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January 2008 Archives

January 1, 2008

Happy New Year; and, a cautionary tale

Happened across this item:


Sara Jane Moore, the self-styled radical who earned an infamous role in the parlous politics of 1970s America by trying to assassinate President Gerald Ford in San Francisco, was paroled Monday from a Bay Area federal prison after serving more than 30 years, a spokesman for the federal Bureau of Prisons said.
The rather sad Sara Jane and the rather sad Gerald Ford would seem to have been made for each other, but their karmic mutual consummation was frustrated -- does anybody remember this? -- by a chap named Oliver Sipple, who had, I think, a more interesting and evocative story than either the President or the quasi-assassin:


Sipple was born in Detroit, Michigan. He served in the United States Marines and saw action in Vietnam. Shrapnel wounds suffered in December 1968 caused him to finish out his tour of duty in a Philadelphia veterans hospital....

Listed as being totally disabled on psychological grounds.... he lived, with a merchant seaman roommate, in a fourth-floor walk-up apartment located in San Francisco's Mission District...

Sipple was part of a crowd of about 3,000 people who had gathered outside San Francisco's St. Francis Hotel to see President Ford on September 22, 1975.

... Sipple noticed a woman next to him had pulled and levelled a .38-caliber pistol as Ford headed to his limousine.... Sipple lunged at the woman, Sara Jane Moore, just as her finger squeezed the trigger....

Despite [Sipple's] wishes, gay activist and politician Harvey Milk publicly proclaimed Sipple a "gay hero" ... Then columnist Herb Caen published the private side of the former Marine's story in the San Francisco Chronicle.... Sipple's mother reacted to the knowledge of her son's sexual orientation by cutting off contact with him.

... Sipple's mental and physical health sharply declined over the years. He drank heavily, gained weight to 300 lbs, was fitted with a pacemaker, became paranoid and suicidal. On February 2, 1989, he was found dead in his bed, at the age of forty-seven.

I don't usually like stories that have morals, but this one is hard to escape: Next time you see somebody about to shoot a President -- mind your own business.

The infection goes deep, very deep

The last man standing, or even semi-recumbent, has just lain down flat:


Kucinich Urges Supporters to
Back Obama on Second Iowa Ballot

For Immediate Release - Tuesday, January 01, 2008

DES MOINES, IA - Democratic Presidential candidate and Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich opened the New Year by publicly asking his Iowa supporters to vote for him in the caucuses this Thursday, and suggesting that if he did not make the 15% threshold, their second ballot should be for Senator Barack Obama. "This is obviously an 'Iowa-only' recommendation, as Sen. Obama and I are competing in the New Hampshire primary next Tuesday where I want to be the first choice of New Hampshire voters.

"I hope Iowans will caucus for me as their first choice this Thursday, because of my singular positions on the war, on health care, and trade. This is an opportunity for people to stand up for themselves. But in those caucus locations where my support doesn't reach the necessary threshold, I strongly encourage all of my supporters to make Barack Obama their second choice. Sen. Obama and I have one thing in common: Change."

UPDATE: Obama responds:

"I have a lot of respect for Congressman Kucinich, and I’m honored that he has done this because we both believe deeply in the need for fundamental change....”

Poor Dennis. The Lesser Evil virus has reached the higher nerve centers. And he was such a mischievous, naughty boy when he was mayor of Cleveland.

Isn't it remarkable, too, much self-hypnosis can be achieved just by repeating the word "change" over and over again? It's like a meditation technique: Oooommm... Oooommm... Chaaaaange.... Chaaaange....

Of course this follows on yesterday's sad news:


Nader throws support to Edwards

MUSCATINE, Iowa — Ralph Nader unleashed on Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton Monday ... and expressed his strong support for John Edwards.... [i]n an eleventh hour effort to encourage liberal Iowans to "recognize" the former North Carolina senator by "giving him a victory."

... Nader, a four-time presidential candidate, called Edwards a Democratic "glimmer of hope.... It's the only time I've heard a Democrat talk that way in a long time"....

January 2, 2008

The new deal and the real deal

More thoughts on the second coming of FDR:

It would mean the empire would turn inward ... for a spell. The New Deal was not internationalist at all.

I'm not talking about the third term FDR -- that guy, the post September 39 FDR was not Mr New Deal anymore, he was CnC OF the world's new hegemony.

I'm talking about the first two terms ... the first deal and then the real deal.

The first deal was in essence ... and I emphasize in essence -- corporatism; i.e. it was Benito Lite. The National Recovery Act was an attempt to massively violate our constitution, our way of doing business and our sense of what made us America -- but that's about all the good I can say for it. As a way to end the Depression it was, on balance, worse than Hooverism -- once one recognizes the part of the first term that was entrained by Hoover's policies and agencies, many of which were kept in a holding pattern by Congressional dems, waiting for the First Coming, so to speak. (BTW there are more then mere shades of Clinton after Bush I in all this.)

Examples of Hoover endeavours that the New Deal implemented include, off the top of my head, the famed Inauguration Day bank holiday declaration, the nest egg of a new economic order, the reconstruction finance corporation, and best of all, the public works administration.

Let me note, by way of parallel-universing, a Hoover II would not have run the ship through its drills so briskly as the Featherduster was wont to, but if instead of Franklin we had had and American Stanley Baldwin, I doubt the bottom line diff would have been all that much in FDR's favor -- through mid-'34 or so.

But at that point Hoover drops into the dustbin, even in his own universe, because FDR pulled off a second deal even as he coasted through his first term without serious political challenges. And this deal was the real deal, the massive course correction that allowed us to build a world class transfer system and industrial union movement -- the measures, in other words, that brought us all we so cherish that's under siege today.

To be continued....

January 3, 2008

Their house is a museum,
Where people come to see 'em

I have a love-hate relationship with the Adams family.

Henry the famed draft dodger, journalist, and popular historian manages to focus both feelings inside my mental bowel quite sharply, in his (I think justly) praised "autobiography".

