and operate quite differently than conservative networks do –- and conservatives would be able to able to muster valid evidence to support such an argument, however we might finally evaluate the persuasiveness of that evidence.

    Again, I want anyone reading this post to understand that I am emphatically not questioning the legitimacy of advocacy networks in a democracy. To the contrary: I believe they are essential to democracy. My concern is rather to promote open public discussion and the genuine clash of opinions among different parts of the political spectrum, which I believe is best served by full and open disclosure of the interests of those who advocate particular policies.

    I believe this is especially important when policies are presented as having a genuine public interest even though their deeper purpose may be to promote selfish or partisan gains.

    Reasserting Wisconsin's Core Values: Decency, Fairness, Generosity, Compromise

    ALEC's efforts to disenfranchise voters likely to vote Democratic, for instance, and its efforts to destroy public-sector unions because they also tend to favor Democrats, strike me as objectionable and anti-democratic (as opposed to anti-Democratic) on their face. As a pragmatic centrist in my own politics, I very strongly favor seeking the public good from both sides of the partisan aisle, and it's not at all clear to me that recent legislation in Wisconsin or elsewhere can be defended as doing this. Shining a bright light on ALEC's activities (and on other groups as well, across the political spectrum) thus seems to me a valuable thing to do whether or not one favors its political goals.

    This is especially true when politicians at the state and local level promote legislation drafted at the national level that may not actually best serve the interests of their home districts and states. ALEC strategists may think they're serving the national conservative cause by promoting legislation like the bills recently passed in Wisconsin–but I see my state being ripped apart by the resulting controversies, and it's hard to believe that Wisconsin is better off as a result. This is not the way citizens or politicians have historically behaved toward each other in this state, and I for one am not happy with the changes in our political culture that seem to be unfolding right now. I'm hoping that many of my fellow Wisconsinites, whether they lean left or right, agree with me that it's time to take a long hard look at what has been happening and try to find our bearings again.

    I have always cherished Wisconsin for its neighborliness, and this is not the way neighbors treat each other.

    One conclusion seems clear: what we've witnessed in Wisconsin during the opening months of 2011 did not originate in this state, even though we've been at the center of the political storm in terms of how it's being implemented. This is a well-planned and well-coordinated national campaign, and it would be helpful to know a lot more about it.

    Let's get to work, fellow citizens.

    William Cronon

    P.S.: Note to historians and journalists: we really need a good biography of Paul Weyrich.

    An Introductory Bibliography on the Recent History of American Conservatism

    There are many other important studies, but these are reasonable starting points.

    See also

    [Mar 30, 2011] Academic Intimidation - NYTimes.com

    Opir Music comment is perfect description of "Busheviks" or Mayberry Machiavelli. See also Scholar as Citizen William Cronon blog...
    Opir Music:
    "Conservatives, from the days of Machiavelli to such twentieth-century figures as Germany's Carl Schmitt, have, by contrast, viewed politics as an extension of war, complete with no-holds-barred treatment of the enemy, iron-clad discipline in the ranks, cries of treason against those who do not support the effort with full-throated vigor, and total control over any spoils won.

    From a conservative point of view, separation of powers is divisive, tolerance a luxury, fairness another word for weakness, and cooperation unnecessary.

    If conservatives will not use government to tame Hobbes' state of nature, they will use it to strengthen Hobbes' state of nature. Victory is the only thing that matters, and any tactic more likely to produce victory is justified.

    "From "Why Conservatives Can't Govern": http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2006/0607.wolfe.html

    nyalawest wi

    Actually, Mr. Krugman, the FOIA request came before Bill's blog post (that you mentioned above) and after he put a study guide onto his new Scholar as Citizen blog: http://scholarcitizen.williamcronon.net/2011/03/15/alec/. That study guide--and it was a real study guide, mind you!-- was titled "Who's Really Behind Recent Republican Legislation in Wisconsin and Elsewhere? (Hint: It Didn't Start Here)."Would be worth your time to check that out. The Republicans are clearly angry that their overt ties to ALEC are now being analyzed by thoughtful, well-educated people. :)

    Bailey Walsh

    Point of clarification: the Open Records Request was filed by a member of the Republican Party of Wisconsin 3/17, after Cronon's blog post of 3/15 on ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council), but before his NYT op-ed ran on 3/22. This timing is important to understand. Among other motivations, they are attempting to inhibit any further investigation of ALEC by intimidating one of the most respected historians in America. Cronon was simply asking legitimate questions about the role this little known national organization is playing in the policy making in Wisconsin, & elsewhere. Everyone should read that post. It's more worrisome than anything Cronon put in his NYT op-ed. Here is a link to that post: http://scholarcitizen.williamcronon.net/2011/03/15/alec/ ["Who's Really Behind Recent Legislation in Wisconsin & Elsewhere? (Hint: It Didn't Start Here"]

    [Mar 26, 2011] The Principles of the People's Party

    March 9, 2011 | Robert Reich

    The following was sent to me by someone in Madison, Wisconsin, who found it in the Capitol building last week. It was obviously written in a hurry, and it carries the label "first draft."

    It's emerging from the heartland – from Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, Missouri, and Iowa — and it is spreading across the nation. It doesn't have a formal organization or Washington lobbyists beyond it, but it's gaining strength nonetheless. Like the Tea Party did with Republicans in 2010, the People's Party will pressure Democrats in primaries and general elections leading up to 2012 and beyond to have the courage of the party's core convictions. But unlike the Tea Party, which has been coopted by the super-rich, the People's Party represents the needs and aspirations of America's vast working middle class, along with the less fortunate.

    The People's Party is dedicated to the truth that America is a rich nation – richer by far than any other, richer than it's ever been. The People's Party rejects the claims of plutocrats who want us to believe we can no longer afford to live decently – who are cutting the wages and benefits of most people, attacking unions, and squeezing public budgets. The People's Party will not allow them to turn us against one another – unionized against non-unionized, public employee against private employee, immigrant against native born. Nor will the People's Party allow the privileged and powerful to distract us from the explosive concentration of income and wealth at the top, the decline in taxes paid by the top, and their increasing and untrammeled political power.

    We have joined together to reverse these trends and to promote a working people's bill of rights. We are committed to:

    1. Increasing the pay and bargaining power of average working people. We'll stop efforts to destroy unions and collective bargaining rights. Protect workers who try to form unions from being fired. Make it easier for workers to form unions through simple up-or-down votes at the workplace.

    2. Requiring America's super-rich to pay their fair share. Increase top marginal tax rates and the number of tax brackets at the top. Treat income from capital gains the same as ordinary income. Restore the estate tax. Revoke the citizenship of anyone found to be sheltering income abroad.

    3. Protecting and expanding government programs vital to the working middle class and the poor. These include Social Security, K-12 education, Pell Grants for disadvantaged students, public transportation, Medicare and Medicaid, and the Earned Income Tax Credit.

    4. Ending corporate welfare and cutting military outlays. Trim defense spending. End special tax subsidies for specific corporations or industries – at both state and federal levels. Cut agricultural subsidies.

    5. Saving Social Security while making it more progressive. Exempt the first $20,000 of income from Social Security taxes. Make up the difference – and any need for additional Social Security revenues – by raising the ceiling on income subject to the Social Security payroll tax.

    6. Ending Wall Street's dominance of the economy and preventing any future taxpayer-funded bailout. Break up Wall Street's largest banks and put a cap their size. Link pay on the Street to long-term profits rather than short-term speculation. Subject all financial transactions to a one-tenth of one percent transactions tax.

    7. Fully enforcing regulations that protect workers, consumers, small investors, and the environment. Raise penalties on corporations that violate them. Expand enforcement staffs. Provide more private rights of action.

    8. Providing affordable health care to all Americans. The new health law isn't enough. We'll fight for a single payer – making Medicare available to all. End fee-for-service and create "accountable-care" organizations that focus on healthy outcomes.

    9. Slowing and eventually reversing climate change. We'll fight to limit carbon emissions. Impose a ceiling on emissions or a carbon tax on polluters. Return the revenues from these to the American people, in the form of tax cuts for the working middle class.

    10. Getting big money out of politics. We'll fight to appoint Supreme Court justices who will overrule Citizens United v. FEC. Require full disclosure of all contributions for or against any candidate. Provide full public financing for all presidential, gubernatorial, and legislative candidates in all general elections.

    A few of the places it's happening:

    [Mar 24, 2011] Imperialism Reclaimed by Robert Skidelsky - Project Syndicate

    LONDON – History has no final verdicts. Major shifts in events and power bring about new subjects for discussion and new interpretations.

    Fifty years ago, as de-colonization accelerated, no one had a good word to say for imperialism. It was regarded as unambiguously bad, both by ex-imperialists and by their liberated subjects. Schoolchildren were taught about the horrors of colonialism, how it exploited conquered peoples. There was little mention, if any, of imperialism's benefits.

