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    • Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – December 15, 2019
      Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – December 15, 2019 by Tony Wikrent Economics Action Group, North Carolina Democratic Party Progressive Caucus Strategic Political Economy The Economy of Evil [Historicly, via Naked Capitalism 12-11-19] Benito Mussolini became Prime Minister in October 1922. Nazis rose to power in 1933 in Germany. Mussolini convened a meetin […]
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When fooling “enough of the people, most of the time” stops working

There comes a point in every relationship when the oxytocin level starts to decline and the number of verbal inconsistencies increase to the point where the object of your affection is no longer the greatest thing since sliced bread.  When this happens, you can either reject or accept what you’ve got to work with and move on.  But one thing is for sure: the blinders are gone and it’s no use trying to put them back on again.

I reached that point back in the nineties when it comes to the news media.  After awhile, familiarity with its propaganda techniques bred contempt.  I was always an inconsistent student, something I have apparently passed onto my children.  But one thing I’ve always done well is analyze literature.  Add to that the experience that comes from reading tons of scientific papers and asking whether the authors proved their points and for me, the media lost its charm waaaaay too quickly.  It helps that like myiq, I wouldn’t drink the fundie juice and saw through the glazed eyed craziness of the religious right early in life. Anyway, you get the point.  Sadly, the honeymoon was over for me a long time ago.  The Clinton scandals never made much sense, I wasn’t surprised by 9/11 and the Iraq War was stupid at its inception.

That’s why I was a bit dismayed to read Paul Krugman’s piece yesterday about the Teabagger riots at various congressional rep appearances.  I love Paul Krugman.  He ranks right up there with Al Franken for me as one of those little flickering points of light that didn’t go out during the dark ages of the Bush administration.  Paul *mostly* sees what’s going on with the astroturfers and the birther nut jobs (no, don’t even go there.  I don’t care if Obama hasn’t answered all of your questions.  It’s a stupid, pointless, irrelevant distraction)  But he has a huge blind spot when it comes to the reason why the people who should be on Obama’s side are sitting it out.  I’m talking about people like us.  So. once again, I will try to spell it out for him.

We don’t support a man whose surrogates call lifelong advocates for civil rights and equality racists.  We don’t support a man who considers legitimate criticism of him racism.  We don’t appreciate the insinuation that because we don’t support Obama’s ill-conceived health care policy we might be racists.  To us, that doesn’t seem to be a very logical way to gain our support.  In fact, it hasn’t worked since Obama’s campaign rolled it out last year and it is still not working.  Really, Paul, don’t fall into this trap.  Not everyone who dislikes the way the Obama administration has handled things is a racist. Yes, there are plenty of people who are but there is a huge group of us out here who aren’t and never have been.  That peer pressure $#@% doesn’t work on those of us who know our own minds.

We’re not birthers.  Sorry, birthers, we don’t care about the birth certificate.  In fact, the birth certificate issue works brilliantly for both parties.  For the GOP, whipping up a frenzy about it helps them establish a new base of supporters.  For the Obama administration, keeping the issue alive makes its detractors look like irrational nutjobs.  Take this as a warning, former PUMAs: drop the birther thing before you lose all credibility.  You are not going to dislodge Obama with the birth certificate question.  For good or ill, he’s the president for the next four years.  Which brings me to my next point:

There is no divine law that says that Barack Obama is entitled to a second term.  We have had one term presidents before.  The last two were Jimmy Carter and George Bush I.  It can happen again.  And if Obama succeeds in redefining the American experience not forward but backwards to a new era of Robber Barons, I believe we still have just enough power to oust him.  It is up to the Democratic Party if it wants to risk this.  Sarah Palin could siphon away the part of the base that the Democrats left on the table during the 2008 primary season.  Palin could be the Republicans’ stealth weapon, even if she chose to run as an independent.  Keep it up Democrats and Obama will be a one term wonder. Which brings me to why we are different from the birthers and Palin supporters and GOP teabaggers.

We never bought the party unity thing.

Remember party unity?  Harold Ickes Jr. told the RBC hearing that what they were about to do was not in the interest of party unity.  Oh, you could engineer an illusion at the convention that everyone was behind Obama but that left a lot of Democrats deeply dissatisfied and feeling like they had no choice but to go along.  And so many of them did because the only alternative was another Republican president.