Here's a nice passages with timely import:

"nothing could surpass the nonsensity of trying to run so complex and so concentrated a machine [America in the 1890's] by southern and western farmers in grotesque alliance with city day laborers, as had been tried in 1800 and 1828 and had failed even under those simpler conditions."
Here's hank's nomination of the "two forces" that fought for control "for a hundred years between 1793-1893", forces that cause the American people to "hesitate, vacillate sway forward and backward": the "simply industrial" vs. "the capitalistic centralizing and mechanical."

Not the finest-edged of cutting instruments, to say the least.

Simply industrial? Huh? That one keeps me up at night trying to figure what it might and might not encompass. One notes the free labor ideal of the era, but here we have a soft-handed, ink-stained rentier, using "industrial", I guess, in the sense of Adam Smith's paradigm of pin-making. It's certain he has an 18th century model in his head; even if not yeoman-romantic it clearly was not Hamiltonian. (Seems Hank was a silver bug, God love him).

And yet he voted for Mckinley, one guesses out of a sense one needed to face the ugly mug of progress head-on.

I see the wellsprings of pwogressivism burbling here.

Clap if you believe

FDR all over again, part 3:

Placebo politics ... all the young dudes try to play that game, and FDR was a master of it, for sure, what with "all we've got to fear...", fireside chats can cure, etc.

"He restored America's respect for itself..." "got America to believe in itself again" -- Tinker Bell in a wheelchair.

Personally, I'm not much into faith healing. This shabby holy hot-air act weighs about as much in Clio's scales as fairy dust ought to. But certainly we have one candidature in today's field already feeding the masses this no-harm policy approach, and that's the candidature of the Obama outfit.

Like their blessed martyred template Mattress Jack, the barrack team digs the obvious "cost effectiveness" of serious high stakes placebo politics -- smoke and mirrors, being, of course, even cheaper than talk.

January 4, 2008

Burst, damn you, burst

MURRELLS INLET, South Carolina: Ettore and Larisa Costanzo are showing off their new house, which they love madly.

"Notice how we upgraded so there's tile on all the floors," Ettore Costanzo, a retiree from Brooklyn, said.

Now if only they could get the keys and go inside...

Their builder is Levitt & Sons, which ran out of cash in October and declared bankruptcy in November.

So the mighty Levitt & Sons corporation is broke and busted. I can't tell you how happy this makes me. Does anybody else remember that it was the original Levitt, William Levitt, builder of Levittown, who said, "No homeowner can be a Communist. He has too much to do."?

Here's a bit of thumbsucking from the Washington Post:

Everyone knows the direct causes of the present housing collapse: low interest rates, lax mortgage lending, rampant speculation. But the larger force lies in Americans' devotion to homeownership. It explains why government officials, politicians and journalists (including this one) overlooked abuses in "subprime" lending. The homeownership rate was approaching 70 percent in 2005, up from 64 percent in 1990. Great. A good cause shielded bad practices. The same complacency lulled ordinary Americans into paying ever-rising home prices. Something so embedded in the national psyche must be okay.
A "good cause"? What's good about it, other than enriching "developers" like Levitt and operating, as he astutely observed, as a first-class instrument of social control? As for our "devotion" to homeownership -- apparently a psychological given as far as the WaPo sage is concerned -- that is plainly an outcome of policy, or rather a whole congeries of policies, ranging from the mortgage-interest tax deduction to the socialization of "developers'" infrastructure costs.

I never cease to be amazed at how much Left discourse accepts the idea that house ownership is a good thing, and I'm dismayed by all the Left handwringing about the bursting of the speculative bubble. I hope it bursts so far and so fast it puts people off buying real estate for a generation.

It looks like... like...

Parsing Barack triumphator:

In a 1200-word speech, he used the word 'change' six times -- once every 200 words, on average; like the tolling of a tinny, cracked bell. He said 'belief' or 'believe' five times. He said 'hope' eight times -- hey, it worked for old Bill. 'Mother' only appeared once, mercifully, and apple pie, in our weight-watching world, not at all.

I missed it. I could have used a slice of pie. Or perhaps a substantial slug of Scotch.

As with Barack's speech at the 2004 Dem convention -- the speech that launched his career -- people are in ecstasies. I can only wonder why. Barack's magic -- like Bill's -- simply doesn't touch me at all. I don't hear the music. I have no personal, empathic sense whatsoever how anybody could possibly see anything in either of these sentimental, platitudinous, pasteboard windbags.

I remember asking people back in '04, But what did Barack say? Nobody could remember. What they remembered was being inspired, uplifted. It was, I guess, some kind of a heartwarming, Frank Capra thing. (To tell the truth, Capra leaves me pretty cold too.)

Concretely, there are, maybe, two conclusions we can draw from Barack's Iowa victory:

1) A lot of people find Hillary so nauseating that they're looking for an un-Hillary. That's the good news, as far as it goes.

2) Barack's very blankness is the secret of his success. This is, of course, the bad news. His manner is so bland and unthreatening, his rhetoric so vacuous and unmeaning, that it's easy for people who want to believe to hear him saying whatever they need him to say. He's like a particularly multivalent and unsuggestive Rorschach blot -- you can see in it whatever you like: a bird, a bat, Jack Kennedy.

They used to say that you can't beat something with nothing, but perhaps that has changed. Perhaps Nothing is finally going to come into its own -- all the Somethings are so revolting that only Nothing has a prayer. Can we look forward to the Seinfeld presidency? It's about... Nothing!

There's another angle, though, and it has to do with the cognitive limitations of people addicted to the Democratic Party. They can't acknowledge, or haven't figured out, what they're really up against, so of course they are not dissatisfied with Barack for avoiding what they too would rather avoid, or perhaps have never even understood.

But they are dissatisfied with what actually is. So what do they want? Change! From what to what? O do not ask what is it!

And they want to believe! They want to believe because belief, you know, is quite a trip, but experience, that killjoy par excellence, is always trying to spoil the fun.

