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July 2009 Archives

July 1, 2009

Apres moi, le deluge

Vanity Fair features Cousin It Stiglitz -- the thinking econ-con 's choice for prince of lightness. His brilliant punchthrough:

"There used to be a sense of shared values between America and the American-educated elites around the world. The economic crisis has now undermined the credibility of those elites. We have given critics who opposed America’s licentious form of capitalism ample ammunition to preach a broader anti-market philosophy. --. Many countries may conclude not simply that unfettered capitalism, American-style, has failed but that the very concept of a market economy has failed, and is indeed unworkable under any circumstances. Old-style Communism won’t be back, but a variety of forms of excessive market intervention will return."
Next, the bleat of tragic prophecy:
" -- And these will fail. The poor suffered under market fundamentalism—we had trickle-up economics, not trickle-down economics. But the poor will suffer again under these new regimes, which will not deliver growth. Without growth there cannot be sustainable poverty reduction. There has been no successful economy that has not relied heavily on markets. Poverty feeds disaffection. The inevitable downturns, hard to manage in any case, but especially so by governments brought to power on the basis of rage against American-style capitalism, will lead to more poverty. The consequences for global stability and American security are obvious."
What wolfish ghosts this wooly prince doth spy upon the ramparts!

July 2, 2009

Money for nothing, and chicks for free

Despite the moans and wails that abound today in pwog circles, talk about plans vs. markets doesn't always have to be melodramatic, though Stigelasaurus Rex might not agree. Here's a postively positive note, and it's on the planning side -- hot stuff, and right out of the academy.

By now you all know the great fox of emerging world progressive productivism, Doctor Dani Rodrik. Here he spends about 30 pages showing us well-intended one-world lugs how an aggressive but shrewd global-south country might substitute a neighborly, balanced-trade, parity-forex regime for the east Asian nasty fiddle gimmick -- and still grow with Han-like speed toward the white man's living standard.

And to think -- it's positively Hamiltonian! (Couldn't resist the bust -- never could resist a bust -- but keep reading after the photo):

According to Dani boy, what the Southern states need now is a set of comprehensive national subsidy plans for rapid local industrial transformation.

The idea is simple enough, really: just contrive a relative price shift between domestic and foreign trade goods, and also between domestic trade and non-trade goods; then let the local markets and entrepreneurs do the rest.

This can be pushed to any desired level; you only need to "show me the money" -- "me" being that local entrepreneur, of course -- and watch "me" -- Mister Mister of Bongoville -- work the work and jerk the jerk errr umhh -- for the benefit of the whole nation.

Just where will these lovely catalytic public subsidy funds come from? In Dani's model they come from -- where else -- the policy economist's universal non-distorting can opener, "lump sum taxes".

However, since this is the People's Republic of Southeast Utopia we're talkin' here, why not go for broke? I recommend a universal ground rent tax as the nicest base for the subsidy. As the local currency rises, it touches off a lot boom, and the cycle turns virtuous, eh?

But trust Dani here -- he has a toy general equilibrium model, nicely illustrated toward the end of the piece, to soundly prove it's a lead-pipe cinch.

The acid test in these matters of high economic policy is of course how one answers this one straightforward question: can you fit this gubmint-type "plan" comfortably within the Limited liability Incs' world wide optimal design?

Whaddya think, rangers?

July 3, 2009

Incoming! Incoming!

I may have mentioned before that my inbox has been getting pounded recently with a steady rain of artillery fire from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, in the form of begging letters over the names of such Big Berthas as Madeleine Albright, Nancy Pelosi, James Carville, and John Kerry. I think my favorite purported to come from the mad bomber above, General Wesley Clark. It was chockablock full of muscular squirrel military rhetoric:

Dear Michael,

In politics, when your opponent attacks your only option is to respond with overwhelming force.

My friends at that DCCC have set a goal of raising one million dollars before the June 30th FEC Deadline to make a show of overwhelming force in response to these unpatriotic attacks on President Obama. Fight back with a matching gift* today.

Will you help stand strong against the right-wing's attacks?

House Democrats are willing to match your dollars with their own money because that's how important it is to show the world how strongly we support our Commander in Chief. The DCCC asked me to review their battle plan for responding to these attacks on President Obama.

They showed me the maps of every targeted Republican district that they plan to hit back hard in.

One feels a certain anxiety for the hapless folk who dwell in the districts mentioned above. When Wesley starts looking at a map of your town, it's time to move.

Yesterday brought a barbaric yawp of triumph:

Dear Michael,

Thanks to you, we didn't just meet our June 30th grassroots fundraising goal - we shattered it by raising an astounding $1.2 million.

Now this doesn't sound to me like such a big number, since the Republicans have more than ten times that amount. But this campaign was pitched on the premise that "grass-roots" money counts for more, psychologically or something, than whatever kind of money the Republicans are getting. Who knows, maybe there's something to it -- it's a rarefied realm of wonkery in which I can't bring myself to take an interest.

So naturally I dropped in to Daily Kos -- that haven for prematurely middle-aged political hobbyists -- to see how this famous victory was being toasted there. To my surprise, I found very little about it. There were a few tepid exhortations to contribute, following the talking points from the DCCC's emails in a half-hearted way. Here's a sample:

The other objection, on the other hand, is entirely an individual decision, and not one that is easily countered.

That is the "the Democrats won't get another dollar from me until they (fill in blank of desperately needed action)" crowd. A crowd that proved pretty irresistable late last year when Joe Lieberman was welcomed back into the Senate fold with a big hug and a cookie.

The sentiment is hard not to understand and appreciate. This would probably be a pretty good spot to remind you that the Republican Party probably cares less about said issue than the Democrats do, but that might be little, if any comfort. So, those of you seeking a campaign finance Conscientious Objector status, consider it granted.

Sounds like the Kosniks are losing some of their go-team-go mojo. I also found a little poll whose results delighted me -- up to a point:

Will you....
Give to the DCCC only 0 votes - 0 %
Give to individual candidates only 15 votes - 37 %
Both of the above 2 votes- 5 %
Neither of the above, too pissed at everyone 12 votes - 30 %
Neither of the above, no money to give 11 votes - 27 %

Non-donors, whether by reason of disillusionment or poverty, formed an absolute majority at 57%, which is excellent news. But among the choices given, "individual candidates only" got a plurality of 37%. This suggests that Kosniks still have a thing or two to learn about the relationship of individuals to institutions.

