Saturday, February 13, 2016


It is interesting how dogs learn English.   Nicki-the-Lab has always associated "wan' go out?" with what the question suggests and the phrase invariably provokes a ferocious,  affirmative happy-dance.  I don't even have to say, "out" -- the word "u'wann'?" suffices.

But it has been grim and rainy of late.  This evening Nicki came alongside as I lying on the bed and resting my eyes.   Tonight, as last night and the day before I sighed, "Ohh, you're such a pain in the butt" and this phrase immediately provoked his happy dance.  So we went out.


Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Chicken Feed & Hypocrisy


No sooner was Hillary’s loss a done failure in New Hampshire, than the New York Times fired a broadside at Bernie.

In a front page Op-Ed, Marc Schmitt of the “New America” foundation declared that the era of expansive liberalism was over; the future belonged to invisible incrementalism. 

“The essence of Mr. Sanders’s version of liberalism is government programs. Expansive initiatives that provide benefits to a broad cross-class constituency,...

“That’s in sharp contrast to the policy approach of the Obama administration since about 2011, and also to Hillary Clinton and most of Mr. Sanders’s congressional colleagues...

“[T]he future of social and economic policy will involve, for better or worse, these complex, incremental and often invisible changes, instead of big programs.”

If one substitutes the word “chicken-feed” for “incrementalism” you know all you need to know about Hillary’s “progressivity” and the Times’ left-over centrism. 

Schmitt’s piece cannot be considered a “guest column” printed — on the front page — as “diversity of view.”  The New America foundation is headed by Anne-Marie Slaughter a political intimate of Hillary Clinton whom the Times has endorsed for president.  Schmitt’s piece is a Times broadside in alter voce and represents what the Times thinks is bad about Sanders and good about Clinton.

Feel the Invisibility

One might wonder exactly what “often invisible” changes might be.  Does the author of this assertive piece mean  “You’re feeling better, you just don’t feel it.” ?

Actually, yes. He goes on to say, “Citizens don’t see or feel these initiatives and may not know that they are benefiting from a government initiative at all.”

Not only do they not feel the benefits, the benefits might actually not exist! 

As an example of invisible incrementality, Schmitt cites an obscure regulatory tweak which will “set millions of Americans up with low risk, low-cost retirement savings accounts.”  Five paragraphs later, Schmitt acknowledges that the tweak will “not be enough to meet the shortfall in Americans’ retirement savings or reduce inequality of wealth.”

Rejoice!  Not only will you not feel the invisible benefit, you won’t be benefitted at all!  You will be incrementally less screwed.

Think tanks are the modern version of feudal vassals or roman clientela.   All three are made up of interlocking (and often inter-marrying) networks  of  patronage existing through  complex social bonds in service of agreed upon socio-economic-military interests as symbolized in some grand personage.   Roman clients were expected to attend, applaud and make  hubbub about and for their patrons, including  a display of Fumbling the Scrolls (Oh how many scrolls!) in the great man’s wake, as he made his way through the forum.   

In the present case, the New York Times is simply orchestrating the parade.  What it and Hillary’s coterie have decided is that, for better or worse, the incremental benefits will be so eensy teensy weensy, you won’t even notice them!  Hurrah for “common sense” programs.  Phooey on big, broad, gauche liberalism!

But the Times did not only have Bernie in its sights.  It was taking aim just as much at Theodore Roosevelt who, back in 1910, pronounced,

“Where the whole American people are interested, that interest can be guarded effectively only by the national government...

“The New Nationalism puts the national need before sectional or personal advantage. It is impatient of the utter confusion that results from local legislatures attempting to treat national issues as local issues. It is still more impatient of the impotence which springs from overdivision of governmental powers, the impotence which makes it possible for local selfishness or for legal cunning, hired by wealthy special interests, to bring national activities to a deadlock."

Contrast,  the New York/New America Times Op-Ed,

"[Hillary’s] agendas are most interesting and novel for the absence of big, universal programs that require legislative action. Instead, they test the limits of what government can do by rearranging the pieces of existing programs, using regulations, incentives to states, tax credits and “nudges” informed by behavioral economics in place of direct spending."

Most interesting?”  Certainly not “novel.”  What the Times is advocating — and what it makes abundantly clear that Hillary is trumpeting — is a return to what did not work under Wilson or Hoover. 

Nudges  informed by behavioral economics”?  What the hell is that?  It’s Hooverian “volunteerism” dressed up in millenial-speak; for the difference between Hoover and Roosevelt was not that Hoover did nothing, but that he refrained from “broad-based” mandatory national programs to address a national crisis.   

