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June 2007 Archives

June 3, 2007

Liberals for... Ford?

Carl Remick writes:

Utility opinionmonger Frank Rich of the NY Times, who can bat out Broadway reviews and political thumbsuckers with equal ease, has an entirely undeserved reputation as a scourge of America's deepening decadence. In truth, he's as much a misty-eyed sentimentalist about the supposedly permanent strength of America's "vital center" as the now-dead NYT columnist James Reston or the somewhat-alive WashPo pundit David Broder. Rich's column today is a classic: Saying that "Americans are exhausted by anger" due to the gross incompetence of the Bush Administration, Rich claims that the nation yearns for a "healer" like Gerry Ford rather than some firebrand ideologue (read: leftist) capable of challenging conventional pieties. Excerpt:

... [T]here's a strange paradox here. The decibel level of the fin-de-Bush rage is a bit of a red herring. In truth, there is some consensus among Americans about the issues that are dividing both parties. ... This relatively unified America can't be compared with that of the second Nixon term, when the violent cultural and political upheavals of the late 1960s were still fresh. But in at least one way there may be a precise political parallel in the aftermaths of two failed presidencies rent by catastrophic wars: Americans are exhausted by anger itself and are praying for the mood pendulum to swing.

Gerald Ford implicitly captured that sentiment when he described himself as a healer.... We can see this equation at work now in Mitt Romney's unflappable game-show-host persona, in John McCain's unconvincing efforts to emulate a Reagan grin and in the unlikely spectacle of Rudy Giuliani trading in his congenital scowl for a sunny disposition.

The Democratic boomlet for Barack Obama is the flip side of the same coin: his views don't differ radically from those of most of his rivals, but his conciliatory personality is the essence of calm....

I dunno, Carl. Obama as the (sort of) black Gerald Ford? That's pretty funny, actually.

June 4, 2007

Alterman and the law

Eric Alterman, notoriously, is now a criminal:


It's funny, really, but I can just see it. Mr I'm-Entitled, Chip-On-The-Shoulder Alterman falls foul of a chip-on-the-shoulder security guard -- a gatekeeper in the physical sense, unlike Eric, who is only a metaphorical gatekeeper. Or would like to be.

Still, I have to say, this story has made me like Eric a great deal better than anything he's ever written could have done.Talking back to a doorshaker, and ending up in the slam -- why, Eric and I could practically be cellmates.

Of course, if we had to share a cell, only one of us would ever leave it alive. Is he a big guy? Does he work out?

June 5, 2007

Sweeney agonistes

Enter John Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO executive council, that comfy club for aging pie-heads:


Seems he's got a message for the rest of us. Pathetically, only the Boston Globe, not the Washpost or NYT, found it fit to print. I suspect this lead shows us why:

"AMERICA'S WORKING families today are running faster than ever to keep up, and still falling behind. "
Pretty durn ho-hum, right? Oh, and here's a surprise for us groundlings:
....disposable income is now part of the "good old days."
But let's get down to brass tacks. Give him credit -- John tries to answer a big question: "How did this happen to America's workers?" And even more to his credit, he notices some key stuff: "unfair trade laws and poor national fiscal policy." But then sure enough, don't he pass them by, and the imperial dollar too, so he can get to what it's really all about:
... a major factor that often remains hidden.... Corporations have systematically riddled workers' freedom to improve their lives through unions, and our nation's labor laws are too weak to stop them.... union workers earn 30 percent more than workers without a union and are much more likely to have healthcare and pensions
Sweeney provides a seemingly obvious conclusion: "Increasing the number of people who are in unions."

But how we do that is not so obvious, since according to John, anyway, we gotta first make legal union recognition and contracts doable under the present system of laws and regs. 'Cause as it stands now:

companies routinely violate workers' basic right to form a union.... Unfortunately, these nasty methods of threat and coercion work for the employer.... In more than 90 percent of union elections a majority of workers indicated in writing that they wanted a union at the beginning of the process. However, unions won less than half of these elections, after months and years of employer intimidation.
Hmmmmm. Blunt fact: the CIO breakthrough originally occurred inside an industrial society and under a "superstructure" far worse than the one we have now in this post-Reagan white-worker future-shock America. So what is John-john's solution? Well not my solution, it seems. Nope, John doesn't want us to go into massive job-class upheaval mode. He don't want us to put on another 7-year rage and rampage like in 30-36. God forbid we get fired from our precious jobs -- let alone arrested -- for trying to freeze up the flow of corporate profiteeing. No blockades, no occupations, no job site rebellions, not for old John. Just lobby to change a few key parts of the legal superstructure.
Fortunately, there is legislation in Congress that will give workers the real freedom to join a union.... the Employee Free Choice Act.... a crucial first step to rebuilding the middle class and ensuring that working people can once again share in our nation's prosperity.
What can I add to that pea of a product? Analogy is tricky at all times, but here's an obvious one anyway: Black America and her allies hit the system hard and at multiplying points long long long before "the laws changed."

The free-to-choose line is pure bird crap and I bet swino John knows it in his heart of hearts. But he's got to keep the wheels of his gristmill turning, right?

Mates, I say with Father Smiff -- stop traffic!

June 7, 2007

Mighty wind a-blowin'

I'm a sometime fan of the Lardner clan. Here's a recent book review by James of that ilk, on the world of today as controlled by the TNCs, with their ghastly set of hidden bottom lines:


Most Americans are troubled by the culture of dealmaking and financial engineering and insider self-enrichment.... by the callous treatment of workers and work life.... by the erosion of communities and community institutions.... Not very far below the political surface, most of us feel some version of the same vexed ambivalence toward corporate America -- dazzled by the conveniences and comforts it delivers, yet resentful of the tradeoffs that it continually demands....
Not bad, eh? The piece throughout reads like its author feels that after 30 years of ever-further separation from our lower-order brothers and sisters, we precious winners, we over-rewarded few, are getting the merit-class blues. About time if so.

