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    • Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – November 27, 2022
      Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – November 27, 2022 by Tony Wikrent Strategic Political Economy   8 billion and counting [ABC, via The Big Picture 11-22-2022] This week, the world’s population ticks over a historic milestone. But in the next century, society will be reshaped dramatically — and soon we’ll hit a decline we’ll never reverse   The incredible s […]
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Conflucians Say: What do we want? Accountability! When do we want it? LAST SUMMER!

I was perusing the NYTimes this morning, because I do happen to believe that news is what they do best, (when they’re not the tools of someone who is trying to manipulate the public), when I ran across this little tidbit: Bloggers and Unions Join Forces to Push Democrats to the Left.  That’s interesting, thought I.  They must be talking about us, People United Mean Action and Party Unity My Ass bloggers who tried to get the country’s attention last year after the RBC meeting.  You know, the unParty that wrote the book on PUMA Power and how it was really important to try to get the Democratic Party’s attention *before the nomination* because afterwards, they don’t have to listen to you?  Wow!  What an opportunity for bloggers to join up with the unions and really shake things up!  I mean, we have credibility for seeing Obama and the Democrats as they really are. Our predictions were deadly accurate where Obama was concerned.  Surely, SURELY, we now have the recognition we deserve.

Alas, it is not to be:

Ms. Hamsher said Accountability Now — which will also have support from the Service Employees International Union, one of the nation’s largest service sector unions, and the Web site DailyKos.com — would concentrate more fully on candidate recruitment on a statewide level.

“We’ve gone out to the state blogs asking them to put together research on people who they think are good candidates who should be on our radar,” she said. “We’re not just parachuting in.”

{{Snort!}} DailyKos?  I’m sorry but weren’t they swimming in Kool-ade just last week?  The problem with the big orange cheeto is that the people who hang out there now are incredibly vulnerable to suggestion.  They don’t stand a chance against the Axlerod trained psych infiltrators who derail them with remarkable alacrity.

As for Jane Hamsher and Glenn Greenwald, I used to admire them both.  But I was so disappointed to see how thoroughly they bought into the Obama mystique and how nasty they were to Palin.  They wasted a lot of energy on distraction when they should have kept their eyes on the ball and Obama’s feet to the fire.  It didn’t help that they treated the “old coalition” like red-headed stepchildren.  Oh, that’s right.  We were racists because we refused to recognize the divinity of Jesus Christ Obama.

Accountability now or Better Late Than Never?

Stay tuned for Conflucians Say tonight at 10PM EST when we discuss Accountability Now, books with good moments but bad quarters of an hour and acquaintances who don’t know when to stop digging.  It’s on PUMA United Radio!  (PURrrr)


Self-Pity Party


San Francisco Chronicle columnist Debra J. Saunders, writing on the demise of the dead tree news business:

As for those who only read their news online, here’s a news flash: News stories do not sprout up like Jack’s bean stalk on the Internet. To produce news, you need professionals who understand the standards needed to research, report and write on what happened. If newspapers die, reliable information dries up.

Reduced ad revenue and falling newspaper circulation mean that there will be fewer people to cover the same number of stories. In the middle of an economic crisis and President Obama’s federal spending bonanza, there will be fewer watchdogs to guard the shop.


Newspapers are the public’s referees as to which information is credible. You can go online and read no end of fiction and smear about public figures. But when you read content in a newspaper, you consistently can rely on it.

As every conservative pundit knows, there is a special credibility that comes with being able to say, “as the New York Times reported,” or “as the Washington Post reported.” Even “as The Chronicle reported.”

“Special credibility?”  Bwahahahahaha! 

The credibility of the print media is “special” alright, but not in the way Saunders means.  Ask Vicki Iseman about the special credibility of the New York Times.  But don’t ask Jayson Blair or Judith Miller.

I’ve been reading the Chron since I was a kid, and its glory days are long since past.  A few years ago the paper was purchased by Hearst Communications:

 Hearst Communications, Inc. is a privately-held American-based media conglomerate based in the Hearst Tower in New York City, USA. Founded by William Randolph Hearst as an owner of newspapers, the company’s holdings now include a wide variety of media. The Hearst family is involved in the ownership and management of the company.

Hearst is one of the largest diversified communications companies in the world. Its major interests include 16 daily and 49 weekly newspapers, including the Houston Chronicle, San Francisco Chronicle and Albany Times Union; as well as interests in an additional 43 daily and 72 non-daily newspapers owned by MediaNews Group, which include the Denver Post and Salt Lake Tribune; nearly 200 magazines around the world, including Cosmopolitan and O, The Oprah Magazine; 28 television stations through Hearst-Argyle Television which reach a combined 18% of U.S. viewers; ownership in leading cable networks, including Lifetime Television, A&E Television Networks, The History Channel and ESPN; as well as business publishing, Internet businesses, television production, newspaper features distribution and real estate.

