Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Obama's State of Obama Speech

The Nation is on the edge of its seat as President Obama prepares to mount the podium for his Second State of the Union Address. Already the press is all a-twitter with talk of expectations and strategies: will Obama address the middle class about deficits and jobs? will he hold his progressive base , will he deflect Republican attacks, and what will the balance of perceptions be when Byrd flies the coop.

And of course, after the speech, there will be the usual flood of post-gnostications and wise palaver about whether Obama had managed to "save" his ratings, or his party's prospects or successfully "re-define" his latest re-definition or "hone and recast" his "message"... and what are the downsides and upsides to this or that ... and blah, blah, Blah!

But none of this will matter because Obama has already proved the only important point: he is not a leader.

What is a leader anyway? Although it is been expressed in a variety of forms, a leader is one who summons the will of the people he leads. As put by the German philosopher-sociologist Johann Gottfried Herder (1744 -1803)

"A poet is the creator of the nation around him, he gives them a world to see and has their souls in his hand to lead them to that world."
Herder believed in what might be called a Poet-King -- the leader who emerges from the mass of People and who, distilling their desires, leads them to the future they remember.

The idea was taken up by Tolstoy who ridiculed the idea of command-leadership -- the notion that leaders direct and pull their followers. Napoleon "decided" nothing, Tolstoy wrote, but was rather himself impelled by the swelling force of French sentiments. He was merely the Lead Goose.

At first blush, Tolstoy's cynical Lead Goose and Herder's romantic Poet-Fuhrer seem to be at odds with Plato's classical definition of the Philosopher King. It is typically thought, among academics who think about such things, that Plato's philosopher king was a rationalized version of the Egypto-Persian-Babylonian notions of the Divine King, the God-appointed super-hero, given unto us to rule over us. But these concepts of leadership are less autocratic than they might otherwise appear.

The main difference between Plato and the Persians was that Plato's king was to emerge from the mists of a "system" of education whereas the Persian god-king emerged from behind the smoke and gongs of some temple orifice. In either case, the key lay in the emergence: the leader comes from somewhere recognized and assented to by the whole body of people. Their assent may manifest itself in what to us appear to be silly and superstitious ways, but we should not confuse the level of consciousness with the consciousness itself. In seeing the leader as their leader, the people have knowledge or witness of themselves as seen in him.

Alexander's attempt to meld Greek and Persian forms of leadership failed precisely because his Greek subjects could not see themselves reflected in Persian garb and his Persian supporters were insensible to Hellenic poetry.

Rome fared better. With a certain amount of success the Roman stoics adapted Plato's theory of the philosopher king to the Principate -- the rule, under the Caesars, of the "First" man in the Senate. The so-called imperial system inaugurated by the Divine Augustus, was an artful blend of Platonic idealism, Roman practicality and Oriental mysticism. The emperor would emerge from the Senate or that class of presumably well-educated men, be approved by the whole body of the army, be endowed with such "exceptional" qualities of generosity, or perserverance, or courage or whatever which would, on his death, be recongized as "divine". But the lynch pin of the marvellous concoction was the emperor's auctoritas -- that quality of presence and statement that would cause people to say "he speaks with authority!" -- he speaks for us; he has the juice.

Under the aegis of Christianity, the juice, was the Holy Spirit -- that recognitive force that would move each of the bishops (or later, cardinals) to see in Sylvester or Clement or Boniface the next Vicar of Christ. But whether in conclave or camp, the juice that appeared to emanate from the leader in fact flowed from what the people saw in their annointed.

This is not to say that leadership is merely passive. Tolstoy somewhat overstated the case. The poet-king has to know his audience: what they want, what they want to hear, what they actually need and what they are capable of. Good emperors as well as good lieutenants understand that having "the juice" comes from opening one's self up to it. Their skill lies in knowing how to evoke it and, evoking it, lending themselves to being impelled by it. True leadership draws its strength and shape from the people, "called by fate and forming fate" at the same time. None other than Machiavelli put it succinctly. Whatever cunning, artifice and force, the Prince may employ (and employ he must), he will not be able to rule without the "goodwill" of the People.

Of all the American presidents, Washington and FDR perhaps understood this best. Both men were in a sense empty. Neither was known to be an intellectual force, full of his own ideas, like Hamilton or Wilson. In fact, both men were infused with a certain superficial vanity, as well as a predisposition to jovial drinking. But they knew their stuff, and their stuff was us. They had an inate sense of how to talk to their compatriots, how far the people pushed and how much they could be pulled. But their "opening up" was not just a matter of technique. As if by a sort of mysterious accident, the character of both men synchronized with expectations and habits of being their contemporaries. Of the two, FDR was the greater master politician because his audience was vaster and he had, in addition to everything else, the ability to make people laugh. It is often overlooked that the sparkling part of charisma is cheerfulness and humour. JFK had this which was why he was world-beloved.

True and responsive leadership ought not be confused with being a mere weather-vane. Part of the wretched degradation of America's political class is the cheap and lazy notion of our politicians that they can hire an accountant of sorts to provide them with leadership. "Tell me what the people are thinking and then tell me how to market myself to them." The absence of real leadership is what causes politicians to spend lots of money hiring exerpts to craft maleable and ambiguous position papers and replies to constituents' letters. It is what causes some of them, to create alternate personas for different and opposed segments of their constituencies. This is not leadership but mere opportunism. In the most root and primary sense it is a perversion or corruption of what leadership is truly about.

As is often the case, it takes time to tell whether something is true to form or not. During Obama's candidacy there was a distinct sense that he was "tapping into" a popular groundswell for change in a progressive direction. How much and how far remained to be seen, but the popular yearing was unmistakable. It would be up to Obama to give the country a world to see and to lead them to that world.

