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Republicans bringing back the bad old days

William Tell keeps his hat on

You have to give Republicans credit for their dogged persistence.  They are going to drag us kicking and screaming back to the bad old days if it takes them a lifetime.  Look at all of the systems and bad ideas that western civilization got rid of over the past couple of centuries that the Republicans have updated and passed off as new and shiny.

1.) Sumptuary Laws: Wiki defines them as “are laws that attempt to regulate habits of consumption. Black’s Law Dictionary defines them as “Laws made for the purpose of restraining luxury or extravagance, particularly against inordinate expenditures in the matter of apparel, food, furniture, etc.””  The Chained CPI is the perfect way to restrain consumer spending, to the eventual detriment of the economy.  Back in the middle ages, the aristocrats didn’t want to have to compete with the commoners for things like purple dye and fine cloth.  If some merchant could buy that stuff for his daughter and supplies were strictly limited, that meant a duchess might have to do without.  We can’t have that.  In a similar way, the chained CPI is almost guaranteed to keep seniors from spending too much.  The working assumption is that they will scale down their purchases, going for cheaper consumer goods, probably of lower quality as well.  This will save the upper salaried from having to give up their Bush tax cuts or have their payroll taxes increased.  More money for them to spend on whatever their hearts desire, less for everyone else.  Too bad for poor seniors who scrimp and save for the meagerest luxuries.  This is what you get for a lifetime of work and getting laid off in your middle age.

Besides, it’s so much easier to tell who the lower classes are at a glance.

2.) The Truck System: Wiki defines it as “an arrangement in which employees are paid in commodities or some currency substitute (referred to as scrip), rather than with standard money. This limits employees’ ability to choose how to spend their earnings—generally to the benefit of the employer. As an example, scrip might be usable only for the purchase of goods at a company-owned store, where prices are set artificially high. The practice has been widely criticized as exploitative and similar in effect to slavery, and has been outlawed in many parts of the world.”

The proposed Medicare voucher system comes pretty close to a truck system.  Employees pay into the Medicare system throughout their working lives with the expectation that when they are of age, they will be paid their deferred compensation in the form of Medicare benefits.  Instead, they would get a voucher whose worth is much less than the originally promised benefit and it could only be used to purchase health care from a private insurer, who has no incentive to compete because there is no public option.

Truck systems have been outlawed in much of the world because it is seen as a form of slavery. Note that the proliferation of unpaid internships for college students is also a form of truck.  They cost parents a lot of money, the student gets no pay and the internship itself is frequently of questionable value in terms of acquiring further employment.

3.) Fear and lawlessness: In Republican world, the only people who have any true liberty are insane people with guns.  Apparently, there is nothing anyone can do to stop them.  Absolutely nothing. Everyone else is at their mercy and must either pay handsomely for security or fight gunfire with gunfire.  That leaves the rest of us afraid to walk around or go to school safely without fear of being gunned down.  We’re the ones huddled behind castle walls while the lawless roam at will.

4.) Serfdom: This trend is disturbing.  This is what you get when you make precariats out of workers.  The more insecure their lives are, the more they are willing to take whatever work they can get to pay their bills and they’ll do it at remarkably low prices. The attacks on labor unions is designed to create more insecurity.  Note that when you decide to go along with this trend, it’s bloody hard to win back your rights without some major socioeconomic shock, like a Great Depression.  As much as people might dislike labor unions, it’s better to have them to push around the management than not have any.

5.) Exploitation: If you want to know what the Republicans and their allies in the 1%, listen to this This American Life* episode about the The Little War on the Prairie.  This war was between the Minnesota Dakota against the US government who cheated them out of their lands.  You might be surprised to find that Thomas Jefferson was the guy who laid out the strategy of how the government was going to acquire the Dakota off their lands.  Basically it goes like this: we want the Indian lands, they aren’t going to give it to us nicely.  So, we’ll sell things to them that they want and get them deeply into debt.  When they see they’re in a hole they can’t climb out of, we make them an offer they can’t refuse.  We’ll cancel the debt if they give up their land.

It worked.  It also lead to the largest mass execution on American soil in the 1860s.  Go listen to the whole thing.  Abraham Lincoln turned out to be a decent guy but he must have been overwhelmed by the Civil War.  It’s a sad story.

