Category Archives: Politics

Interviewed by the Weekly Dig about Galvin, third parties and real FOIA reform

I was recently interviewed by the Weekly Dig about Secretary of State Galvin’s statement that a vote for a third party is a waste. Obviously I disagree with him. You should read the whole article, but here is a choice quote:

“Massachusetts needs the breath of fresh air that only third parties can provide … We need a government that automatically puts public records on the web, where the public can easily find and review them. We need a government that carries out the people’s business in sunlight, not behind closed doors.”

The world the plutocrats wish for us

Naked Capitalism is rapidly becoming my favorite blog on economics & finance issues.  Yves Smith (pseudonym) and her fellow bloggers always bring insights and clarity to the post-2008 financial crisis world.  Even though I read it almost daily, I missed this article (no doubt due to the title), and only became aware of it via the Dollars & Sense blog

It succinctly expresses my own views of the world that our plutocrats and their supporters envision for us and have been working since the 1970s to achieve bit by bit.  Throw in increasing government and corporate surveillance, laws like SOPA & CISPA and corporations increasing attempts to enclose the internet commons for their private profit, and we have a vision of a future where all but a few are slaves.  A future that may not be all that different than the ancient Roman Republic during the Servile Wars, only with means of control that are totalitarian in all but name.

I need to go support Naked Capitalism, but I hope you will find that Yves Smith's words clarify the reality we all face.

“My sense is that the widespread sense of gloom, the increased level of aggression in many walks of life (and on the Internet) isn’t just due to the lousy state of the economy, although that certainly isn’t helping. In the last year, it has become increasingly evident that a very ugly set of changes that will have broad social impact is moving forward with surprising speed.

“We are in the midst of a finance-led counterrevolution. The long standing effort to roll back New Deal reforms has moved from triumph to triumph. The foundation was laid via increasingly effective public relations efforts to sell the Ayn Randian world view that granting individuals unfettered freedom of action would produce only virtuous outcomes, since the talented would flourish and the rest would deservedly be left in the dust. In fact, societies that have moved strongly in that direction such as Pinochet’s Chile and Russia under Yeltsin, have seen plutocratic land grabs, declining standards of living (and even lifespans), and a rise in authoritarianism or (in the case of Colombia) organized crime. Those who won these brawls did flourish, but at tremendous cost to society as a whole.

“In the US, the first step was making taxation less progressive. A second, parallel measure was deregulation, particularly in financial services. Together, they fostered the growth of an uber wealthy cohort that increasingly lives apart from middle class and poor citizens. The rich can thus tell themselves they have little to gain from the success of ordinary people. And, perversely, the global financial crisis has worked to the advantage of the financial elite. As former IMF chief economist Simon Johnson described in a May 2009 Atlantic article, the US instead suffered a quiet coup, with the top end of the financial services industry becoming more concentrated, and more firmly in charge of the political apparatus. And you see more vivid evidence of the financial takeover in Europe, where technocrats are stripping countries of their sovereignty and breaking them on the rack via failing austerity programs, so as to avoid exposing the insolvency of French and German banks. In the US, the events of the last year are less dramatic but no less telling, including a coordinated 17-city paramilitary crackdown on Occupy Wall Street, a “get out of jail almost free” settlement for the mortgage-industrial complex, and an election where the two candidates are indistinguishable in their enthusiasm for cutting Medicare and Social Security, and murder by drone.

“The implications of gutting social protections are far more serious than they might appear. Dial the clock back eighty years, and most people lived in or near the communities they grew up in. They could turn to extended family, or other members of the community for support if they suffered a serious setback. Informal social safety nets stood in the place of the government provided ones we have now.

“Broadly shared prosperity and government safety nets are essential underpinnings of a modern, mobile society. The American nuclear family isn’t just an outgrowth of the automobile era; it’s also the result of union jobs in an industrial economy helping create a wage foundation, and the high confidence most men (in those days, it was men) had in continued employment, and the existence of social protections if something bad happened (Social Security’s disability programs have raised entire families, for instance) made it viable to move far from one’s hometown in pursuit of opportunity.

