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Updated: 2016-09-08T00:25:03.060-04:00


inverted totalitarianism


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machiavelli the democrat


For a profoundly revisionist take on the Florentine listen to this "Occupy interview" with John P. McCormick, Professor of Political Science from U Chicago, and author of Machiavellian Democracy. You can also read McCormick's brief article, "Defending the People from the Professors," which not only departs from the the Machiavellis of old, ( Straussians, neo-Republicans, and those who McCormick refers to as "self-proclaimed radicals,") but presents a Machiavelli for "democrats" for "theoretical insight, institutional inspiration, and spiritual fortification." 



From NYTimes comes
Here’s a fact that may not surprise you: the children of the rich perform better in school, on average, than children from middle-class or poor families. Students growing up in richer families have better grades and higher standardized test scores, on average, than poorer students; they also have higher rates of participation in extracurricular activities and school leadership positions, higher graduation rates and higher rates of college enrollment and completion.
Meanwhile, not only are the children of the rich doing better in school than even the children of the middle class, but the changing economy means that school success is increasingly necessary to future economic success, a worrisome mutual reinforcement of trends that is making our society more socially and economically immobile.

Read all about it here

fucking animals


Over at L'Hôte we are reminded of the brute realities leading up to the 2003 Iraqi War. Not the marginalization and trivialization of dissent but something even more hideous.   You know, I'm reading all of the Iraq mea culpas, some good, some bad. But they are all systematically ignoring one of the most obvious and salient aspects of the run up to the war: the incredible power of personal resentment against antiwar people, or what antiwar people were perceived to be. As someone who was involved in day-to-day antiwar activism at the time, the visceral hatred of those opposing the war, and particularly the activists, was impossible to miss. It wasn't opposition. It wasn't disagreement. It was pure, irrational hatred, frequently devolving into accusations of antiwar activists being effectively part of the enemy. Yet for as visible and important as this distaste was for the debate, it's missing from the postmortems. Why?And if you're wondering if any of the hatred has abated just ask yourself if you remember any person in more recent times ever voicing absolute disgust, displaying direct anger even, as a reaction to the words "Occupy Wall Street." Or if you know of anyone who still displays an ever-so-thinly-disguised loathing for even a mention of supporting or organizing some obscure "lefty" activist cause, whether it be to Breakup The Banks, or to dissent with argue for a vote against the two-party system, or to End The War. Its still out there. People haven't gotten over it. [...]

bear the burden


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ready to smile


The next time you think all the shiny happiness around you was just an outright conspiracy, consider this from Timothy Noah, writing in The New Republic:

Pret A Manger—a London-based chain that has spread over the past decade to the East Coast and Chicago—is at the cutting edge of what the Berkeley sociologist Arlie Hochschild calls "emotional labor." Emotional because the worker doesn't create or even necessarily sell a product or service so much as make the customer experience a positive feeling. Labor because, as Hochschild wrote in The Managed Heart (1983), the worker must "induce or suppress [his or her own] feeling" to achieve the desired effect in others. Creepy as it sounds, emotional labor is a growing presence in this economy, coming soon to a fast-food outlet near you....

Such "enforced happiness" is hardly surprising - nor even new - especially in our neoliberal Age of Self-Management, as Noah concedes. But it is increasing. Quell surprise! And at Pret A Manger, it all goes down by the rather ordinary means of training programs and company surveillance: employees know that a "mystery shopper" will enter the store once a week to observe them and, of course, reward or penalize appropriately on the quality of the service received thus effectively turning workers into onsite "enthusiasm cops."  Pret workers are thus expected to learn what the company calls "Pret Behaviours" which include not just efficiency and courtesy but "presence" and a "sense of fun."

The term "affective labor" is usually applied to various low-wage service sector jobs. But as a management technique it seems especially well-suited for "middle-class" clientele, like at Starbucks, a cheap French sounding fast food chain, or some other "lower cost-version" of what The Well-To-Do enjoy. 