This he utterly failed to do, almost from the first day in his office. His entire legislative and policy agenda has gone beyond failing and has amounted to a virtual repudiation of the desire and demand for change that he tapped into. Now he and his party are struck into a Henny Penny panick over the loss of a seat. It is, we are told, time for "rethinking," "recalibrating" and "pulling together" and blah, blah, Blah!

But none of this matters. In "reverting to message," Obama has already told us that he is a mere weather vane; and that is all we needed to know.

©WCG, 2010

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Democratic Politicians Still Don't Get It

To:-- San Francisco Chronicle

Re:--Feinstein's Blather that people were all "confused" and "frightened" by Health Care Reform

If voters do no punish the democrats for their total failure to deliver, then voters will send a message that they can be duped and dumped on at will.

As usual, Democrats peddle something colored brown. Feinstein says people don't understand the health care bill. We are confused. NOT. Polls since 2005 consistently showed strong majority support for universal medicare / public option.

The only people "confused" were democrats like Feinstein.

In fact, single payer is a key part of creating jobs since it relieves business of having to shoulder the cost of health care. DUH.

Who cares what Boxer thinks. She talks all hip and groovy and liberal (when in SF) but fails to deliver. It's time to BOUNCE BOXER

We should not let the press confuse us about who we are and what we know. Running the demorats out of office is not the answer, it is only the beginning of a solution on the long for government BY and FOR the People.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Promoting Self-Alienation

Now that the Democrats have managed to loose a senate seat which they had held since the mid-Fifties, the corporate-bagging press will go into over drive trying to convince us that this was a renunciation of "gub'mint run health care" and a vindication of the neo-liberal agenda of plunder capitalism.

In chipster opinion this is not true. Although there is no question that Brown is the latest corporate enterprise water-boy, that was not why he won. His campaign was very careful not to be overly specific as to why he opposed the pending health care bill -- thus leaving it up to every individual voter to fill the blanks with his or her own reasons.

In our opinion Coakley was defeated by a defection of progressives. It is also our sense that, putting slogans and labels aside, most voters of whatever self-described hue, sent a message of dissatisfaction with an economic policy that has simply shovelled money at banks and a health care bill which they correctly understand will simply shovel money at insurance companies. With respect to health care, the majority of Americans are in basic agreement, and the corporate-bagging press will do whatever it can to distort and bury that fact.

They will do so because the primary function of the press in the corporate plunder-state is to atomize social consciousness by ballyhooing false issues and mis-reporting those issues which are of true political concern.

Just as a man who does not know himself cannot act for himself in his best interests, so too a society that has been prevented from forming its own natural social consciousness cannot coalesce around correct and socially beneficial policies. It cannot do so because it literally cannot recognize itself. It has become self-alienated and, thus, dysfunctional.

The role of the press in stunting and misshaping social consciousness is critical, and nowhere do we see this malevolent function better illustrated than in the so-called "health care debate." From Fox News to the New York Times, the press has consistently misrepresented or misinformed people as to what their own dissatisfaction with the bill really is.

Over and over again, the news reports state that people are against Obama's plan to "reform health care". That is true, but the implication that they are against it because they do not want change or because they think the current system is dandy is false.

Over and over again, the corporate-owned press formulates questions and massages answers so as to imply that the People are against "Big Gub'mint," want to be left alone to make their choices in a free market and to pay through nose for health care denied. The press assiduously propagandizes this pseudo-libertarian canard which corporations then use to fig-leaf their massive, government assisted plunder of the public.

By spreading disinformation in this way, the press makes everyone one of us, who is in fact progressive, feel abandoned and alone. We feel our situation is helpless because we are a minority. Once that divisive idea takes hold the masters of corporate plunder rule.

Let us begin with some hard facts. As of Obama's election numerous polls showed that a strong majority of Americans wanted health care reform to include a national, government-run medicare-for-all type of program or, at least, a strong public option [ Here ]

Such results presented Big Med, and its foghorns in the press with a problem. And so over the past 12 months there has been a relentless, corporate sponsored campaign of misrepresentation, distortion and outright smear against health care reform -- a campaign brought into millions of living rooms by the very media conglomerates that now purport to report on the "significance" of Brown's senate seat victory. They would have us believe that people are against "Obamacare" because they more concerned about the economy and the deficit.

On the day following the election, a New York Times "demographic" reported that Coakley won in denser urban areas among people with higher levels of education (i.e., more employed) whereas Brown won in less populated areas where unemployment was high. Quoth the Times:

"Mr. Brown’s campaign resonated with independents who were anxious about the economy, an important factor in these places, which have the state's highest unemployment rates."

This then got translated into a "dissatisfaction with the economy, taxes and governmental spending." Aha! So we are to believe that the ghost of Ronnie rides through New England yelling "The Deficits are coming! The Deficits are coming!" and that this is what got unemployed independents all upset.

So are we then to believe that unemployed people are angry with the government for spending more money on unemployment benefits? No one in an an area suffering severe unemployment wants less government spending. They want more government spending: on unemployment benefits, on work programs, on stimulating trickledown. The kind of spending they do object to is giving a trillion dollars to banks while they have trouble getting by on $60.00 a week "benefits". Unless these unemployed are clinically insane, the New York Times lies.

Undeterred the Times continues to massage our brains with a pundit piece by Adam Nagourney who -- after several paragraphs of politics as football gets to the point and says

"Most ominously, independent voters — who embraced Mr. Obama’s presidential campaign and are an increasingly critical constituency — seemed to have fled to Mr. Brown in Massachusetts, as they did to Republicans in races for governor in Virginia and New Jersey last November."
Well that's kind of obvious isn't it, given that Brown won. They real question is "why". So why did they flee to Brown? Nagourney says,

" Terry McAuliffe says: "We have to keep our focus on job creation. Everything we have to do is related to job creation. We have to do a much better job on the message. People are confused on what this health care bill is going to do.”

