Shared posts

22 Aug 13:59

Today In Both Sides Do It: Matt Taibbi

by driftglass

Sigh.

So here we go...

I admire Matt's writing very much.  However, in his new article in Rolling Stone , Mr. Taibbi tells his readers that while Fox News is definitely a black hole of runamok authoritarian goons and professional hysterics that has pulverized and swallowed the Right ...
Just look at the history of Fox and its satellite organizations.
Yes, the Murdoch empire has succeeded in accruing enormous power across the globe. In the United States, its impact on political affairs has been incalculable. It's led us into war, paralyzed Democratic presidencies, helped launch movements like the Tea Party and effectively spread so much disinformation that huge majorities ofRepublicans still doubt things like the birthplace of Barack Obama.
But Fox's coverage has been so overwhelmingly one-sided that it has lost forever the ability to convince non-conservatives of anything. Rupert Murdoch has turned into the Slime Who Cried Wolf. Even when Murdoch gets hold of a real story, he usually can't reach more than an inch outside his own dumbed-down audience.
Worse still, when you shill as constantly as his outlets have, even your most enthusiastic audience members very quickly learn to see through you...
..it is also true that if you stand athwart the tsumani of raw right-wing sewage that has buried this country under a thick sludge of rage and dumb and shout "Stop", no matter how out-gunned and out-spent you may be, well then aren't you really just as bad?
In the same way that Fox used to (and probably still does) save on reporting and research costs by simply regurgitating talking points from the RNC, blue-leaning cable channels are running segments and online reports that are increasingly indistinguishable from Democratic Party messaging.
I know we're at the ass-end of bikini season, but apparently Mr. Taibbi is on that special diet, where you slim down to fighting trim by both having your cake...
It's not that stations were wrong to denounce Trump's comments. He deserves it all. 
...and eating it too.
But he's not the only stupid, lying, corrupt politician in the world, which is the impression one could easily get watching certain stations these days.
Yes, certain stations sure do suck at things these days.  Certain things.
Certainly that won't change if the "MSM" devolves completely into a McDonald's/Burger King situation where the major media splits into Trump Sucks or Hillary Sucks outlets. Forget about the fact that it's boring. From now on, how will we know if a real scandal hits?
Because a major political party degenerating to the point where they nominated an unhinged, racist con man isn't a "real scandal"?

Look, I know I'm just a 3rd rate nobody out here on the edge of nowhere, but when I go looking for "blue-leaning" anything these days, you know what I find?  I find a few hours week on MSNBC that Phil Griffin hasn't larded up with Republican Squint and his Meat Puppet --


-- or former RNC chair Michael Steele, or Republican mole Mark Halperin, or Mrs. Alan Greenspan, or Shuck Todd and Mini Shuck Todd machine-gunning meaningless poll numbers at me.  I find a handful of radio stations that carry a the same four or five Liberal programs, most of them constantly fundraising on the edge of oblivion.

Elsewhere it's wall-to-wall wingnuts on the radio from sea to shining sea, and teevee programming that mostly seems to feature dead-eyed Pro Trump Conservative zombies battling with rage-spittle-flecked Anti Trump Conservative zombies over who gets to carve this country into what sort of bite-sized portions to feed which constituency.

And until this immediate and mortal threat to my country's basic ability to govern itself is addressed, any article built on the predicate that "Well sure the Confederacy seceding and firing on Fort Sumter is bad, but on the other hand..."  loses me.

Because the problem is not Trump.  The problem is that one of our two major political parties -- representing around 40 percent of the voting public -- is so irredeemably fucked-in-the-head that it nominated Donald Trump, will vote in its millions for Donald Trump and, if Donald Trump is elected, would stand by him if he promised mass crucifixions along his inauguration parade route and a nuclear first strike on Mecca in the spring.

The problem not that biased, Both Siderist reporting on this story is swamping everything else.  The problem is that the state of the Fox News Republican Party itself is a planet-wide, First Order Disaster and our broken, biased media is doing everything in its considerable power to avoid speaking this terrifying truth out loud.
driftglass
19 Jul 01:45

The Next Bubble to Burst: Will It Be Housing Again?

by Gaius Publius
The modern world of bubbles (source; click to enlarge)

by Gaius Publius

I'm following a number of stories at the moment, including the possible further collapse in carbon (oil and gas) prices; the likely and casual ubiquity of election-stealing by both parties (which has interesting implications for the general election); and the next installment in our "Look Ahead" series, a peer into the future of American political life and governance from the conventions into the reign of the next administration.

But this one-off story deserves your attention. I want to put the existence of a new housing bubble on your radar. It certainly exists. Will it burst soon? There's no telling, but it's as big a bubble as the last one. In my locale (one of those illustrated below) the amount of construction is shocking, given the fact that nothing has structurally changed since the 2007-08 crash.

From Zero Hedge, with charts (emphasis in the original):
Housing Bubble 2.0 - Are You Ready For This?

The mind-numbing Case-Shiller regional charts below are presented without too much comment. As MHanson.com's Mark Hanson adds, the visual says it all.

Bottom line:
Q: If 2006/07 was the peak of the largest housing bubble in history with affordability never better vis a’ vis exotic loans; easy availability of credit; unemployment in the 4%’s; the total workforce at record highs; and growing wages, then what do you call “now” with house prices at or above 2006 levels; worse affordability; tighter credit; higher unemployment; a weakening total workforce; and shrinking wages?

A: Whatever you call it, it’s a greater thing than the Bubble 1.0 peak.
... If these key housing markets hit a wall they will take the rest of the nation with them; bubbles and busts don’t happen in “isolation”.
And now those charts:

Price charts from selected housing markets (click to enlarge).

A few comments from the site (my emphasis here):
The bubblicious regions above all have one thing in common…STEM [the science-technology-engineering-math sector]. As such, if the tech and biotech sectors hit a wall, which some believe has already begun, so will these housing regions.

• If these key housing markets hit a wall they will take the rest of the nation with them; Bubbles and busts don’t happen in “isolation”.

• House prices have retaken Bubble 1.0 levels on the exact same drivers: easy/cheap/deep credit & liquidity that found its way to real estate. The only difference between both era’s [sic] is which cohorts controlled the credit and liquidity. In Bubble 1.0, end-users were in control. In this bubble, “professional”/private investors and foreigners are. But, they both drove demand and prices in the exact same manner. That is, as incremental buyers with easy/cheap/deep credit & liquidity, able to hit whatever the ask price was, and consequently — due to the US comparable sales appraisal process — pushed all house prices to levels far beyond what typical end-user, shelter-buyers can afford. Thus, the persistent, anemic demand.

• Bubble 2.0 has occurred without a corresponding demand surge just like peak Bubble 1.0. As such, it means something other than fundamental, end-user demand and economics is driving prices this time too.

• The end result of Bubble 2.0 will be the same as 1.0; a demand “mix-shift” and price “reset” back towards end-user fundamentals once the speculators finish up, or events force them to the “sidelines”. ...
And:
• Lastly, I am betting 2016 marks the high for house prices, as mortgage rates can’t go meaningfully lower, the unorthodox demand cohort is exhausted, and real affordability to end-user shelter-buyers has rarely been worse. In fact, I believe this is the year house prices go red yy [year-over-year].
The zero interest rate economy (ZIRP; the "P" stands for "policy"), which is so good for bankers since they "borrow" from the Fed for free, is terrible for us little people. (The central banks are also propping up the stock market, by the way, one of the places the CEO class parks their corporate "take.") All of which creates an economy that is, as Zero Hedge says, "bubblicious." The fact that we're in an economy buoyed by serial bubbles is structural, built-in. The economy will be this unstable until we reregulate and aggressively tax those with too much money and no productive place to invest it.

This is not good for the rest of us, not good at all. Pay attention, and if you can, protect yourself. At some point soon, the next housing crash will occur. And when the banks do need bailing out, watch what happens. The public, left and right, won't tolerate more flat gifts to bankers. So the Europeans are experimenting with something quite different:
According to The Economist, the magazine that coined the term "bail-in", a bail-in occurs when the borrower's creditors are forced to bear some of the burden by having a portion of their debt written off. For example, bondholders in Cyprus banks and depositors with more than 100,000 euros in their accounts were forced to write-off a portion of their holdings. This approach eliminates some of the risk for taxpayers by forcing other creditors to share in the pain and suffering.

While both bail-ins and bail-outs are designed to keep the borrowing institution afloat, the two different methods of accomplishing the goal vary greatly. Bail-outs are designed to keep creditors happy and interest rates low, while bail-ins are ideal in situations where bail-outs are politically difficult or impossible, and creditors aren't keen on the idea of a liquidation event. The new approach became especially popular during the European Sovereign Debt crisis.
Otherwise known as asset confiscation, that is, preserving taxpayer money and helping a firm's bondholders not take the whole hit themselves by putting some of the cost of keeping an institution afloat ... on depositors. Wonder how that will make depositors feel as they're feeling the pinch of the next crisis.

Of course, the government could just let the profligate banks fail; but then, where would the next Treasury Secretary come from? It is a puzzlement.

GP
 
30 Jun 17:56

The Soviet Socialist State Of North Carolina Is At It Again!

by Mark

You probably heard that the politburo in North Carolina has decided to change HB2 just a bit.  They are looking at making transgender people get a “change of sex document”, but only if they have had a sex change operation.  Then, and only then, will they be able to use the bathroom that matches their gender.  But, that is not what this article is about.

This article is about the licensing of teachers in North Carolina.  Specifically about two bills, one passed and one pending.  The comparison will probably “shock and awe” you.  First some little background.

Teachers in North Carolina do not have collective bargaining rights.  The politburo passed that “famous” right to work law and public employees have no bargaining rights.  Additionally, the politburo has been slashing funding for public schools for a few years now.  One teacher said education funding cuts handed down by GOP leaders and McCrory set public schools up for failure, comparing it to being asked to cook a meal without any tools.

You have no pots and pans. You have no knives and they judge you for the food you make.

Recently, a group of teachers demanded a meeting with Chairman McCrory about the school funding cuts.  They were assured of a meeting but when the arrived, McCrory had cancelled the meeting due to a “scheduling conflict” and locked the doors.

The teachers began a protest blocking traffic.  Many of them were arrested for “blocking traffic” which is classified as “civil disobedience”.  That is where Senate Bill 867 comes into play.  North Carolina had received a grade of “F” for background checks on teachers.  The bill, called Protect Students in Schools was introduced to enhance the background checks for teachers looking for “teaching licenses”.

On the surface, that sounds like a very reasonable thing.  And I applaud them for their action.  Until you notice that some of the crimes that would prevent a teacher from getting their license includes the obvious things like rape, murder, and other horrible crimes.  But, it seems to have added one that makes no sense.  It includes Civil Disobedience!

That means that if this law passes, and there is no reason to believe the politburo won’t pass it and that Chairman McCrory won’t sign it, the teachers who were arrested for Civil Disobedience in that protest may not have their licenses renewed.

There is only one reason to include that “crime” in the legislation.  To silence teachers and keep them from exercising their free speech rights to help protect education funding.  The idea that teachers be licensed is to ensure that teachers meet certain minimum requirements to become teachers.

It would appear that the state wants to have qualified teachers in the classroom.  But, as you will see, that is not necessarily the case.  There was another bill that has already passed the politburo and signed by Chairman McCrory.  That bill reduces the requirement for “charter school” requirements of licensed teachers.

That law says that only 50 percent of teachers in K-12 grades in Charter Schools are required to be licensed.  The change stems from the ideas that non-licensed people can make excellent teachers, and charter schools are an appropriate place to try out innovative ideas, said bill author and state Sen. Jerry Tillman (R-Randolph). As one example, he cited an engineer neighbor who wanted to teach but didn’t want to spend time or money fulfilling certification requirements.

However, the background checks for teachers will only cover “licensed” teachers.  Non-licensed teachers will not require the same rigorous background checks that licensed teachers will have to follow.  How does that make our students “safe” in schools?

Republicans have been calling for us to “protect the constitution” for a long time.  Even here in the Soviet Socialist State of North Carolina.  Yet, they are willing to put a simple crime of “Civil Disobedience” on the list of crimes that can prevent you from getting your license to teach.  AND, by the way, let way too many non-licensed teachers into the “Charter School System” because a “neighbor” of one of the politburo didn’t want to spend the time and money meeting the certification requirements.

Another little known fact is that Senate Bill 867 also charges the teachers the $50 bill for conducting the background check on them.  This in a state that already has a shortage of “well-documented” teachers.

The bill has not reached its final stages yet.  There is still some wrangling to do over it and the House needs to look at it as well.  However, the politburo in North Carolina is not known for its reasonable laws.  They generally give Chairman McCrory whatever he wants.

I  have nothing against background checks for teachers.  That is a reasonable action to help protect our children in school.  However, when you add things like “civil disobedience” to the list of disqualifying crimes, you have gone way too far.  All you are saying is that you are silencing your critics.  But then, that is what a politburo does.  They silence their critics.

The attacks on civil rights is in full swing in the Soviet Socialist State of North Carolina.  First, they passed voting restriction laws.  Then they passed the bathroom laws.  Now they want to pass a law to take away teacher’s rights to protest by threatening them with their teachers license if they get arrested for “blocking traffic” or some other civil disobedience law.

If the nation really wants to know what it will be like to live under Republican Control should Trump win the White House and Republicans control both Houses of Congress, all you need do is look at the Soviet Socialist State of North Carolina.  Only Trump will have nothing on Chairman McCrory.  Only Chairman Brownback in the Soviet Socialist State of Kansas comes close to Chairman McCrory.  Except for the “purges” Chairman McCrory has Stalinism down cold!

And the “shirts” keep marching along!

 

 

 

 

 


25 Jun 16:32

Capitalism’s Favorite Show

by Michael Terry

Like all successful reality shows, CBS’s Undercover Boss sticks to a simple formula: The (usually male) CEO of a large American company disguises himself as a bottom-tier worker to get an inside look at his business. He meets workers and management types, sees how hard (or not so hard) they work and comes to appreciate their struggles. Then he reveals his identity. Employees who have proven their worth receive gifts from their now-benevolent overlord. Sometimes, their working conditions also get a facelift—Shoppers World fixed its Wi-Fi, Checkers received a new drive-thru speaker. In one exceptional case, Kendall-Jackson Vineyard Estates restored its 401(k) plan.

Seven seasons in, Undercover Boss seamlessly exposes the everyday suffering of workers under late capitalism and at the same time reassures viewers that the system is self-correcting.

Take the first episode of Season 4. Mitch Modell, head of Modell’s Sporting Goods, learns that Angel—alongside whom he’s worked the till, stocked the shelves and waited on customers all day—is living with her children in a shelter because she can’t afford housing on her sales associate salary. Reduced to tears, he gives her a promotion and buys her a house. Hearing this news, Angel falls to her knees, weeping.

But at no time does Modell express concern about how other workers in Angel’s position may be similarly struggling. Today, nearly four years later, a sales associate at Modell’s makes a little over $8 an hour.

Undercover Boss is the latest in a long line of individual-reward narratives, from the Christian concept of Heaven to American Idol, that have helped prop up capitalism. As such, the show acts as a safety valve for the frustrations of an indebted, underpaid, exhausted work force, one that acknowledges suffering and offers a fantasy of relief—as long as you don’t dissent.

In Season 6, Jessica, a server at Bikinis Sports Bar & Grill (a Texas chain of “breastaurants”) unknowingly trains CEO Doug Guller to work behind the bar. Things get off to a rocky start when she admits she isn’t wearing her regulation bikini—knowing Guller is being filmed for a reality show (just not which), she decides she would rather not be scantily clad on television. This upsets Guller, who cannot abide the sin against his brand. He is, after all, the man who trademarked “breastaurant.” Jessica, a former account executive, confides in him that she hopes to find something better. When Guller comes out as CEO, he fires her.

Angry at being deceived, Jessica protests, “Is everyone happy with the job they have? It doesn’t make me a horrible person just because I’m not satisfied with where I’m at.”

Guller, not without a heart, rewards a sunnier, more pliant server with the one thing she said would help her improve at her job: breast implants.

The pretext of this reality show, the need for the boss to go undercover, reveals an important truth, though not the one the producers think: In our largely non-unionized workforce, employees have no means to air grievances to the heads of their companies; no power to improve their collective wages or working conditions.