Regime change: it's everywhere

Can the good emperor save a critter who sez stuff like this? --

“Honduras and the Honduran people do not have to ask permission of any imperialism to join the ALBA(*).”
Does he even want to save him -- really?

Inquiring pwogs want answers, and they're in an ornery mood after watching the bludgeoning of the beautiful-loser green-scarf liberty legion.


(*)Bolivarian Alternative of the Americas.

July 4, 2009

There are jobs, and there are jobs

We should all be grateful to M. IOZ for drawing our attention to a recent loathesome lucubration by the repellent Matthew Yglesias, shown above. Matthew's truculent suety phiz always reminds me of a college acquaintance of mine, who my then-girlfriend once said "looks like the inside of a hash pipe."

Here's the hash pipe himself:

...[W]hen you look back at the things liberals like me said about Iraq back in 2007 and thereabouts, you can find a lot of stuff that doesn’t look so much. General Petraeus’ post-midterms revamp of the tactical approach in Iraq achieved gains in security that look a lot more durable than I would have thought possible. At the same point, I think the overarching point I’ve been making about the US presence in Iraq since late 2004 remains incredibly valid...

It seems to me that if we’d begun to implement a phased withdrawal back in early 2005 when Iraq first got an elected government, we could have had a much better outcome than the one we got.... Today in 2009 we’re in a lot of ways back to where we were four years ago—able for American forces to start leaving on a high note, confident that they performed their job with skill....

The Hairy Hashpipe seems to have omitted a clause somewhere in there -- "doesn't look so much" like what? But you can follow his drift, and indeed you could follow it if he left out half the words at random.

The surge worked; mission accomplished; but even so, "liberals like me" weren't wrong back in 2004, though they might have been "not so much" in 2007. Well, hey, to err is human. Postmature anti-imperialism. Fortunately they have learned from their 2007 mistakes and now recognize what a benefactor of mankind General Petraeus is. But still! They weren't wrong in 2004!

Note the trope about the military's "job". I would like to point out that this locution started ringing alarm bells in my head in 1966 or so. "It's a dirty job, but somebody's got to do it." "Just doin' my job, man."

The military were "tasked" -- as they say in the military, and in the corporate world, which loves military figures of speech -- with a "job". Apparently Matthew doesn't think the job was a bad job, since he's now happy that the soldier-boys and soldier-girls have supposedly completed it. But his pessimism about the prospect of a successful completion was justified in 2004, though perhaps a little over-pessimistic in 2007.

Presumably his only mistake was in underestimating Petraeus, Proconsul Mesopotamiae.

Well, life is full of wonderful surprises, if you're a liberal with a mission-civilatrice. Credit where it's due. You can make the towelheads see reason. But you have to be really smart about which corpses you pile up, and where. Army strong. Petraeus smart. All those intelligently-piled corpses have contributed to the Hashpipe's education. The people those corpses used to be would surely rejoice to know that their terminations were not in vain.

And if you want a capsule "job" description for the soldier boys and girls -- "piling up the corpses" has the merit of being compact and truthful. Well done, boys and girls! You can "leave on a high note" -- and let the dead bury their dead.

July 6, 2009

King Log?

From the LA Times:

Biden says Israel has the right to attack Iran

Washington — Vice President Joe Biden signaled that the Obama administration would not stand in the way if Israel chose to attack Iran's nuclear facilities....

"Look, Israel can determine for itself -- it's a sovereign nation -- what's in their interest and what they decide to do relative to Iran and anyone else," Biden [said].

"Look, we cannot dictate to another sovereign nation what they can and cannot do," he said.

Reminded that the U.S. could impede an Israeli strike on Iran by prohibiting it from using Iraqi airspace, Biden said he was "not going to speculate" ....

Adm. Michael G. Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he had been "for some time concerned about any strike on Iran." He also said that military action should not be ruled out and that a nuclear-armed Iran was a highly troubling prospect.

Mullen said he worried about unpredictable consequences of an attack on Iran.

"I worry about it being very destabilizing not just in and of itself but the unintended consequences of a strike like that," he told CBS' "Face the Nation." "At the same time, I'm one that thinks Iran should not have nuclear weapons. I think that's very destabilizing."

Poor Mullen -- trying to cover all the bases, and falling all over himself in the process.

Another straw in the wind, for what it's worth:

Saudis would ignore Israeli jets en route to Iran

LONDON (AFP) — Saudi Arabia would turn a blind eye to Israeli warplanes flying over the kingdom in any raid on Iran's nuclear sites, The Sunday Times said in a report denied by Israel.

Citing diplomatic sources, it said the head of Israel's Mossad intelligence service had assured Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Saudi Arabia has tacitly agreed to the use of its airspace....

The Sunday Times said Mossad director Meir Dagan had held secret talks with Saudi officials to discuss the possibility.

"The Saudis have tacitly agreed to the Israeli air force flying through their airspace on a mission which is supposed to be in the common interests of Israel and Saudi Arabia," it quoted a diplomatic source as saying.

Now none of this comes as any great surprise. Everybody now acknowledges that the Israel-crazed Bush administration actually refused to let Israel attack Iran, a couple of years ago. But the Democrats have historically been even more Israel-crazy than the Republicans, so if they're now giving the green light -- which is certainly what Biden's comments sound like -- it's only to be expected, on prior form.

The mildly interesting question is whether Obama is down with all this. Or is he just being bypassed? Is he, in fact, King Log(*)?

The same question occurs in connection with the coup in Honduras. My man Ace Cockburn thinks it was the usual Central American military coup, and Washington was in it up to its elbows, Obie included:

We can take it as an absolute certainly that CIA and Pentagon advisors were at the elbows of the Honduran plotters, giving the green light and barely bothering to maintain deniability, and that Obama and Mrs Clinton had been fully briefed....