The reason that Obama’s health insurance reform policy is going down in flames with no support from his own party is because we don’t trust him.  We watched the way his campaign operated last year and we never bought the product. We saw how he allowed his supporters and the media to trash women.  We see that his wife has had to pretend to embrace a traditional female role to pacify the old white guys and snotty women who run the DC political press corps and punditry.  We saw how he lobbied for the first TARP bill without much concern for hapless homeowners.  We saw how he stuffed a sock into the mouths of single payer advocates during the public debate on the issue.  Even those of us who are open to plans other than single payer think they should have been at the table.

The Obama administration has a lot of nerve complaining about teabaggers now when they’ve eliminated a significant number of voices from the initial debate.  As for cries of “no fair with the astroturf!”, Obama’s team can hardly expect those of us who were bombarded by Axlerod’s campaign astroturf, destructive peer pressure, marketing and psychological manipulation techniques to have any sympathy whatsoever for it now.  It was only a matter of time before the media and GOP started to turn agains the Democrat.  Would that we had a President in the White House who had the character and intestinal fortitude to withstand it.  Karma’s a bitch.

We always said that if the Democrats decided to ditch us, half of its base, for Obama when they had an alternative who was winning in spite of intensely negative media coverage, that it was on its own.  The Obama Era began by squashing and insulting people.  It used unethical and in some cases possibly illegal tactics to get the nomination.  Obama and the Democrats erased everything it stood in order to get power last year and in the process cut out its most vital base. In fact, the Democrats in Congress have wasted a perfectly good opportunity to come out like gangbusters with a revolutionary new health care mandate that covers everyone, lowers costs and encourages real innovation by regulating the middle man.  It blew it.  Royally.

The Democratic party did not elect a leader.  His PR guys can keep saying it but it doesn’t make it true and more and more voters are starting to realize this.  Leadership is not the capacity to fool enough of the people, most of the time.  A leader has vision.  A leader has a philosophy.  A leader has courage to take on his or her opponents.  Obama is not a leader.  We knew this last year but the party forced him on us anyway.  Obama is good at one thing and one thing only: promoting Obama.  He can charm the pants off of people to promote him but he is incompetent in taking on the GOP message machine, the media and the entrenched establishment of neo-feudalists who can never get enough power. Obama made pacts with the devils in these power establishments.  But for what?  What did we, the voters, get for this exchange?  How did the voters benefit from Obama’s election and his subservience and obedience to the powers that got him into office?  There are quite a few bloggers who should be telling us what we got in exchange for this media darling.  I’m waiting.

But don’t blame us for seeing through him and standing back to watch the carnage between the GOP’s astroturf mobs and the Obama campaign’s astroturf mobs.  It is our prerogative to disagree with truly crappy finance industry and health “insurance” reform policies that don’t benefit voters. Without a major media outlet like a cable news station or a major newspaper like the Times, we have to hope that enough people read us and pass our site along as a refuge for rational, liberals whose minds are wide open but not so wide that our brains have fallen out.  When there are enough of us who are in agreement most of the time, then maybe we can turn this country around.

Let this be a lesson to the Democratic party.  If you decide to launch a war against your own side, don’t be surprised later if the refugees don’t regard you as liberators.  When it comes to Obama, we’re not stupid, Republican, birther or racists.  We’re just not that into him.

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Do the Republicans love their children too?


There is no monopoly in common sense
On either side of the political fence
We share the same biology
Regardless of ideology
Believe me when I say to you
I hope the Russians love their children too

I was raised to be a fundiegelical cold warrior, but I was born in 1960 and by the time I was coming of age the Vietnam War was over and the Cold War was winding down so I missed my chance to die gloriously in battle with the commies.

I grew up watching black & white John Wayne movies and television shows like “Combat” and “Twelve O’Clock High” where the good guys and the bad guys were easy to tell apart.  When I was in elementary school even the sitcoms were militaristic – we had “Gomer Pyle,” “McHale’s Navy” and “Hogan’s Heroes.”  Things got more complicated by the 70’s with shows like “MASH” and movies where the good guys weren’t so good and the bad guys weren’t so bad.