Well that's what McAuliffe says. But he's one of the ones that brought us the fiasco of Obamacare(not). What do the Independents say? Having shifted from "independents" to "McAuliffe" Nagourney doesn't say.

Instead he forges ahead down this irrelevant path and tells what politco consultant Joe Trippi has to say. Trippi says,

"I think there’s been a misreading of where the public is at: having a health care debate when so many people were focused on their jobs,” and “The failure to understand how anti-establishment the country has become is a big part of the problem,”

So there we have it. The same old Republican Anti-Gubmint Mantra, brought to you straight from the establishment's mouth courtesy Adama Nagourny of the New York Times giving us all the bullshit fit to print.

But what the Times has not told us is what a single Independent had to say. The Times tells us Independents are angry but instead of reporting on what they say, it serves up pixie dust excuses from the culprits at large.

Underlying these misrepresentations is a more the more fundamental obfuscation which Nagourney pedals by presenting a trichotomy between "delivering on health care" versus "creating jobs" versus the need for "financial reform".

Nagourney presents these issues as mutually exclusive alternatives when in fact each of them is an aspect of the same underlying problem of inequitable wealth distribution which, today, is a polite way of referring to the outright corporate plunder of public assets and of people's declining real income.

True "financial reform" might begin simply enough with putting a cap on usury. The traditional 7% on which the U.S. thrived for years has been replaced by interests rates of 16% to 27% plus hidden interests under assorted "penalties and fees" This is a massive shovel-up of wealth. But usury is never mentioned. Why? Because "financial reform" while it is certainly needed has very little impact on delivering health care. We could easily and consistently have both.

Nor is health care anything at odds with "creating jobs". Over two years ago, even GM was demanding health care reform. The "solution" adopted disgracefully under the Truman Administration of shifting the health care burden from government to industry was now bankrupting industry. No Japanese or German corporation has to shoulder the cost of providing health care to its workers. That burden was a major impetus for GM to shift production offshore where it can unload the costs of benefits. True health care reform is not a counterpoint to job creation it is in fact in fact a key component of a strategy of repatriating jobs back to the United State. There is no dichotomy whatsoever, and once again the Times lies.

In yet another article in the same issue, Nagourney again drives home his (or at least McAulliffe's) message

"Still, some Democrats are wondering if Mr. Obama would be in a better position now if he had embraced a less ambitious health care proposal, as some aides urged, permitting him to pivot more quickly on the economy."

"Less ambitious"?? What could possibly be less ambitious than not providing single payer, or a public option, or a cap on premiums or a repeal of anti-trust exemptions?

It doesn't take much imagination to figure out that what the New York Times is reporting as news is really the anti-health care agenda of party strategists. Fine, but this does not tell us what the voters were thinking and it keeps us from knowing what we as a public really want.

The Times is not the only culprit. The Rassumussen Report informs us that 52% of Brown voters say health care reform was the most important issue in determining their vote and that 61% of Brown voters say deficit reduction is more important than health care reform.

Someone over at Rassmussen's is not asking questions correctly. It is not possible to have two contradictory "most important" answers.

The illogic then gets further confused with "46% of Coakley voters say health care legislation is more important than deficit reduction." In other words, and without inverting the way we ask and answer things, 54% of Coakley voters think that deficit reduction is most important.

What can be unravelled from this platter of polling spaghetti is that a majority (50-60%) of both sides think debt reduction is "most important". At the same time, the voters themselves do not pit this against health care. The voters don't see any incompatibility and both sides evidently want health care and debt reduction.

What this means is that by "debt reduction" the voters are thinking about something else other than the cost of health care. Trillion dollar TARP hanouts to Big Bank and Goldman Sachs??? Could that be it?

Rassmussen forges on to create disparity where none in fact exists, reporting that: "86% of Coakley voters say it’s better to pass the bill before Congress rather than nothing at all; whereas 88% of Brown voters say it’s better to pass nothing at all"

Again the poll doesn't tell use *why* the voters are dissatisfied with the proposed health care bill. But putting that aside, the supposed difference between the two camps is less a question of opposition than a willingness of one side to accept half a loaf. There's a big difference between saying:

It's better to pass nothing at all.

and saying,

I am opposed to messing with our health care system at all,

The second statement implies satisfaction with the statu quo. The word "better" in the first statement implies that something does need to be done, but that the bill either doesn't address what needs to be done or makes it worse rather than better.

In fact no one in their right mind accepts the present health (not) care delivery system. Does any one think people would anser "Yes" to:

are you happy with the prosepct of rising premiums?

are you happy with the prospect of declaring bankruptcy?

do you like the donut hole in drug coverage?

are you happy with the thought that if you get sick you can't get coverage at all, no matter what you pay?

do you think the government should prohibit itself from negotiating lower prices on drugs?

Of course not. In fact back in October 2005 the Harris Poll found that large majorities of the U.S. adult public supported each of the following healthcare policies:,

1. Medicare (health insurance for the elderly and disabled). Fully 96 percent of adults support Medicare,

2. Birth control/contraception is supported by 93 percent of all adults,

3. Condom use to prevent HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases is supported by 92 percent of adults,

4. Medicaid (health insurance for people with very low incomes) is supported by 91 percent of all adults,

5. Sex education in high schools is supported by 87 percent of the public,

6. Funding of international HIV prevention and treatment programs is supported by 87 percent of the public,

7. Universal health insurance is favored by 75 percent of all adults,

8. Embryonic stem cell research is favored by 70 percent of all adults

9. Funding of international birth control programs is supported by 70 percent of the public,

10. Withdrawal of life support systems/food for those in a vegetative state is supported by 68 percent of the public,

Of course the poll did its best to garbage up the results by polling irrelevant and undeterminative differences between religious and non religious segments of the populations. Although there were material variations on questions 5, 8 and 9, on all others religious affiliation made no difference.