The undercover act only goes so far—CEOs may go to the ground floor, but they, and the Undercover Boss producers, have no desire to expose what goes on in the basement. Most of the companies are retail-based; rarely do we get a look deeper down the supply chain. While the CEO of Fatburger is willing to see what life is like on the grill, how about life picking the tomatoes that garnish his patties? While Modell is floored by Angel’s struggle, does he explore the source of the sneakers she slings on the sales floor? To do so would be to find working conditions too squalid for network television. Unwittingly, the show reflects the narrow lens through which American capitalism considers labor.

Undercover Boss is a mirage. It purports to show a CEO helping workers overcome limitations but instead shows how readily these limitations are accepted. Even the slightest increase in wages, or a glimpse of a bit of a nest egg, can make a worker light up.

In one tear-jerker conclusion to a Season 3 episode, Johanna, an exemplary employee of Checkers, is promoted and given $20,000 to buy a new car. (She couldn’t replace her clunker on her crew member salary.) As if suffering from Stockholm syndrome, she declares, “I cannot believe that my CEO recognized me as a good employee, and he is rewarding me for it! Twenty thousand dollars and a management position, with a higher pay? That’s what I want, that’s what I need. Checkers, I’m home! I’m home, Checkers!”

CEO Rick Silva also promised to create a bonus program for employees, although it’s unclear how much it would supplement the $8 wages made by crew members. Checkers estimated that Silva’s appearance on Undercover Boss was worth $20 million in free advertising.

Here, Undercover Boss reveals itself as precisely what it believes it is not: a show built on the profound inequality of the American enterprise, one that glorifies how adept America’s CEOs are at papering over the cracks in the system.

18 May 01:09

Two Wolves

by Jim Wright

I was invited to speak before a meeting of the MatSu Democrats at their monthly Egan Dinner in Palmer, Alaska. This is an approximate transcript of my comments.


 

…your Earth was crumbling all around you. You've got simultaneous epidemics of obesity and starvation! Explain that one! Bees and butterflies start to disappear, the glaciers melt, algae blooms. All around you the coal mine canaries are dropping dead and you. Won't. Take. The. Hint!

In every moment there exists the possibility of a better future, but you people won't believe it. And because you won't believe it you won't do what is necessary to make it a reality. So, you dwell on this terrible future. You resign yourselves to it for one reason, because that future does not ask anything of you today.
      - Governor Nix, Tomorrowland, Walt Disney Pictures, 2015


One of my  favorite movies last year was Disney’s Tomorrowland.

This is exactly the kind of movie I enjoy. I’ve watched it a dozen times. I love it. I love everything about it.

It’s on old fashioned Disney film, the kind I grew up with, the kind old Walt himself would have dearly loved.

On the surface, Tomorrowland seems to be a lighthearted romp across time and space where the bad guys aren’t really all that evil and the good guys are quirky smart kids who manage to save the day with equal parts pluck, ingenuity, and courage. Also there are robots. The brilliant young stars, Britt Robertson, Raffey Cassidy, Pierce Gagnon, and Thomas Robinson, easily hold their own on screen against larger than life veterans George Clooney and Hugh Laurie – and that’s an impressive feat indeed.  

But, underneath?

Underneath Tomorrowland is a pointed examination of an America that that has become jaded and tired and bitter and lost the ability to dream of a better future.

Ultimately, Tomorrowland is about love and hope and above all, optimism.

Optimism.

Yeah, right.

Old fashioned Disney optimism in an age of dystopian teen flicks and bleak dark movies of war and conflict? That was the movie’s one unforgivable sin. They should have stuck with pirates. Everybody loves pirates.

Naturally the critics hated Tomorrowland.

Strip Tomorrowland down to its essentials, and you get an ending out of "I'd like to teach the world to sing" and a moral which boils down to: Just be positive, OK? So OK. I'm positive Tomorrowland was a disappointment.
- Stephen Whitty, Newark Star-Ledger 1.5 Stars out of 4

Predictably it bombed in theaters.

Yes, the two bad guys of the movie were bitter, angry white men. The rest of the film was mostly women and a wide range of races. The entire final montage, where they seemed to be collecting people to rescue the world of the future included no white males (I believe). In a painful exercise of political correctness they had Asian artists and African tribesman who were going to save the future.
- Comment Forum, Internet Movie Database

But the most telling comments were ones like this.

The annoying “smart” girl at the beginning of the movie says she's an optimist and it just went down hill [sic] from there. It's nothing but another liberal propaganda movie about saving the planet.

The word “propaganda” appears often in internet comments describing Tomorrowland, followed a close second by “liberal.”

 

When was it, exactly, that optimism became a bad thing?

 

When did belief in a better future and the willingness to do the things necessary to make that future a reality become something Americans sneer at and dismiss as propaganda?

When was it that optimism became a liberal ideal?

We used to believe in optimism, we Americans, most of us anyway.

America was literally founded on the idea of a better future. It’s right there in the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States of America, “…in order to form a more perfect union… ” and if that’s not optimism, I don’t know what is.

You don’t fight for freedom from tyranny if you’re not an optimist.

You don’t tell the nation that the only thing to fear is fear itself if you’re not an optimist, if you don’t believe in a better future.

You don’t take to the streets demanding freedom, the right to vote, civil rights, or to rail against the war (whichever war), or to rally America to battle (whichever battle), unless you optimistically believe you can change the world for the better.

For most of our history, optimism wasn’t some silly liberal idea, it was an American idea.

Sure it was.

The movie Tomorrowland begins with young Frank Walker (Thomas Robinson) at the 1964 World's Fair and this is no coincidence.

The 1964 World World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows, New York, was the very epitome of optimism. It’s where Disney’s Tomorrowland was born. Fifty-eight nations came together in Queens to build 650 acres of technology and innovation under the Unisphere.  Fifty-one million people from all over the world came to see the future as envisioned by General Electric, Ford, General Motors, Chrysler, IBM, Bell Telephone, US Steel, Pepsi Cola, Dupont, RCA, Westinghouse, and Walt Disney. The motto of the fair was “Peace through understanding” – less than two years after the Cuban Missile Crisis nearly ended civilization.

That’s optimism indeed.

The Unisphere still stands in Flushing Meadows to this very day, a testament to innovation and technology, to a time when human beings of courage and vision came together to build a better future. Three years before the fair opened the first American flew in space, five years after the fair closed, men walked on the moon.

That fair was famous. It's still famous as a moment in history when we truly believed.

And that wasn’t the first time. 

Thirty years earlier, on the eve of world war, forty-four million people from all over the world gathered in Flushing Meadows for the 1939 New York World’s Fair. The theme of that fair was “Dawn of a New Day” and the world of tomorrow:

The eyes of the Fair are on the future — not in the sense of peering toward the unknown nor attempting to foretell the events of tomorrow and the shape of things to come, but in the sense of presenting a new and clearer view of today in preparation for tomorrow; a view of the forces and ideas that prevail as well as the machines.

To its visitors the Fair will say: "Here are the materials, ideas, and forces at work in our world. These are the tools with which the World of Tomorrow must be made. They are all interesting and much effort has been expended to lay them before you in an interesting way. Familiarity with today is the best preparation for the future.

Beginning in 1851 in France and continuing into the late 1970s, the world’s fairs were about optimism.  The theme was always about innovation and vision. About building a better future. About the world of tomorrow.

But then, somewhere in the 1980's, in the post-Vietnam malaise, at the height of the Cold War when superpowers rattled their sabers and the world could end at any moment in nuclear fire – and nearly did more than once – optimism fell out of fashion. Somehow the world of tomorrow became a liberal hippy ideal to be sneered at and dismissed as naïve and old fashioned and unsuited to a bitter and jaded America.

And the world fairs became Expositions of nation branding instead of celebrations of a brighter future. And now? Nobody remembers them at all.

That's a reflection of our world, an America where over the last three decades we've become a nation of bitter pessimists and a people who embrace the terrible future. Who resign themselves to that future, the one of disaster and ruin, because it’s easy. We hope for it. We pray for it. We stock our basement arsenals and dream of a day when we’ll get to live on cold canned hash and use those weapons on our neighbors.

That's the entire message of people like Donald Trump. It is. "Make America Great again" only resonates with people who believe the future is a terrible place and that everything is going straight to hell. It’s a message that only appeals to those who sneered in contempt at “Hope and Change.”

That’s the pessimistic message of America’s largest religion, Ted Cruz’s God. The End Times, Armageddon, fire and brimstone. Salvation by force, under threat of eternal damnation. Everything ends the same way in this religion: Gay people get married? Their god will destroy us all. Trans people can use a bathroom? Death from the sky! Women control their own bodies? Damnation from upon high! Peace treaty with Iran? End of freedom! And so on and on and on. That’s the punchline to every joke with these people, death and ruin and God’s wrath.

Somehow, that bitter defeatist frightened message has become the entire Republican platform. Woe. Doom. Misery. War. Pessimism. You better watch out or God will kill us all!

Everything is a worst case scenario with these people.

From Ebola to the End Times, it’s an endless litany detailing a terrible future. They dwell on it. And they resign themselves to it for one reason, because it’s easy, because that terrible future doesn’t ask anything of them today.

When is the last time you heard one of these people speak of Tomorrowland? That bright shining optimistic future, that better world, the one we ourselves can create now if we only had the will and determination?

It's not just limited to conservatives.

Somehow, over the last few decades, we’ve allowed the pessimists to define the narrative.

Take this last Thursday’s Democratic debate. What stood out? What was the takeaway?

Minimum wage.

That's about the only thing I remember from the Democratic debate. Minimum wage.

Clinton and Sanders arguing over making the Minimum Wage into a Living Wage. What’s wrong with that? Nothing. And everything.

Bear with me for a minute.

Opponents of raising the minimum wage, Wall Street, conservative business owners, Republican politicians, say that minimum wage was never intended to be a living wage (it actually was, but there are damned few places in America you could live on it, even if you worked 60 hours a week). Rather, they say, it was intended for entry-level jobs, burger-flippers and toilet scrubbers and convenience store cashiers. The idea of the so-called American dream is you start out at the bottom, changing the sheets in one of Trump's hotels say, and work your way up until one day you own the casino and can hire a bunch of maids of your own.

This is the very cornerstone of American capitalism.

This is the green beating heart of trickle-down economics. 

In fact, for conservatives it doesn’t go far enough. A number of prominent conservatives have advocated elimination of the minimum wage altogether. The logic being if business can pay employees less they'll hire more employees, Reaganomics in action, and a low wage will incentivize those dull proletarians at the bottom of the heap to better themselves, to move up to better paying jobs, ones that do pay a living wage, instead of being content at the bottom of the ladder. Those that don't? Well, that’s their problem, they had their opportunity same as everybody else.

Except over the last years all those good jobs what pay an actual living wage?

Yeah, the same sons of bitches who floated this Dickensian Utopia have been sending all of those jobs to Mexico and India and China and Bangladesh where they can get away with paying actual slave wages.

Then they moved their Headquarters to the Caribbean so they could avoid paying taxes on the resulting profits.

And so, here we are, arguing over the minimum wage, because those are the only jobs left.

That’s what Clinton and Sanders should have been talking about on that stage. The deliberate and systematic and ongoing loss of opportunity, the fact that we’ve actually accepted that as not only the status quo but the future, so much so that we’re reduced to quibbling over a miserable $3 at the bottom end of the scale.

Yes, I know this is a large part of the substance of Sanders’ campaign. But I’m not talking about his campaign, I’m talking about the national narrative as reflected in the substance and format of our political debates on both sides of the aisle.

We’ve settled.

We’ve resigned ourselves to a future of minimum wage, to a dull gray proletariat ruled over by fabulously wealthy oligarchs.

You see it all around you.

You live in a nation that incentivizes business and industry to pay slave wages overseas instead of building Tomorrowland right here.

You live in a nation where we’d rather put our kids into charter schools instead of fixing public education for all.

You live in a nation where we’d rather pay farmers not to grow food instead of feeding the hungry or employing people and paying them enough to feed themselves.

You live in a nation where a significant fraction of people would rather buy guns and build bunkers and pray for the end of the world instead of building a better future right now where those things are unnecessary.

Why?

Because that terrible future doesn’t ask one damned thing of us today.

In every moment there exists the possibility of a better future, but you have to believe in it.  You have to believe in Tomorrowland. You have to believe optimism is an American trait.

And then you have to do the things necessary to make that better future a reality.

They’re out there, you know. The dreamers. The optimists. The ones  working every single day to literally build Tomorrowland. 

Last week something amazing happened: a robot spaceship successfully landed on a robot ship at sea.

An incredible technological feat – but for many it was just a stunt, they have no idea of the larger picture. Because they don’t believe.

You see, Elon Musk, the man behind SpaceX and that landing, he wants to go to Mars.

And not just go to Mars, he wants to build Tomorrowland there.

And if SpaceX can land a rocket on a barge in the middle of the ocean, they can land a ship anywhere. Including Mars. What Musk has here is the basis of a transportation system that can fly men and machines anywhere on the globe in a matter of minutes – any globe, especially one like Mars with a surface gravity one third that of earth. What Musk has is the first step in a system that can loft the parts needed to build the ships that will go to another world and land human beings and cargo there safely. More, Musk’s Tesla company is building high performance cars that can go hundreds of miles on a charge. And that same battery system can be rapidly recharged from a variety of sources. More, that same battery can be installed in a Tesla Power Wall and used to power a house, or stacked in series to run much bigger installations. And then there’s SolarCity, Elon Musk’s pioneering company dedicated to sustainable solar power systems – like the kind you’d need on Mars to charge those Tesla power packs, which in turn can be used to distill rocket fuel from native Martian resources to power those rockets. The rest is just details.

What Musk has is literally the basis of Tomorrowland, a new human civilization on another world.

Elon Musk is one man.

One man of vision and daring and courage and optimism for a better future. A single man who gathered around him those of similar vision and determination, SpaceX, Tesla, SolarCity, and they are literally building that better future right now.

That’s what that rocket landing last week meant. Tomorrowland.

Imagine a nation of such people.

Imagine a nation of optimists.

Imagine a nation of people who believe in that better future instead of the terrible one.

Imagine a nation of people who are willing to make that future a reality.

There was a time when Americans believed in Tomorrowland. Some of us still do. And it is our duty as citizens to be optimists. To do the things necessary to make that future a reality.

Pessimists don't build starships.

If you want a better nation, be better citizens.

 

A young Cherokee boy came to his grandfather, angry at a friend who had done him an injustice, and asked for advice. 

"Let me tell you a story,” offered the grandfather. “I too, at times, have felt a great hate for those that have taken so much, with no sorrow for what they do. But hate wears you down, and does not hurt your enemy. It is like taking poison and wishing your enemy would die. I have struggled with these feelings many times. It is as if there are two wolves inside me. One is good and does no harm. He lives in harmony with all around him, and does not take offense when no offense was intended. He will only fight when it is right to do so, and in the right way.  But the other wolf, ah! He is full of anger! The littlest thing will set him into a fit of temper. He fights everyone, all the time, for no reason. He cannot think because his anger and hate are so great. It is helpless anger, for his anger will change nothing. Sometimes, it is hard to live with these two wolves inside me, for both of them try to dominate my spirit."

The boy asked, "Which one wins, Grandfather?"

"The one I feed."
   - The Wolves Within, often attributed to oral history of the Cherokee people
      (edit: the origin of the story is vague, it may or may not be native American)

10 May 19:16

A Corporate Convention: "Comcast Presents ... The Democratic Party. Welcome to Philadelphia."

by Gaius Publius
The above is a real fake ad — it's a fake Air France ad that really showed up in Parisian ad spaces during the recent climate conference. "Care about climate change? Of course not. We're Air France. If we cared we'd stop flying planes. We're just sponsoring the climate conference to confuse you, and to make sure we keep making money" (or words to that effect).

by Gaius Publius

It's looking more and more that the Crossroad in Philadelphia, the 2016 Democratic Convention, will be a crossroad indeed. Wasserman Schultz is reported to be openly stacking the convention committees with Clinton supporters, despite Sanders having won, so far at least, 45% of the delegates.

And Ed Rendell — a "huge Hillary Clinton backer," a "vocal proponent of shale gas extraction" (fracking), former governor of Pennsylvania, former DNC chair and current "DNC Host Chair" (under Debbie Wasserman Schultz) — is telling Sanders supporters, in effect, "You'll get to vote before you watch him lose, and then he'll make a nice goodbye speech, so don't make trouble afterward. Play nice and play along." (Note that Rendell has already called the rest of the race for Clinton. We'll see about that.)