I think his last shot catches this moment in America well, as the brewing winds of job site rebellion start reaching higher up the class tower, toward the penthouse corporate goblins, and out into the still nominally independent offices, labs, studios, and campuses of all our wonderfully creative symbol makers and shakers.

...it is hard to imagine... a fundamental transformation of these giant institutions. It is even harder to imagine a better world in which they remain essentially what they are.

Jenna Jameson: Not as smart as you thought

Dog Bites Woman department, or, The Usual Suspects Round Themselves Up: http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/story?id=3248722&page=1
Clinton Relies On Women To Make History

To attract young women voters, the Clinton campaign has recruited "American Idol" runner-up Katharine McPhee to perform Wednesday night...

Feminist icons Geraldine Ferarro, the country's first female vice presidential candidate, and Madeleine Albright, the country's first female secretary of state, will introduce candidate Clinton. Tennis star and women's sports crusader Billie Jean King will be on hand, as will Maya Angelou, author of such "empowerment" poems as "Phenomenal Woman," and the autobiographical novel "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings."

No suprises there. But I was deeply disappointed to see that a much more respectable person than Madeleine Albright has fallen prey to Hillary:

Yes, it's porn superstar Jenna Jameson, who, er, gushes:


"I love Hillary. I think that in some ways she's pretty conservative for a Democrat, but I would love to have a woman in office. I think that it would be a step in the right direction for our country, and there would be less focus on war and more focus on bettering society....

The Clinton administration was the best years for the adult industry and I wish that Clinton would run again. I would love to have him back in office. I would love to have Al Gore in office. When Republicans are in office, the problem is, a lot of times they try to put their crosshairs on the adult industry, to make a point. It's sad, when there are so many different things that are going on in the world: war, and people are dying of genocide...I look forward to another Democrat being in office. It just makes the climate so much better for us, and I know that once all our troops come home, things are going to be better and I think that getting Bush out of office is the most important thing right now."

I love that phrase "the adult industry." It sounds like it ought to refer to the manufacturing sector that makes adults. As applied to the Democratic Party there's some truth in this, if you define an "adult" in the usual sense, to mean someone who has become as crazy as the world around him.

Kos should see if he could, er, bag Jenna for the next Kosventicle in Vegas. If he does, I'll attend again.

June 8, 2007

Clinton Trivializes Faith

Mrs Clinton admitted that she prayed but surmised that there was a lot of "rolling of eyes" from God given the "trivial and self-serving" requests her prayers entailed. "I take my faith personally and seriously," she said. "I come from a tradition that is perhaps a little too suspicious of people who wear their faith on their sleeves . . . so a lot of the talk about faith doesn't come naturally to me," she said.


Her conception of a snarky, impatient, somewhat passive aggressive deity is awfully familiar. It's not unusual for people with an immature and dishonest approach to see the divine as an extension of themselves. Her false modesty gambit in expressing a reluctance to discuss her alleged faith doesn't do much to cover that up. In context, it comes across as yuppie omerta and paranoia. The accidental honesty of confessing to trivializing God with self-serving "requests" doesn't help either. If you respect someone or something, you simply don't do that. I can easily see her petitioning with several thousand page volumes of carefully hedged, thoroughly mendacious and ultimately meretricious legalisms -- perhaps along the lines of that HillaryCare farce. It would be a real coup for her to drag down something so grand and so important to many people. I don't think she can help herself, quite honestly. It's not what I would call evil per se, but it's a banality of the soul and a core contempt for anything good that puts evil well within her reach. In an effort to satisfy the dime's worthers, I would call it a "lesser evil" than Bush's full blown psychotic relationship with the divine and will happily admit that her's has had a lot more thought put into it.

Up from the ground comes a-bubblin' crude

Hadn't heard recently from Mr Y, my cookie-pushing Deep Throat in Foggy Bottom. I was starting to wonder whether he'd been renditioned somewhere, but don't he call me just as I'm conducting a dream interview with an oddly still-blooming Shana Alexander.

"Big Oil still rocks the occ, Paine! Shit, does it get any better -- those greedy fucking tar monkeys can't let go of the raisins in the jar. But they're trapped by the small neck, with a full fist. Can't get it out, but won't drop the caper and get themselves the fuck out either!"

Y is of course gabbling all about the pending -- ever-pending, in fact -- draft oil law for Iraq that would allow big TNC energy a nice Assyrian share of the country's oil.

BTW, our moth boy on the Hill, Dennis the K, playing his usual hapless Mad-Magazine Cassandra, yelped all about this for time umpteen from the floor of the house last month:


Except for three scant lines, the entire 33 page "Hydrocarbon Law," is about creating a complex legal structure to facilitate the privatization of Iraqi oil. As such, it in imperative that all of us carefully read the Iraqi Parliament's bill because the Congress is on the record in promoting oil privatization.

This war is about oil.

We must not be party to the Administration's blatant attempt to set the stage for multinational oil companies to take over Iraq's oil resources.

Where can this all go? Here's Mr Y's take: "So long as the oil isn't getting pumped by anyone else, and the crude price stays over 50 bucks, its still win/win for big energy. "

June 9, 2007

The turd, Reich

Meet America's top class warrior, according to Dean Baker:


Title: "Robert Reich Is Scared of Competing With Smart Immigrants."

Yes, the main enemy on the Dean's list is not seven seas-worthy corporate buccanneers, it's our stay-at-home hyper-meritoids, like Sir Bobby Reich, the pint-sized prog knight, formerly of Clinton round table I. A guy with a reputation for lifetime goo-goo kindness to his lessers, a corner man, even, for all us lowly wagelingers.

But here's Baker's take on Bob: sure, guys like him want to comp and restore all our millions of bloodied and bowed prolios, all of us that got, are getting, and are yet to get jobsapped by "the blunt edge of globality."