So, how does this apply to Republican strategy?  As I’ve been saying for a couple of years now, it’s the Republican plan to put us in thumbscrews.  The idea is to basically turn down the heat on the economy so that people ain’t got jobs, people ain’t got money.  The corporations will stop investing, bankers will sit on the cash like the greedy dragons they are and the whole executive branch of government will be invaded by financial industry moles who will make sure that no one outside of their little evil group to which no one we know belongs gets any relief for the debt they can’t get out from.  And let’s make this clear, we’re not talking about the people who stupidly took out mortgages on homes they couldn’t afford.  Those people got their comeuppance early.  No, the squeeze is now going to be on the middle class, including the college educated, whose wages have plummeted but whose living costs have not.  As long as there is an ongoing crisis of funding the government, unemployment insurance and all the other things that keep the economy barely chugging along, the screws on us will get tighter and tighter.

The Republicans want to break the social insurance programs.  We know this because if the deficit was really bothering them, they could end the Bush Tax Cuts on the highest earners and end the wars.  If they really wanted to cure the deficit problem, they would enthusiastically back a jobs program and fund unemployment benefits so that money could go back into the economy through consumer spending and so that people could pay their taxes again.

This is not what they are advocating.  So, I can only conclude that they are willing to risk severe injury to some industries, like pharma, and the economy in general and have people lose their houses and careers because they want to push us to the point where we are overwhelmed with living expenses that we can’t pay.  Then they will generously offer to turn the money tap back on if we just give up our social insurance programs.

The temptation is going to be great in the next couple of months, especially for the state of New Jersey.  Unemployment rates here were already above 10% when Sandy hit.  Now that one of the state’s major industries, tourism, has suffered a devastating blow, there will be a lot of pressure on our Congressional delegation to cut a deal so the money can flow.  I expect every one of New Jersey’s representatives and senators to crumble.

What would happen if we don’t give in?  I don’t know but it sounds to me like taxes will go up on the wealthiest among us.  I don’t know about you but my Bush tax cut never did amount to very much.  I’d never even miss it.  But I’m guessing that if you make between $250K and $800K, it amounts to quite a bit of money.  It might mean a change in social status. I suspect that’s why the White House press corps was so anxious to find out what the plan was when Obama gave his post Sandy Hook shooting presser.  They’re trying to figure out where they will stand after January 1, 2013.

So, that’s my theory and I’m sticking with it.  The wealthy and their political arm think they can wait us out.  It’s all they’ve got left at this point.  They’re never going to be able to swing another wave election with social issues.  That demographic is dying off.  So, they’ll just keep us in pain until we give in.  Maybe it will work, maybe not.  Either way, they’re going to strangle the economy until they are no longer under any obligation to participate in social insurance.  And then they’ll move in and take everything.

That’s the Republican party in it’s modern form.  It’s still the same bunch of rapists and pillagers.  They’ve just got a formal party organization to hide behind now.  We’re now back to the bad old days of the Sheriff of Nottingham.  It’s hard to believe the middle and working class happily squandered their advantage over the past 30 years over such tripe like “family values” and “patriotism” and the “moral majority”.  I thought people would have learned their lessons by now but the Tea Party has signed up a whole new set of gullible Americans who are more than happy to bash the head of the person lower than them in the hierarchical scheme.  Some people never learn.

* I know nothing about semiotics but I find it interesting that Ira Glass, the semiotics major, manages to find stories that tie in so well to current events in a metaphorical sense.  Accident?  Coincidence?  Intentional?

Wikileaks the State Department

Click on pic for the game "Diplomacy"

The cables are out and now is the time to sift through them and come to our own conclusions about what they contain.  For those of you who want a running commentary, Peter Daou recommends Greg Mitchell’s blog at The Nation.

I’m not surprised that we’re spying on UN officials  and gathering intelligence from around the world.  Didn’t we learn from Joe Wilson that diplomats are sometimes deployed to get information about uranium shipments?  Even a Democrat must understand that keeping tabs on foreign nationals who reside in our country and are operating at a high level in world affairs should be monitored.  We legitimately object when our government spies on American citizens but I’m pretty sure that even Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson understood the value of keeping your foreign friends close and your enemies closer.  Let’s not be naive and let the world head for the smelling salts.  If Hillary authorized some of the surveillance, it shouldn’t come as a shock.  That’s her job.  What’s more important is how discriminant she or her predecessors were in applying it.