And over the crowd at the Wells Fargo® Convention Center will fly, at least virtually, all of the banners of every corporation that finances and maintains this Establishment — including the ones that finance, almost certainly, its nominating convention.

A Corporate Convention

We won't know about corporate funding of the Democratic Party Convention until after it's held (clever of the law to allow that), but here's what happened in 2012 (my emphasis):
Corporate cash helps fuel Democratic convention despite pledges

New group accepts company money

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — While Democrats have touted their grassroots fundraising efforts for the 2012 Democratic National Convention, deep-pocketed corporate donors are helping underwrite the event.

Among the corporate sponsors at the Charlotte convention: AT&T Inc., Bank of America, Duke Energy, Time Warner Cable, Coca-Cola, Wells Fargo, UnitedHealth Group, Piedmont Natural Gas, US Airways and law and lobbying firm McGuireWoods.

The corporate sponsorship appears to fly in the face of the Democrats’ pledge to host a “people’s convention.”

The party’s 2012 “host committee” is not accepting contributions from corporations, lobbyists and political action committees. Democrats also capped how much money individuals can give at $100,000.

But the party is accepting in-kind donations from corporate firms. In addition, a second nonprofit, called “New American City” was established in May to “defray” administrative expenses and other costs. New American City does accept corporate money.

The exact levels of these companies’ financial support won’t be known until mid-October when filings will be submitted to the Federal Election Commission.
Banks, cable companies (like Comcast, which as you'll see has a special seat at this year's well-bought table), health insurance companies, fracking companies, airlines and lobbying firms — all are in all likelihood all lined up to foot the bill for the Establishment-run Democratic Convention. The Party fêtes its patrons. The patrons smile down at the Party.

When you're the only one with money, they all have to come to you eventually. This is from a USA swimming national championship event (source).

By the way, I'd be shocked if Big Pharma weren't a huge contributor funding this year's Democratic Convention. TPP is an Obama high-value special order; drug companies are among the biggest winners if it passes; and how better to say thank you to a friend than to help the friend of a friend when she needs the cash. We won't find out about Pharma sponsorship until after the nomination, of course, but watch for it.

Comcast's Special Seat at the Democratic Party Table

You remember Comcast, right? They own MSNBC, one of the many networks that helped Hillary Clinton immensely when her pre-won nomination was suddenly put in doubt by Bernie Sanders voters. It took a lot of shoulders to shove that wheel nearer the finish line, and MSNBC (Comcast, $74 billion annual revenue) had a lot of shoulders to push with, as did CNN (Time Warner, $28 billion annual revenue), the New York Times (the New York Times Company, $1.5 billion annual revenue) and anyone else with a lot of money to lose if an actual anti-corruption candidate dared to win. (Don't give up yet, billionaires. She could still lose. Keep fighting.)

So, Comcast. The name to remember (aside from the above-mentioned Ed Rendell, a Comcast employee) is David Cohen. Here's Daily Kos diarist Liberty Equality Fraternity and Trees, one of my favorites over there, with the news:
Comcast EVP/Republican Fundraiser to Serve as Senior Advisor to DNC 2016 Host Committee

Earlier today, Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter announced that David Cohen, executive Vice President of Comcast, will serve as senior adviser to Philly's Host Committee for the 2016 Democratic National Convention.

The same Comcast that is one of America's least favorite companies.

And the same David Cohen and same Comcast that lobbied against Obama's net neutrality proposal.

And the same Comcast that fought Philadelphia's paid sick leave legislation, getting the mayor to veto it two times before he finally accepted a watered-down version today. ...

And the same David Cohen that raised money for former Republican governor Tom Corbett and current Republican senator Pat Toomey.
But running America the way it's currently run is a bipartisan joint, right? I just wish there were a Comcast banner flying high above the arena when the delegate votes are taken and Sanders speaks. Then Sanders could point repeatedly to it and rail against corporate governance, all without saying their name.

Care to Plaster Philadelphia with Posters?

I'm in the early stages of thinking about this, but consider this thought, and if you like it, you can join in. Remember, you don't need anyone's permission to make a fuss, especially an artistic one.

Corporations, many of them big polluters, spent a lot of money green-washing themselves by actually sponsoring, openly and nakedly, the recent COP21 Paris climate conference. It's like a tobacco company contributing to a lung cancer clinic — and getting naming rights. But they did it anyway, hoping no one would notice the problem.

Then this happened overnight, in Parisian bus stops and other places that normally hold billboards. It looks like a simple product poster, but it isn't:


Also this:


And of course, the lovely piece at the very top.

It's called "brandalism" and I hear it's a lot of fun. Feel like joining the fun? You don't need anyone's permission to say yes. I even understand one could make smaller posters, some with adhesive backing and some suitable for nailing to nail-ready outdoors objects (but only where legal, of course). Philadelphia could be your playground if you want it to be. Or not; your call on that.

My thought: As decorative as Philadelphia already is (that's the magnificent Comcast Center at the link, by the way), perhaps the city could use a little something extra — or a lot of it — a something that only you and your friends can provide, should you decide to go yourself.

GP
  
02 May 17:28

Hoodwinked

by Patricia
While President Obama had his last correspondents dinner and Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump,Ted Cruz are battling it out for Indiana votes, I was pretty amazed to see 5,000 Iraqi protesters demonstrating and overtaking their Parliament, they are sick of the corruption and want reforms.
After over a decade of "bringing Democracy" to Iraq, this is the fallout. They didn't get democracy, they got the same rotten, corrupt system we have in this country. I bet they are really angry and who can blame them? Where are the people responsible for this "mission accomplished"?
All you hear are crickets. It's almost like the war in Iraq never happened, unless you're Chelsea Manning.
Meanwhile, President Obama said he will be sending  more special forces to Syria, which I guess is supposed to be better than regular forces? While all this is going on, the U.S. had a "reconnaissance" plane, intercepted for turning off it's transponder (I'm sure it was an accident) and flying too close to Russia's borders. What in the f#$k are we doing? ( the 9/11 terrorists turned off the highjacked planes transponders)
In other bad news, the ongoing financial problems in Puerto Rico means it is probably going to have to go bankrupt, since our congress has failed to act on any legislation to bail it out. Atlantic City is also on the verge of bankruptcy. Everyone can go bankrupt, except of course the banks, I am sick of bailouts too, but we have money for more war in Syria and to try and piss off Putin.Seriously, we spend trillions on this war machine, however, the Pentagon has some issues over not being able to account for billions of dollars and is supposed to be audit ready in 2017 and will not be able to reach it's target date. Shocker!
America has a middle class that has been swept away and this country has a poverty population that is getting more desperate. Is it any wonder that Trump and Bernie Sanders are so popular? Hillary Clinton is just more of the same war fueled establishment trying to prop up the petrodollar even though oil has tanked. The only reason she is where she is, are the amount of Superdelegates that the DNC controls, they do not want Bernie Sanders to win.
 President Obama went to the UK to lecture Britain on the EU exit they will vote on. Seriously? Who in the hell is going to listen to someone that doesn't even live in their country? Why are we  everyone's big brother? We have caused catastrophe after catastrophe everywhere we interfere, we have so many problems in our own country, including a healthcare situation that STILL hasn't been fixed since Obamacare. Then Obama tells Britain, "you will have to go in the back of the queue to negotiate?" Well isn't that where almost every American is with healthcare and minimum wage? You can  step right up to the front for your next daily mass shooting, no waiting necessary, one will be along any minute. It's ludicrous and bewildering. I can't believe anyone in the world still takes us seriously, when we have so many problems that our politicians refuse to deal with here. Everyone's just supposed to take our word for it, that we know best? I hope they don't.
                                           

02 Apr 22:02

Free Stuff

by Jim Wright


It always amuses me when a random denizen from the internet shows up to explain to me what I really meant.

On March 12th I posted the following comment to Twitter:

image

Calling universal healthcare and public education free stuff is the same as calling a Navy aircraft carrier a free ship.

That’s what I said.

Twenty Words. 106 Characters.

A fairly typical Tweet for me.  

On the surface, a soundbite, a throwaway line.

Underneath, however … well, we’ll get to that.

And two weeks later it’s been viewed by more than  333,000 people, responded to more than 10,000 times, retweeted 2,300 times, and garnered more than 3,000 “likes.” (Those numbers do not include the interactions where people clipped my words and attributed them to Bernie Sanders – Dread Cthulhu only knows what the stats are on that)

It’s not the most popular thing I’ve ever said on Twitter,  but it’s up there and it’s still going around even as I write this.

 

So?

 

Well, it’s funny you should ask. 

As I noted on Facebook, the comment was originally prompted by a brief online exchange, to wit:

During the course of a conversation regarding use of public monies with regard to military spending vs public welfare (welfare in this case being the public good, not the federal program for assistance to poor people) a commenter on social media, after a string of insults and non sequiturs, ended his message to me with “Liberals just want FREE STUFF!

Free stuff.

Free stuff?

Evidence would suggest that everybody, liberals and conservatives, likes “free stuff” -  just so long as somebody else is paying for it. However, in the conversation at hand,  nowhere did I or anybody else suggest or even attempt to imply that public education or public healthcare programs were “free.”

In fact, it was just the opposite.

Those programs, public education, public healthcare, are costly.

However, In the US, money spent in both areas combined is but a fraction of that spent on the military, particularly when you examine how and why citizens are taxed and how the resulting local, state, and federal monies are allocated to various portions of the various budgets.

The point being that if you call public health and public education “free,” then you must  also consider national defense “free.”

It also means you’ve redefined the word “free.”

This didn’t go over well with the original commenter, a self-declared libertarian who really, really loved the idea of publicly funded warships and really, really hated the idea of publicly funded education and healthcare. He yelled something about the Constitution, then stormed out of the conversation and blocked me from any further interaction.

Writers are not ones to waste good words or interesting ideas. And for political writers, well, It’s all grist for the mill.  If we could figure out how to deduct social media conversations on our taxes, we would and to hell with the aircraft carriers.

So I boiled the conversation down to twenty words, 106 characters, Calling universal healthcare and public education free stuff is the same as calling a Navy aircraft carrier a free ship and posted it to Twitter.

Why?

Because that’s what I do.

As I noted last week in a post on my Facebook page, which was also published on American News X, sometimes it’s about tossing out ideas and seeing what comes back.

What came back in this case, and continues to come back two weeks later, is endlessly fascinating.

 

image

 

Noted writer and futurist Karl Schroeder responded that while universal healthcare and education are certainly not free, ultimately such programs cost far less than the cost of not having them.

This is true.

Provably so. As many times as you’d care to run the experiment.

And it is, in point of fact, why we have such programs in the first place – because there was a time when we did not. Because epidemics kill rich and poor, taxpayer and freeloader, alike. 

So do revolutions of impoverished torch wielding proletarians.

So do wars, and blight, and poverty, and ignorance.

Over time, against the scope of history, a healthy educated population benefits the nation as much, or more, than the aircraft carrier.

But not everybody saw it that way.

image

 

These two comments are the antipodes of citizenship.

This is the difference between those who regard civilization as a social construct which is only as good as the weakest link and those who see it as every man for himself.

The point of my statement was this:

Here in America, when someone suggests perhaps education and healthcare should be the birthright of all Americans and not just those who can afford it – or at the very least accessible to all with a little work – and that the resulting healthy, educated population would benefit us all, certain conservatives inevitably respond with YOU JUST WANT FREE STUFF!

However, when someone suggests taxpayer dollars should be used to buy trillion-dollar stealth fighters, or tanks, or nuclear missiles, or another aircraft carrier, conservatives don’t shout, “YOU JUST WANT FREE SHIPS!”

And that, that right there, is the very crux of what divides us today.

That is the difference between “Ask not what your country can do for you…” and “what’s in it for me?”

For example, take this conversation from yesterday:

 

image

 

Ebadirad considers public roads and Navy aircraft carriers as a “fee for service.”

And by extension healthcare and education are apparently not.

I suggested that he might have misunderstood my comment:

image

 

No, he really doesn’t know why I said what I did.

He was confident he knew what I meant, even after I told him he was wrong.

Ebadirad, who calls himself a "Developer with a serious passion for trail blazing in the startup tech world" and says "If it can be imagined, I can design and build it" apparently can't stretch his serious trailblazing imagination to encompass the idea that there might be more to my comment.

And he didn’t bother to check.

From my own experience in the field of cutting-edge technology and my extensive experience with technology "developers," I find this hilariously familiar.

A digression: A number of years ago when I was still on active duty with the US military I was at a defense contractor reviewing a system they were developing for use on Navy ships. The project leader, whose military experience existed solely inside of an XBox, spent a week demonstrating a "tactical, quick-response" weapon that required two operators, an hour of sensor sampling followed by 30-60 minutes of alignment and tuning, had to be programmed for each target by complex differential equations performed by an 18-year old Navy tech - in his head, on the fly, where a mistake could kill our own people – and nobody else on the ship could do anything during the setup phase (including changing course or speed, operating radar or communications equipment, firing other weapons, and so on).

I laughed.

You have no idea how I laughed. I couldn’t help it.

When I could speak, I had to explain to a room full of disbelieving developers who simply could not fathom (yes, I did that  on purpose) that a warship in a hostile environment might have to change course or communicate or use its radar or fire its guns or do all of those things simultaneously at high speed plus thousands of other operations. While I appreciated the engineering and the capability inherent in their system, while I might admire what it could do if its use was the only consideration, in reality, practically, all  we really needed was a single large heavy-duty red knob with two settings: "Off" and "Full Power." Because if I ever had to use this thing, well then circumstances were dire indeed and I would never ever use any setting other than full power. Off. Or Vaporize. And screw the math.

Because that is the difference between a lab and a battlefield.

Because that is the pragmatic nature of war.

And because in war, weapons, like people, are part of a greater whole which must be able to work together for the benefit of all.

(The contractor came back several months later with a redesigned system which was twice as complex and took twice as long to set up. They didn't get the contract)

image

A wise man, like a wise developer, would have looked for context before attempting an argument.

Alas.

image
“Unless you feel that my healthcare and education directly benefits you.”

Well, if you go look you’ll see I never said exactly that – though if pressed I would agree that it’s entirely possible his healthcare and education might indeed directly benefit me depending on circumstance. Certainly his education and healthcare, and by extension that of all Americans, indirectly benefits me – though I suppose I’m just arguing semantics here.

He says that he has to pay for both his healthcare and his education, but his tax dollars cover aircraft carriers.

He calls this a “fee for service.”

 

You see it, don’t you?

 

First, our tax dollars don’t cover the aircraft carriers.

If they did we wouldn’t be looking at a $19,000,000,000,000 debt, would we?

(for the literalists, “aircraft carriers” in this context is a metaphor for the US Federal military budget, as it was in the original Tweet)

Second, I’m a self-employed writer with a kid in college, tell me about paying for education and healthcare. Go on. Make me laugh.

Third, the truth of the matter is that you’d be paying a hell of a lot more for both education and healthcare if the government wasn’t involved. That was the whole point of the Affordable Healthcare Act. That’s the whole point of tax credits for education. And so on.

I do feel public health and education of the population at large both directly and indirectly benefits me.

Benefits me and you and society as a whole.

For example: federal vaccination programs paid for by my tax dollars directly benefit me. I get to live in a society where the diseases which killed literally billions of people down through history are practically nonexistent. And I benefit whether the various recipients of those vaccines paid any taxes or not.

Look around. How many of your kids are currently in an iron lung from polio? How many of your relatives died from small pox this year? How’s that typhus outbreak going? What? There hasn’t been a typhus outbreak in your neighborhood in living memory? How beneficial. And unless you’re just being a facetious ass, it should be no great effort to extend the example of vaccinations to all healthcare in general. And to education, as well – uneducated ignorant people fear doctors and vaccinations, don’t they?

Another example, it benefits me to pay taxes which support the fire department – even if my neighbor doesn’t.

It directly benefits me if that protection extends to my freeloading neighbor. Why? Well, because if his house burns down, mine might too if the fire department doesn’t show up and put out the flames on his property. Maybe the whole damned city burns down.

Ultimately, of course, it depends on how you define “benefit.”

 

image
How do you know you’re talking to a libertarian?

“Wealth transfer.” That’s what a libertarian calls taxes.