Indeed it is Bobby's M.O.: make 'em as whole as can be, and then toss 'em right back in the open trade ring for another round of "take this, you fat yankee swine."

To be perfectly fair -- which Dean ain't -- Bobby's no Greg Mankiw. Hell, if some poor battered wage stiff had the Mank in his corner, he'd get filled with nothing but Wall Street moonshine. "Forget that shutup eye, and the river of blood running down into your mouth and the broken right hand... yer killin' him, Homer... plain killin' him... why, one more round like the last, and Mr Fast Foot Work Wonton over there'll be nose deep in the canvas."

That's not Bobby's way. Bobby cries for us and binds our wounds like Walt Whitman. But still there is no possible "no mas" in the Bobby playbook. And here's the rub, sez Dean: Reich has a double standard -- one for us dimbo wageryites, and another for his beloved brainery.

Take Reich on the proposed new merit-ranked immigration quotas. Here's Baker:

...when it comes to policies that could tilt the playing field the other way, so that less educated workers benefit from immigration (lower wages for highly-educated workers, means lower prices for the goods and services they produce and therefore higher real wages for those in the middle and bottom) Reich gets on Marketplace Radio to denounce them.
Sure enough, Dean is onto some heavy merit class hypocrisy here. But should this deep "other" class truth be a basis for a wedge?

I say no. I say all us doughfaced proles and plebs oughta accept any "class acts" we can get on our side -- just so long as they follow us and don't try to lead the parade, as is their mommy's dream for them.

To me, baiting the success progs from down here at street level is a fools' game. Badgering doctors and lawyers and professors and other such highly credentialed frauds is no way to focus a movement against corporate-sponsored wide-open borders. I say, let 'em keep their gates closed -- if they can -- but let's find an answer to all our woes, one that lifts all "working boats" at once, like perpetually chockfull employment, and a dollar sunk so low it ain't worth a third what it's worth today over there in South world.

I hear the hoarse demotic bellow, "bring 'em down! If we can't climb, at least we can knock those high and mighty windsurfers off their pedestals." I hear and sympathize. But getting us to try and spread the misery is the final tower troll monty.

Haven't we, at least since Nixon, been cheering every time mister secular halo takes one on the snoot in the public square? And where's that got us?

Dean's wrong precisely for being so right. so far the merits have not felt the lash, but that is about to change, if it hasn't already. The merits are becoming our natural allies. Their platinum number's already being carefully punched, and they know it. TNC America is on a 35-year roll, leaving the bottom 80% dumped and draggled in its wake. But it's also a one-way ticket to hell for another chunk -- an upper chunk, the top 20% of America's jobbery -- and that will not stop 'em. The boardroom course-setters will not change course now. In fact they can't stop themselves -- it's the logic of all bottom lines to keep on lowering costs everywhere and by any means.

And so we end up here, at the moment the next great import onslaught breaks over us, like Sony TV's, Toyotas and tomato pickers before them. This time it's cheap Asian hyper-brains. We are entering the era of the American brain-wave attacks, and they'll crash over our meritoids' heads and keep crashing, until enough of us stand up and shut the floodgates ourselves.

The first huge wave is now on order, and ready to ship our way, if and when the new-model immigration bill escapes the Hill. If it does we'll surely see the beginnings of Dean's revenge, as hundreds of thousands of holier-than-thou symbol-smiths panic and rush toward our mugs' don't-tread-on-me banner.

It's only a matter of time, and plastic surgeons will be elbow to elbow with rubbermaids.

June 11, 2007

Raised pinky meets brass knuckles

It hadda happen: Leon Wieseltier, of The Bananas Republic, has given us a whole morning's worth of thumbsucking about The Sopranos:



REALLY, THE MOST that can be said of a great film is not that it is like a great book. Film is its own literature; and whereas I understand the comparisons of The Sopranos to the masterpieces of the realist novel, and I myself have not been immune to the hyperbolic impulse in praising this magnificent enterprise, it strikes me that the achievement of The Sopranos is not so much that it puts you in mind of Balzac or Dickens, but that here on television, for most of a decade, were tales that could stand in the company of Fassbinder, and Kieslowski, and Mike Leigh, and Chabrol.

The subtle ramifications of plot and character; the absence of vulgarity (I mean vulgarity in the bad sense) from this painstaking investigation of the most vulgar people on earth; the close braiding of comedy and tragedy, so that neither optimism nor pessimism is ever the last word; the unrelenting maturity of attention that it demands of its viewers: the thing is so good it is almost not American.

The Sopranos stands as a lasting chastisement of its medium, in that it accomplishes what American television most abhors: an improvement, by means of art, of the American sense of reality.

If there were a Nobel Prize for bombast, this guy would win it, hands down. He "has not been immune to the hyperbolic impulse?" We've all noticed that, Leon.

Reading a Wieseltier essay is a bit like digging a trench in really wet, clayey, gluey soil. I don't know if it's quite such good exercise, or so morally uplifting, but it does give you plenty of time for thought, as you turn over spadeful after backbreaking spadeful of leaden verbiage.

I particularly loved the bit about "improving the American sense of reality," considering that Leon writes for a publication which has shown an almost heroic determination to keep reality "far away from us," to borrow a line from Fiddler On The Roof.

There is of course a point of resemblance between the New Republic and the Soprano family: they're both gangs of thugs. There, however, the resemblance ends. The Sopranos are funny, and entertaining, and even oddly likable, none of which can be said for The New Republic. And the Sopranos are a lot tougher. How I would love to see Marty and Leon saunter into the Bada Bing Lounge and start laying down the law. Intellectual mafia meets the real thing -- and wouldn't fare any better than intellectual aristocracy in the analogous predicament.