What is more surprising is how the NYTimes reports a remarkable lack of agency with these cables.  There is no indication who sent them or with what authority.  Are we to understand that no one in the Bush White House was responsible?  Things just happened?  Who should get credit for negotiating hard bargains in the current administration?  Specific people cause specific things to get done or not get done.  The NYTimes is cheating the casual reader of knowing who is responsible when the agents are referred to so vaguely.  The paper needs to clarify when the actions were taken and by whom.  I think we will all wait in vain for level headed analysis.  The reader is advised to dig into the cables and consult multiple sources for discussion.

In the wake of 9/11 and the Bush administrations heavy handed approach to diplomacy, we shouldn’t be surprised if American foreign service is in the midst of some serious rebuilding years.  A 2007 report that appeared in the Washington Post blamed Condoleeza Rice for poor morale at the State Department:

The report from the Foreign Affairs Council, which includes retired ambassadors and senior diplomats, also said morale is dropping among diplomats.

“In the first two years of Secretary Rice’s stewardship almost no net new resources have been realized,” the report said. It noted that Congress has twice denied money for Rice’s plan to rearrange diplomatic postings away from the Cold War model, which was heavy on jobs in Europe, and toward modern challenges in places like China and India.The council found a severe staff shortage and holds Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice partly responsible. The State Department needs 1,100 more employees, especially since recent staff additions have gone to fill jobs in Iraq, Afghanistan and other difficult posts, the report said.

Back in the Bush era, when conservative ideologues started permeating the State department, some career diplomats quit in disgust and some of them quite publicly. Some were given an ultimatum: to serve in Iraq  during the most dangerous period of the insurgency or resign.  As the WaPo article reports, Rice had a hard time getting funding.  None of these problems have gone away.  The Secretary still has to ask Congress for money.  The ideologues are still there. Let’s keep this in mind as we read through these cables.  Bush screwed up.  Putting it back together requires hard work and ingenuity.  The question is, will the people now in charge take responsibility?  How much is the fault of Rice/Bush/Cheney?  How much is still salvageable?  Who has stepped up and who hasn’t?

The Dignity of “No.”

liberty

“A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to leave alone.”
Henry David Thoreau – Walden

“When you take a person’s life, you take the most precious thing that person possesses”, according to Harry, Dexter’s father, in the television series “Dexter”, which is about a serial killer who solely targets serial killers. Murder, in this sense, is theft of the life of another or others.

Societies strongly sanction against the murder of their members, as a general rule, except for specific socially sanctioned cases.

It is important to not confuse being “alive” with having “a life.” We require the former to accomplish the latter, but existence, in and of itself, seems to be an inadequate foundation for providing a reason to exist.

Not long ago, others wiser than I offered the following account of our raison d’etre:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Accordingly, to have “a life” is to be free to pursue happiness. To foreshadow, if a person or group steals the freedom or means of others to pursue their happiness, is it a form of murder? Continue reading

Hump Day Afternoon Open Thread

This video is dedicated to all the Obama worshippers justifying their love for Mr. Teleprompter Jesus.  Too bad Ireland’s not laughing.  Keep holding on to that Precious!

On a more serious note, watch this next one, from HBO’s miniseries John Adams.  Jefferson, the flawed, but brilliant founding father that he is, WAS RIGHT.

What would Thomas Jefferson think of the AIG Bonus giveaway bonanza?   Would Hamilton be passing blame to a crony senator who actually tried to block the bonuses?

Open thread-it!

Tuesday Ramblings plus a Caption This Photo!

CAPTION THIS PHOTO:

whitehouse

Write your caption in the comments section!

Hello my dearest Conflucians!  We’ve been doing a lot of money talk here at the blog.   Even though I don’t know jack about finance or economics like my more illustrious brethren here, I thought I’d add my two cents (about what we all have in our wallets and purses now) regarding the crisis.

So, anybody feel that Obama brand of Hope pouring through your soul?