Thus from 2005 to 2009 the American public overwhelminglgy supported Medicare and wanted universal health coverage. Does any one think they meant coverage you won't be allowed to buy, can't afford and that will be pulled out from under you when you need it most? No. Most people don't think that way. "I want everyone to be covered" means "I want everyone to have health care" Only pollsters and pundits twist it into something absurd.

And they do so, so that the public will not know itself and will in fact think itself to be crazy when it is not.

The supine and opportunistic Democrat Party is quick to join in the deception. What must be understood by everyone is that the Democrat party does not want real health care reform; not the blue dog democrat and not the red cats either. None of them, and certainly not Obama.

Had the Democratic Party truly wanted health reform, it would have shaped the debate rather than whining in mock helplessness that it was powerless to overcome the "opposition". What vile nonsense!

No policy takes shape or place without propaganda. This is a political truth that has been known from the earliest days of civilization. As Aristotle said, Man has the capacity for articulate language and it is this ability through which he decides "what is just or unjust and expedient or inexpedient." (Politics, Bk I)

To decide what is just or expedient, through language, requires argumentation which entails stating a case and convincing others. When done broadly and to that audience which is society itself, we call this propaganda. No political change takes place without propaganda.

Who does not know this?

But the Democratic Party has consistently and without interruption refused to do the spade work for its avowed political agenda. Instead it piously blathers intentions and then falls back with a resigned and hopeless air, whimpering "we tried....but..." It is a vile and venal farce the American people should no longer tolerate.

This disgraceful farce has been going on for far too long, beginning with Reagan's "L-word" bashing, which the Democrats took with a smile while asking for more, like Herr Prof. Ratt turned into circus clown.

Respected Professor Turned Clown

The only thing progressive about the party was how they went from blathering mealy-mouth nonsense to outright farces. Take the Clintons. What kind of political moron would announce a policy change of allowing gays in the military by issuing a quiet executive order on Friday afternoon? The way to have accomplished that goal would have been to build up a groundswell of support from key social and political elments, and then, with flags a fluttering and the podium crowded with a phalanx of big names, announce the next step in America's March toward... blah, blah and blah. Instead, Clinton gave us his rendition of "Strangers in the Night." Of course it blew up in his face. And for the same reason Hilary's Health Initiative a few years later.

Because they consistently fail to propagandize an ideology Democrats just as consistently end up whining that they have to vote billions for defence because they can't afford to be perceived as weak on defence. (Note the tautology.) They whine that they have to vote away the Bill of Rights, because they can't be perceived to be "weak on terrorism". Nor, as it turns out, weak on any other issue that might run counter to the interests of the Big Bank, Big Corp, Big Pharma and Big Weapon.

Why can't they run the risk the of being perceived as weak on anything except the progressive agenda itself? Why do they refuse to do the spade work of propaganda? Because they have no ideology other than craven opportunism, since we know they are not love smitten with the Blue Angel.

The only difference between Republicans and Democrats is that Republicans believe in their prostitution whereas the Democrats know its wrong. This is why, over the long haul the Republicans will consistently win and the Democrats will consistently take selzer water in the face. And happily too so long as they can retain their congressional and (when out of office) corporate benefits.

The majority of people in this country wanted real health care reform, even including single payer and certainly a strong, effective public option. That majority would have been even greater if the Democratic Party had fought for what it says it wanted to deliver.

Now comes the corporate-bagging press which will mis-report Brown's electoral upset as a victory for tea-baggers and every other dumb plumber and Fox News Yahoo slurping a beer at the pub. What they will not report is that had Democrats not lost progressive support Coakley would have won.

If courage begin in the heart, defeat begins in the mind. and so the press will continue to twist and blurr because it is essential that the public not come to know itself or its strength.

Progressives defeated Coakley and should continue to wreak punishment on the Democratic Party. Only when these quislings are run from office can a new and real opposition move in. This will take time and at least two electoral cycles. But although the hour is late, it must be done.

©WCG, 2010

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Bounce Boxer!

To:-- San Francisco Chron

Re:-- The Resounding Failure of Barbara Boxer

I hope that Coakley gets soundly defeated and BOXER is next.

It is time for the American electorate to employ and for elected officials to experience PUNITIVE VOTING. Punitive voting is based on the very simply premise that politicians need to be punished precisely for giving us nothing to loose.

Boxer has been a disgrace. First off she's a hypocrite. On the same issue she sends me one type of response and sends a friend a completely opposite response. (Someone on her niche marketting team made a classification goof). Second, she ducks anything controversial. Tthe Chron's own reporters have told me she sneaks out the back door rather than face the (gasp!) press. Third she has kept mum during all the outrages & disgraces of the Bush years. Fourth, she has delivered ZERO on the progressive agenda

But you have to hand it to Boxer's "image consultant" - high rise turtle neck, wrist clasping cuffs, exquisitely streaked cascade of hair -- all blurring, hiding and blending away the sags and wrinkles of a 65 year old. She might almost pass for 40. Well done!!! IF ONLY she had spent a third as much effort on being a progressive. If only she had spent a tenth as much effort speaking out against Bush's depradations. If only she was something than a wannabe opportunist.

Americans need to stop being bought off with trickle-feed & fake promises. The people should demand that their will be respected, and the first step toward respect is FEAR. Vote to punish;

Monday, January 18, 2010

Sin Castigo No Hay Respeto

To:-- El Mundo.es

Re:--La Tración de los Demócratas

Todos los demócratas -- y por implicacíon Obama -- merecen sufrir una derrota total. Este partido de cobardes, aprovechados, vendidos y put@s traicionó totalmente a la promesa de una política "progresista" -- es decir social demócrata muy "LITE".