“You’re [categorizing] a wealth transfer as a fee-for-service provided by the gov[ernment].”

 

You may at this point, if you like, picture me shouting at a room full of engineers, “Big. Red. Knob. Big red knob! Off! On! BIG RED KNOB!

 

I digress.

In this case, like most libertarians, Mr. Ebadirad labels an aircraft carrier a legitimate “service” and education and healthcare as not.

Because he can point to an aircraft carrier and say that it benefits us all – even if some of us don’t want another damned aircraft carrier.

And because he can’t (he thinks) point to a person’s healthcare or education – which he sees as only benefitting the recipient.

As such, he considers the aircraft carrier a legitimate use of public money

Healthcare and education he considers theft.

Ironic, isn’t it, that the very same people who believe if the rich are given more wealth at taxpayer expense the resulting largess will somehow benefit us all, but at the same time those very same  people do not believe their vaunted sacred principle of Trickle Down Economics applies to healthcare and education.

Maybe it’s just me.

Ultimately, I suspect, this is less about the constitutional limitations of government and more about a self-imposed limitation of imagination.

Look here, as an American, you’re certainly entitled to your opinion.

If you believe aircraft carriers are a public service but education and healthcare are not, well, you’re wrong but the guys manning that aircraft carrier are out there with their government healthcare and education defending your right to be a selfish ass anyway.

In reality, America doesn’t work that way.

Right or wrong, good or bad, aircraft carriers, healthcare (to varying degrees), and education (again to varying degrees) are all benefits of civilization and therefore funded, regulated, and overseen by government because most of us understand that the alternative is far worse – and far more expensive.

“Someone’s education is not gov[ernment] owned.”

Perhaps.

And perhaps not.

Someone’s education might not be “government owned,” but it’s entirely likely they got that education in a government owned facility – unless they went to a private school, and even then it’s very likely the government provided funding, certification, standards, access, grants, leases, land, materials, tax credits, and etc. Not to mention paid for much of the larger science, engineering, technology that education references and not to mention those aircraft carriers out there ensuring you have a safe environment to go to school in.

Note, again for the literalists, in this context, “aircraft carrier” is a metaphor that includes but is not limited to military forces, police, security, legal structures and courts, infrastructure, standards, transportation, safety systems, communications, knowledge, and social systems which ensure the functioning of our society and therefore access to education and ultimately give you a place to exercise that knowledge once your education is complete.

If you went to a government owned and operated military school, like I did, or your education was paid for and directed by a government military program such as ROTC and OCS, well, then the government does own your education – at least until you’ve completed your service obligation and paid back the taxpayer.

More to the point, while the aircraft carrier might be a tangible government owned asset, the larger “service” it provides as part of our national defense isn’t.

National Defense is as nebulous and as intangible as national education.

We tend to only notice it when it isn’t adequate.

Saying the government doesn’t own your education while technically and grammatically correct, is incredibly shortsighted and ignorant of a much larger context.

Education doesn’t happen in a vacuum.

And neither does healthcare or national defense.

Ultimately, warships and bombers are only as good as those who build and wield them.

Throughout history, the societies we admire, the ones we seek to emulate, the ones our founders modeled the United States on, those societies advance by education, by science and technology, by increased standards of living, by increased public health, by innovation, and most especially through a sense of shared purpose and shared destiny.

The societies we despise advance by the sword.

Those who believe their civic duty extends only to warships and not to education and healthcare are fools.

Taxes are the price you pay for the service of civilization.

And it’s damned cheap, given the alternative.

25 Feb 19:08

What Are They Saying? My Wingnut is a Little Rusty

by driftglass


It's the Trump people. They're telling us how to act when they come marching in.

From Matt Taibbi's excellent article "How America Made Donald Trump Unstoppable":
...
But, in an insane twist of fate, this bloated billionaire scion has hobbies that have given him insight into the presidential electoral process. He likes women, which got him into beauty pageants. And he likes being famous, which got him into reality TV. He knows show business.

That put him in position to understand that the presidential election campaign is really just a badly acted, billion-dollar TV show whose production costs ludicrously include the political disenfranchisement of its audience. Trump is making a mockery of the show, and the Wolf Blitzers and Anderson Coopers of the world seem appalled. How dare he demean the presidency with his antics?

But they've all got it backward. The presidency is serious. The presidential electoral process, however, is a sick joke, in which everyone loses except the people behind the rope line. And every time some pundit or party spokesman tries to deny it, Trump picks up another vote.
Trump understands the mob. Understands what they want. Understands that the people who are most responsible for (and have profited most handsomely from) the corruption of our media and our politics are the very people who are now having the mass fainting spells and public fits of howling fantods over Trump pointing the finger at them and calling them weaklings, mama's boys and bought-off whores.

Of course America's media and political establishments never saw any of this coming because America's media and political establishments have been (as the kids say) getting high on their own supply for decades now. They have closed themselves off behind their own increasingly-absurd fairy tales which everyone from Michael Steele to David Brooks to Chuck Todd keeps repeating to each other in the belief that by the sheer power of their repetition (and the sheer tonnage of the money they are willing to spend to sling their bullshit on every media outlet in the land) they could force reality to abide by their delusion.

Ironically, having been routinely demonized at 180 decibels every single day for the last 50 years by the Right, and having been alternately hippie-punched and held at a disdainful arms-length by the Democratic Party establishment, Liberals like me have been granted an unexpectedly privileged vantage point from which to survey American media and politics. 

We are so unwelcome in the day-to-day political intrigues of America's ruling cliques and their sycophantic claques that we are able to observe the entire freak-show as outsiders. As foreigners in our own country. So while Chris Matthews or Matthew Dowd or the entire Bush political machine all see this country from the pampered, contented perspective of their various seats in the Owner's Box, we Liberals outside the walls see as peons who have been locked out of Prince Prospero's castle and left fend for ourselves:
THE "Red Death" had long devastated the country. No pestilence had ever been so fatal, or so hideous. Blood was its Avatar and its seal --the redness and the horror of blood. There were sharp pains, and sudden dizziness, and then profuse bleeding at the pores, with dissolution. The scarlet stains upon the body and especially upon the face of the victim, were the pest ban which shut him out from the aid and from the sympathy of his fellow-men. And the whole seizure, progress and termination of the disease, were the incidents of half an hour.

But the Prince Prospero was happy and dauntless and sagacious. When his dominions were half depopulated, he summoned to his presence a thousand hale and light-hearted friends from among the knights and dames of his court, and with these retired to the deep seclusion of one of his castellated abbeys. This was an extensive and magnificent structure, the creation of the prince's own eccentric yet august taste. A strong and lofty wall girdled it in. This wall had gates of iron. The courtiers, having entered, brought furnaces and massy hammers and welded the bolts. They resolved to leave means neither of ingress or egress to the sudden impulses of despair or of frenzy from within. The abbey was amply provisioned. With such precautions the courtiers might bid defiance to contagion. The external world could take care of itself. In the meantime it was folly to grieve, or to think. The prince had provided all the appliances of pleasure. There were buffoons, there were improvisatori, there were ballet-dancers, there were musicians, there was Beauty, there was wine. All these and security were within. Without was the "Red Death."...
The mobs that Trump has conjured to his cause understand that somebody screwed them out of their homes and their life's savings. Somebody got rich shipping their jobs and their kid's jobs overseas. Somebody marched them off to the wrong war and then fucked that war up. And since it sure as shit wasn't them (Spoiler: It was them) they are by God going to throw their lot in with someone who isn't beholden to anyone and who promises to take their misery out of the hides of the well-heeled weaklings, mama's boys and bought-off whores who brought this country to it's knees.

And right now that someone looks to be a debauched, loutish New York billionaire with a hot, fashion model wife. Taibbi again:
Cheryl Donlon says she heard the tariff message loud and clear and she's fine with it, despite the fact that it clashes with traditional conservatism.

"We need someone who is just going to look at what's best for us," she says.

I mention that Trump's plan is virtually identical to Dick Gephardt's idea from way back in the 1988 Democratic presidential race, to fight the Korean Hyundai import wave with retaliatory tariffs.

Donlon says she didn't like that idea then.

Why not?

"I didn't like him," she says. Trump, though, she likes. And so do a lot of people. No one should be surprised that he's tearing through the Republican primaries, because everything he's saying about his GOP opponents is true. They really are all stooges on the take, unable to stand up to Trump because they're not even people, but are, like Jeb and Rubio, just robo-babbling representatives of unseen donors.
In other words, the Red Death has gotten inside the castle.  And, as I wrote 10 years ago:
..in the end, the world endures and fixed fortifications do not, and we can either go out and meet the threats of our era – and home and abroad -- with confidence, compassion, strength, humor, flexibility and intelligence…or hunker in our bunker getting dumber and drunker and pretending it’ll all just go away and leave us alone.

In the end we cannot hide.

Even if we were itty bitty we couldn’t hide, but we are far too big, too rich, too prominent and too powerful to even pretend such a thing is possible or desirable. We are all in this together, and if we allow ourselves to be scared into cowering in our fortress of fear and ignorance we doom ourselves.

The Outside will always, always breach the walls.

Red Death always will come for us in our resplendent spider hole…
“…like a thief in the night. 

And one by one dropped the revellers in the blood-bedewed halls of their revel, and died each in the despairing posture of his fall. 

"And the life of the ebony clock went out with that of the last of the gay. And the flames of the tripods expired. 

"And Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all."
So should Democrats be cheering about running against Il Douche in 2016?

Taibbi thinks not. In fact...
...
Every four years, some Democrat who's been a lifelong friend of labor runs for president. And every four years, that Democrat gets thrown over by national labor bosses in favor of some party lifer with his signature on a half-dozen job-exporting free-trade agreements.

It's called "transactional politics," and the operating idea is that workers should back the winner, rather than the most union-friendly candidate.

This year, national leaders of several prominent unions went with Hillary Clinton – who, among other things, supported her husband's efforts to pass NAFTA – over Bernie Sanders. Pissed, the rank and file in many locals revolted. In New Hampshire, for instance, a Service Employees International Union local backed Sanders despite the national union's endorsement of Clinton, as did an International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers chapter.

Trump is already positioning himself to take advantage of the political opportunity afforded him by "transactional politics." He regularly hammers the NAFTA deal in his speeches, applying to it his favorite word, "disaster."...

Trump will surely argue that the Clintons are the other half of the dissolute-conspiracy story he's been selling, representing a workers' party that abandoned workers and turned the presidency into a vast cash-for-access enterprise, avoiding scrutiny by making Washington into Hollywood East and turning labor leaders and journalists alike into starstruck courtiers. As with everything else, Trump personalizes this, making his stories of buying Hillary's presence at his wedding a part of his stump speech. A race against Hillary Clinton in the general, if it happens, will be a pitch right in Trump's wheelhouse – and if Bill Clinton is complaining about the "vicious" attacks by the campaign of pathological nice guy Bernie Sanders, it's hard to imagine what will happen once they get hit by the Trumpdozer.
Secretary Clinton can and probably will eventually earn the support of almost every faction inside the Democratic coalition, but if Trump locks up the GOP nomination early and if the labor vote is still up for grabs come July, get ready for the ugliest election you have ever seen.

And if that day comes, expect to see me over in some far corner, singing La Marseillaise with the rest of the rank sentimentalists.


driftglass
20 Feb 02:49

Workplace Democracy

by Patricia
I can't tell you what happened in the last debate. There's been so many of them. I don't own a TV, so I don't have to watch all the propaganda. I did see that Jeb! got his brother out of his hidey hole he's been in. Jeb! may have "misunderestimated" his brothers influence, his brother is a liar, I could hardly listen to his speeches years ago. I doubt I could handle listening to him or his brother, Jeb! now. He's just another tool for the military industrial complex.
I did watch a video on Youtube, by a Professor from the University of Massachusetts, get this, he's a Marxist economist! Talk about taboo! I can't believe he has a job, considering how Amerika hates commies!
This vid is an hour long, I totally get it if you don't have time for it, but what he said was really important. One of the things I'll pass along is that the professor was amazed that Bernie Sanders, a Socialist, is actually running. Mr. Wolff has a lot to say about how our economy and cities have been decimated by corporations who didn't want to pay a fair wage and left, to go overseas, exploiting other workers for lower wages and worse conditions, shipping products back to the US, that we buy.
He talks about the 1% board of directors of corporations that make these decisions. He says that we need to democratize the workplace, so the inequality we have been experiencing will end.
 Bernie Sanders does advocate for a Workplace Democracy Act. Personally, I do not see how it could
Back in the day, this went down.
happen. If anyone does remember their history, there was violence and bloodshed involved when the movement for unionization began. We have a militarized police force more powerful than ever, they kill indiscriminately, it's plain to see. The 1%, is not going to give up their power, they own the government. Watching Obama dial back all of his hope and change promises, some of which were similar to what Bernie is saying, tells me that it's doubtful, electing Bernie will do much, because our system is broken. Just watching Trump and the garbage he serves, a lot of my friends are eating up, that is, the ones who actually want to vote. I know of no one under the age of 30 who will even vote, actually, I know of no one under the age of forty who will vote. They are working too hard for crap money, they know the system is rigged.
So I'll just pass along what this man proposes, he makes a lot of interesting points. But the propaganda Americans have swallowed about capitalism has been very effective and I am afraid things are going to have to get even worse before things will change. Here's a link in case you're interested in the history of Labor, here in the US; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Labor_history_of_the_United_States


10 Dec 19:59

A Candy Colored Clown They Call The Tanned Man

by driftglass

(Very, very NSFW)

I could write the post below seven years ago, because for decades the true nature of American Conservatism has been blindingly obvious to anyone what wasn't a complete imbecile or a paid Beltway hack.

Sadly, it requires no updating whatsoever, save for the fact that where Reagan was the Right's last perfect high, and Dubya was meth with a ketamine chaser...

...Trump is whatever-the-Hell Frank Booth was huffing in "Blue Velvet" combined with Booth's pure, psycho, "Fuck Everything!" ebullience.  And the freak-show of sadists, nihilists, gun-fetishists, and bug-eyed black-shirt ciphers just begging to led by an American Pinochet to the pure, white Promised Land that once smirked and howled just behind the curtain is now fully onstage.*

Visible for all to see.

Even the complete imbeciles and the paid Beltway hacks.

Understanding the Right #1


Junkie logic.

The last lie a junkie tells himself isn't "I’m not an addict."

The last lie a junkie tells himself is "My being a addict doesn't matter."

And in the Conservative Crack House of Many Doors, Ronald Reagan was that first cocktail. The first line of coke. The first needle. The first "Holy Mother of God!” WOWGASM that shotguns right through the blood/brain barrier, reformats your entire ethical hard drive, and scrimshaws a brand new Prime Directive on the inside of your skull.

Listen to any aging wingnut sighing and jerking sadly off to a tattered photo of Saint Ronnie -- despite the fact that the catastrophes we are now reaping were sown by his ruinous ideology -- and you can hear every addict who ever lived pining for that first Perfect High. The one they spend the rest of their days chasing, regardless of the size of the debts they run up or the ruined lives they leave in their wake.

Clinton? Objectively, Clinton qualifies as the greatest Center/Right President in history, and with balanced budgets, GATT, welfare reform, NAFTA, DOMA, record surpluses, foreign and domestic terrorists brought to book, and an actual military victory, he arguably delivered to the wingnuts more of everything they ever said they wanted than anyone else.

And they hated him for it.

Why?

Because Clinton was mere addiction maintenance delivered in measured doses under adult supervision: all policy-wonk that wasn’t cut with that industrial-waste-grade bigoted, psychotic bloodlust that gives Conservatism its wild, freebasing edge. Clinton was methadone, and for the hardcore lifestyle junkie, that shit is for babies.

And Dubya? Dubya was meth with a ketamine chaser delivered hammer-and-anvil directly to the lizard brain.

Dubya was 40 million Pig People tired of the hard, fussy job of being a tolerant, powerful democracy finally once-and-for-all blowing America’s family inheritance on an eight-year, blood-drunk bender.

Dubya was the United States crawling through dumpsters at our national soul’s midnight, killing anything that moves, licking out the contents of random baggies, hoping the little white flakes clinging to the plastic is crank and not rat poison, and waking up the next day -- that horrible, horrible sun-also-rises morning after -- broke and twitchy, arguing over what more they can sell off to keep the party going and who they can blame for their gone-to-shit lives.