    Then, in the 1980's, a revisionist history came along. It wasn't just that distance lends a certain enchantment to any view. The West – mainly the Anglo-American part of it – had recovered some of its pride and nerve under US President Ronald Reagan and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. And there was the growing evidence of post-colonial regimes' failure, violence, and corruption, especially in Africa.

    But the decisive event for the revisionists was the collapse of the Soviet empire, which not only left the United States top dog globally, but also seemed, to the more philosophically minded, to vindicate Western civilization and values against all other civilizations and values. With the European Union extending its frontiers to embrace many ex-communist states, the West became again, if briefly, the embodiment of universal reason, obliged and equipped to spread its values to the still-benighted parts of the world. Francis Fukuyama's The End of History and the Last Man testified to this sense of triumph and historical duty.

    Such a conjuncture set the stage for a new wave of imperialism (though the reluctance to use the word remained). In doing so, it was bound to affect interpretations of the old imperialism, which was now extolled for spreading economic progress, the rule of law, and science and technology to countries that would never have benefited from them otherwise.

    Foremost among the new generation of revisionist historians was Niall Ferguson of Harvard University, whose television series, based on his new book Civilization: The West and the Rest, has just started showing in Britain. In its first episode, Ferguson appears amid the splendid monuments of China's Ming Dynasty, which, in the fifteenth century, was undoubtedly the greatest civilization of the day, with its naval expeditions reaching the coasts of Africa. After that, it was all downhill for China (and "the Rest") and all uphill for the West.

    Ferguson snazzily summarizes the reasons for this reversal in six "killer apps": competition, science, property rights, medicine, the consumer society, and the work ethic. Against such tools – unique products of Western civilization – the rest had no chance. From such a perspective, imperialism, old and new, has been a beneficent influence, because it has been the means of spreading these "apps" to the rest of the world, thereby enabling them to enjoy the fruits of progress hitherto confined to a few Western countries.

    Understandably, this thesis has not met with universal approbation. The historian Alex von Tunzelmann accused Ferguson of leaving out all of imperialism's nasty bits: the Black War in Australia, the German genocide in Namibia, the Belgian exterminations in the Congo, the Amritsar Massacre, the Bengal Famine, the Irish potato famine, and much else.

    But that is the weakest line of attack. Edward Gibbon once described history as being little better than a record of the "crimes, follies, and misfortunes of mankind." Imperialism certainly added its quota to these. But the question is whether it also provided, through Hegel's "cunning of reason," the means to escape from them. Even Marx justified British rule in India on these grounds. Ferguson, too, can make a sound argument for such a proposition.

    The most serious weakness in Ferguson's presentation is his lack of sympathy for the civilizations dismissed as "the rest," which also points to the most serious limitation of the revisionist case. The "triumph of the West" that followed the collapse of Communism in Europe was clearly not the "end of history." As Ferguson must know, the main topic of discussion in international affairs nowadays concerns the "rise" of China, and more generally Asia, as well as the stirring of Islam.

    Of course, the Chinese may prefer to talk about "restoration" rather than "rise," and point to a "harmonious" pluralism of the future. But "rise" is how most people think of China's recent history, and in history the rise of some is usually associated with the decline of others. In other words, we may be reverting to that cyclical pattern that historians assumed to be axiomatic before the seemingly irreversible rise of the West implanted in them a view of linear progress toward greater reason and freedom.

    Europe is plainly in decline, politically and culturally, though most Europeans, blinded by their high living standards and the pretensions of their impotent statesmen, are happy to dress this up as progress. Chinese savings are underwriting much of the American civilizing mission that Ferguson applauds. The pattern seems clear: the West is losing dynamism, and the rest are gaining it.

    The remainder of this century will show how this shift plays out. For the moment, most of us have lost the historical plot. It is possible, for example, to imagine a "Western world" (one that applies Ferguson's "killer apps") in which the actual West is no longer the dominant factor: America will simply passes the torch to China, as Britain once did to America.

    But it seems to me extremely unlikely that China, India, and "the rest" will simply take over Western values wholesale, for this would amount to renouncing any value in their own civilizations. Some syntheses and accommodations between the West and the rest will inevitably accompany the shift in power and wealth from the former to the latter. The only question is whether the process will be peaceful.

    Robert Skidelsky, a member of the British House of Lords, is Professor Emeritus of Political Economy at Warwick University.

    [Mar 21, 2011] The Stigmatization of the Unemployed " naked capitalism

    /L :

    Economists central bankers and so on doesn't rule the world. The rich and mighty in any society have always surrounded them self with a class of pettifoggers or so called intellectuals and academics. Usually have the utmost power emanated from economically dominant interests, even if the power in formal and also here and there in some meaning have been exercised by head of states that have inherited or been elected to this position.

    The class of pettifoggers or so called intellectuals and academics have always been the mouthpieces of power, the exceptions are very rare. Of course it's also like that now.

    Of course many intellectuals and academics is honorable teachers, official and experts in many fields that isn't in the direct interest to exercise power. Those who are is their maters voices. Despite this they are quite successful in claiming moral high ground. But is in fact just a simple boot licking riff-raff and vermin.

    The rare truth seeker there have been is usually made noble heroes of truth seeking after they are dead, long after. Present true truth seekers have a hard time to be popular among the ruling class.

    Some of the intellectual progressive economist in the 70s noted that already in the late 60s there started to show up odd figures on the economic seminar and lecturing circuit.

    Before the 1930s the top ten % got a significant share of the growth and income, from the 30s to the beginning of the 70s the bottom 90 gained a much larger share and the top ten a much smaller. The great crash 1929, the depression and the first large scale industrial war between nations did suppress the power of the top, not insignificant was a real commie threat from a fast tracked industrialized Soviet that lifted old Russia to a real super power. I did take the top % a couple of decade to recover and to launch a serious class war with a vengeance.

    It's in no way an issue of economic "scientific" ideas and theories, it's a class war.

    Already Keynes described the economic policies in Britain during the 1920s as a campaign against the working class living standard by deliberate creating unemployment, ie class war.

    Bill O'Reilly on 60 minutes to Charlie Rose:

    "It's a war Charlie. You do understand it's a war?"

    "Rising unemployment was a very desirable way of reducing the strength of the working classes . . . What was engineered – in Marxist terms was a crisis in capitalism which recreated a reserve army of labor, and has allowed the capitalists to make high profits ever since."

    Alan Budd, chief economic advisor to Margaret Thatcher

    And the stupid leftists like Marxist and so on did really believe the capitalist propaganda of a decaying capitalist class, sort of just to sit on the grandstand and watch the capitalist class self destruct as Marx had predicted. This when the capitalist class launched the major class war that probably have succeeded beyond expectations. And the idiot leftists believe when ever there is an crisis that it's the time for the capitalists to implode, they seems to never learn anything.

    Rex :

    "And the stupid leftists like Marxist and so on did really believe the capitalist propaganda of a decaying capitalist class, sort of just to sit on the grandstand and watch the capitalist class self destruct as Marx had predicted."

    Just because Marx or his biggest practitioners didn't live to see capitalism's demise, doesn't exactly ensure it won't happen. Is there any major social organization in history that hasn't collapsed after a period of time?

    Evolution and entropy seem to apply to everything except, possibly, the faith that allows us to expect that we, or our descendants, can safely store nuclear waste longer than our species has existed on the planet.

    /L:

    Of course everything have an end, so does our civilization, so humanity in this planet and later on our solar system. Maybe the universe is some sort of circulation cycle, who knows, otherwise the partial existences seems to be quite linear with a beginning and a end even if the material is recycled.

    The stupid thing with the mentioned leftists is that when the working class really need help to fend of the real class war those fellows engaged in futile nonsense and have done so during the entire onslaught during the decades since then. Those leftists also have a sort of commie asceticism vein, and the spoilt and pandered workers that have gotten it better needed some capitalist imposed asceticism. But without a working class to be interested in they turned to loony identity politics. If the working class want to retake lost ground they can expect no help from the professional left/liberals. On can understand if tea party nonsense grows or that xenophobic homeland fascists take ground among working class in Europe. The left have gone green and despise cheap working class "consumerism", something that has to be curbed.

    The Moral Collapse of the Moral Left "the first problem of this value oriented left is that, for all its talk about democracy and human rights, it has effectively emptied democracy of its content and made practically illegal the economic policies of the old left that had created, by the end of the seventies, a relatively peaceful, well educated and tolerant Europe."

    G Miller:

    Besides being impressed with Yves' critique and the consistency in which it's set forth, what brings me here every day for the last several years is the company that this blog attracts. Many, if not most, conversations on blogs dealing with political economy are either mindless retorts full of ad hominem attacks, invective, and/or talking points from one of the two parties. The free exchange of ideas that can and does arise here–with I realize very rare intercession by the moderator–is wonderful. Even if this post is a cross post from another wonderful blog, it still proves my point.

    JTFaraday:

    No, you haven't changed my mind. She's right that liberal feminism and identity politics, as practiced in the US, have dovetailed nicely with a neo-liberal corporatist agenda. They are perfectly compatible and there is absolutely no friction there.