The first statements from Obama and Secretary of State Clinton bear all the marks of careful preparation. In the coup’s immediate aftermath last Sunday they merely urged negotiations with the coup plotters to "restore constitutional order”, feebly enjoining "all political and social actors in Honduras to respect democratic norms, the rule of law and the tenets of the Inter-American Democratic Charter”, which has all the moral and persuasive power of telling a child not to go swimming immediately after lunch. Carefully avoided was any tough demand by Obama or Clinton – still hoarse from shouts for “democracy” in Iran -- for the legitimate Honduran President Zelaya to be returned to office. The plan was obviously to try and run out the clock with indecisive parleys until Zelaya’s term ends in six months.

But my other man, Hugo Chavez, thinks -- or at least says -- different (apologies for the translation -- my Spanish is really bad):
Chavez... accused sectors of the US right-wing of being behind the [Honduran] coup.... [He] said these groups were 'defying' President Obama with these actions....

[Chavez] declared that [the US is] sliced up among powerful organizations that add up to a "horrific miltary, industrial, financial, terrorist and drug-dealing machine."

[He] discounted the possibility that the north American [president] had any connection with what happened in Honduras... but warned him to take a position more opposed to the [coup] government.

Somehow -- pace Alex -- I prefer the idea of rogue entrepreneurs a la Aaron Burr conducting US foreign policy on their own, while Obie polishes his soothing phrases in the Oval Office. But who knows? Let's hope we all live long enough to read the memoirs.


(*) A fable of Aesop's. The frogs wanted a king, so Zeus dropped a nice old log into their pond. The frogs enjoyed the log for a while, leaping off its sun-warmed back into the cool water, but then they decided they wanted a more stylish, activist king. So Zeus sent 'em a stork, who ate them all up.

July 7, 2009

Another one bites the dust

It was almost a royal command that Alex C harrow ole Bob McNamara one more time, and his envoi to the newly-dead monster has AC's characteristic Juvenalian brio:

Robert McNamara, who died yesterday, July 6, served as Kennedy’s , then as Johnson’s defense secretary. He contributed more than most to the slaughter of 3.4 million Vietnamese (his own estimate). He went on to run the World Bank, where he presided over the impoverishment, eviction from their lands and death of many millions more round the world.
But to my ear, the master seems to have ever so slightly missed his opportunity to soar.

The one missing bit of Bobby Mac I expected from Alex -- too exculpatory? -- was Mac quoting -- with a grim agreement -- his then boss Curtis Lemay, after firebombing all of urban Japan in the first half of '45: "if we'd'a lost we'd be the war criminals, eh boys?"

Here's Alex again:

"When McNamara looked back down memory lane there were no real shadows, just the sunlight of moral self-satisfaction"
I dunno, AC. There are shadows -- he sees shadows, each one big as Banquo, but he faces them with an honest incomprehension. Because Mr Mac is precisely, as AC himself sez, no ogre but rather "a perfectly nice, well-spoken war criminal."

Because he was perfectly nice he hardly felt an inner need to "cower in the shadow of baroque monsters like LeMay or LBJ", as Alex suggests. Nope, Bob faces his judgement day alone and unafraid, naked before history. He worked with the tools the system gave him.

Unfortunately I suspect Clio has her own set of tools -- tools with which she'll carve him up in bite sized pieces -- but putting that righteous phantasm aside, Alex accurately observes that

"McNamara never offered any reflection on the social system that produced and promoted him"
Of course not. "The system" after all found ways to reward his brains, and provoked his slakeless ambition over many years, and carried him up to the heights.

Now rangers, I dare you to be totally honest with yourselves: who among us could resist the promise of such a trajectory? Only a spirit far far better than I.

The lesson in his life -- a life he reflected on in his long goodbye years with so much thought and so little emotional intuition -- seems simple enough to me :

We are a gregarious groupy-prone species. A guy like Super Mac you won't find in a Dostoyevsky yarn. He's an organization man. A system able to build him can harness his crystal clock of a soul to any one of a zillion "whatever gets it done" missions -- harness him and ride him and ride him hard -- ride him, if they have the whim, like a carnival mule.

Was it really McNamara's war? Bob is no more sublimely right to be the totemic gargoyle of 'Nam than any other straight-A boy that grew up to do bad things for this globe's reigning cyclops.

Let's hear it for the boiz

Thus far, the only one of the many constituencies seduced and abandoned by Obie that seems to be recognizing the fact is gay folks:

Obama Faces Gay Groups' Growing Anger
The anger from gay rights advocates toward President Obama is starting to boil over.

On Monday, Joe Solmonese, the president of the establishment gay rights group The Human Rights Campaign, sent an angry letter to the president objecting to the decision by the Obama Justice Department to file a brief defending the Defense of Marriage Act.

The Clinton-era Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, mandates (1) that the federal government not recognize same-sex marriages and (2) that states not be forced to recognize same-sex marriages from other states.

Mr. Obama vowed to repeal DOMA as a presidential candidate but he has not taken any action to do so since becoming president. The Justice Department brief calls the legislation a "valid exercise of Congress' power" and says it is "reasonable and rational for Congress to maintain its longstanding policy of fostering this traditional and universally-recognized form of marriage."

... [T]he president has also declined to take action on the "don't ask, don't tell" policy that prohibits gays from serving openly in the military, despite campaign promises to do so. While the administration has suggested it is working with the military to repeal the policy responsibly, the Pentagon says there have not been any serious discussions along those lines.

...On Sunday, John Berry, who is director of Office of Personnel Management and the highest-ranking gay official under Mr. Obama, told The Advocate that the administration plans to take action on both DOMA and "don’t ask," as well as an employment nondiscrimination bill, "before the sun sets on this administration."

Asked if that timeframe included a second term, Berry said, "I say this in a broad sense -- our goal is to get this done on this administration's watch."

It's noteworthy that Obie could abolish "don't ask, don't tell" -- another exercise in Clintonian Pecksniffery -- with a stroke of the pen under his very broad "stop-loss" powers, but he hasn't done it. Passing the buck to Congress -- when it's convenient -- seems to be this Administration's style. All hail King Log!