“But as the population has become more mobile, the role of community, and their local support mechanisms, has faded. Yes, when people get desperate, they might still move in with a parent or child. But anecdotally, that seems far less common today than it was a few generations ago. So when government provided social insurance programs are gutted, the broader social impact is much greater than taking us back to the era right before they were implemented. Michael Hudson has described the changes under way as neo-feudalism. We are moving towards the sort of stratified society we had not in the 1920s, but in the early Industrial Revolution with a landed aristocracy, a small haute bourgoisie, some well remunerated craftsmen, and a large agricultural/servant class. In other words, the effort to roll back the New Deal is in fact going much further, in terms of reinstitutionalizing class stratification, lack of mobility, and a resulting large new “lower order” that will live in stress and often squalor. A new, more brutal society is being created before our eyes, and it seems such an incredible development that many people are still in denial about what is happening.”

From: Launching the NC 2012 Fundraiser

Now this is a good political dressing down …

While I didn't catch enough of the Dem/Rep. VP debate to assess either candidate's performance, a friend drew my attention to this dressing down by the (female) prime minister of Australia for the (male) leader of the opposition's attempt to tar the prime minister with the text-messaging scandal of one of her allies.  Perhaps the Dems could take advice from Julia Gillard, Australia's first female prime minister, on how to support women's rights with gusto.

So to summarize for those who didn't want to watch the whole takedown, and you missed a lot of fun if you didn't watch it, the leader of the opposition is:

  • a sexist, misogynist;
  • with a long history of dismissing women and condoning sexism and misogyny in his party;
  • a long-time friend and supporter of the text-messaging scandal minister of parliament (MP) and even attended said MP's wedding;
  • and so a complete, politically motivated, hypocrite.

As I said, a spectacular takedown.  Wish we had more such examples in the US.

Of course, this episode begs the question of when are politicians going to learn that everything they ever do in public, and likely semi-public, will be available for others to use against them?  My guess would be when people actually use that information against them effectively.  Until then we will have more politicians saying "those aren't the 47% you are looking for".

Rango and Bragg

Short post today, though I may have more later.

Searching around to watch something with the family on Wednesday, we happened on Rango, which we missed when it came out in theaters.  It was funny and seemed a Chinatown with cartoon animals and a happy ending.  Johnny Depp was the voice of Rango, so its humor was a little off center, which I rather liked.

On Thursday, the kids went to see the local fireworks show while my wife and I went to a Billy Bragg concert.  I was surprised that I saw fourteen people I knew there, especially since many were folks I would not have expected to be there.  The first half of the concert was his Woody Guthrie/Mermaid Avenue songs, while the second half was made up of his other work.  The crowd was a mix of ages, though generally white, and a higher percentage of folks over 40.

Three quotes of his I rather liked:

  • socialism is organized compassion
  • the cynicism that is our enemy is our own cynicism
  • our enemy is not capitalism, or conservatism, it is our own cynicism

The last quote not withstanding, he is still very much the socialist and a fine musician and song writer at that.

Pirates need to go local, not fork nationally

The Pirate Party started in Sweden and their platform is to reform copyright law, abolish the patent system and promote respect for the right to privacy.  They won two seats in the European Parliament in 2009 and have scored some success in Germany as well.  Membership wise, they are the second largest party in Sweden and their youth group has the largest membership of any Swedish political party.

In the US however, Pirate Party supporters seem to be a fractious lot.  Besides the Pirate Party International approved Pirate Party of the United States, there once was a United States Pirate Party.  Now there is an American Pirate Party, a USA Pirate Party and some time ago I found a third US-based Pirate Party web site.  The Greens in the US had their own schism in the 90's, that was mostly resolved in 2000, but this situation seems a bit much.

While I like their ideals and positions, they really need to concentrate on building state and local chapters instead of creating more national Pirate Parties.  sigh…

Coakley’s loss and what it could mean

Now that the Massachusetts US Senate Special Election is over with a win by Republican Scott Brown, many in the news biz will start to pontificate over why it happened and what it means for the future.  Before they do, here is my take.