Yeah, me neither.

Instead, I feel fear and cynicism all rolled up in a ball of “f__k you” and it’s the same kind I felt during the Bush 2.0 years.

Remember 7 years ago when Bush took office and brought us the Iraq war based on false information?  Yeah, and 7 years later we are still fighting that war.   BASED ON FALSE INFORMATION.   From my view at the bottom of the totem pole, I can’t shake the feeling that our financial meltdown is engineered the same exact way the Iraq War was.  And since it’s Tinfoil Tuesday (h/t to Stateofdisbelief), I’m betting that all this financial meltdown is an illusion made to appear like a crisis/catastrophe.  Here’s a quote from Conflucian Resident Economist DakiniKat that really stuck out at me:

The market seems to have stabilized for awhile as Ben Bernanke has been giving speeches and making appearances every where he can.  For those of you  that really want to take on empirical studies in Economics (econometrics and all), this is a part of a strategy he outlined in  Monetary Policy.

From my simplistic, peasant, lay-woman’s point of view, Wall Street is just some glorified Las Vegas gambling casino without the neon lights and flashy shows, although it very well could be.   It’s all speculation, opinion-based gambling.  For example, if there’s a rumor that corn farmers are scared that next years crops aren’t going to be as plentiful as last year, suddenly you see corn stock (pun intended) plummet and by the end of the day thousands of workers are laid off.   All based on speculation.  There’s no gradual or incremental adjustment to curtail the possible loss of corn, no riding out the storm, none of those things.  Actions are taken swiftly and severely in a matter of hours.  You punch in at 8 am, rumor gets released at 9:30am, stockbrokers go bezerk on the trading floor by 10:00am and you walk out with a pink slip by 5:00pm.   Who suffers?  You and me.  Who started the rumor?   No one will ever know (because no one is held accountable anymore), maybe a sugar ethanol lobbyist firm, who knows?   Then the fear/hope peddling cycle goes wash, rinse, repeat.

Yet in the same way Wall Street reacts to bad news via the government, all it takes are positive words and Wall Street shall be healed.  Here’s what Big Dawg said:

It used to be gospel in the nation’s power center: Presidents didn’t talk publicly about what the markets were doing. The notion was that anything a president said on this subject could be too easily misinterpreted, sending Wall Street into a dive.

Now, former President Clinton says he thinks President Barack Obama should talk more optimistically about the prospects that the nation will recover from its current deep economic woes.

Remember Obama’s quote regarding pressuring Congress to pass the stimulus package because a failure to act “could turn a crisis into a catastrophe.” President Obama learned that fearmongering got Bush 2.0 what he wanted, so he’s continuing the fear-peddling push.  Scare the masses into submission!  Worked for Stalin & Bush 2.0.  F__k Hope.

Color me a rainbow of stupid, but I ask myself the following questions:

  • If Wall Street is the gear that keeps America afloat since so many of our conglomerates which own everything trade publically, why do they depend on the government for morale-boosting if they are that powerful?
  • Why is it that Wall Street trading goes up when positive words are spewed by the President and the Cabinet, or it goes waaaay down when negative words are said, like “stimulus package?”
  • Who the f__k is really in control?  Is it truly Wall Street?  Who controls who?
  • And why is it that the only people that are benefiting from everything are banking conglomerates? And like MYIQ said below, where’s the money?
  • Bush 2.0′s agenda was clear as a bell.  Bush 2.0 started a war to get the oil speculators going batsh_t crazy and hike the price of gas and oil, which made Exxon-Mobil and other oil companies VERY happy while many families around the world choose between fuel or food.   But what is Obama’s agenda? Instead of oil, Obama is favoring the super elite global bankers.   What is it that global bankers want?
  • And what happens to us, the people who sweat and bleed to make this country the great place it should and could be?

Well, looks like Obama and the O Cabinet are heeding Big Dawg’s words, because some of the pesky peons that Hillary and Bill understand so well  (i.e. the people footing the bill a.k.a you and me) aren’t as drunk on the Hopium as Obama (and the media) would like.  Daily Telegraph from the UK has this to say:

Barack Obama goes upbeat on economy after popularity declines

President Barack Obama has launched an upbeat strategy over the economy in the face of approval ratings that have dipped below those of George W Bush at the same stage of his presidency.