So what is the last lie a Conservative tells himself? The last lie that the junkies and their suppliers both fight like hell to keep alive and twitching?

That, whether or not their ideology is depraved or deluded, it doesn’t matter because:
“Both side are always equally wrong about everything all the time.”
Doesn’t matter the who or what. The when or how. Doesn’t matter who was driving the bus towards the cliff and who was waving the red flags, throwing their bodies in front of it, trying to make it stop. Doesn’t matter who was trying to douse the conflagration with hoses shredded by 20 year of Reaganism, and who was lobbing milk cartons full of jellied gasoline onto the bonfire.


It is the lie that David Fucking Brooks pushes in the pages of the New York Times.

It is the lie that made David Broder the “Dean” of the Villagers; the lie on which the quarterly profits of the entire Murdoch media empire now rests.

Because these people and thousands more like them are not journalists or “pundits” or expert who offer facts or interpretation or a philosophical framework for illuminating and contextualizing the events of the world.

They are pushers, selling that last, nihilistic lie to the junkies on the Right who will pay any price and cut any throat to escape the fact that they are personally and specifically responsible for the destruction of the country they claimed to love in the name of a God they claim to believe in...

Seven years later and Dubya has ceased to exist entirely and it is now an article of faith on the Right that we had won in Iraq until the Kenyan Usurper stabbed us in the back!

Also I deeply appreciate all the "you must read this" emails I get, and definitely keep them coming. What I do find both maddening and darkly amusing is that they usually point me to articles which are saying now exactly what I was writing six or eight or +10 years ago.

*(Thanks for the catch)
driftglass
01 Nov 17:01

The ethical dilemmas of Fells Point Ghost Tours

by Alicia Puglionesi

Ghost tours, also known as “dark tourism,” developed from a long European tradition of visiting haunted sites—particularly, the 19th-century British fascination with ghosts of the decaying upper class. Whether or not you believe in ghosts, haunting narratives matter because they refract present-day...

27 Sep 13:29

Anyone Ever Tell You Voting Matters? Even When Many Of The Candidates Are Likely To Be Horribly Flawed?

by DownWithTyranny

Last week, writing for Vox, Sean McElwee offered a big reason why "Congress ignores the poor: they don't vote." He argued that turnout has a determinative effect on who we elect and, more important, what policies are enacted. (Primaries, in fact, are even more important today in many cases than general elections, where the Wall Street candidates-- whether a Jeb Bush or a Hillary Clinton-- are likely to be presented as the only alternatives, a lesser-of-two-evils choice.)

"Americans who vote," McElwee wrote, "are different from those who don’t. Voters are older, richer, and whiter than nonvoters, in part because Americans lack a constitutional right to vote and the various restrictions on voting tend to disproportionately impact the less privileged."

In 2014, turnout among those ages 18 to 24 with family incomes below $30,000 was 13 percent. Turnout among those older than 65 and making more than $150,000 was 73 percent. The result is policy that is biased in favor of the affluent. As I argue in a new report, Why Voting Matters, higher turnout would transform American politics by giving poor, young, and nonwhite citizens more sway.


People’s opinions on policy issues vary considerably based on age, income, and race, so it’s perhaps unsurprising that their opinions diverge quite a bit from those of voters. The chart below, created with data from the American National Election Studies 2012 survey, shows net support (percent against subtracted from percent in favor) for various economic policies. It shows that voters and nonvoters have dramatically different preferences: Nonvoters support more services, a job guarantee, and government action to reduce inequality, while voters oppose these policies. While both voters and nonvoters support boosting spending on the poor, nonvoters are far more favorable to it.



... Numerous scholars have studied the gradual expansion of the franchise internationally and discovered that increased participation boosted the size and scope of the welfare state. A study of 12 Western European countries over the period of 1830 to 1938 finds, "The gradual lifting of socio-economic restrictions on the voting franchise contributed to growth in government spending." The effect hasn’t gone away in recent years. A study of the period from 1960 to 1982 concludes that higher turnout boosts welfare spending, even after controlling for political and environmental factors.

The expansion of the franchise to women is also instructive. As women gained access to the franchise within the United States, state government spending increased dramatically (see chart below). Indeed, the enfranchisement of women boosted spending on public health so significantly that it saved an estimated 20,000 children each year.

Later, the civil rights movement mobilized the Southern black electorate, which led to more liberal voting patterns among Southern Democrats and a boost in government spending going to black communities. The elimination of poll taxes and the subsequent mobilization of poor voters also lead to an increase in welfare spending.

There are many reasons the United States doesn’t have an expansive welfare state, like nearly every other high-income country. However, one important part is low voter turnout...

Already in America, the wealthy are more likely to donate to politicians, work on political campaigns, and be in regular contact with elected officials. In addition, politicians are far wealthier than ordinary citizens. These biases already conspire against the interests of poor people.

But deep differences in turnout based on income, age, and race only serve to further reduce the poor’s say. In the status quo, politicians don’t have incentives to listen to ordinary Americans, because it won’t cost them anything. That won’t change until turnout among nonwhite and poor voters increases. There are a number of ways that government can encourage voting: by fixing the Voting Rights Act, by enacting automatic voter registration, by repealing voter ID laws. All would give the poor more voice, and give policies they support a better chance of passage.
Noam Chomsky is still optimistic-- or hopeful-- that the potential for ordinary people to make radical change is alive and well, in both Britain and the U.S. "Over time," he told journalist Tommaso Segantini last week, "there’s a kind of a general trajectory towards a more just society, with regressions and reversals of course." Chomsky makes a good case for why it is essential for Bernie supporters to also elect progressives to the Senate and to the House.


Suppose that Sanders won, which is pretty unlikely in a system of bought elections. He would be alone: he doesn’t have congressional representatives, he doesn’t have governors, he doesn’t have support in the bureaucracy, he doesn’t have state legislators; and standing alone in this system, he couldn’t do very much. A real political alternative would be across the board, not just a figure in the White House.

It would have to be a broad political movement [which is exactly what Bernie is always saying as well]. In fact, the Sanders campaign I think is valuable-- it’s opening up issues, it’s maybe pressing the mainstream Democrats a little bit in a progressive direction, and it is mobilizing a lot of popular forces, and the most positive outcome would be if they remain after the election.

It’s a serious mistake to just to be geared to the quadrennial electoral extravaganza and then go home. That’s not the way changes take place. The mobilization could lead to a continuing popular organization which could maybe have an effect in the long run.

... Take Corbyn in England: he’s under fierce attack, and not only from the Conservative establishment, but even from the Labour establishment. Hopefully Corbyn will be able to withstand that kind of attack; that depends on popular support. If the public is willing to back him in the face of the defamation and destructive tactics, then it can have an impact. Same with Podemos in Spain.

...The task of organizers and activists is to help people understand and to make them recognize that they have power, that they’re not powerless. People feel impotent, but that has to be overcome. That’s what organizing and activism is all about.

Sometimes it works, sometimes it fails, but there aren’t any secrets. It’s a long-term process-- it has always been the case. And it’s had successes. Over time there’s a kind of a general trajectory towards a more just society, with regressions and reversals of course.
Despite the best efforts of the U.K.'s establishment media (as you'll see in the sly and insidious clip below), Corbyn won his contest against the hideous, bloodsucking establishment. Can Bernie win his-- against a very similar hideous, bloodsucking establishment? That's up to us.

22 Sep 00:25

How Badly Does Carly Fiorina, The Pundits' Pick For GOP Nominee, Suffer From Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

by DownWithTyranny

We've all had a friend like Carly Fiorina once in our lives. Once is enough, though. Oddly enough, just 1% of Americans are afflicted with narcissistic personality disorder-- so that makes two 1% problems for Fiorina. The illness describes a condition in which a person is excessively preoccupied with power, prestige and vanity and-- worst of all-- is utterly incapable of empathy or of even recognizing the damage they cause around them. When I watched Fiorina's repulsive performance at the CNN Republican debate last week-- seeing how her face automatically became twisted and contorted when she was aggressively asserting that some monstrous lie was simple fact-- my mind went back to the very earliest horror movie I can remember seeing, The Bad Seed (1956) as a child. Carly Fiorina is very much the Rhoda Penmark of the Republican primary.

Over the weekend Trump-- still the GOP frontrunner by miles-- let loose on Fiorina's short-comings as a nominee for his party with a series of disparaging tweets:



On a more personal note, he told Fox and Friends that listening to her voice gives him a headache after five minutes, a remark that some will equate to the now infamous "that face" comment he made to Rolling Stone. With much of the mainstream establishment hoping to use Fiorina to take down Trump, media is bending over backwards to give her a pass on the whole "compulsive liar" aspect of his routine. Truth, however has a way of coming to the fore. (Like, for example, the fact that came out over the weekend that Hewlett Packard's "only stock pop under Fiorina's reign was the 7% jump the moment she was fired!")

Last week we all enjoyed the Business Insider article about Yale Business Professor Jeffrey Sonnenfeld explaining Fiorina's catastrophic career at Hewlett Packard in terms of destroying half the wealth of her investors while gobbling up $100 million for herself. It's very much worth reading if you plan to discuss Fiorina's qualifications for her presidential bid. Contacted recently, Sonnenfeld pointed out that "the board’s wisdom in her unanimous firing was vindicated by the fact that there has been no exoneration or contrition," that "virtually everything she bought... has been shuttered or divested" and that "she has never been offered another CEO position in the decade since." Her record in the business world was pretty sordid, but it's just a small piece of the hideous entirety of who she is. Last July, the Daily Mail covered that in all its gory details.

Her first husband, Todd Bartlem, never comes out and says she's suffering from narcissistic personality disorder specifically, but he leaves no doubt in anyone's mind that she is. They married in 1977. "I was useful to her then," he explained. "I got her through graduate school and broke her out of going to law school. She tried to go to law school but she hated it and it was a big problem because her father wanted her to be a lawyer but I was her rebellion-- her alternate lifestyle." Their seven-year marriage disintegrated, in his telling, because she was fixated on power in the corporate world.
That became her whole life because of the power thing that went with it, and, at the end of the day, everything got judged according to how useful it was towards allowing her to get ahead. I assume Frank [Fiorina, the AT&T exec she had an affair with and then married] was useful... She is pathologically narcissistic and all she cares about is her. Nothing holds together with her. I got kind of suspicious of her towards the end of the marriage because she had no old friends. She had nobody that she knew in the past, and I thought, "God that's kind of weird." If you aren't useful to her, your time is over. She learned that in business school... She only had one interest and that was to get ahead. When we were together she didn't have a political bone in her body. 'The only thing she cared about was herself. I assume that's all she's ever cared about since then. Why else would you subject yourself to the ridicule of trying to run for president? ... She's never held a political office. She has no experience whatsoever and it boggles the imagination, but that is pretty indicative of the Republican Party. It's like watching the Hindenburg go down-- basically a flaming mess. She's a plutocrat. Her net worth is high and she sees herself as a member of that class. She's got spare money in her piggy bank and she's trying to buy an office. Most normal people would take a county thing, a state office or something, but no. She doesn't have the ability to see that she's so got into this thing of mind-over-matter that she can will it. But there are some things in life that you can't will, and becoming president has got to be one of them. Carly can't see that because she's a corporate person. She views herself as a corporation. There's no humility or humanity left.
The woman's actual mother, who had custody of the child after the divorce, speaks out in the Daily Mail piece

The whole Daily Mail article is fascinating, and I suggest you read it if you're at all interested in knowing more about Fiorina, who is, according to knowledgeable sources in Texas, slated by the Ted Cruz campaign to be his running mate.



30 Aug 23:26

Hard Times

by Patricia
 America is one hot mess. How do you get a weird mash up like Sarah Palin interviewing Donald Trump trying to convince us all that he's "avant-garde"? A mentally ill man shoots three people and it's broadcast live, nothing will change. China is melting down and the stock market crashed, however, the rich won't pay a price for a rigged "free"market. It's common knowledge that greed and corruption rule the day in the USA, God only knows what they will think of next to prop up the stagnant financial times most of us are dealing with.
I didn't study economics in school, I was terrible at math. I am an artist and what I was taught was to observe. To look at what's around you, whether it's a landscape or still life or people. What I see, are people struggling, not recovering. People working for less, not more. I work for a failing company, a free publication that sells advertising for the auto industry and no one is buying cars. As a matter of fact, most of the people I work with don't have cars, it's too much of a money suck.
They live with relatives or with their parents. They can't afford an apartment or a house. They are not consumers, they are not buying furniture or dishwashers.
In an economy that depends on consumer spending, there's no way from what I see, that things are getting better or "it's coming back" whatever the hell that means. However, I hear it from the hopeful all the time, even though nothings improved for them. There's continued apathy by most people I know, unless you are a senior citizen, then the story changes, there are too many "giveaways" and "people don't want to work", when I report to them real statistics about how many people in this country are living in poverty, they just scoff. Since they grew up in the Great Depression, they think we have it good and maybe we do, it just doesn't seem like it. They tell me they had "to make do" and so should we. There is no idea in their head that maybe things don't have to be that way. They profited from the biggest economic boom this country has ever seen. What they don't see, is an entire generation has been left behind, they demonize them as lazy, even though they are working more than one part time job because that's all they can get. Young people dying in droves from heroin overdoses and despair. It's not an accident that this is happening. It's the result of a country in decline, when people feel as if there is no way for them to succeed. They know cronyism and corruption is the only way to get ahead and Donald Trump exemplifies that, from his real estate mogul father, he inherited everything from and his four deferrals he received so he wouldn't have to fight in Vietnam, to his brothers high school buddy who got him into the Wharton School of business.
 http://america.aljazeera.com/opinions/2015/8/the-real-reason-pundits-want-donald-trump-to-disappear.html
 Seriously, this is the way things work in America, very likely it's the way things work in China and everywhere else. America works for the well connected, the con artists, the wealthy and snake oil salesman. If you are honest, hard working and just trying to pay back your student loans, well good luck, It's make do now in this depression, according to shadow stats, our unemployment rate is upwards of 20%, if China continues on it's current course, we may be in for worse. While we ponder what is actually going on versus the narrative we are been sold about this "recovery" why don't we watch something more uplifting?
                   Yes, if you can afford investments, you too can dance and go to the mall, life is just one big happy feet dance.
22 Aug 15:45

TRIUMPH OF THE TRUMP: THE MEDIA STARTS TO FALL IN LOVE, AND THE FANS BECOME NASTIER

by Steve M.
Last night I saw this tweet from The Washington Post's Robert Costa, who was covering Donald Trump's rally at a football stadium in Mobile, Alabama:

The crowd pic.twitter.com/89o5rZmJEQ

— Robert Costa (@costareports) August 21, 2015


It seemed that Trump, in a fit of hubris, had booked a too-large venue for his rally. If that was the case, I expected to wake up to news stories describing the rally as a failure and an embarrassment. Reporters would be telling us that Trump might finally be peaking; Trump would angrily deny it, of course, and he'd blame an aide for the stadium decision. The campaign would roll on, but the Mobile rally would be a bad moment.

So I turned to Costa's story, written with Dave Weigel -- and it's a love letter. Costa and Weigel may not be falling in love with Trump exactly, but they're head over heels in love with the Trump campaign. And that's dangerous, because coverage like this, if we get it from more and more influential journalists, is going to make a Trump presidency seem increasingly thinkable:
It was the most audacious Donald Trump spectacle yet in a summer full of them, as the Republican presidential front-runner, in his Boeing 757, thundered over a football stadium here Friday night and gave a raucous speech to one of the largest crowds of the 2016 campaign.

But Trump’s flashy performance was about more than showmanship. His visit to Alabama was coolly strategic, touching down in the heart of red America and an increasingly important early battleground in the Republican nominating contest.

The Manhattan developer, who strode onstage to “Sweet Home Alabama,” is trying to show that his candidacy has broad and lasting appeal across every region of the country -- especially here in the South, where Alabama and seven other states are holding a clustered voting blitz March 1.

The scene Friday night put an exclamation point on an extraordinary run in which the flamboyant mogul has thoroughly disrupted the presidential campaign and kindled a national discussion about not just politics but American culture itself.
Clearly the earth moved for Costa and Weigel.