We lived in a medium-small town in a red-neck conservative area of central California (it’s still blue dog country) and attended a pentecostal church.  My church didn’t handle snakes or speak in tongues, but we thought the Baptists were having a little too much fun.  I began drifting away in my mid-teens and quit attending church completely when I was 17 year old.

All the men in my family joined the military so when I finished high school I enlisted in the army.  I was sent to Wurzburg, Germany where I was posted with an Air Defense Artillery unit (Hawk missiles) not far from the border with East Germany.  If you paid attention during the Gulf War and the invasion of Iraq you would know that ADA units are the first targets when the shooting starts.

I was still in the army when I cast my first vote for President, choosing Ronnie Raygun over my then-commander-in-chief.  I was honorably discharged, married and had two kids when I voted for him again in 1984, but with less enthusiasm.  By 1988 I was divorced with three kids and voting Democratic.

That 1985 song by Sting up above had something to do with my ideological change (but not my divorce.)  I had been trained to believe that the Soviets were evil, diabolical people who were determined to destroy the American Way of Life and impose godless communism on the world.  The song made me think of them as real people instead of as caricatures.

The reason I bring this up was this post by Deacon Blues at The Left Coaster:

David Sirota is only half-right when he suggests that the true face of the teabaggers and the anything-but-Main-Street mobs is a me-first, forget everyone else mentality of right wing victimhood.

I wish that’s all it was, because it’s also racism. What started as phony riots by Capitol Hill staffers masquerading as angry Floridians demanding the installation of George W. Bush during the recount debacle in 2000 has now become the standard tool by a fringe minority to undermine democracy. And that fringe has all one color, and doesn’t want or care to be part of a community with anyone who doesn’t look or sound like them, in a country led by a black man.

Deacon Blues captures the Democratic tribalist mindset perfectly.  If you are a loyal Democrat then you MUST believe that Republicans are evil, racist, sexist, homophobic, selfish, greedy, corrupt stupid, ignorant and insane haters who want to destroy the environment, melt the ice caps and blow up the world.  Democrats, of course, are virtuous saints whose only flaws are that they act timid and weak and keep falling for the Republicans’ “bipartisanship” routine.

From Arthur Silber’s Observations About Tribal Beliefs and Behavior:

ONE: To the degree that membership in a particular tribe or tribes is important to a person’s sense of identity, that person believes that his own tribe(s) is inherently and uniquely good. To the degree that tribal membership is a critical element of personal identity, all members of all tribes are convinced this is true of those tribes to which they belong.

TWO: Insofar as the tribe’s centrally defining characteristic(s) (race, religion, political beliefs, etc.) are concerned, all other tribes that differ with regard to these characteristics are necessarily inferior and wrong. This has an especially critical implication: at first with regard to these centrally defining characteristics, and inevitably in a more general sense, the individual members of all other tribes are necessarily inferior to and less worthy than the members of one’s own tribe(s).

Maybe I’m exaggerating a little bit, but ever since the Great Astroturf War of 2009 started you will have a hard time finding anyone on the front page of any lefty blogs besides this one suggesting that there are any redeeming qualities among the Tea Party crowd.  That’s nothing new, for years now it has been presumed in Left Blogistan that all Republicans are wrong about everything.

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Your Breakfast Read, Served By The Confluence

Politics

Didn’t the new leaders of the Democratic Party such as Markos Moulitsas, Arianna Huffington, John Aravosis, Josh Marshall pretty much request that the “vile” Clintons
be thrown out? What was it again? Anything Clinton was a “cancer” in the party. I think Josh Marshall said he “needed help” to understand why Hillary Clinton was being offer the SoS spot in the Obama administration.
The week when it all came together for the Clinton two-for-one package

It’s been 17 years since Bill and Hillary Clinton offered themselves up to American voters as a two-for-one package deal, and began adjusting notions of the role of the personal and the political in public life.

But in all those years – his scandals, her pillorying by the right, his jet-setting for the Clinton Global Initiative, her slog through smalltown America as a presidential candidate – it’s hard to think of a week when the partnership worked as expertly as it did in the rescue of two journalists from North Korea.