    Consequently, Americans have to learn to take the beast directly and stop pretending that other agenda can serve as adequate *substitutes.* Full stop.

    My complaint with her is that she's still pandering to the delusions of the Obamabots, at least publicly, even after he picked his economic team– which was a pretty clear indication that there was zero regime change with the last election.

    But, perhaps this is attributable to the politesse required of leftist professors working with young people (and others) possessed of near-religious political beliefs. This is a failure that stems from her continued *allegiance* to the feminism and identity politics she's looking to critique, not of her failure to scrutinize neo-liberalism to *your* satisfaction, which is not the purpose of the essay.

    I also think that she isn't acknowledging the roles that states can play in protecting their own citizen populations, in a continued preference for a likely utopian post-nationalist framework in which the large multi-national corporations are going to be way out in front of the hypothesized global peasantry for quite some time to come. I don't see why anyone should have to wait around for the hypothesized global nirvana.

    But, there again, she *is* a de facto pawn of the oppressor, as you eagerly point out. Coming out for a "statist" agenda on the left–as an American– is going to be hard to do without some liberal opportunistically reconstructing her still further into an unreconstructed right wing nationalist who should just be ignored like the bigots out in Arizona.

    While it would be nice if all leftist tenured professors were willing to fall on their swords all the time, they do have to show up to the liberal church in "appropriate" clerical garb, lest they find themselves the designated campus witch.

    You talk about the usurpation of religion to other ends all the time, but you seem to a bit blinkered about this one.

    If you want to add the larger "New Left" to the list of current traditional neo-liberal puppets, alongside liberal feminism and identity politics, I have no objection.

    JTFaraday:

    "Let me make an unequivocal statement here: There will be no advancement for labor in the US as long as the neoliberals can balkanize labor by driving a wedge between different identity groups within labor."

    You can quote from the civil rights and 19th century populists bibles all afternoon. It doesn't alter the strategic fact that in the contemporary US, liberal identity politics is primarily used to discipline leftists, labor unions, and critics of capitalism.

    It also systematically derails mass popular politics into mere issues of representation–like, say, a battle between D-Party members over whether Hillary or Obama (or McCain/Palin) get to front the neo-liberal regime:

    http://newleftreview.org/?view=2248

    Maybe you spend too much time eyeing up the libertarians and the Tea Partiers to know how this stuff works to discipline the so-called liberal left, transforming it into the handmaiden of the neo-liberalism that you claim to despise.

    I paint with a broad brush because the brush *is* broad. Down the road I may change my mind, when and if circumstances change, but a few more rounds of quotes of ancient sources from you is not going to change my mind today.

    The boldface type isn't going to do the trick either. (I've been called a witch before).

    DownSouth:

    JTFaraday said: "…the strategic fact that in the contemporary US, liberal identity politics is primarily used to discipline leftists, labor unions, and critics of capitalism."

    There's a great deal of truth in that statement. One has to look no further than who funds so many of the rock stars of identity politics—-e.g. the Rockefeller Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the Ford Foundation—-to get a gist of what's going on here.

    Perhaps one of the best exposes of this was written by Peter Skerry in his book Mexican Americans: The Ambivalent Minority. The chapter is called "Protest Politics: Symbolism and Symbiosis." In California, where Skerry conducted his study, the Chicano activists mostly operate from their sinecures in the state university system, putting together their "largely paper organizations." They have almost no constituency and little popular support from the broader Hispanic community, because their pet issues and opinions are not those of that community. (Skerry marshals considerable polling data in another chapter, "The State of Mexican-American Opinion", to make this case.)

    But the protest groups do work hand in glove with their ideological soul mates, the Hispanic elite-network politicians, whose principle goal in life is to carry water for their wealthy benefactors. A well-timed protest with generous media coverage can give those politicians the appearance of popular support for their initiatives. In this way, the Chicano protest groups are not too terribly different from the Tea Party.

    But when you paint all Hispanics or all Blacks or all women or all Gays who speak out against discrimination with the same brush that you paint the professional protest politicians, I think you commit a grave injustice.

    In "Suffering and Faith" Martin Luther King wrote:

    Due to my involvement in the struggle for the freedom of my people, I have known very few quiet days in the last few years. I have been arrested five times and put in Alabama jails. My home has been bombed twice. A day seldom passes that my family and I are not the recipients of threats of death. I have been the victim of a near fatal stabbing…

    As my sufferings mounted I soon realized that there were two ways that I could respond to my situation: either to react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force. I decided to follow the latter course. Recognizing the necessity for suffering I have tried to make of it a virtue. If only to save myself from bitterness, I have attempted to see my personal ordeals as an opportunity to transform myself and heal the people involved in the tragic situation which now obtains.

    Needless to say, when the oligarchs choose someone from the Black community to bestow celebrity status upon, I hardly think they choose someone like King. Opportunistic or loaded down with emotional baggage are probably more in tune with what they're looking for.

    JTFaraday:

    "Neoliberalism's agenda has never been "capitalism and freedom," but the imposition of a grotesque double standard. Neoliberals never "promoted" the things Fraser says they did"

    Nowhere does she say neo-liberals sought to promote freedom. What she does say is that leftist anti-statists, (including feminists, critical of state condoned patriarchy), had the goal of undermining the state toward the end of promoting freedom.

    She concedes that the primary outcome of anti-statism (or, anti-nationalism) on the left was to help facilitate the objectives of the neo-liberals who actually managed to gain real power in the US.

    This is why I disagree with her continued pandering to the post-nationalist global fantasy. I like my government. I just want to take it back.

    /L:

    The problem is gross imbalance on the labor market there is no trick in the world that would remedy the situation if the overall situation is that employers can pick and choose. That's the core issue and not least for those who are weak on the labor market not least minority groups. That is what's wrong with the left, they are so engaged in the symptoms and ignore the core issue. Why one can ask, the obvious is that challenge the mighty money interests is a very dangerous journey the price can be very high. To chatter on about identity politics is 100% risk free. Capitalism isn't racist, homophobic, misogynist or xenophobic. Capitalism doesn't give a dammed what color, sex etc it exploit as long as the money is green.

    The neoliberals say they despise the state and hate Keynes but use the state fiscal and monetary politics to keep labor in check and as Keynes learned the world demand is what rules the economy. Keep the demand a bit below potential capacity and there will be unemployment.

    To spread equality and welfare a little bit to all of the citizens is only possible to do in one way, to have an overall slight lack of labor. We should have learned that during the postwar boom years when the equality and welfare did rise among the broad layers around in OECD. That is what give minorities and so on an intrinsic value, their services and labor will be in demand, not because someone is magnanimous and think its righteous and nice but because they have an economic value.

    DownSouth:

    Rex said:

    Just because Marx or his biggest practitioners didn't live to see capitalism's demise, doesn't exactly ensure it won't happen. Is there any major social organization in history that hasn't collapsed after a period of time?

    I'm not sure the cure you invoke isn't worse than the disease. As Carroll Quigley wrote in The Evolution of Civilizations:

    Thus individualism, the natural equality of all men, the conventional and unnatural character of slavery, and the belief that social distinctions rested on force rather than on real differences because generally accepted in the Stage of Universal Empire [of Classical Civilization], but without in any way destroying the continued existence as institutions of slavery, social inequality, law, or public authority. Of course, in the very long run, with the disappearance of these institutions it might be argued that the ideas that challenged them won out, but this occurred only with the death of Classical society as a whole.

    paul tioxon:

    The new left made the critical and revolutionary contribution to the political discussion, that the real choices were once again 3 fold. Up until 1968, there was one dominant position, liberalism, which recognized the need for change, and managed whatever measure of it there was under the banner of progress. There was one other discredited position, conservatism, which saw every need for the enforcible obstacles to political and economic power sharing, with any un American trend in the social order. Exploding onto the scene, were radicals whose motto is we want the world and we want it now!!!

    If not now, WHEN? If not here, WHERE? If not us, THEN WHO WILL MAKE THE WORLD THE ONE THAT WE CHOOSE??? There are no kings or popes in America to bow down to, no amount of wealth that the state can not raise in greater amounts than all of the billionaires together, no ideology to stop a pragmatically enlightened and well educated middle class in waves of 10s of millions of baby boomers, who out number everyone in our democratically controlled, vote with yr feet and paycheck republic.

    If the only legitimacy granted to the rulers was their right by merit, how smart they were, as evidenced in their Ivy League bona fides, then they were no better qualified than me and everyone else I know with dean's list letters and diplomas to set public policy. Furthermore, rationally guided progress was lead by the world changing product of the university system, empirical inquiry and valid knowledge: SCIENCE. And science turned its eye upon every aspect of human behavior, and every tribe and society. It found all social orders were familiar to us upon examination, and NOT irrational sets of alien, incomprehensible actions. Our social order can change, dramatically, and not fall apart at the seems, but merely be a new learned set of behaviors.

    The hallmark of liberalism, a rationally led science of human progress, did not have to be managed at a glacial pace when it came to justice in the political economy, because JUSTICE DELAYED… IS JUSTICE DENIED. And with this historic phrase, liberalism was unmasked as a distinction from conservatism without a difference. Just be patient, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Unfortunately, as New Yorkers have sadly learned, that light is only New Jersey, not real change at all.