William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer (as in “Pulitzer Prize”) are responsible for the term “yellow journalism” which is sleazy, sensationalistic news reporting.  I think those two men would fit right in with today’s news media.  According to Wikipedia:

As Martin Lee and Norman Solomon noted in their 1990 book Unreliable Sources, Hearst “routinely invented sensational stories, faked interviews, ran phony pictures and distorted real events.”

Hearst’s use of “yellow journalism” techniques in his New York Journalto whip up popular support for U.S. military adventurism in Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines in 1898 was also criticized in Upton Sinclair’s 1919 book, The Brass Check: A Study of American Journalism. According to Sinclair, Hearst’s newspaper employees were “willing by deliberate and shameful lies, made out of whole cloth, to stir nations to enmity and drive them to murderous war.” Sinclair also asserted that in the early 20th century Hearst’s newspapers lied “remorselessly about radicals,” excluded “the word Socialist from their columns” and obeyed “a standing order in all Hearst offices that American Socialism shall never be mentioned favorably.” In addition, Sinclair charged that Hearst’s “Universal News Bureau” re-wrote the news of the London morning papers in the Hearst office in New York and then fraudulently sent it out to American afternoon newspapers under the by-lines of imaginary names of non-existent “Hearst correspondents” in London, Paris, Venice, Rome, Berlin, etc.

The idea that we need newspapers to be watchdogs is based on the false premise that up until now they have been guarding the public henhouse.  The reality is they have been acting as look-outs for the foxes and biting the hands that feed them.  If you don’t believe me, just ask Bob Somerby.

It seems to me that the decline of ethics and quality in news reporting (all media) coincides with the consolidation of the news media and its acquisition by the corporatists.  Newspapers are “subsidiaries” of media conglomerates and the media conglomerates are either owned outright or incestuously involved with major corporations.

As the media and the political class have become increasingly dependent upon wealthy corporatists they have become less concerned with the best interests of the rest of us.  Since the media doesn’t care about what happens to us, why should we care about what happens to them?

3 Cups of Tea, The Confluence Book Club Selection

Riverdaughter wrote a lovely piece, “Saturday: A little thing for the girls,” about a group of Afghani girls who were attacked on their way to school:

The principal of the school, Qaderi, has been partially successful in getting the 1500 female students to return to class by promising them transportation and security. So far, the students have returned but the buses and protection haven’t materialized and Qaderi is getting worried.

The Bushies made Afghanistan promises they did not intend to keep. Like many other projects the Bushies took up, they did a half assed job and left the locals fend for themselves. The world is full of hurts and injustices and the United States is just now starting to feel what that is going to be like with the deepening recession. But we are incredibly lucky that if an American girl wants to attend school. even if that school eventually ignores her and gives her a substandard education compared to boys, she has the means to get to its stingy-assed doors in one piece.

Sexism costs. In Afghanistan, it has been very costly as the years of the Taliban has reduced half of the population to a state of illiteracy. If we ever hope to have a stable, prosperous Afghanistan, where reason and education trump superstition and anachronistic tradition, it will require a literate population and the education of girls is critical to this goal.

Her post reminded me of something I’d heard about the book, 3 Cups of Tea and I thought it might be nice to build on the theme by reading the book as one of our book club selections.  I should have known better than to commit to a book I hadn’t read myself. . .

The first disappointment was that Mortenson didn’t write it (unless it’s “as told by”) there’s a co-author and the “voice” is his. The book reads as if the two guys had a series of conversations that were all transcribed (maybe in shorthand) on 3×5 cards. And then the 3×5 cards were written-up into a book. It’s not that those bits-of-stories are boring – it’s that they come out of nowhere and hang there by themselves. Here’s an example:

Mortenson had been invited to dozens of weddings since he’d first arrived in Pakistan. The details of Balti nuptials varied from village to village, but the central feature of each ceremony he’d witnessed remained much the same – the anguish of the bride at leaving her family forever.

“Usually at a wedding, there’s a solemn point when you’ll see the bride and her mother clinging to each other, crying,” Mortenson says. “The groom’s father piles up sacks of flour and bags of sugar, and promises of goats and rams, while the bride’s father folds his arms and turns his back, demanding more. When he considers the price fair, he turns around and nods. Then all hell breaks loose. I’ve seen men in the groom’s family literally trying to pry the bride and her mother apart with all their strength, while the women scream and wail. If a bride leaves an isolated village like Korphe, she knows she may never see her family again.”