June 13, 2007

The spoilers of office

Seems by their claw marks here that both our fearless comrades J Alva "Alpha" Scruggs and Ground Xeno buy Josh Frank's spoiler wreck-all strategy:


Both parties in 2008, as my Green Party pal pointed out, must be challenged. And I don't think an all-out fifty state campaign is the best approach to holding them accountable. As a minority, we may not be able to beat the Republicans, but we sure as hell have the ability to put tangible pressure of the Democrats. And that's why we ought to focus our efforts on two states only: Ohio and Florida....

The 2008 election is for the Democrats to lose. Let's spoil it.

Me too. I say we hamstring those fuckin' donks -- make 'em hobble and trip over their hooves. Let's fuck 'em and fuck 'em good. Let's block off the hoofbeaten pathway to the trough of office. Let's bust up that smirky, head-nodding, hee-hawing, clopitty-clop "ain't this just grand" red-white-and-blue progress toward the great white palace off the Penn! Here's some slogan suggestions. Improvements welcome:
  • No more purple fingers for me!
  • Purple finger nyet!
  • Vote never again!
  • March on occupied Washington
  • Block the smurf voting stations!
  • No more November line dancing!
  • End the great American mockocracy!

Blame it on the Veba Nova

The tower trolls are 24/7/365 maximizers, aren't they, coming up with new higher highs and lower lows all the time. Here's a specimen of their latest model for that oldest of something-out-of-nothing gambits, the famed "rip dip flip and skip"...


...as incarnated by the proud new owners of Chrysler Motors, namely Cerberus Capital Management:

In its 15 years of operation, Cerberus has bought up companies in a range of industries, from real estate to governmental outsourcing services to firearms to transportation .... Cerberus .... institutes cost-cutting measures and sells the restructured companies back to investors at big profits.... Last year it began making bids for a number of pieces of the U.S. auto industry.... GM's lucrative financing arm, GMAC, Tower Automotive, and Delphi.... GDX Automotive, CTA Acoustics, Guildford Mills, and Peguform....
A metal eating Wall Street ogre indeed. While you're reading, savor well my favorite new wrinkle in the benefit strip fob-off department: introducing la VEBA, aka the Voluntary Employees Beneficiary Association: if Cerberus can stir one of these into the mix, the flatfooted UAW itself will end up assuming "a huge chunk of Chrysler's health care costs."

Mark this gimmick down: you're likely to see it a lot in the next few years, at least until Uncle Sam sweeps all this unfunded corporate liability onto the taxpayers' plate. (BTW, "GM and Ford have sought similar agreements in the last two years.")

To get an idea of the money at stake if this Big Three offload on to the UAW goes through, "the UAW'S VEBA would assume an estimated $95 billion in current and future health care costs." Result: "the UAW could be forced to administer health care concessions to its own members."

So much for the treaty of Detroit, eh? Can it get any richer, uncle Walt?

I doubt it. So is our noble UAW ready to rumble -- ready to take all those fuckin' plants down with 'em, if that's what it takes?

Do you have to ask? Seems Gettlefinger's gang of lawful resolutes prefer -- drum roll please -- a vigorous legal gambit. Their model: those paragons of hard-biting, bare-knuckle struggle, the steelworkers, who though not having conducted any "successfully waged full-scale fightbacks", have had none the less "some limited success in using" -- grip something well bolted down now -- "strong successorship language in contracts"! Oh, and they've come forth to battle fire-breathing "financial tactics" too!

Oh sister Flynn, where be the likes of Big Bill and Jolly Joe Ettor when the mates really really need 'em?

Cheer up, Doug

Does Father Smiff's pal Doug Henwood really get it?


Sure, he can hit the spot:

What is it with people on the left? So eager to put 30 million people out of work -- the modern equivalent of the 1929-32 rise in unemployment -- to make a political point?
But does he understand how the big system works -- the global TNC express?
Populism is almost always by definition vague; it rarely has an analysis more profound than "somebody's ripping us off," nor a prescription more detailed than a change of personnel. Some resentment against "trade agreements" was mobilized, but legal documents like NAFTA have a lot less to do with the world that has emerged over the last couple of decades than the relentless lowering of transportation and communications costs, which have made global production networks possible, and the deliberate attacks on unions and welfare states.

In any case, the lesson I learned from the 1987 crash was that the ruling class had mastered the art of state--led bailouts. Despite all their talk of market discipline, they would never hesitate to mobilize the full resources of government to keep the economy from imploding. Left untreated, an implosion would impoverish the rich -- and enough other people to threaten political stability. So the savings & loans were bailed out to the tune of $200 billion, with hardly any public debate -- no talk, for example, of turning the failed institutions into democratically controlled development banks. Citibank was quietly nationalized until it could get back on its feet. And Alan Greenspan, that Ayn Rand protege who never shied away from using the state to rescue troubled capitalists, drove interest rates way down and kept them there, which kept the heavily indebted and their bankers alive. Of course, that round of low interest rates helped launch the stock market bubble of the 1990s. And when that bubble burst in 2000, Greenspan & Co. were there again to push interest rates down even lower. And that round of low interest rates helped launch the housing bubble of the early oughts -- ad infinitum.