    [Mar 21, 2011] Guest Post Leverage, Inequality, and Crises " naked capitalism

    February 6, 2011

    kievite:

    Certainly one of the key, if not the key, functions of politics is the allocation of material resources. He who has the political power decides who gets what. It's amazing how much ink gets spilled in an attempt to obscure this simple fact.

    Nobody would seriously argue against the statement that "function of politics is the allocation of material resources". What you are missing is that changes in technology drive the changes in politics not vise versa.

    Computers has probably as profound influence on society as electricity. They make many things prevously impossible, possible and radically changed the society in just 60 years (in we assume that 50th were the first decade computers became avalble outside military.) To assume that political changes occure like "deux ex machina" is naive.

    I think that neoliberalism came to the forefront of political stage as a reaction to stagnation coused by New Deal policies. And it was Carter who first started to implement it, not Reagan. In a way, it was an attempt to dismantle or at least set back reforms that led to "state capitalism" and now prevented utilising advances of technology since 30th, and first of all emergence of computers and microchips.

    And one reason why neoliberal policies became politically attractive is that private enterprises, empowered by computers and private datacenters (and first of all financial institutions which were at the vanguard of computerization) changed and that change requred redistribution of political power. Computers removed previous restrictions on the size of large companies and make them really global and transnational. Look at the story of Citigroup. And neoliberlism became weapon of choice to counter "national-developmentalism" in the decolonized world, along with the security of wage contracts, pentions, etc in the industrialized countries as empolyees within corporation lost power and top brass gained it. In a way computers eat people…

    Just look at the typical Fortune 100 corporation today and compare it with the same, say, in 1960th.

    kievite
    Neoliberalism is "state capitalism," state capitalism being a system where the owners of capital control the state, where business and finance (read corporations) have a monopoly of political power.

    I think you mix-up different aspects here. First of all owners of capital control the state at any form of capitalism That's an immanent feature.

    I would accept that both are forms of state capitalism but you need to accept that they are two different flavours of state capitalism. One important difference is that in first brand of state capitalism unions were at the table, while at the second they were on the table.

    Also important is the fact that growth of political power of financial capital (on which we both agree) at some point turns quantity into quality.

    As far as for prominence of financial sector this is a common phenomenon for aging empires. Here you fall short in plausible explanation of why this has happened. Your theological explanation that essentially "evildoers" somehow grabbed the power smells George W. Bush mentality.

    I would also like to refer you to your favorite Kevin Phillips for more detailed explanation of the dynamics of this transformation

    kievite:

    The debt load of 95% of worker households must be reduced and 2) the consumption of those households must be either maintained or increased.

    #1 can be achieved either through debt default, debt jubilee or repayment. Repayment requires higher salaries for workers.

    #2 can be achieved through higher pay for workers, or from taxing the rentiers and redistributing the proceeds to the workers.

    That's not very plausible. The political power of workers as a countervailing power continues to diminish. And the base is very low anyway as with dismantling of the USSR unionized workers suffered almost complete political annihilation. At the same time, the standard of living is still way too high for the Egypt style uprising of serfs.

    One interesting side effect of this crisis is that top brass realised that layoffs did not negatively affected (and sometimes substantially increased) productivity and that they still can be continued without hurting profits as more and more tasks is being automated and/or outsourced. In some cases corporation needs little more then top brass and robots.

    The general trend is squeezing wages, downsizing workforce and conversion of permanent workforce into temporary. Retirement of baby boomers provides ample opportunities for that.

    kievite:

    The reason "financial investment" happened is because it was more profitable than "legit investment." Why was it more profitable? Because when financial investments went bad, the federal government would step in and indemnify the banks for the losses resulting from their high-risk lending activities. In his book Bad Money Kevin Phillips cites 12 separate instances between 1982 and 2007 where the federal government intervened and did this.

    Again you provide a theological explanation that misses other factors like a price of oil, restored competitiveness of Japan, Germany and some other countries from the picture. I am more inclined to think that that financization of the economy was a rational reaction directed on overcoming the stagnation in other spheres and first of all manufacturing and in way it was successful in postponing the day of reckoning for another 20 years.

    So our differences can be summarized as following: I think that conversion of the economy to casino capitalism was the result of attempts to adapt to new geopolitical situation of 80th (and first of all rising price of oil, see Carter doctrine ) and the decline of the US empire (see Kevin Phillips).

    You think that it is result of "evildoers" actions based of excessive greed (aka higher profitability) or similar individual/group motivations.

    I tend to think that this is too simplistic/theological explanations.

    kievite
    Downsouth,

    "But the basis of early Christian and Jewish morality was not just theological. There was a practical, secular basis for the morality as well. This was recognized by American revolutionary thinkers, such as Thomas Jefferson, when he wrote:

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

    There is a huge problem with theological interpretation of morality: it is absolutist, which is to say that it refuses to recognize the importance of context and consequences when evaluating the morality of certain choices.

    But morality does not exists in vacuum. It is a tool for the survival of a particular social organism (for example, state), no more no less. And if the preservation of society justifies the action of the organs of the state, then it is logical to see such actions of the state as moral or at least "a necessary evil" and the question of morality of inflicting harm or even death on individual(s) within the state or other states by a state power "for greater good" became much more complex. To avoid this dilemma orthodox Christianity identifies itself with state. Here an interesting notion of moral hypocrisy of Catholicism arise…

    Obedience to supreme religious authority and dependence on ancient texts are also a poor starting point for dealing with complicated modern moral issues such as genetic engineering and stem cell research.

    don:

    The authors write that an "increase in leverage of the bottom 95% is made possible by the re-lending of the increased disposable incomes of the top 5% to the bottom 95%, resulting in consumption inequality increasing significantly less than income inequality." To raise consumption among the lower 95% thus requires the "increased need for financial services and intermediation."

    Essentially, this is stating the obvious. If incomes don't pay for increased consumption, then borrowing must fill the void. So yes, inequality obviously exists in a financial crisis whereby high levels of debt must substitute for high levels of . . . inequality.

    But WHY it is that the great class divide materialized in the first place — reflecting such levels of credit/debt? Without understanding how and why this developed the authors cannot provide an explanation of what stands in the way of their solution: "a restoration of workers' bargaining power and therefore income that allows them to work their way out of debt over time."

    There must be an explanation why the extreme inequality developed in the first place, just as it has in past US economic crisis, yet this is missing. The authors provide a good description of how inequality factors into the crisis, but provide no analysis that takes the description to the next level: why the gapping inequality in the first place, and why is it that debt was expanded so, to substitute for income?

    Nathanael:

    That explanation does not lie in the realm of economics, but in the realm of politics. The income inequality was a deliberate policy of Reagan and G. W. Bush, just as it was a result of deliberate policies in the days of Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover.

    Those policies were deregulation of business and encouragement of fraud and gambling behaviors; left alone, this generally leads to a small elite taking all the money.

    In the 20s, the election of these dangerous stooges was a result of backlash against Woodrow Wilson for policies other than his progressive economic policies. (If only he hadn't lied us into war and conducted the Palmer Raids.)

    In the 80s and later, the election of these dangerous stooges was part of a massive criminal propaganda operation starting with the October Surprise and continuing to this day — but arguably it was made possible by racist, sexist backlash to the reforms of the 1960s and 1970s.

    • jonboinAR says: February 7, 2011 at 2:05 pm Collapse of the labor movement?

    scraping_by:

    Ah, the joys of a theoretical model:

    "In our closed economy set-up, the increase in leverage of the bottom 95% is made possible by the re-lending of the increased disposable incomes of the top 5% to the bottom 95%, resulting in consumption inequality increasing significantly less than income inequality."

    However, back in the real world, the savings of the top 5% were not recycled into the plasma TVs and cheap beer of the naughty, profligate bottoms. Most of the money used by the bottom 95% was the savings of the middle class. The savings of the rich were thrown into speculations, hyperinflating third level instruments in closed venues. The amount of corruption this required to be profitable, from bribing rating agencies and arranging liar loans up front, to bailouts and lawless foreclosures at the end, are all symptoms of how well that worked.

    "Saving and borrowing patterns of both groups create an increased need for financial services and intermediation. As a consequence the size of the financial sector increases."

    The overbuilding of the FIRE section was deliberate national economic policy. It went along with and caused the hollowing out of all other sectors of the economy. The credit needs of the majority of people can be taken care of by simple banking, simply done from the small. local organizations. It's the money-cycling businesses that require bizarre instruments and faith-based flummery in large venues to squeeze out fractional percentage profits. In other words, crumb catching. It doesn't take that much infrastucture to abet naughty, naughty, profligate bottoms.

    "The rise of poor and middle income household debt leverage generates financial fragility and a higher probability of financial crises."