And there is Barack, whose admirably disciplined speechwriters have figured out that their 'umble job is simply to construct an unobtrusive syntactic armature on which to hang a half-dozen or so repetitions of the key, focus-group-positive words: Change. Belief. Hope.

If religion is the opiate of the masses, then the Democratic Party is the methadone of those who have learned to use a Web browser.

January 5, 2008


The Times this morning, trying to understand the Obama-phenoma, offers this angle:


Daring to Believe, Blacks Savor Obama Victory

For Sadou Brown in a Los Angeles suburb, the decisive victory of Senator Barack Obama in Iowa was a moment to show his 14-year-old son what is possible....

For Milton Washington in Harlem, it looked like the beginning of something he never thought that he would see. “It was like, ‘Oh, my God, we’re on the cusp of something big about to happen,’ ” Mr. Washington said.

Surely it's more like the cusp of something big -- very big -- that has happened?

The leading contenders for the Democratic nomination are a man with visible African ancestry, and a woman. Now if you're Rip van Winkle, and you've been asleep for the past fifty years, this is big news.

For those of us who have been awake, however, the gender and skin color of the candidates belong in a small-type footnote. Or ought to. The only reason anybody is hoo-ha'ing about Barack's nice light-brown skin or Hillary's ovaries is simply that there is nothing else to cite in favor of either of these palookas.

The Obama candidacy shows us something, to be sure, but so did the OJ Simpson verdict. In the awful old world of Jim Crow, an innocent black guy could easily get lynched. In the modern world, a guilty black guy, if he's rich enough, has the same chance a guilty rich white guy has of escaping justice. And why not? Seriously. If Klaus von Bulow can escape, why not OJ? It's definitely an improvement, as far as it goes.

And it's getting to be an equal-opportunity world for women too. No longer are ethnic cleaning and mass murder occupations reserved for the male of the species. You have your Golda Meirs, your Jeane Kirkpatricks, your Madeleine Albrights -- not to mention your Condi Rices, a real twofer in the crimes-against-humanity sector.

I don't mean to compare Barack, as a person, with OJ. Barack seems much superior, qua human specimen -- though it must be said that if he reaches the White House, and does what Democrats have always done there, he'll kill a lot more people than OJ ever did.

January 6, 2008

Obama Caesar on the legions' missions

Doug Henwood, he of the long memory and the gimlet eye, posted on lbo-talk today a wonderful piece by arch-reactionary Robert Kagan about a speech Barack gave back in April to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs (a funny-sounding organization to a guy who once lived in Chicago):
Washington Post - April 29, 2007

Obama the Interventionist
By Robert Kagan

America must "lead the world in battling immediate evils and promoting the ultimate good." ....

Obama's speech at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs last week was pure John Kennedy, without a trace of John Mearsheimer. It had a deliberate New Frontier feel, including some Kennedy-era references ("we were Berliners") and even the Cold War-era notion that the United States is the "leader of the free world." ... Personally, I like it.

.... His critique is not that we've meddled too much but that we haven't meddled enough. There is more to building democracy than "deposing a dictator and setting up a ballot box." We must build societies with "a strong legislature, an independent judiciary, the rule of law, a vibrant civil society, a free press, and an honest police force." ... Obama proposes to double annual expenditures on these efforts, to $50 billion, by 2012.

... Obama wants to increase defense spending. He wants to add 65,000 troops to the Army and recruit 27,000 more Marines. Why? To fight terrorism.

He wants the American military to "stay on the offense, from Djibouti to Kandahar," and he believes that "the ability to put boots on the ground will be critical in eliminating the shadowy terrorist networks we now face."

"Boots on the ground"! Wow! That is the classic DLC touchstone.

The whole delightful thing:


January 7, 2008

Score one for Dr van Helsing

(Editor's note: This post temporarily lost in the editor's own personal Bermuda Triangle. Sorry, Owen.)

At least the new year brings good tidings to the Bay Area: the poor pwoggie people of the left coast's commanding heights won't have Tom Lantos to kick them around anymore.

January 11, 2008

There be land rats, and water rats, water thieves, and land thieves


Credit card debt is on the move -- up. Recall that usury destroyed the Roman republic. Oh, and recall this: the limited liability corporations have a de facto social contract with us ... their hired class: "we'll lend you what we won't pay you."

Shylock wants you!

Greenback gases, and how to control them

Quick, gotta-run type meme note on containing health costs:

Now that we face mandated payment increases which, given the structural dynamics of that gracious sector, will surely produce lots and lots of even faster and higher price increases, and little in the way of more medical services... it's prolly not too soon to start talkin' price cap policy.

The proper method is already well understood: we can set the overall price level change in the sector at the level of the rest of the economy. I.e. avoid excess sectoral inflation but allow the intra-sector relative prices are to adjust among themselves.

Feature this: markups (over input costs) for our entire health services and products sector are as amenable to control by pseudo-market mechanisms as, say ... utility pollution!

Yup -- what we need here is a national health sector cap and trade system for markup over input costs.

Complicated to implement?

Nope -- give me a team of med-poli-econs for advice, and a little time to interwire the sectors' accounting departments, and I'll run a tip-top cap and trade market out of a medium-sized Washington hotel.

This great man --

-- Abba Lerner by name, provided all the necessary answers to containing national medical costs 38 years ago:


January 13, 2008

Gender solidarity

The timbre of the new voice of triangulation:

"Feel my pain... [sotto voce] ...you sotted old hausfrauen."

January 14, 2008

I'm dyin' up here

So unions took a 35-year corporate mugging and seemed to find it "inevitable". Why?