Hillary’s ghosted Op-Ed is also hard nudge advocacy for Justice Rhenquist’s “New Federalism” — the core of which was his engineered devolution of power to the "laboratory of the states"  (quoth) as testers and tinkerers’ of social fixes. 

A fuller-bore reaction could hardly be imagined. Rehnquist’s New Federalism might better have been called the New Feudalism, because the States were holdovers from the pre-monarchical era.  No — I am not making this up.  The Andrus Plan of 1688 had sought to consolidate the colonies into a single Dominion in common; but the Colonies (that is the Chief Families in them) revolted at the prospect of loosing their manorial privileges, including some rather peculiar ones.

It is hardly unfettered imagination to imagine Rehnquist slurring and salivating at how the States were best suited to “test” and incrementally  “experiment” with social issues such as Negro slavery.

After writing a clerk’s memo against desegregation in Brown v. Board of Education (1954) — (“I realize that it is an unpopular and unhumanitarian position, for which I have been excoriated by "liberal" colleagues, but I think Plessy v. Ferguson was right and should be reaffirmed.") —  Rehnquist went back to Arizona were he became national campaign manager for Barry Goldwater...   Hillary Clinton’s own youthful hero.

To ramble on in this vein may seem like a digression, but it is actually not.  It helps to put things in historical context because the Times hopes you won't.  

It supported Clinton (II) because he “refashioned the Democratic Party’s approach to government”  He “stood up to the spendthrifts in his own party”  He “bucked the democratic leadership to secure the free trade agreement”   In the same breath, without a blush, it lauded Clinton’s “promise” to ease “unfair attacks on the poor and legal immigrants.”

It supported Mondale noting that, “He has laudably continued the deregulation begun by Jimmy Carter.” 

It endorsed McGovern, Humphrey, Johnson and Kennedy because Goldwater was a loose cowboy and because the Times bore a deep (and mutual) animosity against Nixon on account of the latter’s anti-semitism and hopelessly pathetic, back water petite bourgeois background.

But this apparent liberalism was only “situational” like the occasional lapse at a truck stop. More true to form it  endorsed Eisenhower twice, Thomas Dewey twice and Wendell Wilkie over FDR.

In 1936   the editorial board pronounced, “The New York Times, a conservative newspaper in its own sphere, believes that the public interest will best be served” by the reelection of Roosevelt because the president will “make his second Administration more conservative than the first”  and his reelection will provide insurance against radicalism of the sort which the United States [i.e. its ruling class] has most to fear.”

1933 endorsed FDR because “his speeches have not [sic] indicated clear and strong and burning convictions.... Imagine what would have been done by such a man as William J. Bryan...!” 

In 1912 it endorsed Wilson first, Taft second... any one but Roosevelt third.  “It would be an ill omen and ... want of sense if so large a part of the people should yield to the appeals of Mr. Roosevelt.

This sketch of the Times’ editorial trajectory indicates what a fundamentally conservative paper the Times actually is.   It may espouse socially symbolic “liberal” causes on behalf of “cognized groups” but it reacts with horror and disparagement at any “broad based” programs aimed at ending the economic alienation of the working class.

Let us be clear.  The fundamental injustice of the U.S. political economy is that it alienates the worker from the fruits of his own productivity.  He produces economic value (“profit”) but it accrues to others rather than himself. To make matters worse he is economically oppressed by a variety of taxes, fees and other transfers of wealth labelled as “cost of living.”  His work itself is alienated from his own free will.  It is not an expression of anything he wants or of any collaboration among self-owning men; rather, he is simply a unit of labour (a “human resource”) in someone else’s scheme. The American worker is free to travel where he wants, to tune into the channel  he wants, to sing the hymns and buy the junk he wants; but he is in all fundamental respects a slave and a serf.  

Neither Bernie Sanders nor LBJ nor either of the two Roosevelts proposed to fundamentally alter this system. They wanted some broad and pervasive adjustments that would render it less unjust; return some greater quantum of value to the worker who produced it; spread the costs and ease the burden of overall living expenses; provide the worker with economic security and social leisure if not actually determinative political power.

It is this adjustment which the Times disparages today and has always disparaged as “radicalism.”   What it toots as “incrementalism” is simply code for the least redistribution of anything the ruling class can get away with.

The genocidal vileness of the Times’ invisible incrementalism is best illustrated in relation to climate change.  Exactly what degree of imperceptible incremental reductions in global warming does the Times have in mind?  Something small enough not to be noticed at all?

What kind of insanity is this?

Oh but surely when the Times decries “broad brush liberal” approaches it doesn’t have global warming in mind.  Oh but surely it does, because “broad brush” reductions in global warming are absolutely not possible without predicate broad-brush reforms to the industrial-financial system which produces global warming.