Sidelight: Doug shares a fond fear of the prudent prog:

What guarantee would there be that people would look to humane collective action in a crisis? They could just as easily fall in step with jackbooted xenophobes.
But here's the rub, a limp reflective causology, bad meme moonshine:
But why has the class war been so easy? Why has there been so little resistance? There are several reasons, among them the atomization and political disengagement of the American masses. But I'd also want to emphasize the durability of that Yankee-Protestant tradition in the culture... American Protestants [palefaced wage class division included -- O.P]... have long had a deep sympathy for The Market. Since they see humans as fallen, corrupt creatures always in need of a good kick in the ass, they revere it as a wonderful mechanism of social discipline, punishing the lazy and rewarding the hard-working. If people are poor, it's because they're immoral, impatient, or wasteful.
He even quotes the great C Wright Mills:
[A]mong the mass distractions this feeling [of rage at the latest 'crisis and scandal'] soon passes harmlessly away. For the American distrust of the high and mighty is a distrust without doctrine and without political focus; it is a distrust felt by the mass public as a series of more or less cynically expected disclosures.
Hell, sez Doug, the smurfy hoi-polloi fools don't even believe its... a struggle!
the electorate despises conflict, and has a naive idea that politics isn't about struggles over principles and material shares, but working for the common good
So cometh a bilious pessimism:
even things that shouldn't involve much shaking, like national health insurance, seem only slightly less impossible than total revolution.
...and yet Isaiah speaks to the nation:
in many areas of political life there is no common good. The normal operation of the economic system requires that some do badly so that a few do well, and any attempt to redress that imbalance is going to provoke conflict. There's no painless way to make the poor less poor or the middle more secure; people at the top will have to be expropriated. It's very hard to say that in public in the USA.
Doug, think a little more about the international angle, and you might brighten your complexion. Pondering the imperial dollar might set your mind into forward struggle gear. You've missed one of the biggest boats of all, and it's a pop boat. Here's your list of job killers: ... relentless lowering of transportation and communications costs, which have made global production networks possible, and the deliberate attacks on unions and welfare states. No mention of the duo of doom, a monstrously overvalued north vs. south forex policy, to facilitate southbound capital export, and a sector-by-sector "open wide" north from south products import policy.

The ready remedy for both is pure populism: dive the dollar, and give us domestic job helots half a chance.

A fair trade dollar is also a high wage dollar -- as we've mentioned ad nauseam -- so we call for a movement that is a true daughter of the classic Bryanism crusade.

All is a-building toward nasty -- the paleface wagery may run, but they can't hide. They will be pushed to push back -- maybe not on your hurry-up schedule, Doug, but they will.

The tower fuckers haven't got the deal "dicked". It ain't gray all the way, just 'cause they'll lay off those 30 million American souls we lefticles dream of, over a Procrustean dollar bed, not a one-off, big-bang, financial '29-type nuking.

Ahh, Clio's million moles, how they tunnel -- even as we gassify and moan. "When will it all end?" When Clio's damn good and ready, and not a decade before or after.

June 14, 2007

Lantos alert

Thus the Count:


"Communism was not the only monstrous phenomenon determined to destroy free and open societies," said Lantos, who is chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Lantos, a Holocaust survivor, said he had fought against Nazism and communism, and "it is now my privilege to fight against Islamic terrorism determined to take us back 13 centuries."

Our man made this final fusion of fiends at the dedication of Washington's wonderful new bronze replica (shown left) of the Tiananmen students' famed "Sister Freedom" statue, which was itself a clumsy papier-mache copy of the Statue of Liberty. The CIA needs to recruit more art students, obviously -- this monstrosity was clearly cobbled together by a cabal of aspiring MBAs and computer programmers.

Much here to rechew, isn't there, for all us thoughtful ruminants. Casting the silly thing in bronze certainly ups the kitsch factor of the original. Nicely mirrors the degeneration of the idea of liberty itself.

June 18, 2007

taxation and misrepresentation

Even old Paul Krugman knows that when it comes to globalization, our great inter-income bracket reshuffle and deal isn't really between the bottom 80 and the top 20 -- it's more like all us geefy sucker-class 99ers are getting the rat-towel ass-flick from that enterprising top one percent.

But there's no end of fallback diversions. Handy exhibit, from the WSJ:


Bush adviser and prof at the famed Amos Tuck school of bizzzennnesss -- obviously both a scholar and a gentleman -- suggests that to reduce inequality, Uncle just up the payroll taxes on the above median wage workers and eliminate them on the bottom half.

Nice, eh? It's right out of the Greg Mankiw school of Mephistophelian grand rube bargains. One hopes even that Solomon of top decider-presumptives, St Hill, won't jump on this poison class wedge remedy. Doesn't seem likely. She might possibly just restore the status quo ante -- slap back on the Clinton 200k-plus tax rate structure, and administer a little whack to the top -- what, 5%? Not exactly the merit-class breadbasket, but surely its hubris elite.

What none of 'em will do is whack the donor class, with reversals of all the "incentivizing" tax cuts her hubbie and George Jr gave the capital-gains club.

Ahhh them one-percenters -- they sure can rock!

June 20, 2007

Flanders fields, Aronowitz strikes out

Stanley Aronowitz has never been a particular hero of mine, but I warmed to him a bit last night, as he administered a gila-monster gnawing to the well-turned fetlock of Laura Flanders, shown above, a niece of Alex Cockburn and, I regret to say, something of a white sheep in that fine family of very, very black ones.

Now any guy who could brave the seas of matrimony in a boat with the late (and by me, unlamented) Ellen Willis has got to have more than enough dura-ilia to take on a young person from Air America. And he had the advantage of being, so to speak, of the devil's party. But still, unequal as the combat was, it was fun to watch, in a mean-spirited, sadistic way – up to a point.

The occasion was a debate in New York, sponsored by Left Forum and The Nation, on that great, evergreen question, “Can progressives move the Democratic Party to the left?”

Continue reading "Flanders fields, Aronowitz strikes out" »

June 21, 2007

When I hear the phrase 'grand strategy'....

Feet of Clay Dept.:

I now read the blog of Harvard-perched Dani Rodrik quite regularly. He's very clever, but this post got my teeth gnashing:


Dani's lead: "This is the best thing I have read from a political scientist in a while...." Not saying a lot, admittedly – but even so, it's spectacularly bad: brass-trumpeting, coneheaded, Merlin-of-empire clarionizing by a Princeton poli-wog:

The grand strategy America needs to pursue in the years ahead is not one aimed at a particular threat but rather at restoring its role as the recognized and legitimate leader of the system and rebuilding the institutions and partnerships upon which this leadership position is based....