    The fragility is the hyperinflation of financial instruments which had little or no intrinsic worth in the beginning. It's the small number of market participants with large amounts of money, cash or leverage, in relation to the worth. While the business cycle (remember that?) was a measure of the ebb and flow of household spending, this was a mania among the elite come to a bad end. There was no middle class mass movement demanding naked short sales of CDOs-squared.

    "With workers' bargaining power, and therefore their ability to service and repay loans, only recovering very gradually, the increase in loans and therefore in crisis risk is extremely persistent."

    Translation: The naughty, naughty, naughty profligate wage-earners went on a spending spree and are now suffering their well-merited consequences. In reality, much of the debt is underwater mortgages, and those were often taken when the math made sense, or were taken on the word of the financial salesman. Promoted by those salesmen's employers to have something to trade in the secondary market.

    And there's this: much of the debt doesn't really exist. Under previous law it would have been evaporated in BK. Now it's a permanent asset on the books of every business in the country. This is part of extend and pretend, so is another gift to the rentier class.

    Many economists seem genuinely confused why they're more marginalized. The bizarre syntax and subjective vocabulary of this article, along with "assumptions" which the rest of us would call lying your way through, are a good illustration. But it bashes the poor, explicitly, so it's probably going to become the darling of the the Right in the coming months. Feh.

    kievite:

    The overbuilding of the FIRE section was deliberate national economic policy. It went along with and caused the hollowing out of all other sectors of the economy.

    Yes and yes. And that's one interesting fact that DownSouth fails to take into account in his deliberations.

    Moreover IMHO this decision was taken just because other avenue of growth were exhausted (manufacturing became far less competitive and there was no easy way to change that). I see it more like a desperate attempt to simulate growth (fake growth, if you wish) in order to avoid mass unemployment by utilising the status of dollar as reserve currency and new opportunities provided by abandonment of gold standard.

    So the real question is: is current standard of living of middle class and lower in the USA is sustainable?

    Tao Jonesing:

    Yes, the overbuilding of the FIRE sector was a deliberate national economic policy, but it arose in response to a crisis– stagflation– that the FIRE sector manufactured through leveraged financial speculation in staple commodities. Because neoliberals like Milton Friedman had predicted the possibility of stagflation where the Keynesians hadn't, when stagflation "miraculously" happened, Washington D.C. naturally turned to the neoliberal Chicago School for answers, and as those answers seemed to work (even if for reasons other than advertised), they adopted more and more neoliberal policies.

    And thus today we have a government that is firmly captured and controlled by the FIRE sector and multinational corporations. There is no dividing line between the government and the FIRE sector, and we should stop pretending that there is.

    That doesn't mean that things have to stay this way, however. Your assumption that there are no other avenues to grow domestically arises from the neoliberal worldview that informs most economic decision-making in the U.S. today. Growth fueled by the FIRE sector is not really economic growth. Yeah, it adds to the "calorie count" of the GDP, but those calories are empty.

    "The End of the 'Washington Consensus'"

    Economist's ViewKevin Gallagher:

    The end of the 'Washington consensus', by Kevin Gallagher: Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos sent shockwaves through Washington when he told the Financial Times that his nation is holding negotiations with China to build a multibillion dollar "dry canal" that would compete with the Panama Canal. ...

    This deal is charged with politics. Colombia is trying to get the US to pass a long-stalled trade deal. ... Whether or not this deal goes through, it highlights the stark contrast between China's foreign economic ventures and those of the United States.

    For 30 years, Washington has been shopping a trade-not-aid based economic diplomacy across Latin America and beyond. According to what is generally known as the "Washington consensus", the US has provided Latin America loans conditional on privatization, deregulation and other forms of structural adjustment. More recently, what has been on offer are trade deals such as the US-Colombia Free Trade Agreement: access to the US market in exchange for similar conditions.

    The 30-year record of the Washington consensus was abysmal for Latin America, which grew less than 1% per year in per capita terms... East Asia, on the other hand, which is known for its state-managed globalization (most recently epitomized by China), has grown 6.7% per annum in per capita terms ... in that same period. ...

    This dismal economic record prompted citizens across the Americas to vote out supporters of this model in the 2000s. Growth has since picked up, largely from domestic demand, and exports to China and elsewhere in Asia.

    Interestingly, the only significant card-carrying members of the Washington consensus left in Latin America are Mexico and Colombia. That explains why Washington was so shocked at Santos' remarks.

    Before China "gets" Colombia, there is now a rallying cry that says the US must pass the US-Colombia Free Trade deal – which would make Colombia deregulate its financial services industry, scrap its ability to design innovative policies for development, and open its borders to subsidised farm products from the United States. According to a study by the UN, the agreement will actually make Colombia worse-off by up to $75m, or 0.1% of its GDP.

    Ironically, the US's renegade Congress failed to renew trade preferences last week, under which the majority of Colombia's exports enter tariff-free without the conditional terms of US trade deals.

    Meanwhile, the Financial Times reports that China has lent over $110bn to developing countries over the past two years, more than the World Bank has made in three years. Relative to the World Bank, these loans come with far fewer "conditionalities" and are going to massive infrastructure projects across Africa and in places like Argentina, Venezuela and, perhaps now, even Colombia.

    China is loaning nations money to fund each nation's own priorities for growth and development. China isn't doing so out of altruism; these are not acts of sainthood. China just has a better handle on economic development. Looking at the experience of other East Asian nations and itself, these types of projects are a much better bet than trade deals. China hopes that the projects will jumpstart growth so that nations will be able to supply greater amounts of exports to China, and be a source of Chinese exports. US trade deals, by contrast, seem to have been hijacked by a few interest groups that may benefit in the short term, but have dubious results over time.

    The bigger point here is that, even if Colombia gets the sorry trade deal it wants and doesn't get a canal, the United States is literally and figuratively bankrupt in its competition with Chinese finance. Literally, because the US has the largest deficit on the planet and owes a big chunk of that to the Chinese. Figuratively, because the economic model that the US has exported to Latin America hasn't worked. China is funding infrastructure, exploration, science and technology, and all the other things that President Obama says we should be spending on here at home.

    Why don't we do that here and enable others to as well?

    anne:

    Before China "gets" Colombia, there is now a rallying cry that says the US must pass the US-Colombia Free Trade deal – which would make Colombia deregulate its financial services industry, scrap its ability to design innovative policies for development, and open its borders to subsidised farm products from the United States. According to a study by the UN, the agreement will actually make Colombia worse-off by up to $75m, or 0.1% of its GDP.

    -- Kevin Gallagher

    [I know, I know but look to the Harvard policy folks who are all criticism of Latin American and African countries. Remember when Bill Clinton apologized to Haitians so recently about policy crippling Haitian agriculture?]

    JM:

    While this article makes claims that I would dispute (we are not bankrupt, the Chinese buy US bonds to advantage exporters, etc), there's no question that the Chinese are playing the game better than the US. I would argue that Chinese elites have consensus (let's make PRC better!) where US elites do not (do we break the unions or win the future?).

    I also think that in their efforts to build development, the Chinese are now playing the role originally envisioned for World Bank and IMF in the original Bretton Woods plan, before they mostly devolved into stooges for western capital (see Ireland).

    Min:

    Kevin Gallagher: "China is loaning nations money to fund each nation's own priorities for growth and development. China isn't doing so out of altruism; these are not acts of sainthood. China just has a better handle on economic development."

    China has been angling to be the leader of the world for a long time. See its support for national insurgencies in the not too distant past.

    Gallagher: "The bigger point here is that, even if Colombia gets the sorry trade deal it wants and doesn't get a canal, the United States is literally and figuratively bankrupt in its competition with Chinese finance. Literally, because the US has the largest deficit on the planet and owes a big chunk of that to the Chinese. Figuratively, because the economic model that the US has exported to Latin America hasn't worked."

    Figuratively bankrupt, maybe. Literally, don't be ridiculous. The U. S. is the ultimate source of its own currency. We are not on the gold standard anymore.

    Gallagher: "China is funding infrastructure, exploration, science and technology, and all the other things that President Obama says we should be spending on here at home.

    "Why don't we do that here and enable others to as well?"

    Oligarchy.

    John V:

    So much wrong here.

    First, Gallagher's agenda is clear: He loves the idea of state directed trade. OK.

    However, I'm somehow reminded of Naomi Klein's nonsensical tales of "free trade" by name whereby she goes on to bash cronyism and corporatism by definition.

    Gallagher first identifies the enemy: "trade not aid"

    And then he describes what this means:

    -conditional loans in exchange for foggy notions of privatization and deregulation followed by a set arrangement of what gets traded and how.

    I agree with Gallagher in one sense. That idea sucks. Dani Rodrick has explained plenty on this when discussing how it is wrong-headed to simply try and copy broad strokes from one country and apply them in another when the details and institutions are very different.

    Meanwhile, he ignores how China to where it is: expanding trade through trade agreements and being a safe and lucrative destination for capital.

