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Archive for November, 2010

Kos Notes Danger for Baggers, Opportunity for Dem

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I may not always agree with Kos, but when he writes the following:

Every Republican in the House faces reelection in 2012. And while we don’t know what the maps will look like in most cases (we have redistricting next year), they’re not all going to be able to draw themselves safe districts. They clearly have no interest or ideas on how to deal with the top voter concerns. So they’re doubling down on the social issues, even if it means antagonizing key voter groups like Latinos. (Ask Sharron Angle, Ken Buck, and the California twins how that worked out for them.)

They’ll spend the next two years ranting about things voters don’t care about. And come 2012, when things haven’t improved, it’ll be their turn to be on the receiving end of a voter backlash.

…All I can say is, “Yup.”

Of course, the new Republican Reps can always look for legislative compromises that will help the economy, but then they would face the same baying hoards of Teabaggers that put them in office with their well known “enthusiasm”.

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November 23rd, 2010 at 12:36 pm

The Health Care Is Too Damn High and Hands Off Social Security

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Somebody should start a new political party.

Found at Daily Kos, posted by Susan Gardner.

Tow important points made by that adorable bear:

1. Social Security does not contribute to the deficit. And yet, the Deficit fear mongers (who know better) always talk about weakening Social Security and part of deficit reduction.

2. The health care is too damn high. One point that should always be part of the health care debate in the U.S. is that the U.S. pays more for health care per capita than any other country in the world and yet many have no health insurance and outcomes like infant mortality and life expectancy are declining. Most of the extra cost in the U.S. health care system goes to health insurance companies. This is the text book definition of bureaucratic waste.

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November 18th, 2010 at 10:49 am

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Arcade Fire was on the teevee the other night.

And also:

Is it jsut me or do Arcade Fire songs all seem to have something to do with not somehow feeling at home in one’s own time and place? What’s the word, alienation? Probly overthinking it. Nice beat. Give it a 35.

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November 16th, 2010 at 3:29 pm

Posted in Music

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Bernie Takes on Catfoodies

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In an attempt to widen the debate over debt and deficit reduction to include the effing obvious, Senator Bernie Sanders (Working Class Hero, VT) has decided that:

…(H)e will craft and introduce his own proposals as an alternative.

The Vermont Independent said that he will work with members of Congress, labor unions, seniors’ organizations and others to develop alternative suggestions. And while he didn’t get into the weeds, he did offer a few general areas that he hopes to target, including ending Bush-era tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans, chopping off Cold War-era Pentagon programs and eliminating of tax credits for big oil companies.

Of the ideas pushed by the commission co-chairmen — former Sen. Alan K. Simpson and Erskine Bowles, former President Bill Clinton’s former chief of staff — Sanders offered the following:

“It is no surprise that these two favor draconian cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the needs of our veterans, and education while proposing tax reductions for the wealthy and large profitable corporations… Simpson is a darling of the Republican right wing and Bowles is a former investment banker who made a fortune on Wall Street. Their plan was floated amid reports that the two were struggling to cobble together enough support on their own commission to go forward by a Dec. 1 deadline.”

The corporate media (with a few obvious exceptions which do not seem to include NPR or PBS) is only allowed to discuss debt and deficit reduction in terms pre-approved by the Catfood Commission and other Republicans. Bernie says “Not so fast, rich bastards. Let’s hear what real people have to say.”

Bernie is doing his job and those of both the President and the Senate Majority Leader with no bump in pay or perks. Sure could use another fifty of him.

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November 15th, 2010 at 12:36 pm

Novels About Game Keepers

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Here is a description I found online of a well known novel by a well known author. Can you guess the name of the writer and the book?

“This fictional account of the day-by-day life of the English gamekeeper is still of considerable interest to outdoor-minded readers, as it contains many passages on pheasant-raising, the apprehending of poachers, ways to control vermin, and other chores and duties of the professional gamekeeper. Unfortunately one is obliged to wade through many pages of extraneous material in order to discover and savour these sidelights on the management of a Midlands shooting estate, and in this reviewer’s opinion this book cannot take the place of J.R. Miller’s ‘Practical Gamekeeping’.”