The grand strategy I am proposing can be called liberal order building. It is essentially a 21st century version of the strategy that the United States pursued after World War II in the shadow of the Cold War -- a strategy which produced the liberal hegemonic order that has provided the framework for the Western and global system ever since....

American power is put in the service of an agreed upon system of Western-oriented global governance. American power is made acceptable to the world because it is embedded in these agreed upon rules and institutions.... The system itself leverages resources and fosters cooperation that makes the actual functioning of the order one that solves problems, creates stability, and allows democracy and capitalism to flourish. Liberal order building is America's distinctive contribution to world politics.

My lord, and I thought Dani was a real emerging-worldview prog? Maybe he sees this as a near perfect synthesis of the liberal pandemonium's conventional wisdom -- but if so, say so, for God's sake. Really now -- a new protocol of empire "the best thing I've read in eons?" Poor Dani may be just an Ivy League merit noodle after all, if the likes of this "we earthlings need a return to adult management" crap gets him scratching his wonderdome in admiration.

Sometimes I wonder

Die Tradition aller toten Geschlechter lastet wie ein Alp auf dem Gehirne der Lebenden.* -- Karl Marx

Owen alluded recently to my fondness for Doug Henwood's Left Business Observer and the mailing list associated with it, lbo-talk. I cheerfully admit the charge, even though lbo-talk is certainly by far the most irascible, uncivil, squabblesome e-mail list I have ever seen -- and that's saying a lot. Doug himself has a listowner style strongly reminiscent of Don Rickles. But I like it anyway -- or maybe, that's why I like it. Too much damn civility and sensitivity going around. Fuck 'em if they can't take a joke, as Jack Nicholson says in some movie, I've forgotten which.

Still, sad to say, even in this coven of highly advanced Marxoids, it's amazing what a grip the Democratic Party retains on the minds of many. I don't usually call attention to my own japeries in other fora -- seems like the ultimate in blogger narcissism -- but I'll make an exception for once.

On the mailing list yesterday, a thread erupted (sounds like something a carbuncle would do, doesn't it?) in response to tiny poison toad Mike Bloomberg's disaffiliation from the pachyderms and apparent intent to self-fund an independent run. Naturally it wasn't long before somebody bemoaned the likely effect on the Democrats. Also naturally, I took the bait and we were off to the races. A few excerpts:

Michael Smith wrote:

> On Wednesday 20 June 2007 14:27, Andy F wrote:
> >  We'd be able to
> > relive the whole Nader thing again.
> How I wish. 

Oh, and that worked out SO well. (And I voted for Nader in 2000.)

* * *

the Democrats (it seems to me) represent a weak but present barrier against a full blown assault on labour, women, gay, black people, etc. While the initial setback of the demolition of the Democrats might be a positive, even necessary, step in the direction of a long- lasting solution for these groups and the underlying ideologies, what of the suffering caused in the transition period? Are those directly affected ready and able to bear that cost?

* * *

Do you believe the Democrats do not contribute in providing some roadblocks to erosion of workplace rights, abortion rights, affirmative action, etc? No doubt they have been extravagantly cowardly in the aftermath of 9/11, but they did manage to push through a minimum wage increase, and will I think shoot down any possible Bush nominees to the Supreme Court who are off the centre. These are small and uncertain gains, but as Doug points out they may be the only ones available to the respective constituents....who is to make the call? Surely not me, sitting in my position of privilege? If the unions, NOW, HRC, etc endorse the Dems, what next?

* * *

On Jun 20, 2007, at 6:14 PM, Michael Smith wrote:

> I think it worked out very well. It denied the 
> Democrats a victory.  
> True, like
> the Bourbons, they've still learned nothing 
> and forgotten nothing,  
> and for
> the same reason, but perhaps if we keep doing 
> it to them they will  
> fall apart
> and clear the ground.

For what? Just what are the Dems blocking? The revolutionary urge of the masses? When they fall, this frustrated and hitherto unexpressed revolutionary urge will spontaneously organize itself into a party and program? If there were all this bottled-up lust for transformative politics, why couldn't Ralph break 5%?

* * *

The stupidity I was talking about was yours, Michael, sorry to say....

1. The Democrats will not go away, wither away, disappear, or otherwise do our work for us if they lose the next election. The two-party system is just too useful. They will just shift further right again, while the GOP continues to fall into the Schwarzchild radius of Christofascism. 2. The masses are not quivering on the brink of left wing revolution; the people who are organized to take advantage of a political vacuum want things that you don't even want to think about, theocracy....

3. Sure, the masses might run up the red flag and start singing The Internationale tomorrow, and pigs might grow wings and fly, but "the beans might be magic" is a pretty poor substitute for political analysis. Why on earth should be base a political strategy on the possibility that for reasons no one can explain, all the observable forces now in motion, with all their inertia, might inexplicably reverse direction?

4. I love that "yeah, well, there might be some suffering if the Democrats collapse, but social upheaval involves suffering." You're pretty fucking blithe about it. Omelets and eggs, yawn? The worse the better? "Nach Hitler Uns!" Gee, that didn't work out so well either. No wonder the far left has about as much traction on the working class as a flea on ice.

5. Our alternatives suck. The Democrats are lousy, they will sell us out, they are in the process of doing so. Again. The Republicans are threatening to put the lights out for real. Our enemies are extremely well organized. We are fucked sideways.

6. I kind of agree... that the best thing we can do is help organize in movements. That's not inconsistent with an open eyed support of less obnoxious Democrats. It doesn't require such support, but when I look at what the Supreme Court just did to the Equal Pay Act, I think maybe it's nor such a bad idea, as long as we are clear that this isn't a step towards the revo. It's just as step back from the abyss.