This chum at Counterpunch thinks he knows:


1. "The hollowing-out of the country's manufacturing base and, with it, a decline in those industry jobs which, historically, had not only been strongly organized but well paid."
Crap, it took 70 years to crack the industrial corporations, and before they cracked plant wages were horrible just like service and commercial wages now.
2. "Government has assumed custody of key union provisions."
That's the reason? Unions can't top Uncle Sam's social contract? The real wage min is lower than Johnson started with, and longer hours too, health costs are still private payroll rape jobs. To be sure, corporate pensions going bust get Uncle bailouts -- funny how the attack is on the social security system when its the only sound pension game in America.
3. "Changes in demographics and culture"
Now this alibi deserves scrutiny:
"There is a decreased respect for the role of organized labor, for its founders, its battles, its overall narrative, and an alarming lack of interest in labor's political and social implications."
Maybe the unions deserve that rap, eh? In fact our mate here says as much:
"High school history and civic textbooks of the Baby Boomer generation (and the one preceding it) routinely included accounts of the achievements of labor leaders such as Samuel Gompers, John L. Lewis, Walter Reuther, et al, mentioning them in much the same way they mentioned political leaders and social reformers Today, it would be ludicrous to expect a high school history text to single out specific contemporary labor leaders who've made a difference-unless it was something scandalous or bizarre (e.g., the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa). "
But here comes the pop-bottled socio-criticism:
"We've also witnessed a marked decline in our sense of community.... Today, everybody seems to want to call himself an independent.... Working people... prefer to think of themselves as incipient, yet-to-be-realized entrepreneurs rather than proletarian toilers."
Really? That's why collective job site action is nowheresville -- us prole cats don't see ourselves for the sweatin' chumps we really are? What do we see then in the morning mirror? The next Donald Trump?

Moral of the tale:

".... working people don't have the core respect they once had. Simple as that."
There's a spectre haunting wage slave America circa 2008, and its name is... Rodney Dangerfield

The chap that wrote this is one David Macaray. Brother Mac is "a Los Angeles playwright and writer" and former "president and chief contract negotiator of the Assn. of Western Pulp and Paper Workers, Local 672, from 1989 to 2000."

January 16, 2008

Your choice of Beveridge

That infamous left Hegelian, the young Karl Marx -- still in the shadow of his master's dream -- liked to suggest Mighty Clio will never pose us humans a historical task we can't begin to solve right then and there, at that particular moment and inside that particular social formation.

I'll humbly add: yes we can begin the task ... right now... potentially; but mostly we don't and won't want to. It's like an epic return: our fine hero gets almost home straight off in chapter one, but by hook crook or hubris she misses the chance, and soon finds herself on the long arduous outward leg of a much longer circling back. Seems Clio likes to frustrate those with the clearest social vision.

Consider a pal of mine, anonymous at his own request, whom I'll call Mr. S. He sees as if from the mountaintop -- and what do he see? Where as-by-right single-payer for-all health care should come, there's instead the Democrap, Mommy Dearest universal "dummy up bub" mandate.

I must quote S's generalization: it goes a long way toward revealing just what new-deal pale-deal of a Godot we pwogs are waiting for:

"The liberal petit bourgeois, who owns the means to get himself to the means of production owned by the capitalist, cannot for the life of him comprehend the risk aversion of people who have lived in close proximity to the realities of power disparities. It is intuitive to the liberal that pooled risk equates to a shared benefit. And so it does, provided the people in the pool have a means of enforcing the contract to obtain the benefit. Where that power can be taken away or ignored, all risk pooling means is that those most able to deal with being bilked will wind up in a relatively more endurable misery than those with lesser means.

Being unable to recognize this reality, the liberal will be thoughtless in admonitions to join the risk pool, will suffer hurt feelings when the invitation is rejected and will blame the refuseniks for the failure of the scheme, however crackpot it maybe. If the process of obtaining the benefit is sufficiently galling and demeaning... a certain percentage will reject a real benefit, and not just the eternally dangled carrot of neoliberalism.

When the liberal is caught in circumstances where enough people reject the opportunity to join the risk pool, enough so that those who have joined stand to suffer alone, regardless of the existence or absence of a potential benefit, he will become passive aggressive in the same style as a shoplifting schoolboy who is blatantly careless in order to make sure his comrades are dirty. And later justify this by pointing out that after all, he did risk the same punishment he brought on them.

Beveridge's plan has so many obvious, easily detectable flaws,especially when compared to redistributive plans that limit outcomes as a means of correcting power disparities, but it was easily accepted and put in place.

Because it neglected, by design, the most important part of social justice — addressing power disparities directly — it was easy to undermine, stint and finally be turned into a means of punitive control.

January 18, 2008

Owen at the church door

More Cliff notes on the return of the pale deal -- a scattering of theses:

1. Spiking the welfare state was the only progressive act Clio assigned the DLC.

2. No more collision mats or safety bags. Job-proles got to take back whatever the hell they can, right at the point of corporate extraction. Let's not vote on it anymore.... eh?

3. If we live under an unleashed transnational limited-liability profiteers' boardroom hegemony, then trying to get uncle to re-leash the bastards is nothin but a rubes' game. Fool me once....

4. Let 'em destroy the public school system, if that's what gives 'em kicks. Better the raw ones among us hit the streets than stay in the classrooms. Better Oliver Twist and Mealy Potatoes meet gangsta Fagin at 12, than stay shackled to a desk in the ding-dong arbittoir.

January 19, 2008

First time as farce, second time not funny at all

Mike Flugennock writes:
I'm surprised you aren't riffing on Barack Obombirana declaring his love for Ronald Reagan. I feel another cartoon coming on...something about a black dude with a big, slick, uniformly Superman-colored pompadour.


"Obama, in his interview with the Reno Gazette-Journal's editorial board, made the case that his movement is as much about a national moment as about him as a "singular" individual, and he drew a rather odd analogy for a Democrat: Ronald Reagan.

'Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not, and a way that Bill Clinton did not,' he said, describing Reagan as appealing to a sentiment that, 'We want clarity, we want optimism, we want a return to that sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship that had been missing.'"

Yeah, he changed the trajectory, alright -- from an Apollo 11 trajectory to a Challenger trajectory.
"Entrepreneurship" is particularly good. This is the Great Black Hope?