I know what's going on: Our campaigns are interminable, and reporters whine endlessly about the tedium. The campaign press corps hates Hillary Clinton, so I've been expecting the journos to develop a crush on some Republican or other, but I thought they'd turn to whoever seemed like a frattish glad-hander, the equivalent of George W. Bush in 2000, who also ran against a Democrat the press loathed, just because he at least made his part of the trail a welcoming place. Instead, reporters seem to be delighting in the Trump spectacle more than Trump himself, because it's lively and entertaining and not at all tedious. They're having fun -- and the coverage is just going to get better and better as a result.

The press is now starting to see the Trump campaign as not only enjoyable but smart -- Costa and Weigel accept the campaign's premise that Alabama, and the South in general, might be the key to a Trump victory in the primary contest, a notion to which Bloomberg's Joshua Green devotes an entire non-skeptical article. Yes, the media is now treating Donald Trump campaign strategists as wily savants. We truly are in the last days.

Costa and Weigel are impressed by Trump's newfound friendship with Alabama senator Jeff Sessions, who was brought onstage at the rally and donned a "Make America Great Again" hat. (Costa notes on Twitter that Sessions still hasn't endorsed Trump, however.) This is also catnip for reporters -- they know that you're not supposed to be able to win the nomination without support from party elites, and now Trump has some. He's legit. Reporters are starting to swoon.

****

The coverage of the rally in The New York Times is less breathless, but it's still somewhat giddy: "Donald Trump Fails to Fill Alabama Stadium, but Fans’ Zeal Is Undiminished." Those fans are, um, a little creepy. Here's a quote about the candidate from one of them:
“Hopefully, he’s going to sit there and say, ‘When I become elected president, what we’re going to do is we’re going to make the border a vacation spot, it’s going to cost you $25 for a permit, and then you get $50 for every confirmed kill,’” said Jim Sherota, 53, who works for a landscaping company. “That’d be one nice thing.”
Costa and Weigel turn up this Trumpite:
Cheryl Burns, 60, was on a road trip from California when she heard that Trump would be in Alabama. She turned her car around and got in line, warning people of what happened to states when liberals took them over.

“There is no more California,” Burns said. “It’s now international, lawless territory. Everything is up for grabs. Illegal aliens are murdering people there. People are being raped. Trump isn’t lying about anything -- the rest of the country just hasn’t found out yet.”
Michael Froomkin writes:
Various online commentators have suggested that the two attackers of a homeless Hispanic man in Boston, who cited Trump as their motivation, are the forerunners of American Brownshirts.

... I’m always alert for those brown signals, but I didn’t find nearly as strong signal in the actions of a couple of thugs (so long as it remains just a couple...) as I do in quotes like the one above. If large numbers of voters are living a reality-distortion zone in which California is now Mad Max land, anything is possible.
Also in attendance at the Trump shindig, though perhaps more interested in picking up recruits than showing support, was this guy:
On the street, Olaf Childress, a neo-Confederate activist, gave out copies of “The First Freedom” newspaper, which had headlines about “Black-on-white crime,” “occupied media” and “censored details of the Holocaust.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center reported on Olaf Childress in 2008:
The neo-Confederate stalwart plans to transport a casket bearing a copy of the 14th Amendment from his southern Alabama home to the shores of the Potomac River for burial....

The vehicle carrying the deceased will be none other than Childress' "Death to the 14th Amendment" hearse. After buying the 1995 Buick Roadmaster about a year and a half ago, Childress outfitted it with magnetic Confederate battle flags on both front doors and the words "Death to the 14th Amendment" on the rear doors....

Childress, a 32-year resident of Silverhill, Ala., population 616, announced the amendment's upcoming interment in the September issue of his newspaper, The First Freedom (motto: "Inviting the Zionist-controlled media'cracy to meet a rising free South").
At one point in 2008, the SPLC story goes on to tell us, Childress and his hearse were stopped at a police checkpoint:
As he tells it on his website in a post headlined, "Alabama's Mossad-trained stooges capture politically-incorrect hearse," when Silverhill's police chief asked to see his license and insurance, he informed her that she had no legal right to stop him. He even offered to show her where it says so in the Constitution, a copy of which he just happens to keep in the hearse. But the police chief wasn't interested. Instead, because Childress refused to sign some papers, she hauled him off to jail. Not only did Childress have to spend the night behind bars, but also police impounded the hearse at Dixie Auto Body Repair. He had to pay $135 to retrieve it two days later.
(You'll notice that he wasn't shot or Tased or beaten to within an inch of his life. Childress, of course, is white.)

Childress continues to publish The First Freedom -- check out this article, in which he argues that the culprits in the Charlie Hebdo massacre were trained agents of the Mossad. This is a guy who thinks a Trump rally could be fertile ground for recruitment. And hey, who knows?

But is the mainstream press going to pay more attention to the ugliness of the Trumpites' rhetoric or to the increasing professionalization of the campaign? I fear it's the latter -- and thus I fear for America.
21 Aug 16:09

Paul Graham: challenge to a rap duel

by michaelochurch
mturovskiy

Hilarious nerdfights are hilarious. Anyone else follows the failwhale that is silicon valley culture wars and wants to take bets?

Paul Graham,

We met once in March 2007, and I’m sure you don’t remember me. You seemed like a nice guy but I wasn’t very impressed, and I’m sure I made even less of an impression on you.

I’m writing because of the insults that you, through your organization, have tried to lob at me. First, there were the annoying “moderations” (to use Dan Gackle’s term) imposed on my account on Hacker News: slowban (causing the site to become astronomically slower when I was logged in) and rankban (causing my comments to fall to the bottom, regardless of their value).

There’s no doubt that you know who I am, as you’ve blocked me on Twitter, although I have no idea what for, so I don’t need to introduce myself.

Earlier this month, Dan Gackle took my use of a humorous archaic word out of context and used it as an excuse to ban me from the site. Fine. Hacker News has been in decline for at least five years and a vacation from that cesspool would do me good. Then we have the unprofessional behavior of Paul Buchheit, who saw fit to attack me on Quora (on a now-deleted thread).

It seems that you’re not good at keeping your dogs on a leash.

As I see it, there are three options. I’ll leave the ball in your court.

  1. You formally reprimand Paul Buchheit and Dan Gackel, reinstate my account on Hacker News, and issue a formal apology, that is featured on your website as prominently as your other essays.
  2. We have it out in a rap duel in October 2015, place and time at shared convenience. Let’s see if your rhymes can stack up against mine. We can work out the details later (I’m sure that there are plenty of people who’d love to officiate this) but I’ll need a response by September 1.
  3. Or: you accept this moment, in August of 2015, as the point where you were shown up, in front of the whole world, by Michael O. Church.

I know that passive aggression is the normal way of handling things in Silicon Valley, but I’m a fan of actually resolving conflicts and then letting shit go. So, let’s do this. Personally, my preference is for the rap battle.

However, if I haven’t heard a definitive response by September 1, however, I’ll assume that you’ve taken the coward’s way out.

What’s it gonna be, Paul?


20 Aug 13:26

Deez Nuts Are Topping Scott Walker

by Jeff_simpson7
By Jeff Simpson

WWJD - What would Jefferson do(or say)?

It is estimated that the 2016 Presidential Election Spending could approach $5 Billion Dollars.  That is just when we get it down to two candidates, one from each party.  That does not take into account what is being wasted on the primaries.

The top 6 Candidates in fundraising, for their respective primaries (4 Republicans, 2 Democrats) are well over $300 Million and the 7th, Rick Perry has raised $15 Million dollars himself, but has stopped paying his staff because he is broke(For the record, Rick Perry got in the race 6/4 and blew through his $15 million by August 11).  All of this and the actual primaries do not even start until next year.

Now keep in mind that these guys are spending millions upon millions of dollars like its Monopoly money, and campaigning 24/7, when you see which candidate is rising in the polls.

DEEZ NUTS!

Seriously. 


August 19, 2015
The latest Public Policy Polling numbers show a surprising presidential hopeful overtaking Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, and Scott Walker(ed. note: remember him) in North Carolina — and he's dead even with Marco Rubio, too. The independent candidate, registered as "Deez Nuts," is officially polling at 9 percent in North Carolina.

Image result for deez nuts
No, we were not hacked. 'Deez Nuts' is the legal name of the candidate and he is polling at 9 percent in NC:http://t.co/HnGP0y6oOO
— ABC11 EyewitnessNews (@ABC11_WTVD) August 19, 2015

Yes you read that right, people like DEEZ NUTS, more than they like Carly Fiorina or Scott Walker.   

Who is Deez Nuts?  Well most people are not sure, but they know he has to be better than the rest of the Republican Field!!  


It turns out Deez Nuts, who says his real name is Brady Olson, is about to enter his sophomore year in high school, and has a full two decades to prepare for a legal run for president of the United States.A Mark C. Olson, who is listed at the Wallingford address on Deez Nuts's FEC filing, said via Twitter that Deez Nuts is "my 15 year old son."
A fifteen year old Iowa farmboy, is the clear fresh choice for those on the right.

If he joins forces with Ben Bushyhead, The rest of the Republican field had better make planes to head home.  


Seriously though, what does it say about our crazy election process, when candidates are spending hundreds of millions of dollars, and campaign constantly, yet, some 15 yr old kid, came up with a fake name, and played a prank on the Republicans by getting on the ballot and rising in the polls?

I think Americans are losing out in that.   

What Would Thomas Jefferson do?



20 Aug 00:57

1-2-3, Anyone But Lee

by DownWithTyranny
mturovskiy

Local politics are actually more exciting than the nationals. If only someone actually bothered to cover them!


by Denise Sullivan

The last time we checked in on San Francisco, Mayor Ed Lee (appointed to fill Gavin Newsom's vacated seat and elected for a full term in 2011) was set to run unopposed in the November election. But as candidate, community organizer, and singer Amy Farah Weiss (also known as "YIMBY" for Yes In My Backyard) has been quick to point out, there are in fact now five official alternatives to Lee on the ballot, though local media refuses to acknowledge their respective campaigns. In response to the black-out, Weiss and her fellow candidates, educator and organizer Francisco Herrera and columnist and comedian Broke-Ass Stuart Schuffman have come together as a coalition. The trio could conceivably pose a triple threat if voters take seriously their directive to rank them 1-2-3 in a bid to oust Lee. Weiss has even adapted the old Bobbettes number, "Mr Lee"  as a campaign song, a clever attempt to give voters a catchy way to remember the strategy (candidates four and five are Reed Martin and Kent Graham of whom I could find out little).



Though all new to potential public office, Weiss and Herrera have community organizing experience in their respective neighborhoods, the Western Addition and Mission, while Shuffman, an Examiner columnist, has humor and a sharp tongue on his side.  Referring to his yet-to-be-revealed platform on his website he writes, "The thing that most people don’t get though is that platforms are rolled out throughout a campaign. Like, what’s Hillary Clinton’s platform? You have no idea, right? Hillary has been running for President for like eight years and she hasn’t even announced her platform yet…"

On Monday, the three candidates came together for a "cakewalk," organized by Weiss as a response to wags calling Lee's run a shoe-in and to call for Lee to agree to publicly debate his opposition which he has so far refused. Turn-out was small, but awareness of the candidates and their respective campaigns is growing. I asked Dale Duncan, a friend and longtime Mission District resident why he chose to support Shuffman: "He seems earnest and I didn't know of anyone else bothering to run against Ed Lee, the worst mayor in my 35 years here. If it had only been Matt Gonzalez instead of Gavin back when."

In 2005, Gonzalez (who went on to run with Ralph Nader in the 2008 Presidential election as the Green Party candidate) lost to Newsom in a run-off by a very slight margin. But what he achieved by mobilizing young and disenfranchised voters was monumental (he is presently the chief attorney at the San Francisco Public Defender's Office). And while it might seem the population who cast their votes for Gonzalez has since been squeezed out of town, it's possible they've simply lost their advocacy and the work of mobilizing the working, immigrant and artist populations here has fallen to Herrera, Shuffman and Weiss. I'm acquainted with both Weiss and Herrera who've made themselves known to the communities for cultural preservation as advocates of arts, literacy, and education. As performing musicians, they join in a great San Francisco tradition of politically engaged artists who begin by voicing their dissent, using their stage as a platform, and reminding us all that democracy is a participatory practice, if not a theatrical one.

Readers may remember San Francisco circa 1979, when Dead Kennedys singer Jello Biafra emerged as the people's candidate in a race against Dianne Feinstein: Among his most practical ideas, Biafra proposed the police department be elected, that cars be banned from the city limits and squatting in vacant buildings be legalized. He also suggested businessmen wear clown suits and that statues of Dan White (killer of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk) be erected and the Park department earn revenue by selling eggs for throwing.



"One thing I will attempt to do is bring government out from behind closed doors," he said in a televised interview at the time. To naysayers who declared his candidacy a publicity stunt or a joke, Biafra replied, "They should keep in mind it's no more and no less of of a joke than anyone else they care to name." A couple of decades later in 2007,  punk rock bassist and cultural agitator "Chicken" John Rinaldi tested the city's then-new ranked choice voting system and grabbed 11 percent of the vote from Newsom. Not long after, he lead an inspired campaign to rename the local sewage treatment plant after George W. Bush. There were likely others, now forgotten, though it must be said, the City's troubles began long before Lee, Newsom, or even Feinstein. The value of campaigns like Jello's, Chicken John's and the 1-2-3 efforts by Herrera, Shuffman and Weiss-- which admittedly appeal to counterculture, revolutionary and disaffected voter sensibilities-- is to tear away the curtain of conformity and corruption that has long shrouded our local government.


In light of the recent news of the FBI probe implicating Lee, alleging he took "substantial bribes in exchange for favors" and with the substantial base of labor, neighborhood, and activist organizations working to effect necessary policy, far from a done deal, change-seeking San Franciscans have every reason to remain hopeful. Two ballot initiatives concerning limit short term rentals (Airbnb) and housing in the Mission, and a supervisor's race that could replace Lee appointee Julie Christensen with progressive Aaron Peskin in District 3 could be the things that begin to set things back on course here. And while for decades we've been hampered by a largely irresponsible and inert daily paper, uncommitted to investigative reporting or to taking a stand, our best hope has always been our citizenry, especially those willing to take on public service and a radical stand. Though they may frame matters goofily, in a confrontational way, or inelegantly, the candidates bring to the discussion issues from housing and human rights to jobs and open space that are of concern to everyday San Franciscans. I'm going to assert there's still time for three dark horses who share one vision for a more equitable, livable, and affordable San Francisco, to pick up more supporters and some steam. A vote for 1-2-3-- anyone but Lee-- could serve as an important step on the way toward reclaiming San Francisco.

Francisco Herrera, Stuart Shuffman & Amy Farah Weiss are mayoral candidates on the Nov. ballot in San Francisco

19 Aug 18:48

Your Obligatory Presidential Campaign Fellatio Photo: Jeb Bush Edition

by Rude One
mturovskiy

#Freedom!

Because no presidential campaign season is complete without at least one photo of a candidate deep-throating tube-shaped "food" in a corn condom, here is Jeb Bush going down on a deep-fried Snickers at the Iowa State Fair:


The amount of time candidates spend in the fields of the shit kickers in Iowa is inversely proportionate to how much of a fuck we should give about Iowa's caucus. But that won't stop anyone from pandering by engorging pig balls on a stick or rectally-inserted beer-battered pickles or whatever the fuck Marco Rubio and Hillary Clinton have to pretend to enjoy.

From another angle, it looks like JEB! is gagging on the down home treat:


An adviser is telling him, "You swallow that shit, bitch. Lap up every drop." That's how democracy happens in this degrading century.
02 Aug 21:49

#AliveWhileBlack is the heartbreaking response to...

















#AliveWhileBlack is the heartbreaking response to #CrimingWhileWhite

The hashtag #CrimingWhileWhite became a platform to illustrate what often happens when white people engage in criminal activity. It was a powerful moment, as white people openly acknowledged that they don’t face nearly the same punishment or brutality experienced by their black counterparts. But despite the good intentions of those who participated, many others felt like the hashtag detracted from conversations about the value of black lives.

In response to that first trending hashtag, Jamilah Lemieux, senior digital editor for Ebony magazine, started #AliveWhileBlack.

30 Jul 18:06

Because, You Know, That Republican Economic Recovery Plan Isn’t Working All That Well

by Juanita Jean
mturovskiy

Damn Millenials, mooching off their parents and not supporting this here robust economy!

The 28 year old adult daughter of Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin moved her “nice trailer” to the backyard of the Governor’s mansion and is living in it with her husband.