"First rule of leadership: everything is your fault. It's a bug-eat-bug world out there, Princess. One of those "circle of life" kind of things."Hopper, Bugs Life

Having been a candidate, I can say that the responsibility for any failure in the campaign is the fault of the candidate. 

That Coakley waited about a month after the primary to get her general election campaign going doesn't help.  Going negative before you put out enough (any?) ads defining who you are, and why you are the better candidate, turns off voters.  In contrast, Brown created his "man of the people" schick early, kept at it and let the PACs and 527s do the attack ads.  The Democrat's GOTV effort helped, but clearly not enough.

President Obama and the Congressional Democrats played a part in Coakley's failure, though.  As Paul Krugman points out in his latest column:

  • the economic stimulus was too small and became confused with the Wall Street bailout,
  • the Dems have rolled over to Wall Street & the banks, and
  • Obama, unlike Reagan, has let the state of the economy become his problem, rather than blaming it on Bush the Lesser.  After all, Bush presided over two recessions, incredibly poor jobs growth and a continuing massive shift in wealth and income to the rich.

"That's our lot in life. It's not a lot, but it's our life! Ah-ha-ha-ha!"Queen, Bugs Life

It has amazed me that Obama & The Dems, with the presidency and significant if not overwhelming control of the congress, have not accomplished more.  Their biggest accomplishment seems to have continued Bush's blank check to Wall Street.  Most of the major banks were insolvent (and likely are still now), but rather than take them over, clean and break them up, Obama & the federal reserve have given them massive financial support (via the Fed, AIG, TARP, etc.) and let them continue to limp along ala Japan's zombie banks while paying out huge bonuses to the people who tanked the economy.

Given a tremendous opportunity to be bold and reshape the economy for the better, Obama installed Summers, Geithner and others to kow tow to Wall Street.  The Republicans, out of power, resisted with all their might anything Obama wanted unless it helped Wall Street, the rich or our occupation of other countries.  They were pretty good at their resistance since Obama gave away some of the store on health care and the stimulus in a misguided attempt to be bi-partisan.  SNL summed up their seeming position well with "The Rock Obama" skit when Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell says:  "It's not that we want health care to fail, we don't.  We just want you to fail."

Based on their track record, the Democrats may use this set back as an excuse to cut back on any policies that are to the left of the Republicans, since the Republicans are standing in their way

"You're wrong, Hopper. Ants are not meant to serve grasshoppers. I've
seen these ants do great things, and year after year, they somehow
manage to pick enough food for themselves and you. So-so who's the weaker species? Ants don't serve grasshoppers! It's you who need us! We're a lot stronger than you say we are. And you know it, don't you?"
Flik, Bugs Life

There is an alternative, of course.  Obama and The Dems could chart a bold course to rein in Wall Street, deal with our foreclosure crisis in a way that helps people and not the banks, and use the House-Senate reconciliation process to pass a stronger health care plan that isn't a give away to the insurance and pharmaceutical companies.  They will get push back from the Republicans, but if they define the terms of the debate and actually get some policies that help people passed, they will succeed.

I am not holding my breath.

Politicians.com

Besides the RedMassGroup.com (Republicans, not Socialists sadly) & BlueMassGroup.com (Democrats), we now have GoldMassGroup.com (Libertarians), GreenMassGroup.com (Greens) and PurpleMassGroup.com (anti-Libertarian Republicans & Democrats or something or other).  There is one thing that unites them all it seems: registering their domain in the .com top-level domain.

I have noticed that many political campaigns register and advertise their internet presence with a .com domain.  Why?  .com domains are for for-profit companies, which political campaigns & groups are not supposed to be.  .org works fine, is for non-profit entities, which political campaigns are ostensibly, and the price difference of registering in .org isn't measurably different.

It must be a pet peeve of mine, but I think, on some level, they are revealing the truth that our political system is dominated by corporations.