Hillary, like George Washington Plunkitt, seen her opportunities and took 'em, to raise the pulse rate of the sclerotic Party faithful. It's primary season, after all. Doesn't Barack know enough to save that stuff for the general election?

[from The Note]

Clinton is attacking Obama for his comment that "the Republicans were the party of ideas for a pretty long chunk of time there." Said Clinton on Friday: "That's not the way I remember the last ten to fifteen years. I don't think it's a better idea to privatize social security. I don't think it's a better idea to try to eliminate the minimum wage."

January 21, 2008

Official history

Here's a remarkable take, by one Ian Welsh, on the history of the laboring man and woman:


Unions in America have been in a decline for over 60 years....

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), created by the Wagner Act in 1935 as independent agency of United States Governments holds the official mandate to conduct elections for labor union representation and to investigate and remedy unfair labor practices. Under the Bush administration, the NLRB has:

  • made it impossible for large numbers of workers to join unions(pdf);
  • potentially reclassified many workers as supervisors (including many nurses) in order to remove them from unions;
  • passed numerous rulings which treat employers in one way, and unions in another.
Accompanying this mournful history there is a graph:

Now one of the things that strikes me about this graph is that the decline has been monotonic since 1955, through Democratic and Republican years alike. So Ian Welsh's focus on the last seven years seems a little, um, tendentious.

Ian, however, would like us to draw a very specific conclusion:

Another 4 or 8 years of a Republican presidency could doom American unions...

Unions, even more than the US itself, need a new FDR. Without FDR unions would have never had their day... absent a President who really cares about unions there's no reason to believe that decline will stop.

Based on the historical record, as shown by Ian's own graph, it would be equally plausible to argue that another 4 to 8 years of a Democratic presidency would "doom American unions."

The amazing thing here, of course, is the claim that unions gained ground in the Thirties because they had a nice sympathetic President. This is sheer mythography. The causal arrow runs the other way, in fact: the President was sympathetic because Labor was ready to hang Capital from the nearest lamppost, and Capital got the message. Ian's message is a little different:

What government took away, fertile conditions for organizing and pro-union policies, government can give back... the most important factor for the fate of unions ... is who the President is.

With the right President, and the right NLRB, the union movement can have it's renaissance....

John Edwards has spent the last four years working with unions....

Government "gave" these "fertile conditions" back in the day? That's not the history I read.

The "most important factor" is... the President? Now you've made me mad, Ian. What ever became of the people's own agency? Can they only act through a President? What became of all those lampposts?

January 23, 2008

Alms for the poor

I despise Sterling Newbury.

He belongs with Jerry Lewis, Matt Lauer and George Steinbrenner as a pomposity quartet riding in ticker tape parade down Wall Street -- ass forward, hands cuffed -- on clopping big-hooved sway-backed mining mules. And for garnish each can wear a ceremonial -- just pretendin' -- noose around their necks.

Here's Newz' latest sand-dance nullity, a typical banker's waiterlike suavity, as he clatters open the platters of skunk roast:


Now don't get me wrong -- this isn't Babbitoid, Reagan-rides-again shit. This is the Ganymede of the prog wing of haute bankery speakin' easy here -- he's got the art-deco "Yes, buddy, I can spare a dime" gig down pat:

"In the present circumstances, the best relief program would end the tax breaks for the wealthy and shift that money in the short term to buffering groups hard hit by the economic downturn.... Tax credits and so on are, almost by definition, not the best way to do this, because they give money to people who already have jobs."
Is your head shaking, mates? Which way? Now listen up, you'll learn somethin':
"[Tax rebates] violate one of the most important liberal principles: demand spreading. Demand spreading means, all other things being equal, it is better that more people have some money, than some people having more money. Social Security is based on this principle as is the liberal theory of government starting with FDR."
Arrgghhhh, yes, the welfare state, that hunk of madcap thrown at poverty, only to produce hard-hat reaction. But! There's more:
"As soon as a candidate, caucus or program makes "tax relief" its center, it is already marching to the right"
Now under present red white and blue conditions, that is as wicked a misdirection as it's possible to conceive -- wicked because it's a conflation of one type of class tax cut with its diametric opposite.

More than anything else right now -- first and foremost -- the fed gub needs to provide just that, "tax relief", at least to the tens of millions of "wage-challenged" households; and how else but through huge rebates out of the social security rip tide? That's a move to the right? Why? Because it starves the public beast? Lowers the cap on uncle's spending?

Folks, if the last 70 years of macroeconomics teaches us anything, it's this: there is no sane cap on uncle's spending till we hit purely frictional unemployment -- i.e. under 2%. And we got miles to go before we sleep.

Sum-up time? Oh no, not yet, there's more, way more. For one thing Newbie is playing John the Baptist for "a massive bank bailout," and he calls for "a stronger dollar" -- yes a stronger dollar, the present horror in the rust bowl isn't enough, I guess they all need to be jobless before we "liberals" can spread a little effective demand their way -- or should I say our way, the liberal way, the way of a hearty handout, not a job.

Sterling Blueberry is about as sinister an overaged Manhattan deb-party smarm sissy as ever laved locks. You figure maybe he's not Wall Street's poison apple pedlar? Well try this on -- it's his ultimate nightmare: selling "Wall Street to Dubai one bank at a time." The horror!

PS -- for those in need of a 5th Avenue homily, improving in some ways on Polonius:

"While we should never shy away from borrowing when we need to, and spending what we must, we should always be seeking to borrow and spend the least necessary, not the most possible. It's better go keep credit good, it is better to keep the money in the hands of the general economy, and it is better for Government to pursue plans that generate enough economic activity to support those plans by the increased tax revenues that come with increased activity. While nominal deficits aren't to be feared, actually downward spirals in the national debt - where the debt is growing faster than our real ability to pay it back - are to be avoided except in cases where swastikas and rising suns are actually blooming around the world, and not just in the imaginations of the 101st fighting keyboarders. Relief can be expanded by ending Iraq and ending tax breaks for the very wealthy. Restructuring can be best pursued by ending the weak dollar policy."