No ha hecho Obama nada mas promover la política de Bush. Medio Ambiente? Un desastre. Política Exterior? Tenemos a Irak + Afganistan + Yemen + Colombia con Venezuela en punto de mira-- y, sin decir, siempre con apoyo total al Estado Sagrado de Israel acompañado por silencio total ante el genocidio cometido en Gaza. Economia? La solucíon para todo consiste en regalar bultos de dolares a las grandes financieras y corporaciones *sin condición ninguna* -- Vamos, "Aqui ten, compa... $1,000,000,000,00 -- haz con ello lo que te da la puta gana. Quereis ver la solicitud? Vea aqui

En cuanto al paro? La solucion evidentemente consiste en permitir a las grandes empresas que declaren la bancarota para luego invertir en China! Justicia, Privacidad y Derechos Civiles? Ni comentar. El estado policiaco continua en pleno vigor, sin freno constitucional. Y finalmente, en cuanto a la sanidad publica? NADA, salvo una ley que obliga comprar seguro medico. Y en que queda la "reforma"? Ah pues, la reforma, el progreso, el gran beneficio es que la empresa tiene que acepter tu dinero y no puede negarte un seguro. (Claro puede cobrarte hasta mas alla del cielo, pero de eso no hablamos. Compra y callate.)

Una derrota electoral es lo de menos merecido por esta panda de corruptos e hipocritas. No importa que ganen los repulbicanos. Luego con ellos. Sin castigo no hay correccion, y sin respeto a lo voluntad del pueblo expresado por su voto no hay democracia.

Vote to Punish & Face the Dawn

It is time for Punitive Voting. It is time to punish the Democratic party for their grotesque betrayal of the voters who elected them to office. It is time for Martha Coakley to go down to ignominious defeat and for Barak Obama to suffer a humiliating rebuke.

The concept of Punitive Voting was first urged on these pages back in September 2008[ here ]. The concept of punitive voting is very simple: If we lose, YOU lose.

If we do not vote to punish, then we, the electorate forsake any control over our elected servants. They will learn that they they can lie to us to our face, stab us in the back and get away with it because we can be bought off with razzle-dazzle and can be frightened into fear of a Republican victory.

But the democrats have proved to us that we do in fact have nothing to lose. We have nothing to lose because they produced nothing. A Democrat majority produced no more than we would have gotten from a Republican congress. The way I see it, if you act like a Republican you should be treated like a Republican. We loose either way, so we might as well kick your sorry ass out.

In some ways the Democrats are even more despicable than Republicans. They sit smug and secure in the thought that our vote is assured because the alternative is "unthninkable". This cynical cant is much like a torturer saying that the pain can always get worse therefore we should be thankful he only hurts us less than he could.

But the truth is that at a certain level, all pain is the same and equally unbearable. That point has been reached. It is only necessary to grasp what a total, absolute, uncompromising failure the Democrat legislative record has been. The progressive agenda could not have been more soundly defeated than if 500 Newt Grinches had been elected to Congress.

It is unnecessary by now to recite the dismal record of Democrat and Obama betrayal. It has been a true stab in the back of the American people on every level and on every point from the environment, to civil liberties, to the economy, to perpetual war and, lastly, on health care.

The health care obscenity is paradigmatic. Obama and his 'crats rush about intoning that progress has been made, that now, at least, insurance companies can't reject applicants on account of pre-existing conditions. Oh praise da' L'od; his chariots they be a'comin. Well DUH -- if it is mandatory that we buy insurance, it follows that it is equally mandatory that the insurance companies accept our money. DUH, DUH and DUH. What's called "a piece of reform" is just the other side of a massive, forcible transfer of wealth from people's pockets into corporate coffers.

Take virtually any aspect of the Obama record and on close inspection it will be seen that what is trumpetted as "reform" or "incremental progressive progress" is nothing more than a rhetorical fig leaf over an actual neo-liberal and neo-con, pro-corporate, pro-war anti-people policies.

The only way to put an end to this is to put an end to the people who brought us to this; and this requires us to vote republican in order to punish -- and punish hard -- this smirking, smug, cowardly, democrat betrayal.

Back in '08 we chipsters at the Gazette did not push our call for punitive voting very hard. In fact, with the greatest scepticism and reluctance, we endorsed Obama's candidacy. We fully understood the perilous juncture to which the country had been brought. We also understood that the Neocon / Bush Cabal had so poisoned both political consciousness and discourse, that it was very risky for any politician to engage in a "frank and candid" protagonization of his contemplated policies. In our loins we grasped the determinism involved in any historical trajectory. America is what it is where it is and that calculus is fundamentally unalterable. Nevertheless, man can and must act as if he were free and a sort of patriotic decency dictated our endoresment and vote for a "hope".

That hope has now been most infamously betrayed... not in detail or in part... but wholesale with a frank hypocricy beyond precedent. It is time to punish the malfactors and teach them a lesson they will never forget.

We realize that it is a terrible thing to give up hope, and that most people will hold on to anything in order to hold on to hope. That is in fact precisely the cycnical calculus that underlies this Democratic Administration and Congress.

But the woodchippers would remind their millions of readers that the forsaking of one hope is simply the painful birth pangs of another. Voting to punish the ghouls within Washington's whitewashed sepulchre will be the first step in walking away from the political cemetery that this government has become and, with blinking eyes, to focus on distant but dawning horizons.

©WCG 2010

Sunday, January 17, 2010

A Dream for Elena

I found myself in Venezuela-Gaza, standing on a hill in Jerusalem from which the path ran down through narrow old streets that turned into a modern jumble of hillside favelas and a plain view of urban disparities.

A group of student volunteers were meeting up in a cavernous rectangular hall dating from Crusader times and were discussing things as they got ready to adjourn. Leaving them, I walked out into the surrounding narrow grey stone streets that coursed like channels between walls of shops with colourful open displays .

There, I ran into Elena and her baby. Elena was sick, with some respiratory ailment. The baby too was sick, but his biggest problem was that he had no milk.