You could argue that it's a good thing, in a perverse way. The less president we have, the better. Trouble is he's inconsistent about it. If he were King Log about Afghanistan, now...

July 9, 2009

Hello, sailor

I'm off for a few days on the water. Hope I don't miss Israel attacking Iran.

July 13, 2009

Poached Amphibians

Krugeleh wonders what the hang-up is with the Obamanoids. They've botched the recovery and they're botching climate remediation, amongst other things. I have a pretty good speculation. The Democratic Party as an institution, and the Obama regime in particular, is obsessed with preventing a crisis of rising expectations. A jobless recovery is okay with them. In fact it's close to ideal. With health care tied to employment, negative equity hitting one in ten homeowners and jobs left to the noblesse oblige of the welfare queens, the status quo is protected against movements with some resource cushions. Not that there are any posing a threat, but the Democrats take their assignments seriously, like good little merit scholars should. An ounce of plutonium strength prevention is worth a pound of depleted uranium cure. They speak in complete sentences, they don't shoot people in the face (they outsource that, of course), display no obvious sexual panics and immiserate with a perfect merit yuppie command of detail.

What could possibly be improved?

It's tempting to treat puzzlement over the Democratic agenda as disingenuous. They have a blatantly obvious track record. Every so often they make it very clear how much they dislike any hint that they're beholden to their nominal constituencies. They equivocate everything down to a muddled, misanthropic stew of policy and plead helplessness when even that evokes howls of psychotic rage from the Republicans. They look like solipsistic pseudo-intellectual corporate royalists, and act that way, because they are solipsistic pseudo-intellectual corporate royalists. They're happy with that too, and so are their supporters, right up the point where the implications of support start to become clear.


"We were kept in the dark. That's something that should never, ever happen again," said Feinstein.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said he agreed with Feinstein that the CIA should keep Congress informed. But Cornyn said the new assertion "looks to me suspiciously like an attempt to provide political cover" to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats. Pelosi has accused the CIA of lying to her in 2002 about its use of waterboarding, or simulated drowning, which many people, including Obama, consider torture.

There's too much conscious and unconscious dishonesty in the article to go through it bit by bit. So I thought it best to offer kudos to John Cornyn who, for the first time in his adult life, has made an accurate and apparently thoughtful observation. The Democratic investigation into the CIA torture program, which doesn't have a chance of accomplishing anything positive, does indeed look suspiciously like an attempt to provide political cover to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats. It's spiteful, too, and likely to trickle out in an embarrassing, wet, squishy and inconclusive way.

The best thing to do would be summon Pelosi to testify under oath. She has the right to defend herself against the accusations. It's intolerable, is what it is, for her to have this cloud of opprobrium hovering over her head. If necessary, grant her partial immunity and encourage her to sing in exchange for a reduced sentence. But for God's sake give the poor Speaker a chance to clear her good name!

July 14, 2009

Battle of the Brights

* * * * *

You gotta feel sorry for Democratic Party apologist Joseph Romm, shown at left looking like Philip Roth's nerdy younger brother. In a recent Huffington Post item, Romm has dutifully put himself in the awkward position of suggesting that James Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute, is a science denier.

Here’s the backstory:

Hansen — who, as Romm acknowledges, is a distinguished guy and knows a thing or two about climate science — recently posted, also at the HuffPo, a blistering expose of the utterly “counterfeit” and meaningless Waxman-Markey bill, which, as Hansen says, “locks in fossil fuel business-as-usual and garlands it with a Ponzi-like cap-and-trade scheme.” Hansen correctly observes that this non-solution scuttled any hope for a “consensus” on carbon emissions reduction between the rich countries of the world and those who are still trying to get rich: “The [G-8] delegates from other [developing] nations ... read the [Waxman-Markey] bill and deduce[d] that it’s no more fit to rescue our climate than the V-2 rocket was to land a man on the moon.”

Poor Joe promptly ground out a turgid 2800-word response to Hansen’s post — almost three words for Hansen’s every one. Joe’s line of argument — unlike Hansen’s — is not very clear, but it seems to turn on two main postulates: first, that Hansen understands science but doesn’t get politics; and second, that Hansen’s post has been reproduced on various “climate denial” flat-earth sites. The implication is that Hansen — after twenty years of work enlisting thousands of other climate scientists to the cause — has gone off the rails and become a flat-earther himself.

Now Joe knows some science too, and he can think and write cogently when he wants to. How, then, to explain his weird muddled childish response to Hansen’s straightforward critique?

The sad answer probably is that Joe works for an outfit called the Center for American Progress (CAP), which is what they call in Washington a “think tank” — and fair enough; such thinking as gets done in Washington is done in such places.

Washington think-tanks come in two hard-to-distinguish flavors: Republican and Democrat. CAP is a Democratic-flavored think tank. Waxman-Markey is the feeble brainchild of the new Democratic congressional majority.

Joe, being a professional Democrat, is also a “realist.” So since this messy abortion of a bill is the best his dawgs in Congress can do, we should all get down with it, or he will call us terrible names, like the French knights in the Monty Python movie — Politically unsophisticated! Unrealistic! Flat-earther! Now go away, or I shall taunt you a second time!

The scattershot incoherence of Joe’s essay betrays his bad conscience. He knows that Waxman-Markey is a joke. Hell, not four months ago, in a talk at the American Museum of Natural History, he proudly rolled out his own phrase, ripoffsets, to disparage those spongy “somewhere else reductions” that are central in Waxman-Markey’s “hide the ball” ethos.

Joe now says he came to understand offsets “after much research and discussion with leading experts.” But how to explain his positively nutty statement that “One of the biggest pluses of a cap-and-trade over a tax is that participants tend to think that the cost of meeting the targets — and hence the cost of the permits — will be much higher than they actually turn out to be. So they do more than is necessary.”?

The answer, of course, is that as a team player, Joe has to defend Waxman-Markey, no matter what a ripoff it is, and no matter that he himself knows better. Since the bill itself makes no sense in the context of its supposed goals, Joe can't make any sense either. Incoherence is contagious.

It's a dirty job, but somebody’s got to do it – or rather, somebody can always be found to do it.

Happy Bastille Day...