The first 10 correct answers will receive…my thanks for playing.

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November 15th, 2010 at 11:12 am

Posted in Literature

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The Ultimate Republican Goal

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The conventional wisdom is that the republicans in congress are less willing to compromise on legislation than are the Democrats. I see no reason or basis for challenging the conventional wisdom in this regard. By the way, it is not just Washington Dems who are flaccid in the face of determined opposition. On Friday, November 12, New York Times columnist Charles Belew cited a Pew Research poll that found that:

…About half of the respondents said that President Obama still should take the lead in solving the nation’s problems. Only 39 percent said the same about Bill Clinton in 1994 and only 29 percent said so about George W. Bush in 2006. This seems to be at odds with what Republican respondents want. By more than 2 to 1, Republicans think that their leaders should “stand up to Obama” as opposed to working with him, and most think that those leaders should stick to their positions as opposed to making compromises. (This is stunning. Compromise is how democracies function. Are they saying that they don’t want a functioning democracy?)

I think that is exactly what they are saying. For more than 70 years the GOP has been trying to undo the New Deal. The New Deal was a democratic (small d) response to a national existential crisis. In those long ago days the Democrats did what the people told them to do and the people demanded action. The action they got upset the corporatist ancient regime. From that time the Republicans’ prime directive has been to repeal as much of the New Deal as possible and to return power to the wealthy and the corporations. Reagan made the most progress toward that goal, but the project has continued for the last 30 years. The result has been stagnant or declining wags for the middle class and a dramatic transfer of wealth upward.

But what is the ultimate goal of the Republicans. How much wealth and power will be enough for their elite clients? What kind of society do they think and hope will result from the fulfillment of their agenda? Maybe Newt Gingrich has offered us a clue:

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is urging conservatives to operate as though they’re in a 10-year plan to “replace the left.”
Gingrich, speaking in Dallas on Thursday, told a conservative crowd “to think in terms of January 2021,” according to CNN.
“Rejection doesn’t fix a center-left coalition,” the former Republican congressman from Georgia said. “We have to decide we’re going to replace the left.”

“If we truly want a wave of change that ends a majority system that has been around since 1932, the wave can’t be the Oval Office,” he said. “Not that the presidency isn’t important, and not that I may not come back here another day and talk to you about a different topic, but that that topic by itself is too narrow.”
“The only way the presidency matters is if there’s a wave of citizens,” he concluded.

How does a country replace its left (or right for that matter)? It sounds like Newtie would like to live in a country where the trains run on time (only Republicans don’t like trains). Gingriches fantasy sounds very much like a one party state, where power would be concentrated at the top of the food chain.

Here is a definition of fascism from wordiq:

• exalts nation and sometimes race above the individual,
• uses violence and modern techniques of propaganda and censorship to forcibly suppress political opposition,
• engages in severe economic and social regimentation.
• engages in corporatism (sometimes defined as the tendency in politics for legislators and administrations to be influenced or dominated by the interests of business enterprises (limited liability corporations).

Does this sound like your friendly neighborhood Republican? Sure sounds to me like an apt description of Sharon Angle and a few others.

Meanwhile the Democrats continue to bring (metaphorical) plastic spoons to (figurative) knife fights. To be fair, not all Democrats are spineless. But the Democratic party is not really a left party in any meaningful sense. In fact, Newtie’s goal has long been realized. The left was replaced within the Democratic Party sometime during the Clinton presidency. Progressives or liberals are tolerated and sometimes even given leadership positions (see Nancy Pelosi). But the real leaders of the Democrats always make sure that policy and debate remain within well marked center right boundaries.

Republicans of course don’t see it that way, and their eliminationist rhetoric and practices will continue until they are opposed, either by the Democrats or some other formation not yet born.

Written by slothropia

November 14th, 2010 at 3:57 pm

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot Is Happening at the World Bank?

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Remember the old days – two days ago – when the President of the World Bank seemed to advocate a return to the gold standard?