January 25, 2008

Huis clos

I received another citizens' alert from Mr S.

Note carefully the list of Shylock's long-eared people's elves below.

Where's the mandatory prison terms for the "corporate" looters that rigged this slurry up in the first place and last?



The yuppie jacquerie is stoking resentment against people who took out home equity loans. Some of the borrowers were undoubtedly villainous, but most of them were borrowing to stave off financial crises. Given the lack of pay raises and the increases in cost of living, going under was only a matter of time for them, once the bubble burst. Now their failure to keep payments coming is starting to affect the equity of "real people" and the yuppies are wondering how anyone could be so irresponsible as to do something to depreciate the assets of the chosen merit scholars.

The eventual meltdown was anticipated and fucking predicted. Hence, the Bankruptcy Bill. These are the Senate paragons of actually existing liberalism who joined hands with their wingnut colleagues to get it passed. Senator Clinton thoughtfully failed to vote.

 Baucus (D-MT)
 Bayh (D-IN)
 Biden (D-DE)
 Bingaman (D-NM)
 Byrd (D-WV)

 Carper (D-DE)
 Conrad (D-ND)
 Inouye (D-HI)
 Johnson (D-SD)
 Kohl (D-WI)

 Landrieu (D-LA)
 Lincoln (D-AR)
 Nelson (D-FL)
 Nelson (D-NE)
 Pryor (D-AR)

 Reid (D-NV)
 Salazar (D-CO)
 Stabenow (D-MI)

If I were a Reich man...

Gallant ex-secretery Reich is all a-spin over at his blogging camp --


'Twould appear the great American home lot collapse has Bobby in its spell, 'cause now he figures without the borrow-on-tomorrow two-step provided by ballooning property assets, there's just not enough effective demand out there to go around -- at least not enough to keep our consumer market bells ringing lustily away. Hence RECESSION -- maybe worse....

And what of this Congro-confected interim stimulus package? Well, sez Bobby, if you looked at it from the point of view of every underwater householder, it's got serving sizes maybe two sizes two small. And then there's the deficit we'll need to cover the shortfalls -- where's the funding for that to come from, in a country that's not saving even the spared dime?

[cue ominous sub-Wagnerian monster music] -- "overseas"! The horror!

Bobby, keep your shirt on. Warm up some milk. Read Lerner and Vickrey.

The Sister Souljah moment du jour

Nice Dems are in a twit 'cause Bill C has found his voice, and it's singin' the song of the South. Yup, Slick Willy once more turns to the triangularized update of "playin' the race card."

They won Cow Hampshire with it -- all those job-dunced, low-rent French Canadian white ladies voting their conscience in a lily-white state. And the very same ring-a-ding got Hilly extra votes in Latino Nevada.

I guess Barack is not the black Jack but the black Al -- Al Smith, that is.

But after all -- is this news? You hardly needed to tell us that large herds out there of kulak Americans would rather a white woman prez than a black man.

But it ain't over yet, hoss... 'cause Barack really ain't black, at least not Jesse black. Okay, he's not Pullman car pale like general of the army Colin Powell, either, but look at his features and his diction -- he could be... Malcolm Little, or that blackfaced white actor DW Griffith sent to the Carolina legislature.

Identity politics devouring itself... just what Woodstock America deserves, eh?

Democracy for oligarchy

Noice how Father Smiff is so often pithish and to the point -- that is, when free of his sodomitic walt Mitty-ish daydreams... frolicking with a brace of mocha slave boys at his country villa... imagining the screams of bloody proscription haunting his neighborhood... er, where was I? At any rate Doc Smith asks us in a recent post "Whatever became of the people's own agency?"

Hell of a grand question. What has happened to direct mass action by the first world multitude?

Well, here's one avenue not crowded with a zillion heads wanting to be movers and shakers... our blessed union rank and filers. Most places these wage-clipped souls are being somehow co-opted by... mon Dieu, their own representative democracy!

An article I recently read somewhere (now alas misplaced) gives a nice MIT Sloan School industrial-relations take on this revoltin' development. Its upshot: a close examination of recent labor developments in Italy and Ireland suggests, contrary to conventional wisdom, that associative democracy, not top-down dictat, allows working class leadership the best shot at moderating rankers' "militant wage demands."

Yes, that's right, top-down self-perpetuating outfits, like unions spontaneously become over time, will ultimately lose the handle on job site level demands -- short of Benito and castor oil tactics -- only the steady injection of due and just process, combined with a fair airing of views, and, most importantly, one-member one-vote referenda, will lead over the longer haul to moderation negotiation and class harmony.

In short: "you piecards got to get the mates to do it -- voluntarily." That is, if you want wage increases to remain below the threshold of serious profit squeezery.

As we all too well know in our imperfect market world, for-profit managements, even just budget-constrained managements, have some degree of freedom to raise prices. So when profits are about to be squozen... yes, this triggers increases, and the increases spread through the system, triggering cost based increases, and then more wage reaction increases till nothing but wasteful inflationary spirals obtain. After all, you can't end up with 130% of the whole deal, now can you?

So profits and wages chase their own tails to nowhere, till the macro authorities (in grief or glee ) are forced to engineer a credit contraction, and let the burgeoning jobless sack eventually cool the fevered brow of wagery's rash ambition. Thoughts most foul indeed, eh?

More "democracy" is not the solution here, it's the problem. One vote per member, each equal to another, ends the rule of intensity. The will of the militant minority gets itself swamped by a flood of well meaning... just being realistic... don't give a shit cynical... apathetic... personal addictions-dominated and compulsions-distracted... exploiter-compatible go-along types.

The majority usually has the sense the pies laid out the reality, aired the debate fair and square, played by the rules and won anyway So hey "you hotheads, shut up and put up... you had your say!"