Dare I say “thank Goodness”? Bipartisanship is for suckers and in Washington DC, it’s not even worth a try. Where do you meet people whose mere raison d’être is to torpedo whatever you want to do?
Dream of D.C. bipartisanship shrivels

Hopes for a bipartisan approach to solving the nation’s ills, a goal President Obama made a core element of his “change’’ election campaign pitch, have virtually evaporated as party-line feuding and harsh exchanges between political leaders overshadow their earlier efforts to work together.

Do Americans agree with town hall protesters on healthcare?

The biggest obstacle to passage of the healthcare reform plans now moving through Congress may not be the placard-waving protesters who are disrupting some lawmakers’ town hall meetings. Instead, it could be public opinion writ large – which appears to be soft on health reform efforts, and getting softer.

Washington, D.C. takes Al Franken by storm

Franken typically shows up at the office between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. and sometimes doesn’t leave until 9 p.m. “He eats most of his meals in the office,” McIntosh says — lots of Thai takeout and food from the Senate cafe. He’s been so busy, the only neighborhood restaurant he’s been able to try, so far, is the White Tiger, an Indian restaurant on Capitol Hill.

Why are so many Republicans leaving the Senate: Jim Bunning, Kay Bailey Hutchison and now Mel Martinez (Is he a serial resigner or what?). This latest resignation makes thing interesting in FL: Is Charly Crist going to appoint himself or is he going to appoint someone who could get a great start, thus smashing Crist’s own hopes of becoming a Senator? You think he’s looking for Roland Burris in FL?
Mel Martinez surprises with resignation

Crist told the Associated Press that he will not be appointing himself to the vacancy and, instead, is expected to appoint a placeholder to fill the seat through the 2010 election.

Another great analysis from Rupert Cornwell
Barack Obama: From icon to mortal

Every would-be occupant of the White House campaigns for office vowing “to change the way Washington works”, but Mr Obama’s remarkable life story and stunning political ascent seemed to make that promise credible. In reality, however, the dazzle of a new dawn is fading, obscured by the quiet fog of business as usual – of a political system in which lobbyists and special interests as ever reign supreme.


Economy Watch

Surprisingly strong jobs data signal turning point

In the clearest sign yet that the recession is ending, layoffs slowed dramatically in July, the jobless rate dipped for the first time in 15 months and workers’ hours and pay edged upward.

Those are the kind of figures that could give Americans the psychological boost necessary for recovery to take root after the worst recession since World War II.

Things are looking better but let’s not open the champagne bottles yet.
Amid Optimism, Woes Persist

For all the optimism in Washington and on Wall Street — President Obama said the economy is “pointed in the right direction,” and the stock market rose 1.3 percent — some details in the report show that the labor market remains weak. The stabilization in the economy is not rippling through to ordinary American workers. Economists generally expect the unemployment rate to resume its rise in the coming months, ultimately reaching or surpassing 10 percent.

Cash for Clunkers is popular, but is it truly a US stimulus?

With an additional $2 billion in funding, the “Cash for Clunkers” program has a new lease on life until Labor Day. But it’s not clear if Clunkers, the sequel, will show the same robust results that the program did in its first week, quickly running through the $1 billion that was supposed to last until November.

The biggest wild card is whether US automakers will step up production to meet new demand, as the White House and congressional Democrats say they expect. So far, none of the Big Three – General Motors, Ford, or Chrysler – has committed to ratcheting up production levels or new hiring.


Around The Nation

Freedom fighters for me, terrorists for thee: The Great Astroturf war of 2009.
The subject has been discussed ad nauseum and the picture has become blurry. By my observations, we started with people whose only aim was to bring healthcare townhalls to a halt and not let even let a discussion of the issue. They complained about “socialized medicine”, “government takeover of healthcare”, “rationed care”, not wanting government “away from medicare” and all other well known right-wing bromides. Nevertheless, there were those genuinely unhappy about many things in their midst. Later, the “other’ side joined the fun and things became completely muddled.

As always, Tobin Harshaw of the NY Times Opinionator does a spectacular job in perusing the web and gathering opinion and analysis, including that of our own “Petulant Clown”:
Weekend Opinionator: A Sick Debate

And myiq2xu of the Confluence tries to get both sides of the story: “Apparently the people who were standing outside in line got upset when they discovered that SEIU members were being admitted through a side door. Depending on who you believe the SEIU people were there to set up or they had reserved seats down front.”