Perhaps just as disturbing, as Noah slips in laconically as an aside: "The emotional economy is among other things, terrible news for men, who (unlike women) are not taught from birth how to make other people happy. Perhaps that explains why men are losing ground in the service economy." What? And "terrible news for men?" Has Noah here been taken in by the "post-feminist rallying cry" of Hanna Rosin? 

escaping to higher ground


From The Guardian
Future generations of Americans can expect to spend 25 days a year sweltering in temperatures above 100°F (38C), with climate change on course to turn the country into a hotter, drier, and more disaster-prone place.
The article cites a report done by the National Climate Assessment, (NCA) which is considered to be "the most ambitious scientific exercise ever undertaken to catalog the real-time effects of climate change, and predict possible outcomes in the future." And, as you can probably imagine, it cites some pretty alarming statistics: 
  • 2012 was "by far" the warmest year on record, an "off the charts increase" from previous records.
  • Average US temperatures have increased about %1.5° F since 1895. More than 80% of that increase has occurred since 1980.
  • There are little, if any, geographical distinctions. "No place in America ha(s) gone untouched by climate change. Nowhere would be entirely immune from the effects of future climate change."
  • And finally, quoting directly from the NCA study: "Beyond the next few decades, the amount of climate change will still largely be determined by the choices society makes about emissions. Lower emissions mean less future warming and less severe impacts. Higher emissions would mean more warming and more severe impacts."   
Though the article is not especially focused on any particular political dimension, it does mention that the NCA was created with the intent "to guide federal, state and city governments in America in making long-term plans," while adding, the course taken so far by President Obama regarding CFCs has, quoting from the report, "not been close to sufficient."

And Hear! Hear! The news coming from NY TImes is especially disconcerting. 

sound the alarm


One thing I've noticed from arguing absolutely blue in the face with really intelligent and well-informed middle-class liberals is their pretension to reasonableness and rationality. Of course, they also pathologically load their arguments with non sequiturs, hyperbole, and, (who can forget?,) all those oh-so-hushed tones of moral outrage. But, even at their best, you know, even when they follow arguments to their logical conclusion, and they do all the requisite "fact checking," they always end up clinging to the "incremental" securities and sensibilities of their "pragmatic" and "progressive" (read: craven and pompous) politics. And that's a fucking problem! So even when you call them out on the flabby presumption they categorically make when arguing in the spirit of lesser-evilism and Compromise that the country is at least on the better track 'cuz the Democrats are winning elections and stuff, and that it will take time, they will never accept how intellectually and morally bankrupt that presumption - as well as the ostensibly acceptable options their phony Realpolitick has dictated for you - truly is. The world is not headed in the right direction! But they'll never get around to sounding that fucking alarm! They have their elections, their Congress people, their micro-politics, their petitions, and their alibi, i.e., those evil, obstructionist Republicans, and so they'll easily forgo more structural and comprehensive political criticisms. They will absolutely never think to use political language to reshape context; they'll never consider tapping into the hopes, dreams, and fears of ordinary people, much less indict the minimalist framework charted out for them by the bipartisan lock on political discourse. They'll never understand how urgent it is that we shed the banality of DC bubble-talk to fight for ideals that have been lost. And so, they'll never really win 'cuz they'll never really risk losing. I've been thumbing the pages of my Eichmann in Jerusalem lately, and always come back to the usual passages of "thoughtlessness," "lack of imagination," or where Arendt described those who "commit (their) crimes under circumstances that make it well-nigh impossible for (them) to know or to feel that (they) are doing wrong." (Penguin paperback, Revised and Enlarged Edition, p. 276) All of which makes me wonder: so much lesser evilism = compromise with evil = the banality of evil albeit in a newer form?This passage from L'Hôte, says alot of what I've been thinking:   Nowadays I'm as likely to evaluate people based on their language as anything else: what percentage of their statements of principle come before the word "but"? "I don't like drone strikes, but..." "I don't like that Obama put social security and Medicare in play, but..." "I don't like that the administration has been aggressively going after medical marijuana dispensaries, but..." Last night, when I reflected on the people I've been fighting with, it occurred to me that I couldn't recall the last time they expressed a moral principle that wasn't just a setup for an argument for why it had to be violated. Yes, I know, it's an imperfect world. But at some point, if you want to claim a principle, you actually have to stand for it itself, and not use it as a chip to be traded on, to be given away. Surely the fact that everyone must sometimes compromise is not an argument that every compromise is principled, or benevolent, or fair. I have asked my various antagonists many times, and in as specific and frank a way as I know how: where is the limit? What is the boundary beyond which you will not compromise? I've never received any answers.Married to the notion that you must compromise your beliefs in the pursuit of partisan politics or else be worthless is the proud acknowledgment that partisan politics will likel[...]