... to one and all. When, I wonder, will we get it together to storm some of our local Bastilles? Just now, they're building 'em a lot faster than we're storming 'em.

Some things never change:

Contre nous de la tyrannie
L'étendard sanglant est levé.
Entendez-vous dans les campagnes
Mugir ces féroces soldats?
Ils viennent jusque dans vos bras
Égorger vos fils, vos compagnes!

Que veut cette horde d'esclaves,
De traîtres, de rois conjurés?
Pour qui ces ignobles entraves,
Ces fers dès longtemps préparés?
Français, pour nous, ah! Quel outrage,
Quels transports il doit exciter!
C'est nous qu'on ose méditer
De rendre à l'antique esclavage!

July 15, 2009

Take that, Goliath

Sorry if this offends anybody: but really, how gay is that? I mean this in the most unprejudicial and literal way. Ancient Judea as imagined in the weight room of your friendly local YMCA. If this is what good Christian laddies are seeing in Sunday school, no wonder so many of 'em end up kicking over the traces -- God bless 'em.

* * * * *

Shown at left is the trademark caravel of The New Republic (or as Alex Cockburn once called it, The Bananas Republic). I don't think I ever noticed before that the rather top-heavy little ship is running before the wind, which is, all in all, a rather good emblem for the mag.

A recent piece at TNR's web site, by Jonathan Chait, started off on a promising note:

A few weeks ago, Senator Dianne Feinstein announced that she and other Senate Democrats harbored reservations about President Obama's plans to overhaul the health care system. This came atop previous comments to the effect that she didn't believe in sweeping reform ("I am a bit of an incrementalist"), that the cost of reform might be prohibitive....

The reaction from the left was swift and, by the standards of such things, furious. Which is to say, not very furious. Union president Gerald McEntee complained in a press release, "Senator Feinstein's comments today take the discussion of health care reform in the wrong direction." The wrong direction! Take that, Feinstein!

And if finding herself on the business end of a polite but disappointed press release didn't put the fear of God in California's senior Senator, the liberal group Health Care for America Now piled on with a petition stating, "[W]e need a senator who is championing, not naysaying, the need for reform. We're hoping Sen. Feinstein becomes a 'champion' for the people of California and stand [sic] up for President Obama's health reform."

Somehow this display of left-wing muscle failed to intimidate Feinstein....

Nice, huh? Unfortunately, it's all downhill from there. Chait inevitably ends up advocating our favorite exercise in futility, the dreaded Primary Challenge. After several paragraphs of teasing higher wonkery about Arlen Specter and Charles Grassley -- Joe Lieberman and Ned Lamont are, alas, not mentioned -- we get to the money shot:
The sweet spot is a challenger strong enough to scare your popular centrist incumbent, but not quite strong enough to actually knock him off..... The Democrats would ideally have some challengers lined up who canThe sweet spot is a challenger strong enough to scare your popular centrist incumbent, but not quite strong enough to actually knock him off..... The Democrats would ideally have some challengers lined up who can frighten the likes of Evan Bayh and Mary Landrieu into taking some small risks for their party's agenda, without actually defeating them.
As I find myself asking so often -- where do you start? Does Chait really believe that Bayh and Landrieu are frustrating "their party's agenda"? Are they not in fact implementing their party's agenda -- much to the relief of Barack Obama and Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton, who after the debacle can go to the Chaits of the world and roll their eyes expressively and say, hey, we tried, but those damn hicks Bayh and Landrieu stabbed us in the back.

Y'know, sixty seats isn't enough. We need 70. Or 80. Or 90.

You'll be getting a mailing soon from the DSCC. Please be generous.

All together now....

Welcome to the house of scary stats!

Hey, shipmates, it's about time we all realized just how deeply the Trans-nat Inc's 60-year trade globalization project has turned into a shambles -- and it wasn't the anti's that done it, it was the planetary credit bubble bugger.

Epitome: national trade patterns built up over decades suddenly fluxed all at once into deep negative territory. Global trade turned negative in October 2008 and by the following February was reaching a record low of -33%. That's minus 33 percent.

Feature that. First time in a generation the magnitude of the total trade drop is bigger than 20%.

Yes, individual national drops of plus-20% are not uncommon. But, errr, not all nations together, not all at once, never -- at least not since the big one, way back there when Betty Boop blew Hoover. And guess what, folks, this looks to be falling faster than even that one!

Stagnation, misery, bloated jobless rolls -- all have a very bright future -- earth wide!

The long view

My former Foggy Bottom informant, Mr Y, bunged out of the cookie-pusher inner circle, has landed on his highly instepped feet again -- but ahh, the misery of it.

He confessed the other day that "it's a fuckin' think tank gig, Paine, a goo-goo dove-gray think tank, too." That must be nerve-racking for him, being so fierce a schemer.

Now is the Winter of our Discontent,
Made glorious Summer by this Son of Yorke
-- alas, poor Y; his teeth must be secretly gnashing a lot these days.
Our bruised armes hung up for Monuments;
Our stern Alarums chang'd to merry Meetings
. But he won't erupt, he won't rend the place in two. There'll be no unmasking line from him, no
... Since I cannot prove a Lover,
To entertaine these fair well spoken days,
I am determined to prove a Villain.
Y won't be sharing his inner villain with the groundlings, but we're old pals, and he has to blow off some steam to somebody. Hence the phone call I got in the wee hours last night.

My cell had hid itself well enough to ring 8 times before I found it.

"Owen, that you? Caught in mid-dudgeon?"

"Err, who... what... no."

"I thought not -- your gal there must know better by now than to toy with the tiger but once a season.

"I called because I couldn't contain myself. I was just reading this idiotic piece I fell over somewhere on the web -- one of those anti-empire cheerups by a stale retired maverick marine major type -- you know, the stuff pinkos like, about uncle's stupid counterinsurgency quagmire to final fateful folly. Man, do you pinkos not get it.

"Owen my friend, in the full system of hegemony, the fruitlessness of counterinsurgency is a virtue, part of what makes empire sustainable. Of course it must fail in the end -- give or take a few odd-offs here and there along the way. It's like Hollywood. The native hoi gotta leave the theater uplifted -- the pathetic thimble brained suckers.