What to do? I talked to Elena. She was full of what at first sounded like excuses but which on closer listening were true statements of why she couldn't do anything, why her situation was helpless and hopeless.

I did some work around and got her either some medicine or some milk or something to cover herself with in the cold. She took it with a mute and fatalistic appreciation that bordered on indifference.

I went back to the gathering, and somehow discovered that Chavez had started a milk program. Everyone one in Venezuela would get milk! Five glasses for children, 1 for adults, and 2 or 3 for old people. It was right there, in black and white, on the form next to the check-boxes.

I ran back to Elena and told her about the milk program. The only thing was that she would had to pay a nominal sum -- in her case .32 cents -- in order to "qualify" for the milk grant. Elena was appreciative, in an empty way, for what was in fact an empty gesture. Yes, but she still didn't have the money or at least not enough to do it daily; so in the end what was the use? In the end it was hopeless.

I stood inside the ante-chamber of my gyms' sauna. In Spanish, a nurse-voice said. "It is critical to get to her now. If we get to her now at this stage we can do something, otherwise her condition will become chronic, even if we were able to manage it."

I went back to my room and wrote a letter/speech to Obama. It was the perfect letter distilling the truths of what had to be said and setting them out with clarity and convincing force and with no more nor less than what had to be said.

An aide tried to run interference, but I folded it length-wise and got it into Obama's hand. "Read it," I said.

A short while later, Obama convoked a re-gathering of the young volunteers. He told them that there were three alternatives:

The first alternative was denial; to negate the reality, with some sort of countering polemic.

The second alternative was to admit the reality and the need for change, but (as he hunched a little and ducked his head to the side) to "realistically" acknowledge our limits and do what we could within our limits.

The third alternative was to admit that one had been wrong, without varnish and rise to meet the reality without compromise

The No. The Yes But. The Yes!

The audience was more than enthused. I was overcome and crying. Elena and her baby were going to be alright. There was going to be a real change from now on out. I was crying for joy.

As I returned to my college dorm room, someone came running after me. Did I hear the speech? he asked excitedly.

"Yes," I said... "I wrote it."

"What?" came the reply, "Aw c'mon... don't be an asshole."

"No really," I said, as I fished out my copy, unfolded it and gave it to him.

In my dream I felt myself waking up, and I was happy for the new day I was waking up into.

Then I woke up.


We can always dream. but dreaming is not enough. We have to act on our dream, and therein lies the power of the pen.

©WCG, 2010

Thursday, January 14, 2010

An Apparent Economy.

Chipsters were never very good at algebra, but we excelled at geometry and, consequently, astronomy which, as everyone knows, is simply geometry in motion. We were particularly fascinated by Ptolemy, that genius astronomer of the 2nd Century whose great work, the Almagest, plotted the heavenly motions of planets and stars and whose calculations were so accurate they continued to be used by seafarers well into the 19th century.

Ptolemy introduced into my 17 year old mind a distinction I had never thought of before, or if I had, not very clearly. I knew that things could be disguised; that is, made to look like something they were not -- that after all was the whole point of Halloween when we chipsters scampered around the neighborhood dressed up as a human beings. But it never occurred to me that something could be other than what it actually was. For this stunning concept, we must thank Ptolemy.

Of course, as everyone knows, Ptolemy decided [yes, it was a decision] that the Earth was at the center of the cosmos and that the sun, planets and stars revolved around us. But that wasn't half of Ptolemy's genius. He also decided that since the circle was the most perfect of forms, the sun had to revolve around the earth in a circle. This made perfect sense, and from this premise, calculating where the sun would be next Tuesday would be a simple matter of counting the degrees per day around the celestial clock.

The only problem was that the sun was not where it was supposed to be next Tuesday. No, it was a little bit behind. To make matters worse, the following Friday, the sun wasn't further behind, but had mysteriously advanced forward by half a degree or so. The sun was playing games.

Ptolemy scratched his head and then had the stroke of genius, for which he will ever be remembered and honored by Man. He decided [sic] that there was a "real" sun which moved in a perfect circle, and a merely "apparent" sun which we saw to be further forward or behind and which moved in an epi-cycle around the circle.

As the epi-center moved around the center, the sun moved around the epi-center and this device explained not only why the sun was where it only appeared to be, but also enabled us to accurately predict where it would not really be.

Ptolemy called this "Saving the Appearances" and with ever increasing complexity and ingenuity he saved the appearances for all the planets and, in fact, for the entire cosmos.... at least the apparently visible one.

The Almagest is full of phrases like the "true sun" and the "apparent sun" or the "mean Venus" and the "actual Veuns" the "recession" of the Equinox and the like. I don't know who it was who decided that the "simplest proof is the most elegant." Ptolemy's proofs are far from simple and they are the very paradigm of elegance. Next to him, Copernicus and Kepler are dull, dull, snore, CLUNK.

Everyone should be required to study Ptolemy in order to understand how a premise will dictate a result and how a theory will self-validate and yet, from a certain point of view, be entirely wrong. I say this without intending to cast the least aspersion on Ptolemy for whom I have the greatest admiration and a certain affection. The problem concerns what we know, and how.

Given my background in astronomy, it is hardly surprising that my curiosity was pricked three years ago when a friend of mine, who is an investor, started complaining about how no one was talking about the "real economy."

"Real economy?" I asked with raised eyebrows. Was somebody ... Paul Krugman perhaps? ... out there saving the appearances?

"Yes, the real economy," my friend said with vehemence. No one has caught on that there are TWO economies out there: the corporate economy and the economy for the rest of us.

Gary's point had all the elegant simplicity of an epicycle, and it was, in fact, nothing very complicated. The government counts corporate earnings as part of the country's GNP. So, for example, if GM's profits are up, since GM is an "American" corporation, that contributes to the boost in "our" economy. But suppose, GM's earnings are up due to investments and earnings overseas, say for example, in China? How does this "boost" anything back home in the United States? GM isn't even required to deposit its profits in American banks, but can salt them away in a box in Dubai. What has any of this to do with you and me?