After a few hours, during the first night the lights went out, it became increasingly difficult - impossible even - to stay indoors huddled around candles, eating dried guava. So minus a flashlight I ventured out my front door, and walked slowly down my block to the corner in utter darkness. At the risk of resorting to the most available cliche, the experience was, at least for me, nothing short of apocalyptic. Not only were the streets pitch black. The wind continued to howl. The rain gently fell. And it was incredibly silent. There were a few other stragglers out, a number of them with cameras on top of tripods, aided only by the flashing red lights of cop cars that occasionally passed. Knowing, of course, how words fail to describe the experience of the fallout from Hurricane Sandra, at least as I humbly experienced it, (i.e., no loss,) its easy to understand why someone would be brave enough to go out taking pictures in the darkness. I just had to go out and experience it for myself. What I remember most vividly that first night was seeing shopkeepers on guard in my West Village neighborhood from behind their shop windows looking out for looters. As they silently watched me walk down the middle of Bleeker Street I felt something I hadn't felt in a long time: that it was ok to love my city again. It was jolted back, helplessly, to some primitive makeshift of humanity. I swelled with tears. I also knew I couldn't leave by going uptown to stay with friends where city lights blazed on in full, albeit normal, glory. I didn't want to lose or let go of the fear. But my anger and contempt for this beloved city would shortly return. As I write, (now after a full day and a half of having electricity restored,) there are still countless others in the Rockaways and Staten Island who not only still lack power but are having to endure hunger, looting, cold, and probably worse. There have been some informal reports via email and Facebook attesting that various forms of aid is finally arriving, (after nearly a goddamn fucking week!,) including The National Guard, FEMA, Occupy Sandy & a legion of other charitable souls. But I am still astounded at the lack of outrage - especially during the homestretch of a Presidential race - over the delay! "When are we gonna get some f%@#ing help?" as one resident from the Rockaways put it to the Mayor. Or as another more mainstream source explained more generally of the Rockaways: "Residents said they had not heard from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, nor have they seen a single representative of the Red Cross or the city." And so, the public infrastructure would fail us once again - this time only more flagrantly. Is this only a more banal occasion of Disaster Capitalism? A "mini-Katrina," as one local representative put it. According to another assessment: "The crisis in the Rockaways remains severe, and it's looking less and less like a natural disaster and more and more like a failure of the state."While it was clear from the first night after Sandy hit that NYPD would never be far from sight, as it drove by in cars or idly stood by on street corners, Herr Kelly and Moneybag$ Bloomberger couldn't seem to muster the forces to even start directing traffic in any coordinated sense with red flairs and those yellow reflecting jackets.... until Thursday!People were starting to grow impatient but they still remained remarkably calm. But how long would it last? Price gouging by local merchants was pretty rampant, whether it be with batteries, egg sandwiches, or cauliflower. A few were nice enough to allow me to charge my cell whenever I had the energy to schlep to midtown for bananas, pasta, and drink. I repaid the favor with a purchase and change. Something similar has been said of a particular Chase Bank branch as well of the W Hotel on U[...]

shorter presidential debates...and just as tedious


The business and power of the state take place not in representational assemblies - and certainly not in the vapid spectacles of partisan pandering - but in the deeper and more encompassing structures of state bureaucracies, (i.e., public and private,) which imbricate one another - and dictate the conditions of who you vote for and how you live your little life.      

The exercise of this kind of power is not even acknowledged because on a very fundamental level it presents no overt conflict to behold. Just like in a magnetic field which alters the motion and positions of objects susceptible to magnetism, powerful forces dominate from the periphery, from unseen or unknown coordinates, by simply structuring the very parameters of the field of operations as well as the rules of engagement and the possibilities for direction and movement. Of course, albeit these powers easily do away with more unpredictable irritating factors from appearing altogether, conflict still appears - if one chooses to call it that - but only within the acceptable confines of engagement. Contests, like official Debates, are thus dramatized to heighten differences, and hide unspoken accords and presumptions. "Coke vs Pepsi," for example, effectively distracts you from how similar their ingredients are. And elections are staged precisely to feed you bullshit & make you stupid by inflating and twisting your mind while garnering the halo of legitimacy.