* * *

At 05:14 PM 6/20/2007, you wrote:
>perhaps if we keep doing it to them they will fall apart
>and clear the ground.
well, it could be paving the way for bloomies as the new party, eh? :) i mean, like clearing the way for what? exactly? clearing the way ain't going to bring the demise of capitalism or anything else, no more than the upheavals of the 60s (watergate, pentagon papers, etc.) cleared the way for anything other than more of the same. and we're in worse shape, now, in terms of any kind of organized political infrastructure to take advantage of such crises, than we were in the 60s/70s.
Now you wouldn't be surprised to read this stuff on Daily Kos, but on lbo-talk? These guys and gals are such fire-eating Reds they make Trotsky look like Kautsky. And man oh man, are they ever intellectuals! They eat Foucault for breakfast, dine on Hegel auf Deutsch, take a little shot of Nietzsche as a nightcap. Yet the sorry old Democratic Party seems to have planted its brain bug all the same in a good many of these mighty intellects.

And what to make of the masochistic delight with which the direness of our predicament is so lip-smackingly delineated? What is that about? Aren't revolutionaries supposed to be, like, hopeful? Not this gang -- instead we get the prisoner's dithyramb to his chains. O mighty chains! Chains of steel! You hold me so tight, chains! I'll never get out of you, O chains, no matter how I writhe and wriggle! You are some chains, O chains!

* All the stuff handed down from every generation of the dead weighs heavy as a nightmare on the brains of the living.

June 24, 2007

Eleanor Digby; or, All the lonely people

I've become that bitter guy mental hygiene enthusiasts scorn -- a cankered, unempathic, self-absorbed turtle, completely beyond reclamation. The inbite of lifelong failure will often do that to a mirror-stage dropout. So who am I then to cast stones when I puddle up some feckless cast-iron prose oddity?

But then arrives Ms Digby's anointing:


... and I can't help it, I cast stones as fast as I can.

Why at her in particular, so recently bronzed as the official hood ornament for all prog-blog leapers across America? Let me put it to you this way: it's like finding your grinless silent fast-departing pimple-sized audience is not laffin' or diggin' it 'cause the fuckers are just stone deaf.

In the land of the deaf and dumb, Digby is queen. She's the beltway pundits' platonic form of a netroots insurgent, and for the best of reasons: she's a fuckin' high-C fool, just the ticket for the corporate party lite's co-opt act.

In Herself's 'umble "I accept this for all of us" speech for the mediocrity-of-the-year award linked to above, our gal reveals -- in a compact sort of way -- much of what lies behind the triple-bolted Green Door. This award exposes by her very selection the internet dirty-tricks detour sign set up to divert the flow of the coming mass rising of the mittelstand jobbler zillions. It's to be staffed by these Digby, Donatello and Stoller types. They and their familiars will be the phalanx of false prophets promoted by the corporate-sponsored MSM guide to the netroots.

But enough of generality – let's dive in. Here's an example of darling Ms Digby's fatuous preening (try to chew this, you melancholy curs):

We [prog-bloggers] are, in short, something of an enigma. I like to call this phenomenon--irrational fear of hippies which has, in my view, become--irrational fear of political passion.
Something of an enigma? To whom, good hearted crusader, are y'all any sort of "enigma"? For fucksake, Lassie could size you up. And exactly in whose evil heart have you sown "fear" of your "passion"?

How Blanche Dubois you are, my dear... passion passion passion! One sniffles in nervous embarrassment at this flowering into divahood. How predictable is it that a closet histrionic might suddenly explode into unbecoming self-display upon the receipt of a statuette.

Our gal points out,

... passion sometimes manifests itself as anger.... how can you not be angry, when [get set for the Sunday punch -O.P.] So many institutions have failed us in the last decade.... [B]eing vitriolic seems the only sane response.

Indeed it is, if you plan on doing nothing about it. And if we need to wax "vitriolic" – then what a venue the internet portal provides! Out there, through its wires, waiting in their cubicles, are all us fellow-travellers aboard Spaceship Myfuckinjobsucks, primed for a political passion movement, and it's wild, baby, wild!

If you have something to say you can say it -- and if it touches a chord, people will return time and again to read what you've written and discuss the issues of the day with others who are reading the same things.
At any rate she's dead right here -- all it takes is a 'net hookup to join one of a jillion digital prog villages out there in Virtualistan, Every village has a special smile all its own, but they all have in common that everybody's dressed anyhow, and largely from anywhere. So come join us and be welcomed! -- at least so long as your head's inside the same rainbow, so to speak.

Just what, according to Digby, is the deep shared structural motive of all these conspicuously bright-colored conspiring conclaves?

All of us who blog in the progressive blogosphere, have a common goal.... We want to... take back America.
Wait! Wait! Stop the march music! “Take back America”? Back from who? (Or do I mean whom?) Why, from Dick Cheney and company -- Darth Amerika as opposed to “our” America.

Okay, swell, let's give it a whirl -- but first, my dear, tell me why all these "institutions" have "failed us" in the first place.

Now I agree, institutions everywhere – publical, civical, academical, foundational, corporational, NPO, NGO, arpeggio -- they've all "failed" us -- but did they fail themselves? Was it a case of mass institutional capture by black-hat Darths, cheered on by the likes of Bill Bennett and Martin Feldstein? Or was it something... much worse?

Advice to you, my queen, before you ride out agin' 'em with your posse of well-intended white-bonneted ronin -- first uncover the full dimensions of this Darth Amerika you are fixin' to wrest institutional power from.

And start by checking right there inside your own headgear. Imagine we are all Darth Amerika's pod people. It's kinda like the total depravity doctrine of classical Calvinism. You gotta figure, since we're all infected, Darth Amerika's agents, aware or unaware, are already inside every big or little tent, behind every curtain -- not just up there in every tower office, but down below, too, in every cellar hideout, waiting, and watching, and ready to talk up a gibberish storm.