Nothing! Gary said, with a grousing air of annoyance before going on to belly-ache about the falsehood of labels and how "American" corporations were allowed to import duty free products apparently manufactured in China because they were really "made in the U.S.A."

For three years, my friend has been complaining about the economic fraud being perpetrated and about a press that aids and abets corporations that are literally gutting the country alive. Starting six months ago, Gary began complaining that corporations were "now" even shipping their capital overseas. "Soon there will be nothing left! And Americans are too damn stupid to see what is taking place right under their noses."

We at the Gazette have done our part, and have passed along Gary's wisdom to the High Mucky Mucks at the Times and other pillars of the Fourth Estate; but to no avail. Like Henny Penny's more optimistic cousins, the press runs about headlining "Corporate Earnings are Up!!!" "The Recession is Bottoming Out" ... before going on to say, without really thinking much about it, "although 'it is expected that' it will be a jobless recovery."

Oh, rejoice. "Yes, we have no bananas."

Finally, the other day, Robert Reich, who is at least as savvy as our friend Gary, published an article in which he acknowledged that what was good for GM was not necessarily good for America. In an article entitled, The Bad Job Numbers and the Secret Second Stimulus Reich writes,

"American companies are more profitable, to be sure. But there’s a massive disconnect between profitability and employment."Link

Meanwhile, GM's CEO announced cheefully, that the company had turned the corner, that profits were expected to be up, and that the stodgy Buick was selling like hot cakes in the booming middle class market in China. Of course, the UAW took it in the nose on health care and pensions, but hey, the Recession is over! We have positive GNP.

Since the end of the World War, the U.S. has been a fabulously rich country; and it still is, if capital assets are counted. But everything is finite, and anything can be depleted.

Robert Reich calls for more "stimulus" spending to create jobs (at home). But that is no longer a viable solution, particularly under Obama, whose Neo-Trickledown© economics [ here ] have simply consisted in throwing public money at private corporations without strings attached. (It's called "hope" ...dude.) It is too late for that. What is needed is outright nationalization of corporate assets so as to keep them here and repatriation of jobs which have been exported overseas.

Most people have realized for at least a decade if not more, that the U.S. was shipping its productive capacity overseas. But they suffered a disconnect in not seeing that this ultimately impacted on national wealth. It was simply taken as axiomatic that if cheaper overseas production boosted corporate profits at home that was "good for America." How so? According to Clinton, America benefitted by being turned into the world's financial file cabinet as Americans were "retooled" for "good paying jops" in the paper-shuffling "service sector".

Well it did not work out that way, and even in terms of trickledown, there was real trickledown (the kind that led Henry Ford to pay his workers $5.00 a day) and apparent trickledown (the kind that witches and wizards like Greenspan conjured up from their bubbling cauldrons).

We are being gutted under our very noses, and still the country does nothing. It is more enthralled by the Leno-Conan debate over who will reign in our insomniac hours.

Ridet et moritur. Ridet et moritur.


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Fathomable Contexts

According to Ha'aretz, film director, Oliver Stone has the world "up in arms" over a new documentary that tries to put Hitler and Stalin -- the Evils of Evil -- into context. "You cannot approach history unless you have empathy for the person you may hate," Stone is reported to have said.

Stone is perfectly right, which is why I've always said that most of what passes for history -- "Hitler" included -- is myth. Manichean myth, in fact. As I result, I usually end up provoking gasps of incredulity as I reproach the unassailable and defend the indefensible.

Why, just the other day I rode to the defense of Stalin. I forget exactly how the topic came up, but a friend of mine made a remark that just assumed that Stalin was rock solid, certain "bad".

"Whoooa... wait a minute, wait a minute," I said, "you gotta put things in context.... Stalin was a great man."

Arrested silence.

Stalin faced a cruel, historical choice. It is usually said that Russia was "medieval". No such luck. What we call "medieval" was pre-national but certainly not primitive or incompetent. In all respects, medieval Europe had a vibrant cultural and economic life that involved most of civil society. As for dumb serfs -- what civilization doesn't have dumb serfs? Russia, on the other hand was lumpen. One ought not to exagerate here, either, but on the whole, Russia subsisted in a pre-industrial, pre-urban state ... one that was enviously rich in natural resources. What was a despot to do ?

Russia was flanked by industrial power houses whose economic engines demanded resources. And behind these lay Britain and the United States, always hungry for a bargain anywhere. The expedition to Archangel had shown what they could be counted on. If only for her own defense Russia had to bring herself up to industrial snuff. But not only for defence. If the masses of Russians were to be lifted out of the bog of their existence, what alternative was there but to become like Germany, the United States, France, England?

However, each of these countries had had at least two hundred years for their "industrial revolution" to unfold. Only an imbecile would think that this revolution unfolded without leaving a trail of intense human misery... of five year olds turned into cart-hawling beasts of burden in mine shafts, of women physically wrecked at 20, of millions working 16 hour days and eating bread adulterated with alum. These hardships were spread out over a century or more, and so appear to be less intense -- but they formed a Gulag of Misery all the same.

The Soviety Union had to.... well.... take a Great Leap Forward and accomplish in decades what had taken the West centuries. Of course the misery was intensified. And not just misery. What the so-called Industrial Revolution actually required was a massive accumulation of surplus value. The working class was not reduced to foul and fetid levels of subsistence out of some sort of spite, but rather because that is how the capitalist system acquires "wealth". Wealth -- which manifested itself in the store fronts of vast warehouses of commodities -- had to be squeezed from somewhere. Thus, the cruel paradox for Communist Russia was that in order to modernize she had to pack 200 years of capitalist squeezing into 20.