The next morning, Mortenson found a precious boiled egg on his plate, next to his usual breakfast of chapatti and lassi. ….

In the sample above we jump from the violent emotions of the Balti wedding to a change in the routine of Mortenson’s breakfast.  I don’t know about you but, I couldn’t care less about Mortenson’s breakfast.  I want to know more about those weddings — more about the parents who sell their daughters for live stock.   And what Mortenson thinks about that.  Filtering the stories through the voice of co-author David Oliver Relin strips the story of all passion  — and therefore interest.

Well, that sample was on page 141 and it’s the first sign that Mortenson had any sort of social life during his visits. And it’s the first time since the opening chapters (describing his failed attempt to climb to the K2 summit) that the story came alive. The rest of the time it’s like reading something published by Reader’s Digest.

How did this book become a best seller?

Don’t get me wrong — my expectations of a best seller aren’t that high.  I’m not confusing the success of a book with the quality of that book. I stuck with The Thorn Birds even though it was clearly just a rough draft.  I flew through Jurassic Park even though there were virtually no human characters of note.  I even slogged through The Da Vinci Code, just to prove I could do it. But, I’m stuck on page 141 of this one thinking — I just don’t care about this book.

And that’s a real let down.  Because I think that somewhere in that stack of 3×5 cards there was a good story.



From the Orange County Register:

LOS ALAMITOS – The mayor has sent an apology for an e-mail sent to a local businesswoman and community volunteer that she says is racist and offensive.

Keyanus Price, an African American, said she was appalled when she received an e-mail from Mayor Dean Grose’s personal account that showed a picture of the White House with a watermelon patch imposed as the White House garden.


Grose’s e-mail included the picture with a heading that read, “No Easter Egg hunt this year.”

Orange County in Southern California is home to Disneyland, which might explain why the Los Alamitos mayor is goofy.

Grose should resign immediately, and if he doesn’t then the residents of Los Alamitos should initiate a recall.  This wasn’t ambiguous or a a matter of perception, there isn’t any non-racist interpretation or explanation for what he did.


Thursday: Geithner channels Alfred E. Newman

Tim Geithner takes optimism to the next level

Tim Geithner takes optimism to the next level

I’m plugging Planet Money again today.  I simply *love* these guys.  Their podcasts reveal as much about the bizarre atmosphere surrounding the economic meltdown as the situation itself and its major players.  Gee, I hope they continue to get the high level guests after this last episode with Tim Geithner.  As I said before, Planet Money doesn’t seem to be into propaganda but they are keen observers.

So, Tim Geithner gives Planet Money an interview and he brings along a press aide.  As the producer mentions, during parts of the interview, you can hear the aide whispering to Geithner while he speaks as she keeps him relentlessly on message.  Too funny.  Or disturbing, because what Geithner says about “stress tests” makes you wonder- why bother?  According to Geithner, the government will begin to stress test several banks with the worst case scenarios.  They’re going to be tough and thorough, you betcha.  And if the stress test shows that the bank is troubled, we’re going to rescue them so they stay in private hands.  Even iffen they don’t need a lot of rescue, we’re going to rescue them so they stay in private hands.  Whatever the outcome, we’re going to save them- for the private sector, so don’t you worry your pretty little taxpayer heads because the banks will stay in private hands.  Of that, you can be sure, bynettyjingo!

What if the stress test shows the banks need to be nationalized?

We will save them for private hands!

The message seems to be pretty unambiguous:  No matter what the stress test reveals, the banks shall remain private.  This is meant to be reassuring to us, the taxpayers but if I were a banker, I’d be *doubly* reassured.  In fact, I might just ease up on the xanax and take a mini vacation to someplace warm.

It’s all going to be just fine.

If it weren’t for Paul Krugman always trying to harsh Geithner’s mellow.  Paul quotes Adam Posen about Japan again.  Says Posen:

Pretending that distressed assets are worth more than they actually are today for regulatory purposes persuades no one besides the regulators, and just gives the banks more taxpayer money to spend down, and more time to impose a credit crunch.

These kind of half-measures to keep banks open rather than disciplined are precisely what the Japanese Ministry of Finance engaged in from their bubble’s burst in 1992 through to 1998 …

What a frickin’ crepe hanger.

In the meantime, the banks will take our money and get back to us on it someday in the future.