One of the key ingredients of Clintonian Triangulation, is what might be called “issue alienation” — disconnecting the necessary relationships between various aspects of an underlying problem. 

In fact “issue alienation” is the key feature of so-called U.S. “liberalism.”  It is what enables a creeps like the Clintons to pretend to be all in favor of Black empowerment or women’s rights or Our Precious Children even while they work to end welfare, curtail unions and undercut the laws and programs which would give people — including Blacks, women and children — real security and real opportunity. 

In tandem,  issue-alienation allows the Clintons — and their toney clarions in the Times (or is it the reverse?) — to erect a moralistic Potemkin Village of cognized group chicken feed (“entitlements”) and pleasant but largely symbolic measures which hide the political disenfranchisement and economic impoverishment they actually -- and broadly -- promote.

As if matters could not be more nauseating than they are, one need only recall that there was nothing “incremental” about NAFTA or the TPP or the 2009 bank bailout.  When it comes to safeguarding the core interests of American Capital, Blue Dog Democrats and the Times get as non-incremental and broad based as necessary.

To niggardly stinginess one can add grotesque hypocrisy. That is what the Times and Hillary stand for.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Bearclaw meets Pancake

Appearances are a substantial part of politics.  One has to look the part,

even if one is short, pot-bellied and bald. Appearances are to humans what alpha-smell is to dogs. 

Sniffing the hormones, it was obvious that Sanders lost Wednesday night’s debate with Clinton.  He looked like a wet bunny who had been hit on the back of its head while Mme. Clinton puffed and strutted on stage like a cock.

Clinton was full of double-daring and aggro-victimhood.  “Enough is enough” she cried, as if her patience were truly exhausted beyond human endurance at having to put up with “insinuations” that she was Goldman’s Girl.

Mark Hannah's Boy

One could but feel for poor President McKinnley...

But instead of ripping Hillary a third asshole, Sanders just hunkered down and mumbled that money had too much influence in politics. 

Hillary’s reply the previous day that she had accepted $650,000 in speaking fees from Goldman Sacks because “that’s what they offered” was the kind of clueless insouciance that has marked others in history with indelible infamy. In Hillary’s case the cluelessness was faux and Sanders ought to have raked her over her words seven times over.  He didn’t.

Far worse, was Sander’s complete failure rally his own cause and define himself as the standard-bearer for American “progressives."

The issue came up when Clinton was asked if she considered herself a “progressive.”  With shameless sophistry, Clinton replied that she did because she believed in making progress.

By that definition, Louis XIV, Peter the Great and Herr Autobahn himself were “progressives.”  But that is not what the word means in U.S. political history.  In terms of this country’s historical traditions, “progressivism” has a defined ideological meaning which neither Clinton nor Obama meet.

By the end of the 19th century, it was obvious to most disinterested people that laissez faire capitalism was corrosive to civil society and that economic individualism had to be replaced with mechanisms of economic responsibility.

Voices as disparate as Bismarck’s and Pope Leo X called for an end to predatory capitalism and for measures that would guarantee the economic security and social welfare of the working class.  As Bismarck stated,

The real grievance of the worker is the insecurity of his existence;... If he falls into poverty, even if only through a prolonged illness, he is then completely helpless, left to his own devices,

Before century’s close, Germany had enacted health insurance (1883), accident insurance (1884)  old age and disability (1889) and  worker protections (1891). These were of course first steps but significant enough that the flow of German emmigration to America was stopped.

Why should not the labor soldier receive
a pension as much as the veteran?

Bismarck’s programs were dubbed state socialism.  Unlike Marxist socialism, they did not call for the abolishment of capitalism but rather for government regulated “cooperation” between capital and labor for the benefit of that nation as a whole.  Both sides of the class divide had responsibilities to one another and to the commonwealth as an organic entity.

In the United States, such ideas began to take hold under a call for a New Nationalism to replace antiquated notions of “state sovereignty” and unregulated private enterprise.

By the 1880’s, corporate power, assisted by corrupt legislatures and a reactionary judiciary, had completely subverted any meaningful existence of “democracy.” Not surprisingly social and cultural deterioration ensued.  Around the country, under the banner of “progressivism,” reformist movements strove to correct various perceived failings in the system. 

Two key players emerged: Herbert Croly the intellectual and Theodore Roosevelt, the politician.  It is typically said that Roosevelt’s famous New Nationalism speech in Osawatomie Kansas (August 1910) was “influenced” by Croly’s book The Promise of American Life (November 1909)

However, Croly’s book itself discusses various “nationalist” and trust-busting reforms Roosevelt had advocated as president. The truth is that Croly and Roosevelt played off one another, reinforcing each other’s goals until their partnership ended in 1916.