    I don't claim to know exactly what would work best for Latin America. But telling them how to go about it isn't exactly what I would call helpful. If the U.S. wants to help, simply allowing these countries to compete with domestic producers in something resembling "free trade" would probably be a good starting point. Besides, I would venture to say that private would probably flow there on its own (much like it has in China) if conditions were right. And that's something you see simply by looking at the amount of foreign investment in those countries. And the onus is on those governments to allow these inviting circumstances to materialize.

    Robert Reich (The Republican Strategy)

    February 17, 2011

    The Republican strategy is to split the vast middle and working class – pitting unionized workers against non-unionized, public-sector workers against non-public, older workers within sight of Medicare and Social Security against younger workers who don't believe these programs will be there for them, and the poor against the working middle class.

    By splitting working America along these lines, Republicans want Americans to believe that we can no longer afford to do what we need to do as a nation. They hope to deflect attention from the increasing share of total income and wealth going to the richest 1 percent while the jobs and wages of everyone else languish.

    Republicans would rather no one notice their campaign to shrink the pie even further with additional tax cuts for the rich – making the Bush tax cuts permanent, further reducing the estate tax, and allowing the wealthy to shift ever more of their income into capital gains taxed at 15 percent.

    The strategy has three parts.

    The battle over the federal budget.

    The first is being played out in the budget battle in Washington. As they raise the alarm over deficit spending and simultaneously squeeze popular middle-class programs, Republicans want the majority of the American public to view it all as a giant zero-sum game among average Americans that some will have to lose.

    The President has already fallen into the trap by calling for budget cuts in programs the poor and working class depend on – assistance with home heating, community services, college loans, and the like.

    In the coming showdown over Medicare and Social Security, House budget chair Paul Ryan will push a voucher system for Medicare and a partly-privatized plan for Social Security – both designed to attract younger middle-class voters.

    The assault on public employees

    The second part of the Republican strategy is being played out on the state level where public employees are being blamed for state budget crises. Unions didn't cause these budget crises — state revenues dropped because of the Great Recession — but Republicans view them as opportunities to gut public employee unions, starting with teachers.

    Wisconsin's Republican governor Scott Walker and his GOP legislature are seeking to end almost all union rights for teachers. Ohio's Republican governor John Kasich is pushing a similar plan in Ohio through a Republican-dominated legislature. New Jersey's Republican governor Chris Christie is attempting the same, telling a conservative conference Wednesday, "I'm attacking the leadership of the union because they're greedy, and they're selfish and they're self-interested."

    The demonizing of public employees is not only based on the lie that they've caused these budget crises, but it's also premised on a second lie: that public employees earn more than private-sector workers. They don't, when you take account of their education. In fact over the last fifteen years the pay of public-sector workers, including teachers, has dropped relative to private-sector employees with the same level of education – even including health and retirement benefits. Moreover, most public employees don't have generous pensions. After a career with annual pay averaging less than $45,000, the typical newly-retired public employee receives a pension of $19,000 a year.

    Bargaining rights for public employees haven't caused state deficits to explode. Some states that deny their employees bargaining rights, such as Nevada, North Carolina, and Arizona, are running big deficits of over 30 percent of spending. Many states that give employees bargaining rights — Massachusetts, New Mexico, and Montana — have small deficits of less than 10 percent.

    Republicans would rather go after teachers and other public employees than have us look at the pay of Wall Street traders, private-equity managers, and heads of hedge funds – many of whom wouldn't have their jobs today were it not for the giant taxpayer-supported bailout, and most of whose lending and investing practices were the proximate cause of the Great Depression to begin with.

    Last year, America's top thirteen hedge-fund managers earned an average of $1 billion each. One of them took home $5 billion. Much of their income is taxed as capital gains – at 15 percent – due to a tax loophole that Republican members of Congress have steadfastly guarded.

    If the earnings of those thirteen hedge-fund managers were taxed as ordinary income, the revenues generated would pay the salaries and benefits of 300,000 teachers. Who is more valuable to our society – thirteen hedge-fund managers or 300,000 teachers? Let's make the question even simpler. Who is more valuable: One hedge fund manager or one teacher?

    The Distortion of the Constitution

    The third part of the Republican strategy is being played out in the Supreme Court. It has politicized the Court more than at any time in recent memory.

    Last year a majority of the justices determined that corporations have a right under the First Amendment to provide unlimited amounts of money to political candidates. Citizens United vs. the Federal Election Commission is among the most patently political and legally grotesque decisions of our highest court – ranking right up there with Bush vs. Gore and Dred Scott.

    Among those who voted in the affirmative were Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia. Both have become active strategists in the Republican party.

    A month ago, for example, Antonin Scalia met in a closed-door session with Michele Bachman's Tea Party caucus – something no justice concerned about maintaining the appearance of impartiality would ever have done.

    Both Thomas and Scalia have participated in political retreats organized and hosted by multi-billionaire financier Charles Koch, a major contributor to the Tea Party and other conservative organizations, and a crusader for ending all limits on money in politics. (Not incidentally, Thomas's wife is the founder of Liberty Central, a Tea Party organization that has been receiving unlimited corporate contributions due to the Citizens United decision. On his obligatory financial disclosure filings, Thomas has repeatedly failed to list her sources of income over the last twenty years, nor even to include his own four-day retreats courtesy of Charles Koch.)

    Some time this year or next, the Supreme Court will be asked to consider whether the nation's new healthcare law is constitutional. Watch your wallets.

    The strategy as a whole

    These three aspects of the Republican strategy – a federal budget battle to shrink government, focused on programs the vast middle class depends on; state efforts to undermine public employees, whom the middle class depends on; and a Supreme Court dedicated to bending the Constitution to enlarge and entrench the political power of the wealthy – fit perfectly together.

    They pit average working Americans against one another, distract attention from the almost unprecedented concentration of wealth and power at the top, and conceal Republican plans to further enlarge and entrench that wealth and power.

    What is the Democratic strategy to counter this and reclaim America for the rest of us?

    Economist's View The Unrest in Wisconsin

    Goldilocksisableachblonde

    The Repubs are following the Shock Doctrine playbook to a tee. My only hope is that it's recognizable to enough people , who will then explain the deception to others , so that Wisconsin-style revolts become the standard reaction , rather than the rare exceptions they've been to date. It's encouraging to see that there's been protests in Ohio , too.

    For the Republicans to boldly pursue this union-busting initiative while the country is still suffering from the effects of a crisis facilitated by Bush's see-no-evil regulators is , to me , downright scary. This is the most scorched-earth , sociopathic political party I've seen in my lifetime.

    The End-of-Days is supposed to be on 12/12/12 and it appears the Repubs are doing their damnedest to make sure it's not a day later.

    Lee A. Arnold:

    "Starve the beast" politics. It has predictable, repeating cyclical stances: Wait for a recession; then give preferential tax cuts; then use the resulting fiscal crisis to claim that spending cuts are necessary; then wait until the next boom to claim that it is reduced government spending which caused the new growth; and so then, vote for our side. A self-propelling cargo cult, replete with incantations from pseudo-economics, that happens to jibe perfectly with the wishes of the plutocracy. All of them worked on variations of it: Reagan, Greenspan, Bush with the Social Security Trust Funds disappearing into the Bush Tax Cuts, and now Governor Walker of Wisconsin.

    openid.aol.com/sandablo:

    Goldilocksisableachblonde... "This is the most scorched-earth , sociopathic political party I've seen in my lifetime"

    The US, UK and others have been living beyond their means for decades. How do you propose we deal with it?

    Goldilocksisableachblonde:

    "The US, UK and others have been living beyond their means for decades. How do you propose we deal with it?"

    The answer is embedded in your question. We started living beyond our means about thirty years ago , when Reagan cut taxes while tripling our national debt. That's also when privates sector debt started to rocket , as the working class got squeezed at every opportunity. I propose we unwind virtually every neoliberal policy we've enacted since then , and start fresh from a solid base that we know works well , as evidenced by the record of the post-WWII decades.

    rjs:

    wisc deficits are a scam:

    http://www.angrybearblog.com/2011/02/wisconsin-fiscal-responsibility-and.html

    Goldilocksisableachblonde:

    That wouldn't surprise me.

    It's also standard Shock Therapy practice to manufacture a crisis if you can't find one lying around , which might be what's happening in this case.

    In the UK , you can substitute Thatcher for Reagan and you've got pretty much the same story.

    roger:

    Or perhaps what the U.S. needs is another John Lewis, who attacked the bosses unapologetically and unleashed the power of unions upon which the prosperity of American workers was built for decades.

    I rather like the masks dropping - the shock doctrine in action. I imagine that the voters who elected these Republicans are getting, finally, what they wanted. It is a question, then, of stuffing it down their throats. School shutdowns should just be the start of it - let all public services go to pot. Let these libertarian-lites feel the freedom. Although, wisely, they still want to pay the cops - as we see in Bahrein, best to have an armed force with no interest in fraternizing with the people. Things are finally going to become interesting in the U.S.!

    McMike:

    You misunderestimate the ability of Republican voters to live in an alternate reality. The serial disasters from the Katrina response to BP's oil leak to the financial crisis ought to be enough to make any sane person take a step back and reconsider their dogma. But no, Republican voters are doubling down on the madness.