As well as sounding more optimistic, the president will push more aggressively against Republican critics – painting them as belonging to a “party of no” – and sharply remind the public that the problems he has to cope with were very largely inherited from Mr Bush.

Mr Obama is changing his rhetorical course after criticism from fellow Democrats, including former President Bill Clinton, that he has sounded too negative in the first weeks of his presidency.

This week he will speak forcefully to Congress and the public about the need to pass his $3.6 trillion budget, which will double the national deficit, while stressing his belief that there is hope ahead.

The new president has already told an audience of business leaders that the economic crisis “is not as bad we think”. Over the weekend, Mr Obama assured investors of the soundness of investments in the US economy, after Chinese premier Wen Jiabao expressed his alarm about the safety of the “massive” number of US Treasury bonds Beijing was buying.

“There’s a reason why even in the midst of this economic crisis you’ve seen actual increases in investment flows here into the United States,” Mr Obama said. “I think it’s a recognition that the stability not only of our economic system, but also our political system, is extraordinary.

“I think that not just the Chinese government, but every investor, can have absolute confidence in the soundness of investments in the United States,” he added.

And of course, let’s make China super confident that their investment in the US of A is safe and sound.   Ni Hao, Wen Jiabao!  A-OK in the USA!  Mi casa es su casa, right Wen?

But wait, here comes Larry to add his input as well:

Lawrence Summers, chairman of the national economic council, exemplified the administration’s new approach with a populist swipe at AIG for paying in excess of $100 million in bonuses to staff, despite receiving $170 billion of taxpayers money.

“There are a lot of terrible things that have happened in the last 18 months, but what’s happened at AIG is the most outrageous,” he said on ABC on Sunday.

Mr Summers has also said Americans are showing “too much fear” about the economy.

Ok, let me stop right there.  Larry Summers???  Populist???  Outraged over AIG getting bonus money from the bailout???  BWAHHAHAHA!!!!   Slap on the wrist for AIG!  Bad little bankers!   Americans showing too much fear?  So it’s now OUR FAULT we’re feeling fear?  BTW, China, it’s not our corrupt government giving banking conglomerates unlimited amounts of money that’s at fault, it’s our citizens freaking out over nothing!  Nothing to see here.

Earth to Larry Summers:  When you are at your job and 1/2 of the workers on your floor are suddenly asked to leave at the bat of an eye, wouldn’t you be afraid?   When you’ve scrimped and saved for retirement only to watch that 401K lose 10-15 years worth of investment, with businesses suddenly shutting down, industries coming to a screeching halt, wouldn’t you be afraid?   It’s like RD said this morning:  it’s financial terrorism.  And with oligarchal and misogynist assholes like Larry Summers (among the many in Obama’s cabinet), running this whole speculation game from his cushy office, betting on fear/hope and gambling away the future of America like a craps game in the Bellagio, I’m very frightened.  And there is nothing Larry or his puppet prince president can do or say anything to change that except saying the words “I RESIGN FROM OFFICE, EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY.”

Despite the control the financial sector has on the White House, Wall Street also controls the financial sanctity of our nation.  If all they need are inspiring words to invest and trade confidently for our nation to prosper, I hope that they can see these:

I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around [the banks] will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered. The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people, to whom it properly belongs.

  • Thomas Jefferson, (Attributed)
    3rd president of US (1743 – 1826)
  • Let Thomas Jefferson repeat that last part again:

    The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people, to whom it properly belongs.

    And with the 2 or 3 bailouts (I’ve lost count) – WE, THE PEOPLE, are the owners of these institutions.  We always had the power, it’s just that the perception buttons of hope/fear is what controls Wall Street and in turn, Wall Street controls our livelihoods and/or survival.

    And I’m f__cking tired of it.

    I was going to post Rage Against the Machine’s – “Killing in the Name,”  but for some reason the video’s not showing in the preview, so here it is.

    The financial machine  is killing the name of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  I don’t know what to do next, except the only thing people do when they’ve had enough.   Protest.

    PS:  To the Irish Conflucians, Happy St. Pat’s Day!

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