BTW obviously this works best the larger the unit involved -- i.e. national wage pacts, broad sectoral inclusions, etc. And better still, the more the lower cadre are beholden to the upper cadre, the more remote the peak of the outfit from the base, the more layers of hierarchy and yet the more direct and regular the voting in of the various layers of officialdom.

Yes, it will all work great, you'll have harmonics incorporated, so long as the mates' local "officials" can be fixed, of course, despite direct election from below.

But this is easy too, so long as this same on the spot leadership has a sense of investment in the institution and process, and as a result encourages due process to head toward stability and thus the correct moderated conclusion -- and persists in encouraging this sane calm open-minded posture even against red hot ragers. The haunch of the votin' rankers will generally vote in the reasonable compromise the profiteers require -- that is, the majority will vote yes to their own handcuffs and toxic pill packets. And alas they'll swallow 'em too, and prolly more often than not blame their subsequent pain on "can't be helped unforeseeable outside conditions."

The lesson for top level social engineer policy staff types is obviously the same institutional Rx for unions as the mind wizards prescribe for civil society as a whole: If you want unity of action at the top and at the same time willing pliability at the base -- use, errr, democratic centralism.

Heard that anywhere before?

Dennis the non-menace

Alas, poor Dennis .... He leaves the Great Race alive and alone, but unafraid -- well, not quite alone. There's the Valkyrie at his side.

And yet wouldn't it be Fortune's way -- he returns to home base only to face yet another uphill scrap. Even in the twilight of his career the furies are fast upon him. Four, yes four, not just three but four Dembot contenders have risen up in indignation and outrage to wrest away his seat in the House.

Makes a bloke wonder... what doth it profit a pol to be loyal to his party, even beyond the call of conscience?

His Massa's voice

A letter from Senator Obama to the US ambassador to the UN:

Dear Ambassador Khalilzad,

I understand that today the UN Security Council met regarding the situation in Gaza...

I urge you to ensure that the Security Council issue no statement and pass no resolution on this matter that does not fully condemn the rocket assault Hamas has been conducting on civilians in southern Israel... All of us are concerned about the impact of closed border crossings on Palestinian families. However, we have to understand why Israel is forced to do this...

The Security Council should clearly and unequivocally condemn the rocket attacks, and should make clear that Israel has the right to defend itself.... If it cannot bring itself to make these common sense points, I urge you to ensure that it does not speak at all.


Barack Obama
United States Senator

"Ensure that it does not speak" -- that really ought to be the motto on the Israel lobby's coat of arms. The Latin would be nice and compact -- "Ne loquatur", if memory serves.

The correct point of reference for Obama may not be Jack Kennedy, or even Al Smith as Owen suggested earlier today. I'm starting to think it's Sammy Davis Jr.

Khalilzad himself is a bit of a house nigger, if I may be forgiven the phrase, so he and Barack probably understand each other very well. Here's Wikipedia:

Khalilzad received his PhD at the University of Chicago, where he studied closely with strategic thinker Albert Wohlstetter, a prominent nuclear deterrence thinker and an opponent to the disarmament treaties....

From 1979 to 1989.... Khalilzad was an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs. During that time he worked closely with Zbigniew Brzezinski, the Carter Administration's architect of the policy supporting the Afghan Mujahadeen resistance to the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan....

In 1984 Khalilzad accepted a one-year Council on Foreign Relations fellowship to join the State Department, where he worked for Paul Wolfowitz...

From 1985 to 1989, Khalilzad served in President Ronald Reagan's Administration as a senior State Department official advising on the Soviet war in Afghanistan and the Iran-Iraq war.... and guided the international program to promote the merits of a Mujahideen-led Afghanistan to oust the Soviet occupation....

He is one of the original members of Project for the New American Century (PNAC) and was a signatory of the letter to President Bill Clinton sent on January 26, 1998, which called for him to accept the aim of "removing Saddam Hussein and his regime from power" ....

January 28, 2008

People: Not so dumb after all

I'm a great believer in the basic intelligence of the public, though like all articles of faith, it's sometimes a challenge to maintain one's credence. So news like the following is especially welcome:


A tipping point? "Foreclose me ... I'll save money"

A homeowner who can't sell his house tells the L.A.Times, "Foreclose me. ... I'll live in the house for free for 12 months, and I'll save my money and I'll move on."

Banks and lenders fear this kind of thinking -- that walking away from a house could be the smart economic move -- appears to be on the rise....

Calculated Risk notes this is "one of the greatest fears for lenders ... that it will become socially acceptable for upside down middle class Americans to walk away from their homes."

A nation of deadbeats! That's us! And about time, too.


Thus Toni Morrison on the Great Light-Brown Hope:


This letter represents a first for me--a public endorsement of a Presidential candidate.

In thinking carefully about the strengths of the candidates, I stunned myself when I came to the following conclusion: that in addition to keen intelligence, integrity and a rare authenticity, you exhibit something that has nothing to do with age, experience, race or gender and something I don't see in other candidates. That something is a creative imagination which coupled with brilliance equals wisdom.

She "stunned herself"? What an image. If only she had stayed stunned for awhile. Alas, she seems to have awakened quickly and started scribbling again.

Let us recall that this is the same genius who said Bill Clinton was our first black president. One wonders whether Ricky Ray Rector would concur. Perhaps he would -- the poor soul wasn't very bright. In any case he's dead, thanks to First Black President Clinton, so the question is academic. Let's MoveOn, as they say.

Morrison's letter contains about 500 words. For this we must be grateful. She could have gone on and on. Of those 500 words, 30-odd are variations on the first person pronoun -- I, me, my and so on. I don't know why I notice these things. It's just the kind of guy I am, I guess. They make an impression on me. It's just one aspect of my endlessly interesting life. Have I told you about my grandpa?

But enough about me. What do you think of my opinion of Toni Morrison?