(By the way, why is The Confluence all over the NY Times and Memeorandum these days? Dakinikat, anything you want to confess?)

There’s not only the Great Astroturf war going on this summer. The latest on Keith-The-Plumber vs Falafel Bill.
At Fox and MSNBC, Hosts Refire the Insult Machines

The two cable news channels temporarily resumed their long-running feud this week after The New York Times reported that their parent companies, General Electric and the News Corporation, had struck a deal to stop each other’s televised personal attacks.

Can this story get anymore bizarre?
Michael Jackson’s brain returned to family

Michael Jackson’s brain has been returned to the family of the late pop star in a move that could soon see him finally laid to rest, it emerged on Friday night.

Let’s face it: There’s something seriously wrong when your spouse publicly announces that he’s going the spent some time trying to fall in love with you and that he can die now, knowing he found his soulmate elsewhere.
Embattled S.C. Governor Sanford, Wife Are Splitting Up

Jenny Sanford, the wife of South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, announced Friday morning that she and their sons will leave the governor’s mansion in Columbia and settle in the Charleston area, a split that comes after the couple tried for seven weeks to mend their marriage.


Op-ed Columns

In Africa, Hillary Clinton is off to a good start (LA Times Editorial)

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s seven-nation tour of Africa reaffirms the administration’s pledge to keep the long-neglected continent in its sights. On her first stops in Kenya and South Africa this week, Clinton stuck with the message of tough love that President Obama delivered in Ghana last month, balancing trade and development talk with the need to confront lawlessness and impunity. It’s a good beginning to an Africa policy still in the making.

I don’t know who this Alan Philips is, but can we pass a law forbidding so much dumbness? How can one single column be so insane? This guy clearly needs help, lots of it.
Will the Clintons Wreck Obama’s Diplomacy?

There is no more fascinating subject than other people’s marriages. And when the spouses are the former president of the United States and the world’s most powerful woman, our prurience is licensed by public interest.

Bob Herbert is usually a below-average columnist but sometimes he does good work.
Women at Risk

We have become so accustomed to living in a society saturated with misogyny that the barbaric treatment of women and girls has come to be more or less expected.


Around The World

Some pictures of Madam Secretary in Kenia
Hillary Clinton Visits Africa

Hillary Clinton Boogies Down In Africa

The End of Al Qaeda?

If Baitullah Mehsud, the Pakistani Taliban’s most dangerous and powerful leader, was indeed killed by a U.S. Predator drone strike earlier this week, the biggest loser of all may be Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda. For the past eight years, the group had depended on Mehsud, his close allies, and other sympathetic tribals to protect it in South Waziristan after its previous host, Mullah Mohammed Omar, was chased from Afghanistan by American bombs in late 2001. With Mehsud gone, Al Qaeda could be in trouble.

Huh?
Taliban claim Baitullah Mehsud still alive

A fellow commander in the Pakistani Taliban insisted that Baitullah Mehsud, the movement’s leader, was alive, the BBC reported on Saturday, rejecting government claims he had been eliminated in a US drone strike.

Colombia’s new cocaine deal with America threatens to divide a continent

It is the cocaine deal that threatens to divide a continent. President Uribe of Colombia has brought stability to his country by crushing the Farc guerrilla movement, but much of his drug eradication effort has been a failure.

Woes of a windfall

Luck, corruption and greed shape China


Odds & Ends

Berlin’s upcoming love story
Lonely No More: Knut Awaiting Italian Female Companionship

Germany’s furry superstar, Knut, is about to share the spotlight — and his home at Berlin Zoo — with an Italian female polar bear named Gianna. But will love blossom between the lonesome bachelor and his new bella ragazza?

Interview of the week.
Lunch with the FT: Jared Diamond

Jared Diamond is the guru of collapse. Collapse is the title of one of the books that have made him a world-famous academic. It is a theme that captures the Zeitgeist: markets have collapsed, banks have collapsed and confidence, even in the capitalist system itself, has collapsed

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