LONDON — Leading economies should consider adopting a modified global gold standard to guide currency rates, World Bank president Robert Zoellick said on Monday in a surprise proposal before a potentially acrimonious G20 summit.

Writing in the Financial Times, Zoellick called for a new system of floating currencies as a successor to the Bretton Woods fixed-exchange rate regime, which broke down in the early 1970s and involved measuring currency rates against gold.

The former U.S. trade representative, who served in several Republican administrations, said the new system “is likely to need to involve the dollar, the euro, the yen, the pound and (a Chinese yuan) that moves towards internationalization and then an open capital account.

“The system should also consider employing gold as an international reference point of market expectations about inflation, deflation and future currency values,” he added.

Zoellick did not spell out in detail how this system might work, but said it would help to rebuild the confidence of financial markets and the general public in the global monetary system after the financial crisis.

Neither does the President of the World Bank:

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) — A return to the gold standard by major economies is not practical, World Bank President Robert Zoellick said Wednesday, just two days after an opinion piece he wrote stirred talk of the need to do just that.

“The system should also consider employing gold as an international reference point of market expectations about inflation, deflation and future currency values,” he wrote in the piece that appeared on the opinion pages of Monday’s Financial Times.

Speaking in Singapore Wednesday, Zoellick clarified that he was referring to the need for gold to play a role in a new international monetary system, which would need to balance the values of the the dollar, the euro, the yen, the pound and eventually the Chinese yuan.

“Gold is now being used, being viewed, as an alternative monetary asset. This is not the same as a gold standard,” he said in prepared remarks.

Press accounts of his presentation said he added “I don’t believe you can return to a fixed exchange rate system and that is the gold standard. I’m not advocating a return to the 19th century when money supply was linked to gold.”

World Bank spokespeople in Washington couldn’t confirm those comments due to the time difference with Singapore.

Whatever Zoellick was trying to accomplish with his original remarks, they were taken by many as a call for a return to a gold standard and “sound money” to maintain the value of currency by limiting how much of it is created. This is a fairly traditional idea of conservative economists and monetarists like Alan Greenspan and Milton Friedman. Many economists and historians put at least some of the blame for the Great Depression on the gold standard.

Economist Nouriel Roubini reacted pretty swiftly to Zoellick’s trial balloon:

Reviving the gold standard, a move to regulate global money supply, is a bad idea in that it will make business cycles more volatile and take away central banks’ abilities to fight inflation, says New York University economist Nouriel Roubini.

It also won’t help monetary authorities fight unemployment.

“A fixed exchange regime, even if it is not a gold standard … that world just doesn’t work. Because in that world, monetary policy by definition instead of being counter-cyclical becomes pro-cyclical,” Roubini tells CNBC’s NetNet.

“Suppose you have a fixed exchange rate regime … it just exacerbates the business cycle.”

The gold standard, a global fixed exchange rate that has garnered some advocates these days, would take away a country’s ability to heat or cool its respective economy in an effort to create jobs or tame inflation.

Central banks would also be unable to stockpile money to act as a lender of last resort in the event of a run on banks.

And so Zoellick walked it back a bit. But his original musings should not be a surprise. After all the World Bank has long been a happy home for reactionary economics. This incident does illustrate the extent to which the Right in the U.S. is actively seeking a return to a 19th century political economy.

Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but it appears that other conservative notions are finding a welcome at the world bank:

Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays – PFOX – will soon be able to say that its programming is supported by funding provided to it by the World Bank.

As part of the World Bank’s efforts to ”strengthen communities,” the Community Outreach Program coordinates an annual workplace-giving campaign that includes World Bank matching funds given to various community groups and international nonprofits. Depending on the level of employee participation, the bank’s matching funds are either 50 percent or 100 percent of the employee donations.

For the first time, the World Bank’s 2010-2011 Community Connections Campaign will include PFOX immediately above Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) on its list of eligible organizations, a fact confirmed Wednesday evening by a World Bank spokesperson.

WTF, World Bank. Just WTF.

Bill Moyers: “Welcome to the Plutocracy!”