    Public services and schools can and will go to hell under continued GOP deconstruction, and Republicans will continue to blame socialism, immigrants, or God knows what.

    gordon:

    There is the Shock Doctrine, and there is also Schmitt's Inequality as Policy paper at CEPR:

    "My argument is that the high and rising inequality in the United States is the direct result of a set of policies designed first and foremost to increase inequality. These policies, in turn, have their roots in a significant shift in political power against workers and in favor of their employers, a shift that began in the 1970s and continues through today..."

    http://www.cepr.net/index.php/publications/reports/inequality-policy/

    Goldilocksisableachblonde:

    Yep , they go together like hand and glove. The Shock Doctrine is the tactic and inequality is an (the?) objective.

    Another good source on inequality as policy is Hacker & Pierson's "Winner-Take-All Politics" :

    http://www.progressivereader.com/?p=60176

    roger:

    Well, I was obviously snarking badly. I've always disliked "progressive" as a euphemism for liberal, because I think it is a verbal symptom of just what you are saying, Mr. G. - the reign of a party of yuppies with a tourist's tolerance for "difference". Which is, basically, how the Podesta think tank came to represent the 'left' of the Dem party. Progressive only means a kinder, gentler Bush-ism nowadays. Like our Prez, with his friendly Bush-era cabinet members and Fed chairman and his nice little war in Afghanistan. Otherwise, I agree with you mr. G!

    cm:

    Mechanization and automation, as well as more effective supply chain management and in general IT solutions, have reduced the need for reliance on (domestic) labor. Whenever your dependence on a particular person or group lessens, so will the need to make an effort to keep good relations (or courting in extreme cases). It's basic social dynamics. Unfortunately, this doesn't point to an amicable solution, if there is one at all.

    Goldilocksisableachblonde:

    "Unfortunately, the progressive party is what we have."

    It is? Wow , I must have missed it. There are only two parties , and I know you can't be referring to the Repubs , so the current Dems are progressive ?

    Maybe I have my labels mixed up , but when I think of 'progressive' on economic issues ( which is where the major distinctions between factions of the 'left' are found ), I'm thinking of a Robert Reich - style policy mix. I'm happy to call that liberal Democratic economics as well , if it gets us to the same place. However , Third Way / Rubinite Democratic prescriptions won't do that. They're just the Dem's answer to 'compassionate conservatism' : plutocrat-friendly policies with a Smiley Face.

    I don't want to see the major unions in the lead on this , either , but it is necessary that they be actively on board. Nor do I think Move-On is a good candidate for an organizational center , but again , they would be expected to offer enthusiastic support. I want to see a bottom-up mass activism of workers that focuses on economic justice , dismantling the corporatocracy , and breaking up the banking cartel.

    An institutional nucleus will have to form eventually if this is to achieve any lasting effect , and I admit that I don't see any promising signs of that right now. I certainly don't think it's in the bones of the bulk of current Congressional Democrats. Potentially , leadership from the top - meaning Obama - could change the dynamics in a way that would re-orient the Dems in a more progressive ( by my definition ) direction , but the chances of that happening don't seem great.

    Absent some organizing entity , I'm content to let the young people and workers of all stripes self-organize and just have at it. It beats doing nothing.

    Jim:

    Unions have virtually disappeared in the US or are very weak. Corporations are immensely powerful. Corruption is present in any organization. It is not the issue. Relative power is. All this should be obvious but decades of dissing unions has left its mark in the US and their weakness has much to do with the rise of the crazies in the GOP.

    Simon:

    Yup, the failure to understand how even "corrupt" unions counteract "corrupt" corporations is not even understood to a floor beam. It is to opposing forces that make balance.

    Keeping it honest is hard for any economic unit to do. They all want mammon.

    February

    [Feb 07, 2011] What Would Marx Say about Cairo By David Armitage

    Foreign Policy
    Revolutionaries, more than most political activists, tend to consciously imitate their predecessors. In this sense, the most transformative political events are often paradoxically the most traditional, as actors take their cues from dramas staged at other times in other places and often follow scripts originally written for quite different theaters.

    It's hardly news that revolutions inspire other revolutions, successful and unsuccessful. Think of the fast-moving "Springtime of the Peoples" from Paris to Prague in 1848 or, closer to our own time, the "Autumn of Nations" in 1989 and the "color" revolutions (Rose, Orange, Tulip) of 2003 to 2005 in Ukraine, Georgia, and Kyrgyzstan. As so often in studies of revolution, Karl Marx said it best. Everyone knows the most famous line from his Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte -- "all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice … the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce" -- but the rest of the analysis in his pamphlet is just as acute. He carries on with the theatrical metaphor that seems unavoidable in such situations, arguing that almost all revolutions replay earlier ones: "Luther put on the mask of the Apostle Paul, the Revolution of 1789-1814 draped itself alternately in the guise of the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire, and the Revolution of 1848 knew nothing better to do than to parody, now 1789, now the revolutionary tradition of 1793-95."

    And, we might add, American revolutionaries took the mantle of the Glorious Revolution of 1688, the early French revolutionaries looked back to the American Revolution, and the Latin American revolutionaries of the early 19th century issued declarations of independence and flew French-style tricolors. So the sequence went on through 1848 and 1917 to 1979, 1989, and beyond -- and 2011 might well go down in history, too.

    Revolutionaries of all stripes have deliberately set out to be imitated as widely as possible. Modern revolutionaries proclaimed themselves to be universalists, bringing liberation to "all mankind" or "tout l'univers," exporting revolution beyond their own borders. This was just as true in the ages of sail and steam as it is now, in the era of live video and Facebook. The speed of communication may have accelerated, but the content of the message hasn't changed all that much.

    David Armitage is the Lloyd C. Blankfein professor of history at Harvard University. Among his recent books are The Declaration of Independence: A Global History and The Age of Revolutions in Global Context, c. 1760-1840. He is now working on a history of ideas of civil war from Rome to Iraq.
    Selected Comments

    I don't think Americans think dialectically enough when it comes to these kinds of crises, perhaps due to the post-Cold War reflexive mistrust of everything Marxist. But he did make a good attempt at creating sociological arguments for why and how revolutions occur, often from an economic point of view. But here in the American media and mass culture, these events often become equated to what came before; once they were calling the Nicaraguan Revolution a new Cuban one. Now, they are calling Egypt a new Iranian revolution. This is a mistake, because as the article indicates, no two peoples or points in history are ever the same as what preceded it.

    Hopefully Americans won't make the same mistake many fox news commentators are making in mistrusting the revolution in Egypt or stereotyping it based on superficial similarities with past events.

    January

    [Jan 29, 2011] Guest Post- The Nature And Origin Of The State

    Jan 29, 2011 | zero hedge

    Instead of the "model for the protection of man in a state of freedom and order" that Jefferson imagined it to be, the American state, both before and after its founding, was a model of conquest and subjugation – not only of the continent's native inhabitants and the millions of others imported from another continent but of the human detritus endlessly washing up on its shores.xi As such, the American state is simply another state and, like any state, is therefore "an evil inflicted on men by men" that persists solely through the indoctrinated enslavement of its people. And to make matters worse, even some who are not indoctrinated but, on the contrary, recognize the state as the evil that it is, compound that evil by maintaining that the preservation of society nonetheless "justifies the action of the organs of the state." This is a very serious proposition – so serious, in fact, that the very foundation of human morality hangs in the balance, and with it the very viability of civil society

    Quixotic_Not:

    Thank you comrade, I'm sure you're ecstatic about the total incorporation of the 10 Planks of the Communist Manifesto into the US Kapitalist Pig .GOV...

    And now for The real story about the origin of the USofA:

    The state of nature has a law of nature to govern it, which obliges every one: and reason, which is that law, teaches all mankind, who will but consult it, that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions...

    Whenever the legislators endeavor to take away and destroy the property of the people, or to reduce them to slavery under arbitrary power, they put themselves into a state of war with the people, who are thereupon absolved from any further obedience. ~ John Locke 1690

    [Jan 16, 2011] The FOMC Debates the Housing Bubble in 2005

    Jan 16, 2011 | calculatedriskblog.com

    Bob Dobbs

    Hackman wrote:

    I wonder if the spin and doublespeak and pep rally talks abated for a bit and maybe someone like Obama just decided to tell it like it is -- you know the straight skinny -- if that might help people focus on the fact that we are all in this together???? Maybe. Maybe not. But, you know when all else fails speaking the truth has a nice ring to it.

    For a given value of "we," sure. When the little guys supported Roosevelt in the '30s, the bankers were not part of "we." Roosevelt made sure to define it that way. America was not a "we;" FDR's tasks was to make it one again, or at least convince a whole lot of people that it would function as a "we."

    And they believed it for 40 years, with a certain amount of justification. And America was, basically, very stable. Now only people who aren't paying attention believe "we" are all in this together, or that there is even a "we" at all. A whole lot of people aren't paying attention, but fewer everyday. So I say welcome, small ruling class, to a nation of increasingly alienated people with some extremely crazy outliers. Just remember that bank robbers were rockstars in the '30s.