"When you're briefing parlor pinks and such, don't give 'em so much hope. Don't just roll off the list of pullouts Uncle has been "forced" into. Let 'em in on the system behind the big picture. Let 'em see the empire as the robust dynamic multifaceted hydra-fuck of a global system it is.

"They play the blood-soaked delay game till it's a senseless blind brute of a horror show. In the final scene all liberation states must clip off their own balls.

"Take Afpak. Counterinsurgency there, despite the crumbling and the fumbling, so long as it's ruthless enough, can at least hold off a pullout till its time to pull out. Till then Uncle's gotta act crazy, wilfully, self-destructively crazy.

"Even under a white-hat emperor, Uncle's got to violate every cherished American tradition -- maybe even appearing to go on the offensive just when mounting domestic opposition seems to have burst its bounds, and to be converging on Washington for a final showdown.

Who knows? As Uncle senselessly holds out, maybe the wildly adverse local alien nexus may dissolve (recall the Huks in the Phillipines) or at least signifigantly abate (look no further than Sunni Iraq) or hibernate (Shia Iraq).

"Okay, the insurgency can wait uncle out. Hearts and minds cannot be won over. Big deal. Uncle's overall imperial strategy may not seem perfect, but it is.

"Self-induced delay tactics that protract the struggle needlessly, long after a pullout is obviously on the cards, has its overwhelming long-term rewards.

"By still goin' on, never arriving at a settlement, the local rebellion is punishing itself. The insurgency is draining its own national reservoir -- lowering its own threshold of post-liberation survival.

"Uncle at a given moment is in one of N different stages of hegemonic "relationship " with each one of his subject or target nations -- for every Vietnam '75 there's a vietnam '65 and '95 -- get me?

"Counterinsurgency is just a moving part, Paine, that fits into a larger game plan. Its deepest mission: slow the metabolism of national liberation -- make it cost the natives the maximum -- make it take away the biggest hunk of the buggars' oversoul possible -- got that?"

"After the pullout and the liberation? Well, Uncle contains. He strangles the prospects of the beautiful liberated nation (like '79 Iran), and he waits -- waits and watches, ready to sieze the moment when the viciously depleted traduced buggers suddenly find themselves crying 'Uncle'!

"Who cares why -- that's the miracle of it all -- who cares whether it's out of some shrewd calculation of national self-interest (Mao's China '69) or the clown's end game of quixotic internal collapse (Gorby Soviets '89) or just, we're spent, man, done in (Mugabe's Zimbabwe last year).

"In the last analysis, Uncle's only got one hard and fast rule -- if he keeps it -- all the wild ones will come back to the raft some fine day or other.

"So long as Uncle controls the global marketplace, the promise of national progress will lead back to empire's back door. They will come back and knock, hat in hand -- ahh, ain't it great to be the planet's empire state, Owen!

"So long as Uncle controls the global marketplace," he repeated, and then paused, as pleased with himself as the mother of a winning beauty queen.

I felt like throwing a monkey wrench, of course. I wanted to say, "Yeah, sure, Y, controlling the global marketplace -- yup that's the key, and Uncle still does that these days -- but ahh, that can take a toll on a homeland now -- I mean all the laying waste and such -- all the diversion from earning your own keep, all that fucking with thy neighbor's blood and treasure -- in the end surely it must be its own undoing, eh?"

But then again, why bother? The man needs his high-octane horseshit just to make it through the night. Far be it from me to poison his pipe -- so I just hung up with a "Gosh, look at the time!"

PS: I think this might have been what set Y off:


July 16, 2009

The sovereign remedy

Everybody tired of the Roosevelt parallels by now? Okay, so Obama has flunked the test. Big deal -- the test was never fair to begin with.

It's simple -- Obie took power too soon to be a Roosevelt II. He's in old Ram Macdonald's shoes, not Franklin's.

Imagine a presidential election not in '32 but in '30. Then, only a Huey Long dared fume about the need for national topsey turvey -- not respectable progressives like Frank. That took more riot and misery, a lot more riot and misery.

If elected in '30 roosevelt (or Smith) would have been nothing more than reluctant hunger chancellors -- just like Hoover.

And just like Obie is today.

Before Roosevelt took the helm the the system got to cook in its own acids for two more long long years. Not till then and only then could FDR ride the wave of naked need for reform and relief -- yes reform and relief -- emphatically not recovery.

By then the corporate fleet wanted reform like a nun wants Gable -- despite whatever its own captains' blustered. The times gave FDR his free hand. Put all the fool first-term inspired amateur tinkering aside, and all the hoopla, and all the zillion handshake make-work jobs too. Bottom line, the sustained New Deal reforms were system preserving -- right? That's a consensus conclusion today.

Sure we've strayed some, in recent years, but haven't contemporary events provided just the rude reconfirmation Ob will need to mount his rack of reforms and retroforms?

But as for recovery...

Every pundit is howling "where's my recovery"? There will be no full recovery, not for years -- and that's a dead-on FDR parallel. It's an old story, much beloved by Roosevelt haters, but true: New Deal recovery measures failed, if by recovery you mean the comon sense meaning of the word: a return to spontaneous self-sustaining full-capacity running speeds, not a limpy pegleg job full of emergency leaf-raking charity fests and other assorted googoo.

Nope, the Roosevelt recovery was as woefully inadequate from '33 to '39 as I suspect Obie's will be, from here to whenever the trade winds can rise again. FDR flunked then, and Ob will flunk now, and for the same reason: the global credit system required then -- just as it does now -- a serious, maybe decade-long drydocking, a decommissioning of its agencies, time to reshuffle the paper work.

In the blowback of all this reshuffling, earth's jobbled masses will be forced to take on lots of misery, a noble selfless sacrifice indeed, to save the big guys' system.

We could take another path, of course. We could really fire up a recovery so strong it morphed the system for ever and a day -- but such pink threats to hyperdrive our production platform are not in the new deal Ob has in store for us, any more than it was in Franklin's new deal.