To be specific: check out this plague-carrying meme emerging from your own mellifluous throat:

We all agree that Islamic terrorism is a threat, but one which we cannot meet with military power alone.
Now that right there, all by itself, will send you on a permanent set of bummer head trips. There's something called “terrorism”? Islamic terrorism? A "threat"? Military power -- alone?! Yikes! Kill the pig! Kill the pig!

If you buy that crap, then you are a Darth bot, an agent in good standing of black-hat Amerika. Say this to yourself over and over: "Digby! There is no terrorist threat to nice decent America -- only to Darth Amerika! Digby! The use of the Darth empire's military power is never justified!"

Do it, gal! You gotta purge, baby, purge! Free your mind of corporate gremlins! Exorcise yourself -- the unexorcised life is not worth living. Go vomit up all this corporate bile, all this satanic alphabet soup, you've swallowed over the years, just like all the rest of us. Then go ahead, be fuckin' "passionate".

Obiter inventum

Owen gives me a hard time about liking lbo-talk, but every so often there's a gem:
Several posts have distinguished between the [Democratic Party] leadership and its hypothetical base, without really specifying what the latter consists of. The implication is that the "base" of the DP is a mass base, that is, that it consists of the people whose interests the DP serves or pretends to serve -- labor, minorities, women, etc. But this is to confuse the DP with the traditional Social-Democratic parties of Europe, operating within parliamentary regimes.

Neither the DP nor the RP has a base in that sense nor has either ever had one. The only base either party has is made up of local party organizations. Local elected officials (e.g., the Daley machine in Chicago). Local and State labor bureaucrats. Local NOW or NAACP chapters. A few small businessmen (even in areas controlled by the opposing party), etc. The political principles of these local organizations are for the most part whatever principles will maintain the organization in existence. In scattered cases that means principles which would appeal to leftists, but with almost no exceptions, these particular local organizations are practical leftists, that is they will go through all the motions of pushing their politics, but in the last instance will always join in the unanimous nomination of the winner at the Convention and campaign for him or her.

References to the DP's base on this list confuse the base of the party with the large masses of "abstract -- isolated -- individuals" who can be shuffled to the polls by these organizations or can be corraled by TV ads. But these voters are no part at all of The Party -- either its base or its leadership. And they cannot be reached by working "inside" the DP because that is not where they are, except for 5 minutes every 4 years (for some of them every 2 years).

The last place on earth to go looking for DP voters is inside the DP. I agree, of course, that when a left appears in this country, it will consist mostly of DP voters. But as long as the Myth of the DP survives, leftists won't put their brains to work figuring out how to 'get' these voters for left causes.

June 28, 2007

The Nation does Venezuela

I'm on an lbo-talk jag this week, I guess. One of my favorite contributors there is Yoshie Furuhashi, who also writes for MRZine. Today in lbo-talk she contributed the following:

When "social democrats of mediocre caliber" take a break from the hard work of helping the empire destroy the Middle East's only republican democracy, what do they do? They get on the case of Venezuela. Naturally.


Revolution in Venezuela?
by Joaquín Villalobos

Hugo Chávez has committed a grave error in closing down the opposition TV station, which has been on the air a half-century. Like it or not, this was not a frontal attack on the economic elite but rather a blow to the cultural identity of millions of Venezuelans--and it will have severe consequences for the government. Trying to replace popular soap operas and game shows watched by the poor with pathetic "revolutionary" programming is as bad as leaving them without food.

The Nation identifies [author] Joaquín Villalobos only as "top commander and strategist of the leftist FMLN in El Salvador, [who] was a principal in the 1992 peace accords," but Villalobos, having left the FMLN (more than a decade ago), became a hard-line critic of the Left and tried (but failed) to get a centrist party called the Partido Democrático really off [the] ground in El Salvador. He is now a friend of Álvaro Uribe* and a member of Inter-American Dialog:


What's Inter-American Dialog's agenda for Venezuela? Among other things, it aims to:

Closely track political developments in Venezuela and publicly identify violations of democratic norms and practices....(Michael Shifter, "Hugo Chávez: A Test for U.S. Policy / Hugo Chávez: Un Desafío para la Política Exterior de los Estados Unidos," A Special Report of the Inter- American Dialogue, March 2007, http://www.thedialogue.org/publications/2007/spring/venezuela.pdf, http://www.thedialogue.org/publications/2007/spring/chavez_esp.pdf)


*"Starting in 1992, Villalobos founded the Democratic Party and converted to pragmatism, harshly criticizing his former comrades from the Farabundo Marti Front for National Liberation. Nowadays he's a 'mediator of conflicts' and advisor to Uribe, the Colombian president who's so friendly to the paramilitaries and has shadowy links with the world of drug-traffickers." (Higinio Polo, "La lucidez del converso," El Viejo Topo, 14 October 2004, http://www.rebelion.org/noticia.php?id=6000).

June 29, 2007

Two cheers for Ann Coulter

pic of Ann Coulter

pic of John Edwards

Oh the outraged propriety!


[P]residential candidate John Edwards told ABC News he was "very proud" of his wife, Elizabeth, for confronting conservative provocateur Ann Coulter the day before for her comments.... "I think she was making it clear that we can't continue to tolerate this kind of name-calling and hate-mongering," Edwards said. "We have to elevate the discussion...."

"These personal attacks, that the things she has said over the years not just about John but about other candidates, it lowers our political dialogue precisely at the time that we need to raise it," said [Elizabeth] Edwards. "So I want to use the opportunity to ask her politely stop the personal attacks."

I'm with Coulter on this one. I think we need to lower the tone, not raise it. No wonder people hate the Democrats -- the party of Good Manners and Elevated Diction. Bleccchh!

About June 2007

This page contains all entries posted to Stop Me Before I Vote Again in June 2007. They are listed from oldest to newest.

May 2007 is the previous archive.

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