Still, it was an astonishing achievement; and beyond astonishing when it is taken into account that the entire process was devastatingly set back by the Nazi invasion which levelled most Russian cities, scorched the country side and killed 20 million people. And still, 15 years later, Russia beat the U.S. to the punch and put a satellite into orbit. And in order to do that, Soviet Russia had to create from the nothing of ignorance and superstition an at least technologically educated working and managerial class.

When we take a step back and contemplate how the Congress of the world's wealthiest nation has quibbled and fumbled and managed not to provide universal health care to its citizens, Stalin's achievements are breathtaking.

"Leave it to you....." my friend laughed.

Well, this was not to deny that Stalin was something of a psychopath and that his system committed monstrosities. Nor is it to deny that much of the glittering material progress was spiritually hollow and environmentally devastating. It was only to put things in context.

As if by coincidence, the woman who had sheltered Anne Frank, died the other day. Needless to say the English speaking press carried the story, along with detailed accounts of how the Frank family had almost survived in hiding against "unfathomable evil" as the New York Times put it with an air of self-evidence.

"Unfathomable...." If something is "unfathomable" it cannot be comprehended or thought about; and if it cannot be thought about, it cannot be learned from but can only be trembled at in mute stupidity. That is not the path toward progress.


Saturday, January 2, 2010

Oh, Those Wacky Keystone Prosecutors

Leave it to Washington to end the year with a farce, as U.S. District Judge Ricardo Urbina in Washington ordered the dismissal of an indictment against five Blackwater Worldwide security guards accused in a politically charged 2007 shooting incident in Iraq. [ Report ]

Most of the press reported the story as one of prosecutorial bumbling. The creme de la creme of the Justice Department had stumbled and fumbled into compromising the Government's case by using the defendant's statements in violation of the Fifth Amendment. Sanction time!

But Judge Urbino's findings, upon hearing, were a little less comic. He found the prosecutors' explanations of their conduct to be "inconsistent," "extraordianary" and "implausible" Significantly, he did not say "off the wall."

"The only conclusion the court can draw from th[e] evidence is that ... the trial team purposefully flouted the advice of the taint team when obtaining the substance of the defendants’ compelled statements, and in so doing, knowingly endangered the viability of the prosecution.
In other words, the District Court found that the Department of Justice had thrown the case

Throw a case against Blackwater? How could this be? The answer reveals the nature of the dark comedy that passes for American Justice at the turn of the millenium.

As anyone who has ever watched a COPS show knows, the Constitution prohibits self-incrimination and neither police nor prosecutors can use statements made under duress or compulsion. No Miranda? Case out! Next!

Whoa! Not so fast. Almost immediately after Miranda was decided, the Court began back-pedalling, as the Burger and Rhenquist majorities conjured up every possible exception, limitation and defeasing circumstance they could think of. One such "exception" was the so-called inevitable discovery doctrine, the essence of which is stunningly simple: Hey, if the incriminating evidence would have been discovered disiregardless of the defendant's statements, who cares?

Who indeed? Not the Court.
Lawyers now had a new sand box to play in, as the courts fashioned rules, standards, and thresholds for determining independent inevitability.

While the Courts were coming up with creative ways to protect themselves from tainted confessions, Congress was busy passing laws requiring government agents and contractors to give full and honest accounts to their debriefers following any screw-up, malfeasance, scandal or crime. After all, it was important for the Government to get to the root of the evil, whatever it might be, in order to fix it. And this required full and candid and fearless disclosure by those most intimately and, dare we say, criminally involved.

But suppose whatever it was that was being investigated did involve criminal conduct. It was fairly obvious that statements made to investigators under threat of loosing one's job could not be considered "voluntary". (Garrity v. New Jersey Jersey (1967) 385 U.S. 493.) So then, did confession bar prosecution? For a moment the Government looked confused.

The Court was quick to help out. In Kastigar v. United States States, (1971) 406 U.S. 441 it turned to the inevitable discovery rule and held that, in cases involving administrative debriefings, a criminal prosecution could proceed if the Government proved that it made no use whatsoever of the compelled statements or that any such use was harmless less beyond any reasonable doubt. Enter "taint teams".

Obviously an investigator or lawyer who was aware that Jack had confessed to killing his girlfriend at 2.00 a.m. on a lonely back road in the wilderness of Montana after the two met up at the world's biggest most crowded mall in Winnepeg would have a hard time investigating the case from scratch without ever taking a "lead" from the confessed facts he was aware of. And so, in inimitable bureaucratic fashion, the Justice Department set up teams of lawyers whose job it was to keep other teams of lawyers in the dark, so that they could discover the truth by their own unaided lights and meet their burden under Kastigar.

One would have to be a veritable Pangloss not to realize that Government had managed to set up a double layer of protection for malfeasance in public service.

There may indeed be situations in which government has a bona fide interest in discovering the whys and wherefors of some systemic failure. Investigating "unauthorize killing" in occupation zones is not one of them. It is the height of bully boy cynicism to put on choir boy stoles and claim that a full and broad and detailed confession by Blackwater guards was needed in order to "understand" the "effectiveness" of our own rules of engagement.

The whole exercise simply allowed the guards to craft a confession-cum-defense that would heighten the difficulty of "inevitable discovery" of any key fact needed for conviction. And anyone who does not believe that Blackwater guards received "debriefing-instruction " as part of their training is a fool.

But Blackwater is the Government's darling. To make ultra-sure that no prosecution would ever see the light of day, the government's "taint team" spilled ink all over the damn place and in case that wasn't enough the "prosecution team" ignored whatever pro-forma or face saving "warnings" and "advices" the taint attorneys did deliver.

The Justice Department would have us believe, that their top attorneys on a high profile case were just a bunch of Keystone Prosecutors missing one another and bumbing into eachothers behinds. The whole thing falls into the category of Lucius' "boating accident" in I Claudius.

Is there anything in Washington that does not raise a stench to Heaven?