Full-tilt action to fully employ the multitude comes only during global war drills. That's a hard and fast rule: the totalization of a modern sophisticated corporate economy can and will occur only as the response to a nation-threatening war cloud -- a real, honest-to-Ares war cloud. And I don't mean somethin' asymmetric, I mean a big-power-against-big-power thunderhead.

What about our climate anti-climax? That's the moral equivalent of a war, isn't it?

Nope, not threatening enough, in the near term, to the right people. Sorry.

Hey, I can hear FDR II now. He's telling his fellow Americans the dead end on the way to hope:

I hate war. War is a son of a bitch. Thank the God of me and Reverend Jeremiah there will be no war in my time. But my friends, when it comes to recovery, to good jobs, to a bright future, there is no substitute for war, but war itself.

July 19, 2009

Bunker, meet Poindexter

In the long series of DLC-type articles on why the jackassery don't need no stinkin' ignorant white wage guys, feature this:

"For quite a while, polls have been showing public support for immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship, and a relative lack of enthusiasm for an enforcement-only approach. That support should grow over time, as should positive feelings about immigrants and immigration, since the white working class, which has relatively negative feelings in this area, is being supplanted by groups such as Hispanics, white college graduates, and professionals, whose feelings about immigration are far more positive."
Found it at that splendid site Father S follows like a chicken hawk, 'America Has Progress', and this is just one panel out of a larger mucho up-lifting panographic cyclorama that might be entitled: Philadelphia Rising -- or, America the Beautiful (Again), as the spirit of Archie vanishes like the pack of butts and the lunch bucket.

Oddly this article itself strikes me as a straggling exemplar of a near-extinct but once-robust 90's species, what with all its age of Erasmus shit -- you know, the prog mind of the college guy and college gal.

I say "make way for the new take" -- I see a future full of sites featuring motif shit like this: from college pride to college prole -- the coming collapse of the great American human capital bubble.

July 23, 2009

Will they ever learn?

Kevin Donohue was a field organizer for Barack Obama’s campaign last year in Wyoming County, Pennsylvania. He came to Washington, D.C. in January to continue working for change. At first, Donohue took an unpaid internship with his congressman and waited tables, hoping like many former Obama staffers to get a job in the political process. But the outlook for Donohue was bleak. After getting rejected from three jobs on the same day, he finally took a temporary offer from the Washington Kastles, D.C.’s professional tennis squad, where he works with charity organizations and occasionally dresses up as a huge fuzzy tennis ball to cheer on the home team. There is no union, no health care coverage, and a finite period of employment. Donohue isn’t alone. More than 6,000 people worked on the campaign for Barack Obama. There are many that are either unemployed or uninsured, or both.

Most, if not all, of Barack Obama’s Campaign for Change veterans were among the 350,000 applicants for a few thousand jobs in Obama’s Washington. For those who didn’t have connections in the inner sanctum (or expansive resumes), the odds weren’t great. Some staffers who did not want to move to Washington, D.C. were depending on contacts made during the campaign for future opportunities. Now many of them are not only unemployed, but in the season of health care reform, they help comprise the 80 million under- or uninsured Americans (although the campaign cushioned the blow by extending health care benefits until the end of 2008).

“On Nov. 4, 2008, I realized our problems weren’t going to just go away; it would take time, compromises have to be made,” Donohue says, but he admits it isn’t easy. “I don’t have a job right now and I am struggling. But as an American citizen I respect the fact that statesmen can’t snap their fingers and turn out a perfect health care policy. Eventually, they will make a positive difference for the majority of people.”

The stories of former unemployed Obama staffers stack up. Benjamin Freed is a 25-year-old working as a temp in Washington, D.C. “I had an active role in shaping the communications strategy of one of the most heavily contested states in the country [Pennsylvania], on health care, on everything,” Freed says, while sitting in a coffee shop a couple of hundred yards from the White House. “And then on Nov. 4, around 11 p.m., they called the election. And that’s the last time I had a job.”

Surviving on money he earns from temp just isn’t enough to afford an individual health care plan. “I don’t have insurance—it’s too expensive,” Freed quickly answered. “I just have to be careful and stay healthy.”

Full story

It's hard to keep up with the daily progress of ObamaCare as it slithers through the bowels of the Corporate Chamber of Wholly Owned Subsidiaries. It started out as RomneyCare with a vaguely defined public option — much like President Obama himself. Now it's one of those 1-900-DIAL-A-BILKING things, with the revenues flowing everywhere but into delivery of healthcare. I don't have much on which to base it, but I'd bet HillaryCare would have been slightly better. Not sustainable, by any means, but able to get a few people patched up before it imploded. ObamaCare looks like it will be delivered imploded and worthless.

It's easy for me to draw a bright line between shoe-horning Obama into office and Donohue's and Freed's vicissitudes. There's nothing personal to it. I doubt Obama is aware of their existence. That's how slick operators treat the help. Awareness of this social reality usually comes in middle school. Only a cultivated ingenuousness can stuff it back into its box.


Let's cut the shit here, with some serious surgical precision: when it comes to health insurance it's either 676(*) or 666. There is no goo-goo in-between.

That about gets to the nuts of the pink-rad smackdown on public-option, eh?

I for one recall all too vividly your humble happy commentman here forced into a dung-beetle crawl through comment cage after comment cage, pursued by a 676er of self-described highest pink pedigree.

But it seems I'm not alone on the flabby left. In fact my defanged stalinoid friends over at People's Weakly are into dive-bombing these 676-or-bust stalwarts. Here's a fusillade fired there recently by one John Rummel:

Narrow thinking on health care

The single-payer bill introduced by Michigan Rep. John Conyers, is a fine piece of legislation and it is understandable that those who have worked hard for its enactment are passionate about this cause.

What is not understandable is the drawing of a “line in the sand” that divides those fighting for health care reform between supporters of 676 and those supporting a strong public option....

Would people who haven’t had health care for years and have no present hope of having it dismiss the public option saying “No, let’s wait for something better”?

But lots of my lefty friends think there is no multiclass center aisle on this one. Much the same sort of stark choice is of course posed by vigorous anti-corporates on proper means to climate rectification, too, where it's either Pigou or pig-out.