    1 currency now:

    Somehow, "Bring me the head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission" doesn't have that ring to it...

    Nanoo-Nanoo:

    Up and down the foodchain...yup. Hostility and rage, unfocused and deliberately being misdirected in some venues by those seeking to profit from it, peddling fear along with the oscar caliber performances of righteous indignation.

    What would help is validation that the recovery is true and real, for the top. That the trickle down, supply-side economic theory is so much hogwash and someone should at least TRY to put forth some other way towards healing the Main Street economy.

    [Jan 14, 2011] The FOMC Debates the Housing Bubble in 2005

    Jan 14, 2011 |calculatedriskblog.com

    Stephane Hessel. 93 years old. Just published a short book in France. Cry Out! It's sold 600,000 copies in two months. His publisher has ordered another 200,000 printed.

    Hessel, Jewish. Escaped a Nazi concentration camp in WWII and joined DeGaulle. Worked in French resistance.

    The thesis of his book? Some quotes:

    Just as he "cried out" against Nazism in the 1940s, he said, young people today should "cry out against the complicity between politicians and economic and financial powers" and "defend our democratic rights acquired over two centuries".

    His book also contains a lengthy denunciation of Israeli government policies, especially in the Gaza Strip.

    Jackrabbit wrote on Fri, 1/14/2011 - 1:58 pm (in to...) TagsNanoo-Nanoo wrote:

    mp wrote:

    They need to begin addressing this economy's structural problems, and they are many.

    mp, I've lost any and all confidence this will happen

    Those with brains believe its all part of the plan
    .

    Nanoo-Nanoo:

    Asset Manager Threatened to Kill Regulators, U.S. Says (Update2) - Bloomberg.com

    A New York asset manager, accused of running unregistered commodity pools, was charged with threatening to kill U.S. financial regulators, including the heads of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

    Vincent P. McCrudden, 49, was arrested yesterday at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey coming back from Singapore, said Robert Nardoza, a spokesman for U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch in Brooklyn, New York. McCrudden is scheduled to appear in federal court today in Central Islip, New York.

    ...

    "The timing for his latest literary efforts is particularly bad," his lawyer, Bruce Barket of Garden City, New York, said in a phone interview. "Other than that, he's a decent, hard-working guy who doesn't pose a threat to anybody. It's unfortunate but not a crime."

    John Nester, a spokesman for the SEC, and Scott Schneider, a CFTC spokesman, declined to comment.

    Living in Singapore

    The CFTC said McCrudden lived in Dix Hills, New York. He has been living in Singapore for the last few months, according to the criminal complaint. Before that, he had been in an apartment in Long Beach, New York, according to the government.

    The website of Long Beach-based Alnbri had an "Execution List" of 47 current and former officials of the CFTC, SEC, Finra and the National Futures Association, including Gensler, SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro and Finra Chairman Richard Ketchum, according to the complaint.

    "These people have got to go!" the site said, according to the complaint. "And I need your help, there are just too many for me alone."

    On Dec. 20, he updated the site to offer payments of as much as $100,000 "for personal information on the people named on this site, and also validation and proof of punishment against these criminals," according to the complaint.

    The pages appear to no longer be on the site.

    [Jan 01, 2011] Searching for the Truth in an Age of Disingenuousness by Barry Ritholtz

    Dec 31, 2010 | The Big Picture

    On the last day of the year, I like to think back about the truths I learned this year.

    ... ... ...

    Regardless of your method, with a little digging, truth seekers were regularly rewarded. When you find it, often, it is not pretty; the Truth will destroy long held, cherished myths. But if you are an investor, you must go through this process on a regular basis.

    If you can identify where the masses' subjective view of reality is wrong, and then time when they begin to realize this, there are good investment returns to be had. A bonus of this process is some small measure of personal enlightenment.

    In 2009 and 2010, I learned that Corporate America took over the political process via their exhaustive lobbying efforts. What was once a Democracy is now a Corporatocracy. Just because I personally despised this result did not prevent me from profiting from it. Hardware, software, and research all cost money. I can promise you it is much easier to fight the powers that be when you have an unlimited Amex card — and cold hard dollars fiat printed Fed money — to help you.

    Exactly how far has the takeover gone? The corrupt US Supreme Court provided a sympathetic venue for the creation of corporate rights never envisioned by the Founding Fathers; Congress has become a wholly owned subsidiary of America, Inc. The White House talks a good game of smack, but genuflects in order to beg for job creation.

    Politicians do the bidding not for the people, but for the corporate establishment. Those people who want to blame the barking, snarling government for all the woes of the world do not want you to look further up the leash to see who is giving the commands. These corporate apologists pretend to be philosophers, but in reality they are mere Fellatrix, bought and paid for by their lords and masters.

    Fearing a corporate takeover of the nation isn't nearly as radical as it sounds. Thomas Jefferson reviled the idea of big corporations: "I hope we shall…crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and to bid defiance to the laws of our country." Jefferson knew the influence bankers could have on a nation's soul, and he was horrified by it.

    No less a figure than Dwight D. Eisenhower — five-star Army general, Supreme Commander of the Allied forces in Europe during World War II, responsible for planning and supervising the successful invasion of France and Germany, who then became the 34th President of the United States from 1953 until 1961 — warned that "we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex." He knew it was not just the military, but the entire existing corporate structure that sought to take advantage of their influence in order to thwart legitimate competition, skew Federal contracts, and exempt themselves from taxation and regulation.

    What might Eisenhower have said about the bailouts, and enormous decrease in banking competition?

    The surprising thing about this anomaly is that there are enormous incentives to find the objective truth. Often, it seems like the reality gets buried under a mountain of conflicting interests, with power and money and influence on one side and We, the people on the other.

    However, the credit crisis and collapse has taught us one very important lesson: If you continually search for that nugget of reality, if you are willing to roll up your sleeves and sift through the vast mounds of horse shit that Wall Street and Washington regularly serve up, there is indeed, a pony somewhere in there.

    That is your job in 2011: Go find the pony . . .

    [Jan 1, 2011] How to Be President in a Fact-Free America by Gary Younge

    December 16, 2010 | The Nation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Obama needs to get out there and fight.

    jedi_mindtrick:

    American Roadkill

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

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

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

    jedi_mindtrick:

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

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

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

    jedi_mindtrick:

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

    http://tinyurl.com/2d8tcv8

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

    http://tinyurl.com/2bq9xl2

    jedi_mindtrick:

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

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

    hotrod:

    I give this article a C-

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

    Darin_TBFRWOVF_Palin_Cuz_Shes_Hot:

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

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

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

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

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

    OneVote:

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

    dbtexas2010:

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

    drjz:

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

    The republicans have institutionalized lies and deception.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Dismissing specific colleagues, particularly South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint, the Tea Party Republican who has sought to impose ideological purity tests on the GOP, as destructive players, Specter growled in a 2,600-word valedictory speech that: "Collegiality can obviously not be maintained when negotiating with someone out to defeat you, especially in your own party. In some quarters, compromising has become a dirty word… Politics is no longer the art of the possible when senators are intransigent in their positions."

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

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

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

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

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

    But I would debate his "sophisticated cannibalism" reference.

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

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

    bench rest

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

    Strange how that works.

    Good riddance.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    On the Mindless Menace of Violence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Robert F. Kennedy
    Cleveland City Club
    April 5, 1968

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

    Ron Paul's Nine Questions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Richard H. Serlin:

    Really the whole thing is just ugly looking.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    And this list is certainly not meant to be exhaustive.

    ReallyNow:

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

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

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

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

    ilsm:

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

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

    War takes resources away from productive uses.

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

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

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

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

    anne

    ILSM:

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

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

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

    May, 2007

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

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

    May, 2007

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

    Executive Summary

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

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

    The projections show that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Antiwar.com

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

    ... ... ....

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

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

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

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

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

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

    At this point they're really parasitical entities.

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

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

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

    MP3 here. (18:05)

    Jlord :

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

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

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

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

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

    Phil Giraldi:

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

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

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

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

    Rob:

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

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

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

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

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

    NYTimes.com
    By C. J. CHIVERS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Government Corruption

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    The cable further described a delicate balance.

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Secretive Business Deals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Patience Unrewarded

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

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

    The cables underscore how frustrating the patience has been.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    DMZ, NJ

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

    comraderoger, Moscow

    From the article:

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Jason Atchley

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

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

    I hope state leaders keep their calm now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    thomas, nyc

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

    marcchi, IL

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

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

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

    RefugeeUS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    naked capitalism

    Hugh

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

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

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

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

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

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

    kievite

    Hugh,

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

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

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

    Allen C:

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

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

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

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

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

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

    But are you so sure about that now?

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

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

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

    But Obama buys the right-wing smear.

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

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

    sam

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

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

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

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

    Kevin de Bruxelles:

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Death of the Liberal Class

    October 21, 2010

    Thomas King:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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