Croly was frankly impressed by Bismarck’s national reforms which he felt had far exceed in scope and effect the merely liberal ameliorations tepidly introduced in France and England.

"The German Empire presents still another phase of the relation between democracy and nationality,  ...    She is at the present time a very striking example of what can be accomplished for the popular welfare by a fearless acceptance on the part of the official leaders of economic as well as political responsibility, and by the efficient and intelligent use of all available means to that end.  ... ".
Given the traditions and temperament of Americans, Croly envisioned a democratic "bottom up" version of Bismark's "top down" socialism. 

Like Bismarck’s state socialism, the essence of Croly and Roosevelt’s progressive, new nationalism was a rejection of the concept of the state as the mere container of competing selfish interests.  Rather, government stood for and in service of an overarching commonwealth from which all parties derived benefits but to which all parties owed responsibilities.   As articulated by Roosevelt,

"Capital has its rights, which are as worthy of protection as any other rights.... Nor should this lead to awar upon the owners of property."
"Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.   ...

"One of the chief factors in progress is the destruction of special privilege.   ...  At many stages in the advance of humanity, this conflict between the men who possess more than they have earned and the men who have earned more than they possess is the central condition of progress.

"In our day it appears as the struggle of freemen to gain and hold the right of self-government as against the special interests, who twist the methods of free government into machinery for defeating the popular will.

"...  our government, national and State, must be freed from the sinister influence or control of special interests.   ...  so now the great special business interests too often control and corrupt the men and methods of government for their own profit.

"Combinations in industry are the result of an imperative economic law which cannot be repealed by political legislation. The effort at prohibiting all combination has substantially failed. The way out lies, not in attempting to prevent such combinations, but in completely controlling them in the interest of the public welfare."

These principles became the under-structure of Roosevelt’s Progressive Party which he co-founded in 1912.   Because, by 1912, the United States was so utterly out-of wack and behind the times both politically and economically (although not in the accumulation of private profits), much of the Progressive Party’s platform sounds merely reformist and ad hoc. Indeed Croly felt that it did not go far enough.

But Roosevelt’s “New Nationalism” went beyond tinkering at the edges and beyond calling for government to merely be “the chief almoner of the nation” (as Justice McReynolds would later scathingly characterize FDR’s plan for social security).  Roosevelt’s progressive platform rejected Jeffersonian individualism as the beacon of U.S. politics in favor of  a more socially unitary concept of the state as “the family of us all” in which all segments played co-responsible parts.  As Roosevelt put it from porch of the railroad car,

"The right to regulate the use of wealth in the public interest is universally admitted. Let us admit also the right to regulate the terms and conditions of labor, which is the chief element of wealth, directly in the interest of the common good.

"The national government belongs to the whole American people, and where the whole American people are interested, that interest can be guarded effectively only by the national government.

"The New Nationalism puts the national need before sectional or personal advantage. It is impatient of the utter confusion that results from local legislatures attempting to treat national issues as local issues. It is still more impatient of the impotence which springs from overdivision of governmental powers, the impotence which makes it possible for local selfishness or for legal cunning, hired by wealthy special interests, to bring national activities to a deadlock.

"This New Nationalism regards the executive power as the steward of the public welfare. It demands of the judiciary that it shall be interested primarily in human welfare rather than in property, just as it demands that the representative body shall represent all the people rather than any one class or section of the people.
That was the banner Sanders supposedly raised with his advocacy of “democratic socialism.”   That was the banner Sanders let fall to the ground with his failure to nail Clinton on her weaseling definition of “progressive.”

When Sanders agreed that Obama was a progressive he all but undercut the raison d’etre of his own candidacy.   If Obambi is a progressive, then vote for Hillary because there is hardly a wit of difference between the two.  Both (as Hillary correctly pointed out) were recipients of Wall Street’s largesse.  Both are as much “Mark Hannah’s Boys” as McKinley.    Teddy Roosevelt would never, ever have said (as Obama did ) that he did “not begrudge” Lloyd Blankenfein or Jamie Dimon their billions.

No real progressive would have shrugged off the colossal, disparate accumulation of wealth with Obambi's insulting insouciance “That’s part of the free market system,"

We were loathe and reluctant to believe those more cynical observers on the  U.S. left who from the start denounced Sanders as a mere stalking horse for the DNC, who would get  younger voters all enthused only to switch the bait once Hillary rode her triumphal chariot into the convention hall.   (Ave! Ave!)   But his performance the other night was so tepid and pathetic that one is left thinking that perhaps the cynics were right.