But the meliorites argue on, as in this by impatient temporizer Kount Krugula:

The solution to climate change must rely to an important extent on market mechanisms — it’s too complex an issue to deal with using command-and-control. That means accepting that some people will make money out of trading — and that yes, sometimes trading will go bad. So? We’ve got a planet at stake; it’s crazy to cut off our future to spite Goldman Sachs’s face.


(*) HR 676, that is, the single-payer bill.

July 27, 2009

Business as usual

CQ Politics reports:

Pelosi's Door Revolves for Top Lobbyist

The revolving door is wide open in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office just two years after she promised to crack down on the practice of congressional aides moving into lobbying shops and then back into government.

Pelosi announced Monday that she is hiring one of Washington's top lobbyists, Richard Meltzer, to be her policy director....

Pelosi's aides say... her agenda will not be unduly influenced by his former clients... [including] heavy hitters with serious interests in the outcome of Democratic agenda items, including a health care overhaul, energy legislation, the financial services bailout, the government's stake in the auto industry and others. In addition to ExxonMobil and R.J. Reynolds, his recent clients include health products giant Johnson & Johnson, Pacific Capital Bancorp (which has received more than $180 million in bailout funds), Ford Motor Company, Microsoft, General Electric, Aetna, and the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association.

Quite a rogue's gallery. I don't know which one I fear most. I think maybe it's Aetna.

Life's little ironies

A nice item by Ishmael Reed on Counterpunch about America's "Leading black intellectual" (you mean that's not Cornel West)?

Now that Henry Louis Gates Jr. has gotten a tiny taste of what “the underclass” undergo each day, do you think that he will go easier on them? Lighten up on the tough love lectures?

...[I]t was his Op ed for the Times blaming continued anti-Semitism on African Americans that brought the public intellectual uptown. It was then that Gates was ordained as the pre-eminent African American scholar when, if one polled African-American scholars throughout the nation, Gates would not have ranked among the top twenty five.....

.... Under Tina Brown’s editorship at The New Yorker, Gates was hired to do hatchet jobs on Minister Louis Farrakhan and the late playwright August Wilson.....

Gates is among those leaders who were “given to us,” not only by the white mainstream but also by white progressives. Amy Goodman carries on about Gates and Cornel West like the old Bobby Soxers used to swoon over Sinatra. Last week Rachel Maddow called Gates “the nation’s leading black intellectual.” Who pray tell is the nation’s leading white intellectual, Rachel? How come we can only have one?

July 28, 2009


It appears that all our scholastic disputations here about single-payer and public-option were moot: we're not going to get either one:

AP: Public Option Nixed from Health Bill
Senate Committee Said to Jettison Gov't Plan and Employer Mandate, Both Top Democratic Priorities

(AP) After weeks of secretive talks, a bipartisan group in the Senate edged closer Monday to a health care compromise that omits two key Democratic priorities but incorporates provisions to slow the explosive rise in medical costs, officials said.

These officials said participants were on track to exclude a requirement many congressional Democrats seek for businesses to offer coverage to their workers. Nor would there be a provision for a government insurance option, despite President Barack Obama's support for such a plan.

This self-appointed and carefully-balanced Group of Six consists of three Democrats -- Baucus, Conrad, and Bingeman -- and three Republicans -- Grassley, Snowe, and Enzi. This although the Democrats now have their Holy Grail, the filibuster-proof 60-vote majority in the Senate, and of course a hefty majority in the House as well. In other words, the Democrats have in effect given away the control they've been begging us to give them.

It's really a perfect, textbook example of the way the Democratic Party scam works. The party consists of two components: shills -- otherwise known as "progressives" -- and aisle-crossers. The shills -- people like Barney Frank, say -- get the suckers into the tent by denouncing imperial war and advocating reasonable things like card check and a sensible health care system. Once in the tent, the suckers get mugged by the aisle-crossers -- people like Lieberman and Baucus -- who make sure that none of these reasonable things actually happen.

Most liberals are able to see this pattern, and their indignant response is that "we" -- meaning the Democratic Party(*) -- should get rid of the aisle-crossers, since they are obstructing "our" agenda.

This is like telling a lobster that he ought to get rid of his right claw.

The passionate tango of shill and aisle-crosser is the Democratic Party's summation of the law, its institutional life process, its raison d'etre. A lobster wouldn't last long without his right claw, and the Democratic Party, in anything like its present form, wouldn't last long without the aisle-crossers. They're a vital organ. If you live by seducing and then mugging people -- which is what the Democratic Party does -- the mugger is as indispensable as the seducer.

And both are equally contemptible.


(*) This construction always puzzles me. Sports fans do the same thing. I know plenty of people who refer to the Yankees as "we", and none of them is named Steinbrenner.

Sources state

A previous contributor here has come through again:

URL, if the embed doesn't work:


Favorite lines:

But they didn't try to censor me
I guess they didn't see the need.

July 29, 2009


Fired by a robot:

Economists want price agents to be nonexistent: they want a world of producing agents, reacting to market prices by -- producing for 'em, and by interaction and other market mojo, profits will vanish into consumer surplus through price-compensation.

Nonsense? Of course it's nonsense, total nonsense, a perfect fan dance for the rise of the modern free range corporation, with its oligpolist "active pricing". Blame ole Leon and Francis here, if you must:

... but 'tis a wondrous set of notions, eh? -- For a society still married to commodity production and its filthy commerce.

Imagine if it were doable. Imagine if the impersonal deistic market figment really could, by its own spontaneous means, liquidate all profit demons and their bubbles of rent?

Hey, I have a way to make it work.

Let the infernal machines run all markets -- we embodied human-capitals, by ones or by many's, org'ed or un-org'ed, wage-slaved or yeoman-iac, get to submit our products as commodities, just like now, but to an automatic pricing system, one that simply does its thing and "moves your stuff".

You'd watch it like a game board, I suspect, or a slot machine

The tiny Nipponese marketeer below embodies a student-prince dream of mine -- only mine could climb skyscrapers and enter your office or apartment through the window and stay there until you bought a burger.

About July 2009

This page contains all entries posted to Stop Me Before I Vote Again in July 2009. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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