This in-extenso version of Morrison's letter comes to us, drolly enough, through the good graces of one Sam-I-am Graham Felsen, noticed here some time ago as a Nation junior woodchuck who was presciently puffing Obama stock back in November of '06. Apparently Sammy is really on the team now, since his stuff appears on Obama's website:


Hell of a creepy site it is, too. Barack's masthead photo is shot from waist level, always an ominous Great Leader sign, and little Sammie has emulated the master pro virili, except that his smirking imago seems to have been taken with a cell phone.

Here's Sammie:

Why I support Barack Obama: I think Barack Obama is the Bobby Kennedy of my generation. He's the first truly transformational leader I've seen in my lifetime-- the only candidate for people who have been turned off by the process but are dying to re-engage in politics and help change their country.
The Bobby Kennedy of his generation! Well, fair enough -- but geez, haven't we learned anything? And as for "dying a to re-engage" in politics -- well, opportunities for dying are perhaps the only thing that the American political process can really be counted on to offer.

January 30, 2008

Il faut cultiver son gender

(From Mike Flugennock)

If Feminism™ didn't truly jump the shark that weird-assed, B-list celebrity-studded, Democrat-heavy, mass-printed sign-soaked Saturday afternoon in April of '04, this surely must be the true and final Wheeze.



NY NOW Accuses Last Un-Dead Kennedy of "Ultimate Betrayal"

NEW YORK (AP) - The New York chapter of The National Organization for Women accused Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of betraying women with his endorsement of Barack Obama, prompting the organization's national office to come to the Massachusetts senator's defense.

"Women have just experienced the ultimate betrayal," NOW's New York State chapter said....

"We are repaid with his abandonment!" the statement said. "He's picked the new guy over us....

Shortly after the local chapter reacted to Kennedy's endorsement, the national office of NOW in Washington, D.C., which has endorsed Clinton, released its own statement.

"The National Organization for Women has enormous respect and admiration for Senator Edward Kennedy," NOW President Kim Gandy wrote....

Juicy. So New York NOW is like totally for Hillary, and National NOW is like totally for whoever the Dembot will be. Hmmmm. Whose cloven hoof do I think I see, peeking under the hem of New York NOW's prom dress?

January 31, 2008

Great pigs have little pigs...

The grand Guignol of the Dembots' identity clusterfuck notwithstanding, we have another kind of base to look after: the economy. Just read a column by my hero Larry the Lizard Summers (shown above; I don't blame old Abe for averting his eyes). Might be instructive material for anybody fleeing their deadly daily dose of the ballot-box game:


"It is critical that sufficient capital is infused into the bond insurance industry as soon as possible. Their failure or loss of a AAA rating is a potential source of systemic risk."
Yup, if the bonds fail it's one thing, but then if the guys guaranteeing the bonds' value also fail...
"Probably it will be necessary to turn in part to those companies that have a stake in guarantees remaining credible because they have large holdings of guaranteed paper."
I see an instance of Hegelian circular causation here: the poor hungry serpents are to be forced to eat their very own tails. Get this understatement:
"It appears unlikely that repair will take place without some encouragement and involvement by financial authorities."
Financial authorities -- i.e. Uncle's hi-fi community peelers.

Along the trail, lord Larry mentions my ex-boss, that moonpie-faced, baggy-pants "ahh shucks" happy billionaire and longtime ladies' man (tried to snake my girlfriend into his jet once with hints of lobster newburg) -- of course I mean Warren Gamaliel Buffett. Here's Larry:

"While attention to date has focused on capital infusions into existing institutions, it would be desirable for capital to be injected into new institutions that do not have the legacy problems of existing ones and can meet the demand for new lending.... Warren Buffett’s recent entry into bond insurance is an example."
The ultimate smiley-faced vulture circles in:

One word: Jobs

I kinda like the look of this chap – probably because he could be my half-Jewish half-brother with a slipped wig.

He's a union econ-con mouthpiece and I like that too. He's calling for billions in construction dollars for immediate public infrastructure projects -- low tech, hard hat division -- what's better than that? Green designs, sure, but who can wait for the blueprints? We gotta get the nailguns and sheetrock flying:


"The average age of public school buildings is roughly 40 years, and they need a total of at least $17 billion a year in maintenance and rehabilitation. Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Transportation has found more than 6,000 major bridges that need to be repaired or replaced. On the environmental front, more than $4 billion in wastewater treatment projects are ready to go to construction, if funding is made available. Let’s provide the money for all these needs—schools, bridges, sewage treatment plants and more. Every $1 billion of construction spending creates 14,000 to 47,000 new jobs — and these should be good-paying union jobs — and also generates up to $6 billion in additional economic activity."

Ghidrah vs. Rodan

Clash of the titanobores! Toni Morrison, as noted here earlier, "stunned herself" (nt to mention the rest of us) with fluent but poorly-edited panegyric of Barack; and now comes Maya Angelou...

... emitting some equally embarrassing doggerel for Hillary:

State Package for Hillary Clinton

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

This is not the first time you have seen Hillary Clinton seemingly at her wits' end, but she has always risen, always risen, don't forget she has always risen....

She declares she wants to see more smiles in the family, more courtesies between men and women, more honesty in the marketplace.... Rise, Hillary.


Read the whole thing, if you haven't eaten seafood recently, here:


Maya, Maya! Call yourself a poet, and you couldn't even keep the ballad stanza going for more than one quatrain? Even I think Hillary has deserved better than that. Two quatrains at least.

Much to enjoy here, but the very best, perhaps, is the notion that Hillary will be a promoter of "courtesy." And well she may, come to think of it -- in the sense that our NYC cops intend when they emblazon the word on their smoked-glass SUVs.

And of course, the idea of Hillary rising "like dust" is perhaps suggestive in ways that Maya didn't intend. Damn dust! Where the hell is that humidifier...?

About January 2008

This page contains all entries posted to Stop Me Before I Vote Again in January 2008. They are listed from oldest to newest.

December 2007 is the previous archive.

February 2008 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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