 

trailer_fallin_screen

 

One of the adult children of Fallin’s husband lives in the Governor’s mansion and another lives in a garage apartment behind the Governor’s mansion.

UnknownFallin told Oklahoma television station KFOR that her 28-year-old daughter received no special benefit by parking the travel trailer outside the mansion near the state Capitol since April. Any electricity or water she would have used in the trailer would have also been used if she had been living inside the brick-and-mortar home.

“My Oklahoma values … is to take care of your family,” Fallin, a Republican, told the TV station in a live interview.

She meant to add, “And if the taxpayers will do it for me, I will let them,” but she forgot.

Hey, I checked to see and it costs about $250 a month, $360 with electricity, to lease a trailer space in Oklahoma.  I mean, it ain’t a fancy pants one like a mansion for a neighbor  but that does seem kinda a little bit like “a special benefit.”

Maybe Oklahoma values should include a “robust economy.”

Hey, lotsa people have had their kids move back home.  They just didn’t expect the taxpayers to feed and cool them.

By the way, if we’re gonna talk about “value values,” does that include your bodyguard?

In early December 1998, an Oklahoma Highway Patrol bodyguard for Fallin resigned after admitting to unprofessional conduct. The Fallins had filed for divorce the previous week, amid allegations by her estranged husband that she had an affair with a bodyguard.

Public Safety Commissioner Bob Ricks issued a statement saying that rumors had surfaced in early September about alleged unprofessional conduct between a member of the executive security detail and the lieutenant governor. According to Ricks, the trooper first denied the allegations, but, when questioned again in October, admitted to the improprieties. He was allowed to resign, but his admission did not say if any sexual activity was involved.

Whoa boy, that there is some family values.

Thanks to everybody for the heads up.

30 Jul 00:58

Brother Can You Spare A Non-Profit Foundation?

by Patricia
mturovskiy

True story: if ya wanna launder some cash, you start a non-profit. If you're smart you can turn a nice profit off the tax write offs, too.

I work in a company, a company where the Vice President sleeps in his office with the door open on almost a daily basis. People have taken pictures of him doing it too. His brother started this company, where he has installed many inept family members. They pay people poorly, but not the family members. Family members and other family favorites get big Christmas bonuses, but not the rest of the employees. We are all under surveillance on the floor, we are being watched so we're not sleeping on the job. Kind of ironic, don'tcha think? In a dynastic company, such as mine, I see many things that look like the American political system. In my company the managers are told they have to work x amount of hours. The manager in charge of the schedule prints it out and gets it approved by the head manager. After it's approved to what she's been told she has to work, she whites out whats been written and writes in what she wants her schedule to be, she leaves 15 minutes early every day and since she is salaried, she manages to get paid for the hours she doesn't work. The schedule is an illusion. It doesn't mean anything. Just like the words politicians say, doesn't mean a thing. Like a congress that only works 126 days a year, while the rest of us are damn near working all 365 days.
The Clinton's are an example, they have a foundation, called the Clinton Foundation, where they employ their daughter, Chelsea, the CEO is Donna Shalala, anyone remember her?  She was the Secretary of Health and Human Services, under President Clinton and Bush. This is a non-profit foundation, that's a job creator for friends or family. It is taken for granted that this kind of nepotism and cronyism occurs and it will continue to occur. Just  like in my company where many family members and friends of family are employed, it doesn't mean you are getting the sharpest knife in the drawer, You just get the easiest most convenient employee. Which is why my company will soon be going out of business because they've run it into the ground with their brand of stupid.
Speaking of stupid, lets look at another dynasty, Jeb Bush, surprise! He's got a non-profit too, the Foundation For Excellence in Education, I guess his idiot brother really affected him, but I digress.
Guess who's the Board Chair? None other than WMD liar Condoleeza Rice. Ya know, maybe she is one of the reasons why, he made that statement, even knowing what we know now, he still would have invaded Iraq and Hillary would too, nice touch there. Also Jebs daughter Noelle was busted for crack, spent 2 weeks in jail and works for one of her daddy's businesses. Lucky for her, because people aren't in the habit of hiring those who have been arrested on drug charges. Kind of like in my company, the Vice President's son was arrested for dealing narcotics, but he's got a golden parachute when he gets out of jail and so it goes.

The economy is very bad, but not for the 1% with "non-profit" foundations, with all kinds of behind-the-scenes shenanigans going on, just like at my dynastic company where the relatives are treated like gold and everyone else is treated like garbage, which is why I refuse to tie my self to any one employer, it's why I refuse to vote anymore. These people have it made, they rake in the tax free cash and hand out positions to their kids and friends while the rest of us just scrape along. This system will not change and no amount of voting will change it. The economy will continue degrade, but insulated politicians and their kids won't ever have to worry about that. Go ahead and vote for these selfish, corrupt candidates. They probably fall asleep in their chairs at the office with the door open too.

17 Jul 18:57

The Weasel and the Damage Done

by Bert
By Bert

I printed out my ticket. I cleaned up a bit and even raised my clothing game to business casual. Then I drove across Waukesha Monday to the Scott Walker campaign announcement extravaganza at the county fairgrounds. What happened once I made it to the first entrance and handed the ticket to a smiling young woman is both appalling and entirely predictable.

The flow of people from the parking lot brought me to the entrance, a temporary shade tent where attendees were channeled by tables through three lines. The friendly woman scanned the code on my printout, said okay as it beeped recognition, and then called me back as she looked at the hand-held gizmo's screen. It's been rejected, she said in a surprised tone.

Then she pointed me to the far row of tables to talk to another aide there. The young red-headed man named Nathan started punching at his pad and looking at the ticket. He wasn't resolving the rejection right away, asked for me email and then said this with his eyes on the pad: "Oh, did you sign the recall?"

"Yes," I said. "Oh, that's it then" he replied.

Others who had been behind me continued to pass through to the main building. Nathan, a cool cat for being  in his early twenties, told me I could watch the proceedings from the overflow tent with the people who had no ticket or who got to the event later than me. I pushed him and then he would not make explicit that the rejection was given to any and all petition signers.

As I say, my rejection is predictable. A similar, but funnier, denial happened to Democratic state assembly member Mandela Barnes. The careful managing of a TV bite's backdrop is par for the campaign course.

I have gone to other events in the Waukesha area and seen Walker at least three other times, even chatted with his sons at a rope line once about Wauwatosa East High sports at the Country Springs Hotel. I am a former reporter and news junkie and would attend any event in my neighborhood that garners national attention. Since my neighborhood is Waukesha, though, these events tend to all be Republican deals. However, I am not surprised I did not get in to this Walker announcement Monday because now Scott is in the big time and the place was bristling with police and handlers.

Not a huge deal, then, but I bring it up anyway because it is a good reminder, on the occasion of Walker's official entrance into the presidential race, about some of the core weaselisms of a sadly craven man.

For one, Walker's protective bubble Monday reminds us that Walker never interacts with his constituents the way that many past governors did or as did former and future Senator Russ Feingold in visits to every county of the state. Walker, for example, was in Waukesha on Sunday too, but safe inside the guarded walls of the Valveworks USA factory, to sign the state budget.

His campaign is now relentlessly humping the sound nibble that Walker is a fighter. Walker makes much of this fable that he "stood up" to protestors in 2011. I was at those protests among what seemed like a lot of polite female school teachers and never saw Walker standing up to anybody. He hid in tunnels from those scary schoolmarms, spread lies about the damage done by blue tape on walls and addressed the state only in the call-screener protected airwaves of AM radio.

So much for this "spine of steel" that Robin Vos and others speak of today.

My experience Monday also reminds us about the recall petition on-line data base. The state's GOP
was claiming in the Spring of 2012 that the petitions were riddled with fraud and needed a database to verify the names. As is typical, party elites played their supporters for saps by compelling dozens if not hundreds of outraged right-wing volunteers to do the menial work of entering the mountains of petition papers into their database.

Turns out, there was no widespread fraud and the GOP knew it. Journal Sentinel reporter Craig Gilbert only long after the recall elections were over (and even after his paper published its own on-line database) wrote in passing what by then we'd come to find out through appalling experiences: the actual reason for the on-line database was that it's a handy tool to intimidate political enemies of the GOP. Mark Belling has said the same thing on his radio show.

The misuse of the database has shown Walker at his most vindictive and big-brothery. Remember the case of UW-Platteville student Joshua Inglett whose nomination as a student member of the Board of Regents was pulled in 2013 when the database revealed that he had signed the petition?

People in line with me were shocked when they overheard I had also done this terrible thing of signing the petition. A mousy man in front of me turned and asked why I did it. I just said because I am not as dumb as I look.

My drive across town on Monday was not a complete loss, I'm happy to say. I left the fairgrounds and joined the protesters relegated to the ditch between the grounds' chain link fence and Northview Road. I most enjoyed talking in Spanish with a Mexican immigrant named Marta working for the advocacy group Voces de la Frontera. Marta urged me to think positive when it comes to the United States and its future. She said more people will surely become educated over time and change their views toward immigrants and other problems we face.

Marta, I should have said but didn't, it was because of my fears for the future of education and its redemptive powers that my name is on that database in the first place.




09 Jul 17:04

Crazy DA Wants More People Put to Death in Louisiana

by Rude One
mturovskiy

Great argument against capital punishment, imho.


A crazy white man named Cox is helping put black people to death in northwest Louisiana. Articles in both the New York Times and the New Yorker (yeah, yankee liberals. So?) detail the deep desire of acting district attorney Dale Cox of Caddo Parish to kill people, mostly black men. Caddo Parish juries are responsible for sentencing more people to death per capita than any other county in the country. 77% of those sentenced are black. If you read even one of the pieces, you will come away with the sickening feeling in your stomach that Dale Cox is a serial killer, a sociopath – fuck, a psychopath - who gets the state of Louisiana to do his murders for him.

In an interview with the Times, Cox repeatedly talks about a society that “would say it's okay to kill babies and eat them, and in fact we can have parties where we kill them and eat them.” Cox admits that he has never seen a case where people killed and ate a baby, alone or at a party, but that doesn't stop him from talking about the "savagery" he's seen and that "We've become a jungle." He pretty much says that he's got PTSD from the shit he's dealt with in his job: "the nature of the work is so serious that there’d be something wrong if it didn’t change you."

He "went on to describe rapes, murders and dismemberments in extended detail, pointing to a box on his desk that he said contained autopsy photos of an infant who was beaten to death."  That's the way insane people act. That's someone who might just want to eat an infant or someone so tortured by the crimes of others that he can no longer react with the dispassion that the law needs. Motherfucker just wants people put to death.

The New Yorker article, by Rachel Aviv, is a deeper dive into a single case, that of Rodricus Crawford, a black man who was sentenced to death for the murder of his infant son, despite the fact that there were egregious errors in the autopsy of the baby (who was not eaten) and that Crawford was a doting, caring father.  Cox just really, really wanted Crawford sentenced to death.

Cox supported the release of an inmate on death row when evidence came forward that exonerated him (a previous prosecutor in Caddo Parish wrote an impassioned plea to end capital punishment because of this case), but that has not shaken Cox's belief in more death sentences.  In fact, he still thinks the exonerated man, Glenn Ford, got a fair trial and deserves no compensation for the three decades he spent on death row.

In an interview with the Shreveport Times, the local paper, Cox said, "I think we need to kill more people... I think the death penalty should be used more often. It has come to the place in our society where it is used less often, and I think crime in our society has expanded so expeditiously...that we're going the wrong way with the death penalty that we need it more than ever and we're using it less now."

In Crawford's case, Cox said in his closing statement during the trial that Jesus commanded the jurors to put the accused to death: "Now, this is Jesus Christ of the New Testament. ‘It would be better if you were never born. You shall have a millstone cast around your neck, and you will be thrown into the sea.’" Imagine a prosecutor citing the Quran for support in sentencing. Later, Cox regretted that Louisiana uses lethal injection: "Mr. Crawford deserves as much physical suffering as it is humanly possible to endure before he dies." Cox doesn't give a shit that everyone who examined the baby boy's autopsy report found it deeply flawed and incredibly wrong and that the child died of sepsis brought on by pneumonia, not from a beating from his father.

Cox is running for DA now. He recently defended himself against Aviv's article, sounding for all the world like a depressed, deeply troubled man who is one fender-bender away from going on a killing spree. He also answered a question about the Confederate monument that sits outside the courthouse in Caddo Parish.  He said that it should be removed because it's "a distraction," and that anyone who tells you that the Confederate flag doesn't stand for slavery "is lying through their teeth."

But mostly he doesn't want the issue to get in the way of him making sure more black "barbarians" die.
09 Jul 00:54

Activists Forced to Submit to Secrecy & File Appeal in Lawsuit Alleging Domestic Military Spying

by Kevin Gosztola
mturovskiy

Love the sheer hypocrisy of complaining about Chinese hackers when we spy/hack on own citizens.

John Jacob Towery

In a major case involving significant allegations of domestic spying by the United States military, targeted activists have filed an appeal in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. But no members of the press or public can read the appeal because the court forced plaintiffs to file it under seal.

The lawsuit, Panagacos v. Towery, accuses the Army of directing John Jacob Towery, who worked for the US Army Force Protection Division at Fort Lewis, to infiltrate a group called the Port Militarization Resistance (PMR) in Olympia and Tacoma in Washington. It also accuses the cities of Olympia and Tacoma of coordinating with the Army to violate the First and Fourth Amendment rights of activists.

PMR organized demonstrations from 2006 to 2009 and engaged in nonviolent civil disobedience with the intention of preventing the shipment of Stryker vehicles or other military cargo to Iraq.

A district court dismissed the case in June 2014. Essentially, the judge hearing the lawsuit chose not to do his job, admitted to lawyers representing activists he had not reviewed all the evidence against the Army and Towery, and issued a decision that could seriously jeopardize the ability of citizens to dissent in American society if the decision is allowed to stand.

Now, National Lawyers Guild attorney Larry Hildes has filed an appeal, but Hildes must fight for the court to allow the public to read the contents of this important appeal.

“The case is of unusual public interest because it involves very timely controversies, military and governmental spying on civilians, and the violation of constitutional privacy and association rights,” argues a brief to have the appeal unsealed [PDF].

“The right of media access, and general public access, to matters involving governmental spying and suspect police activity is of First Amendment importance.”

Thomas Rudd, head of the Force Protection Division, allegedly directed Towery to identify activists “in order to facilitate their arrest without probable cause.” He allegedly instructed Towery to report on “meetings, demonstrations, and private personal events and relationships” so that “civilian law enforcement agencies” would be able to arrest, follow, cite, detain, harass, and compile and transmit dossiers that would facilitate disruption of the antiwar movement.

According to Hildes, Towery admitted during depositions that he had not only been paid by the Army to go to PMR meetings in private homes but was also paid to attend meetings related to actions planned for the Republican National Convention and Democratic National Convention in 2008. Towery used the term “anarchist” as “a label of convenience,” to target “people and their actions and their threats to the military.”

The Army, as well as Towery and Rudd, appear to fear further embarrassment for their role in domestic military spying. They have pushed for the contents of the appeal to remain secret because it references documents containing evidence, which corroborates serious allegations by activists.

However, Hildes maintains that this violates the protective order and rules established early in the case, which was first filed in 2010. It denies the “public the right to know how extensive the Army operations against peace activists waged from Joint Base Lewis-McChord [were], how high up the chain of command they went, and who specifically was involved.”

Back in December 2013, Rudd and his counsel “produced an unindexed dump of more than 9,400 pages of Army documents related to allegations.”

It took attorneys for the activists three months to go through all the pages. The document dump delayed taking depositions. A motion for summary judgment was filed on the day of the last deposition. The lead counsel for activists “suffered a cardiac emergency.” They were given no extra time to address the issue of unsealing records in the case so the activists had to file their response to the issue of summary judgment under seal. The case was dismissed on June 18, 2014, and the critical issue of whether relevant records showing evidence of Army spying should remain secret went unaddressed by the court.

There are a number of records or parts of records that attorneys have been able to make public. For example, in 2007, “domestic terrorism” dossiers were created of activists, including Brendan Dunn, who is one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

Screen shot 2015-07-08 at 11.50.00 AM

Yet, the Army maintains “threat assessments” created or disseminated by and on behalf of the Army through Rudd should be kept secret. Part of the argument is that it would compromise Rudd’s privacy.