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Remember Bill Moyers? he finished off a brilliant career in politics and political journalism with an outstanding PBS program, Bill Moyers Journal (archived video still available at the PBS website). On October 29 at Boston University, Moyers gave a speech paying tribute to Howard Zinn, the People’s Historian. Truthout was kind enough to publish a transcript of the speech and you can read it for yourself by following the link above (where it says Truthout in a blue font).

This wasn’t just a “What a great guy Howard Zinn was speech.” I did not know Howard Zinn but I imagine he would not have appreciated a glowing eulogy for its own sake and with no larger purpose. Rather, Moyers incorporated Zinn’s passionate democratic impulse into a discussion of the dire state of U.S. politics in the early twenty first century. He describes and names the new form of government in the U.S.: Plutocracy. Rule by the rich. That is the entire agenda of the Republican party, Teabaggers and all. They have no plan for reducing unemployment or for solving any other problem facing their country. Give the rich more wealth and the corporations more power. Everyone and every thing else can go hang. And of course that is just what many do.

Here then are some key quotes:

Time for a confession. The legendary correspondent Edward R. Murrow told his generation of journalists that bias is okay as long as you don’t try to hide it. Here is mine: Plutocracy and democracy don’t mix. Plutocracy too long tolerated leaves democracy on the auction block, subject to the highest bidder.

Socrates said to understand a thing, you must first name it. The name for what’s happening to our political system is corruption – a deep, systemic corruption. I urge you to seek out the recent edition of Harper’s Magazine. The former editor Roger D. Hodge brilliantly dissects how democracy has gone on sale in America. Ideally, he writes, our ballots purport to be expressions of political will, which we hope and pray will be translated into legislative and executive action by our pretended representatives. But voting is the beginning of civil virtue, not its end, and the focus of real power is elsewhere. Voters still “matter” of course, but only as raw material to be shaped by the actual form of political influence – money.

James Madison and many of his contemporaries knew this kind of corruption could consume the republic. Looking at history a tragic lens, they thought the life cycle of republics – their degeneration into anarchy, monarchy, or oligarchy – was inescapable. And they attempted to erect safeguards against it, hoping to prevent private and narrow personal interests from overriding those of the general public.

They failed. Hardly a century passed after the ringing propositions of 1776 than America was engulfed in the gross materialism and political corruption of the First Gilded Age, when Big Money bought the government right out from under the voters. In their magisterial work on The Growth of the American Republic, the historians Morrison, Commager, and Leuchtenberg describe how in that era “privilege controlled politics,” and “the purchase of votes, the corruption of election officials, the bribing of legislatures, the lobbying of special bills, and the flagrant disregard of laws” threatened the very foundations of the country.”

Referring to the Gilded Age of the late 19th century, Moyers continues:

Conservatives of the day – pro-corporate apologists – hijacked the vocabulary of Jeffersonian liberalism and turned words like “progress,” “opportunity,” and “individualism” into tools for making the plunder of America sound like divine right. Laissez faire ideologues and neo-cons of the day – lovers of empire even then – hijacked Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution and so distorted it that politicians, judges, and publicists gleefully embraced the notion that progress emerges from the elimination of the weak and the “survival of the fittest.” As one of the plutocrats crowed: “We are rich. We own America. We got it, God knows how, but we intend to keep it.”

And they have never given up. The Gilded Age returned with a vengeance in our time. It slipped in quietly at first, back in the early 1980s, when Ronald Reagan began a “massive decades-long transfer of national wealth to the rich.” As Roger Hodge makes clear, under Bill Clinton the transfer was even more dramatic, as the top 10 percent captured an ever-growing share of national income. The trend continued under George W. Bush – those huge tax cuts for the rich, remember, which are now about to be extended because both parties have been bought off by the wealthy – and by 2007 the wealthiest 10% of Americans were taking in 50% of the national income. Today, a fraction of people at the top today earn more than the bottom 120 million Americans.

(Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan) said President Reagan’s real strategy was to force the government to cut domestic social programs by fostering federal deficits of historic dimensions. Senator Moynihan was gone before the financial catastrophe on George W. Bush’s watch that could paradoxically yet fulfill Reagan’s dream. The plutocrats who soaked up all the money now say the deficits require putting Social Security and other public services on the chopping block. You might think that Mr. Bush today would regret having invaded Iraq on false pretenses at a cost of more than a trillion dollars and counting, but no, just last week he said that his biggest regret was his failure to privatize Social Security. With over l00 Republicans of the House having signed a pledge to do just that when the new Congress convenes, Mr. Bush’s vision may yet be realized.

Daniel Altman also saw what was coming. In his book Neoconomy he described a place without taxes or a social safety net, where rich and poor live in different financial worlds. “It’s coming to America,” he wrote. Most likely he would not have been surprised recently when firefighters in rural Tennessee would let a home burn to the ground because the homeowner hadn’t paid a $75 fee.

That’s what is coming to America.

Everyone knows millions of Americans are in trouble. As Robert Reich recently summed it the state of working people: They’ve lost their jobs, their homes, and their savings. Their grown children have moved back in with them. Their state and local taxes are rising. Teachers and firefighters are being laid off. The roads and bridges they count on are crumbling, pipelines are leaking, schools are dilapidated, and public libraries are being shut.

Why isn’t government working for them? Because it’s been bought off. It’s as simple as that. And until we get clean money we’re not going to get clean elections, and until we get clean elections, you can kiss goodbye government of, by, and for the people. Welcome to the plutocracy.

But here’s the key: If you’re fighting for a living wage, or peace, or immigration reform, or gender equality, or the environment, or a safe neighborhood, you are, of necessity, strongly opposed to a handful of moneyed-interests controlling how decisions get made and policy set. Because most Americans are attuned to principle of fair play, of not favoring Big Money at the expense of the little guy – at the expense of the country they love. The legendary community organizer Ernesto Cortes talks about the “power to preserve what we value.” That’s what we want for Americans – the power to preserve what we value, both for ourselves and on behalf of our democracy.

But let’s be clear: Even with most Americans on our side, the odds are long. We learned long ago that power and privilege never give up anything without a struggle. Money fights hard, and it fights dirty. Think Rove. The Chamber. The Kochs. We may lose. It all may be impossible. But it’s OK if it’s impossible. Hear the former farmworker and labor organizer Baldemar Velasquez on this. The members of his Farm Labor Organizing Committee are a long way from the world of K Street lobbyists. But they took on the Campbell Soup Company – and won. They took on North Carolina growers – and won, using transnational organizing tacts that helped win Velasquez a “genius” award from the MacArthur Foundation. And now they’re taking on no less than R. J. Reynolds Tobacco and one of its principle financial sponsors, JPMorgan-Chase. Some people question the wisdom of taking on such powerful interests, but here’s what Velasquez says: “It’s OK if it’s impossible; it’s OK! Now I’m going to speak to you as organizers. Listen carefully. The object is not to win. That’s not the objective. The object is to do the right and good thing. If you decide not to do anything, because it’s too hard or too impossible, then nothing will be done, and when you’re on your death bed, you’re gonna say, “I wish I had done something. But if you go and do the right thing NOW, and you do it long enough “good things will happen—something’s gonna happen.”

Shades of Howard Zinn!

If you’re looking fo0r a heroic example to emulate, how about that Howard Zinn.

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November 10th, 2010 at 12:13 am

Open Letter to Boehner

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Here’s what my daughter has to say to John Boehner:

Dear John Boehner, between the senate, congress, and the white house, you have one of those things. That is not a mandate. Thx, Ame.

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November 5th, 2010 at 9:25 am

Arcade Fire and Friends

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Here’s a little bit of recent rock history; Bruce the Boss with Arcade Fire.

First, Keep the Car running

Next, State Trooper from the album Nebraska

How about Arcade Fire and U2 doing Love Will Tear Us Apart? Musta been a pretty big stage.

David Bowie with Arcade Fire dong Five Years from Ziggy Stardust I believe.

That Arcade Fire sure has a lot of friends n’est ce pas?

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November 4th, 2010 at 8:51 pm