“There is no reason why these documents would compromise his real privacy or safety, or raise any concerns that are not outweighed by the public’s right to know what activities the Army and Rudd were engaged in, with the public’s tax dollars against domestic peace groups and other US civilians,” the brief declares.

Another issue for attorneys pursuing the lawsuit is the court stuck them with a bill of over $38,000 for district court proceedings prior to dismissal.

“Plaintiffs have sought to advance the cause of peaceful dissent against coordinated military and police subterfuge and espionage,” according to the brief. “Plaintiffs sustained targeted acts of harassment, and the police have been accused of targeting activists for being activists. Two plaintiffs have been blacklisted in official police and military fusion networks as ‘domestic terrorists,’ a connotation carrying felony implications. Excessive physical force by police marked the official response to explicitly nonviolent, disciplined civil disobedience.”

“Imposition of over $38,000 in defendant’s litigation costs—in addition to plaintiffs’ own litigation expenses of over $25,000—will be perceived as a civil fine, and its sheer magnitude will deter activists in the future from seeking justice through the courts. It is in the public interest to deny costs and avoid this chilling effect.”

Finally, Hildes concluded, “Military and law enforcement officials have admitted to engaging in actions that not only violate our plaintiffs’ constitutional rights, but also violate a century-old law that should protect US civilians from military intrusion.”

“By targeting activists without probable cause, based on their ideology and the perceived political threat they represent, the Army clearly broke the law and must be held accountable.”

09 Jul 00:05

China Stocks Are Crashing

by Frederick Leatherman
mturovskiy

Is anyone following this? I keep hearing rumblings but so far have not seen any analysis from reputable sources (Krugman, et al).
Thankfully, we have reddit for that: https://www.reddit.com/r/explainlikeimfive/comments/3cj8mr/eli5_whats_happening_to_chinas_stock_market_and/

Despite a slowing economy in China, stock values were sky rocketing through May due largely to government encouragement to invest in the stock market. Turned out to be real bad advice.

The Shanghai Composite Index slid another 5.9 per cent today despite the Chinese government’s efforts to stop the sell-off. The Christian Science Monitor is reporting today that “a three-week plunge has wiped out $572 billion in value on the Shanghai and Shenzhen exchanges. Today nearly half of all listed Chinese firms have simply suspended trading, and investors are anxious.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting today,

When Chinese stocks started to crumble in mid-June, the drop forced investors to unwind some of their leveraged bets, sparking more selling.

The government has rolled out one measure after another to stem the rout. But rather than reassure, the frenzy appears to have heightened anxiety.

“The more the government intervenes, the more scared I am,” said Li Jun, who runs a fishing and restaurant business in the eastern city of Nanjing. Mr. Li has spent about 3 million yuan on stocks since early this year, using borrowed money for about a third of that amount.

He was among the legions of investors who have cut their shareholdings in the past few days. Mr. Li said he has steadily reduced his position every time the market “popped up a little” due to the government intervention.

“I have no faith” in the government’s ability to halt the losses, he said.

Middle class wealth has been devastated.

The Sydney Morning Herald describes government efforts to stop the sell-off.

China’s securities regulator banned major shareholders, corporate executives and directors from selling stakes in listed companies for six months, its latest effort to stop the nation’s $3.5 trillion stock-market rout.

Investors with stakes exceeding 5 percent must maintain their positions, the China Securities Regulatory Commission said in a statement. The rule is intended to guard capital-market stability amid an “unreasonable plunge” in share prices, the CSRC said.

While China has already ordered government-owned institutions to maintain or boost their stock holdings, the CSRC’s directive expands the ban on sales to non-state companies and potentially foreign investors who own major stakes in mainland businesses. Regulators have unveiled market-boosting measures almost every night over the past 10 days, steps that have so far failed to revive investor confidence. Foreign traders sold Chinese shares at a record pace this week in part due concerns over the government’s meddling in markets.

“It suggests desperation,” Mark Mobius, chairman of Templeton Emerging Markets Group, said by phone Wednesday. “It actually creates more fear because it shows that they’ve lost the control.”

Stay tuned.

08 Jul 00:33

Greece, Ukraine and U.S. — Advancing the Neo-Liberal Project

by Gaius Publius
mturovskiy

Little known fact: USAID is basically a cover front for US corporate interests. Theres no aid there

Bill Clinton and Paul Ryan agreeing that the privatizing Ryan budget is the way to go. Neo-liberalism in action, but you have to look behind the curtain to see it.

by Gaius Publius

I recently did a piece about Greece that implied a number of similarities to Ukraine's recent upheavals. There I said:
All of this loops the Greek story into the Ukraine story, which most people still don't realize isn't just about Putin, though that makes a convenient (and cartoonish) Us vs. The Villain cautionary tale. It's about continuing the ... yes, neo-liberal project ... deeper into eastern Europe.
I want to explain some of that here, via three concepts — the cover story, the actual story, and the Putin element in each case — with a side look at "the neo-liberal project," which both of these stories exemplify.

The Story in Greece

The CNN-ready cover story on Greece is is a story of punishing helpers or helping punishers — the audience can take the story either way, as it chooses. "Bad Greece" got itself in economic trouble and "good Europeans" — led by German and other elites — have offered a helping hand, but only if the Greek government makes painful adjustments, such as cutting pensions (their form of our Social Security) and privatizing much of their infrastructure, such as their airports and shipping facilities. Money, but with strings.

The Greeks deserve this treatment because bad (profligate, lazy) people deserve to suffer when they fall. Welfare, when given to "the wrong people," should come with thorns; bailout money, when given to "the wrong people," should come with some pain, with strings.

The actual story is that the forces of privatization on the "liberal left" in Europe have found a nation in a great deal of economic trouble, thanks in large part to looting from outside, and they're offering a "helping" hand in order to further loot the country via those privatizing strings. In the minds of the looters (we'll call them "neo-liberals" below) every government-owned operation (Athens airport, say) is a missed profit opportunity for someone rich enough to buy it, and the world would be better if everything were made private.

But airports and other revenue opportunities don't privatize themselves; they have to be pried loose from government. Corruption will pry them loose, or friends on the inside. That's how the Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund and others got their hands on 75 years' worth of revenue from the Chicago parking meters. They had a "friend," Mayor Richard M. Daley, on the inside willing to sell it to them on the cheap.

"Shock Doctrine"-type operations will do it also. As Naomi Klein documents in her book of the same name, the shock of Hurricane Katrina's devastation was the perfect opportunity to privatize (monetize) New Orleans' public schools.

The Putin element is that Greece, if driven from the Eurozone by the Eurozone's brutal (but "liberal") hand, might accept aid from Russia, aid with fewer strings. In anticipation, the U.S. has reportedly told the Greek president it will not allow this, with militarized regime change on offer if he considers it — as opposed to the ballot-box regime change that the Eurozone is trying to force.

The "Neo-Liberal Project"

I call the above-described form of privatization (monetization) of government-held property the "neo-liberal project." Notice that while neo-liberals share goals with big-money conservatives on the right, most of these privatizers are what we otherwise call "liberals" — like Mayor Richard Daley, for example; or the helpful people at the IMF and the European Central Bank; or Bill Clinton, who wanted to privatize Social Security in 1997, if it weren't for a certain blue dress and the woman inside it:
Had it not been for Monica's captivating smile and first inviting snap of that famous thong, President Bill Clinton would have consummated the politics of triangulation, heeding the counsel of a secret White House team and deputy treasury secretary Larry Summers. Late in 1998 or in the State of the Union message of 1999 a solemn Clinton would have told Congress and the nation that, just like welfare, Social Security was near-broke, had to be "reformed" and its immense pool of capital tendered in part to the mutual funds industry. The itinerary mapped out for Clinton by the Democratic Leadership Committee would have been complete.

We have this on the authority of high-ranking members of the Clinton Treasury who gathered in Harvard in the summer of 2001 to mull over the lessons of the 1990s. At that conclave it was revealed that on Clinton's orders a top secret White House working party had been established to study in detail the basis for a bipartisan policy on Social Security that would splice individual accounts into the program. Such was the delicacy of this exercise that meetings of the group were flagged under the innocent rubric "Special Issues" on the White House agenda. ...

The "Special Issues" secret team was set up by then-Deputy Treasury Secretary Larry Summers (later elevated to Treasury Secretary and now President of Harvard) and Gene Sperling, the head of the Council of Economic Advisers.
It's the same game, whether played from the left or the right, as the video above clearly shows. When the game is played from the right, they call it Milton Friedman conservatism. When it's played from the left, they call it neo-liberalism ("new" liberalism, like Tony Blair's "New" Labour in the U.K.; like what it was, only not).

The privatizing game is mainly played from the left, because that's where most of the players are. The Western world is mostly run by "liberals" like these. When Democrats vote for mainstream "liberals," this is what they put into office.

The Ukrainian Story

There's a parallel to Greece in the recent events in the Ukraine. The cover story is that Ukraine was ruled by "bad president Yanukovych" who was friendly to Russia; Ukraine had a revolution, an uprising; and it's now ruled by "good prime minister Yatseniuk" under acting president Turchynov. Yatseniuk wants to take Ukraine out of the Russian orbit.

In this story, the Putin element comes at the beginning. The "good Europeans" wanted to lend a helping hand to Yanukovych and his government via loans and other inducements because Ukraine was in financial trouble (sound familiar?). Putin also offered a helping hand, so two deals were on the table. The Russian-leaning ("bad") Yanukovych wanted to accept the Russian deal over the E.U. deal, but the uprising deposed him. When the new West-leaning government accepted the European offer instead, the cover story tells us that Putin got angry, invaded Crimea, and is provoking a crisis. At the moment, Ukraine is experiencing either an invasion or a civil war, depending on who you talk to.

The real story is detailed below. The bottom line is that the West's offer of help was the standard neo-liberal offer — the strings were handcuffs. Putin actually presented a better offer, but the West worked covertly to install their own people (Yatseniuk in particular) to make sure that the European deal was accepted and Putin was spurned, even though much of the country is ethnically Russian and pro-Putin. The cover story also ignores Putin's reaction to the advancing NATO encirclement of Russia, of which the Ukraine story is a part.

The ethnicity is complex. The economics are not.

Who was the provocateur in the Ukrainian uprising? The West had a huge hand in provoking (and financing) it. Here's Chris Floyd with the story. Watch for the names Pierre Omidyar, billionaire founder of eBay; the innocently named USAID, the United States Agency for International Development, the "government agency primarily responsible for administering civilian foreign aid"; and the likewise innocently named National Endowment for Democracy.

Floyd begins:
Ukraine, Omidyar and the Neo-Liberal Agenda

The Western intervention in Ukraine has now [spring, 2014] led the region to the brink of war. Political opposition to government of President Viktor Yanukovych — a corrupt and thuggish regime, but as with so many corrupt and thuggish regimes one sees these days, a democratically elected one — was funded in substantial part by organizations of or affiliated with the U.S. government, such as the National Endowment for Democracy (a longtime vehicle for Washington-friendly coups), and USAID. It also received substantial financial backing from Western oligarchs, such as billionaire Pierre Omidyar, founder of eBay and sole bankroller of the new venue for “adversarial” journalism, First Look, as Pandodaily reports.

Yanukovych sparked massive protests late last year when he turned down a financial deal from the European Union and chose a $15 billion aid package from Russia instead. The EU deal would have put cash-strapped Ukraine in a financial straitjacket, much like Greece, without actually promising any path for eventually joining the EU. There was one other stipulation in the EU’s proffered agreement that was almost never reported: it would have also forbidden Ukraine to “accept further assistance from the Russians,” as Patrick Smith notes in an important piece in Salon.com. It was a ruthless take-it-or-leave-it deal, and would have left Ukraine without any leverage, unable to parlay its unique position between East and West to its own advantage in the future, or conduct its foreign and economic policies as it saw fit. Yanukovych took the Russian deal, which would have given Ukraine cash in hand immediately and did not come with the same draconian restrictions.

It was a policy decision. It might have been the wrong policy decision; millions of Ukrainians thought so. Yanukovych, already unpopular before the deal, would have almost certainly been ousted from office by democratic means in national elections scheduled for 2015. But the outpouring of displeasure at this policy decision grew into a call for the removal of the government. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, Washington was maneuvering to put their preferred candidate, Arseniy Yatseniuk, in charge of the Ukrainian government, as a leaked tape of a conversation between Victoria Nuland, assistant secretary of state, and Geoffrey Pyatt, U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, clearly showed. It is worth noting that when Yanukovych was finally ousted from power — after the opposition reneged on an EU-brokered deal for an interim unity government and new elections in December — Arseniy Yatseniuk duly took charge of the Ukrainian government, as planned.

By all accounts, Viktor Yanukovych was an unsavoury character running an unsavoury government, backed by unsavoury oligarchs exploiting the country for their own benefit, and leaving it unnecessarily impoverished and chaotic. In this, he was not so different from his predecessors, or from many of those who have supplanted him, who also have oligarchic backing and dubious connections (see addendum below). But in any case, the idea of supporting an unconstitutional overthrow of a freely elected Ukrainian government in an uprising based squarely on the volatile linguistic and cultural fault-lines that divide the country seems an obvious recipe for chaos and strife. It was also certain to provoke a severe response from Russia. It was, in other words, a monumentally stupid line of policy[.]
The above-mentioned Victoria Nuland has a place in the Greece story as well; click and you'll see her with the Greek president, explaining how things work.

About that neo-liberal intrusion into Ukraine, Floyd quotes Patrick Smith from a piece at Salon:
“[U.S.] foreign policy cliques remain wholly committed to the spread of the neo-liberal order on a global scale, admitting of no exceptions. This is American policy in the 21st century. No one can entertain any illusion (as this columnist confesses to have done) that America’s conduct abroad stands any chance of changing of its own in response to an intelligent reading of the emerging post–Cold War order. Imposing “democracy,” the American kind, was the American story from the start, of course, and has been the mission since Wilson codified it even before he entered the White House. When the Cold War ended we began a decade of triumphalist bullying — economic warfare waged as “the Washington Consensus” — which came to the same thing.”
And:
“Instantly after Yanukovych was hounded from Kiev, seduction began its turn to betrayal. The Americans and Europeans started shuffling their feet as to what they would do for Ukrainians now that Russia has shut off the $15 billion tap. Nobody wants to pick up the bill, it turns out. Washington and the E.U. are now pushing the International Monetary Fund forward as the leader of a Western bailout. If the past is any guide, Ukrainians are now likely to get the “shock therapy” the economist Jeffrey Sachs urged in Russia, Poland and elsewhere after the Soviet Union’s collapse. Sachs subsequently (and dishonestly) denied he played any such role — understandable given the calamitous results, notably in Russia — but the prescription called for off-the-shelf neoliberalism, applied without reference to any local realities, and Ukrainians are about to get their dosage."
And regarding Pierre Omidyar:
Omidyar seems very much a part of the “neo-liberal order” which, as Patrick Smith noted above, the United States has been pushing “on a global scale, admitting of no exceptions.” So it is not surprising to see him playing a role in trying to spread this order to Ukraine, in tandem with the overt efforts and backroom machinations of the U.S. government. Omidyar is, openly, a firm adherent of the neo-liberal order — privitazing public assets for individual profit, converting charity and state aid to profitable enterprises for select investors, and working to elect or install governments that support these policies.
Billionaires helping governments help billionaires. One big happy family. Who needs left or right when everyone with real money works together?

Greece and Ukraine, the Bottom Line

So far, the U.S. has not had a direct hand in the upheaval in Greece, but it has had a hand in the upheaval in Ukraine, though unnoticed. In all other respects there are major parallels. In both cases an economically distressed country is targeted as prey (is there another word for this?) by Western elites bent on straitjacket economics ("off-the-shelf neoliberalism" is Chris Floyd's term) and a deal that comes with a price. In the case of Ukraine, there was a counteroffer (Russia's), so regime change by force was on the table early.

Will there be regime change by force in Greece? Many, like Joseph Stiglitz quoted here, think that's already being attempted via the destruction of the leftist Syriza party's credibility and policy options. If this piece at Naked Capitalism is correct, more direct intervention, with U.S. support, may be coming.

GP

05 Jul 14:59

HOW THE SUMMER STUDENT LOOKS DURING LAB MEETINGS

credit: Tyler

05 Jul 14:55

Forever Alone



Forever Alone