Of course, to avoid boredom most of us end up drinking some form of kool-aid anyway. Moreover, our suspension of disbelief enables us to exaggerate the differences between the actors, and take sides. We even try to push and pull in some directions against or at the expense of others. We even sometimes even place bets or look to influence the field in some banal, trivial way. But we can't. Those few however who are capable of coordinating the field given their institutional positioning and financial clout don't like being bored either - and so they do some bidding bidding of their own. And so it goes.

when Hope & Change become We'll Take Anything We Can Get


What good is Barack Obama if he is indeed another inside man for the corporate plutocracy? What good is winning the election if all that Hope and Changey stuff was frankly bullshit? More importantly, what are the deeper implications of Hope and Change transmogrifying into We'll Take Anything We Can Get?  Despite campaigning in 2008, and now in 2012 it appears, as an "outsider," who tells millions "you can't change Washington from the inside," Obama has governed from the Oval Office as The Consummate Insider. (All of which prompted a very funny segment from The Daily Show.) But what really gets my goat going is when liberals shoot back with the predictable excuse, "he had no choice because of those stupid, evil republicans!," as if they know that Obama, somewhere deep-down in his soul, is really a progressive, and not a soulless neoliberal apparatchik. Yet do they have any EVIDENCE, (besides that secret plot he's got going against Rahm Emanuel & the banksters,) that Obama would govern as a liberal-progressive, you know, if it wasnt for all that realpolitick jazz? Do they have EVIDENCE that Obama is not the blue-dog he says he is? Any EVIDENCE that he plans - or even hopes - to replenish Social Security and Medicare after they're cut, or bring back labor unions after they get decimated, or bring back Habeas Corpus, or Keynesian economics, or undo climate change, or give back to citizens the civil liberties he and the Republicans have taken away, you know, once he has enough power to do so?  Perhaps the most important accomplishment of Obama's Presidency, (besides extending Bush's Patriot Act; voting for FISA; extending Bush tax-cuts; taking upon himself the sole authority to kidnap or kill any American citizen without due process; appealing a court ruling on NDAA; using drones to kill innocent Muslims without being transparent about it, and approving the use of drones over domestic air-space for commercial and state purposes; failing in Copenhagen; kissing the ass of Wall St. bankers; cracking down on unions and working people; presiding over greater gaps of inequality than his predecessor; undermining attempts to better integrate public schools; invading foreign countries illegally despite being a Constitutional lawyer; buying into the Austerity racket and  sending signals that, like his Republican partners in crime, will actually cut Social Security & Medicare; and moving the party to the right of both Reagan and Nixon) has been to pour cold water on his supporters, aka his "base," while simultaneously convince them that he, really deep-down in his soul, is a pwogwessive... whatever his accomplishments, whatever he says. LIBERALSARESOSTUPIDLIBERALSARESOSTUPIDLIBERALSARESOSTUPIDLIBERALSARESOSTUPIDLIBERALSARESOSTUPIDLIBERALSARESO STUPIDLIBERALSARESOSTUPIDLIBERALSARESOSTUPIDLIBERALSARESOSTUPIDLIBERALSARESOWhat makes all this so alarming is that its not just "the lesser evil" his supporters will be voting for; they'll also be voting for, what Glen Ford calls, "the more effective evil" given  their perfect alibi: those evil, stupid Republicans. As Paul Street writes, "I have been asking Obama-mad campus town liberals to tell me if there was any particular line in the sand Obama could cross where they would withdraw support for him. The question has been consistently met with silence except for one who told me they would cease to back Obama 'if he joined the Republican party.'"   Obama seems like a great guy. He also has a beautiful family. But judging from his acts and deeds as an elected public official, qua POTUS, his priorities are nothing less than fucked up. He'll fight for Bush policies but not for the CTU - nor even campaign for public sector workers in Wisconsin against a Republican Gov[...]

Obama as "the more effective evil"


Criticism matters if only to correct the record - and that's just what Glen Ford achieves for the most part as Michael Eric Dyson, the new Obama apparatchik at MSNBC, makes an ass of himself on this morning's Democracy Now! (The debate starts at about the 16:30 mark.)

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I used to think the difference between the GOP and the Democrats was like the difference between Coke and Pepsi. And there was a difference: one tasted better and was, at least we we were told, less filling. It was pretty much a difference without a distinction between two corrupt, failed, oligarchical parties. The evil of two lessers, in other words. More recently, I had to come to think of the difference between the two parties as kind of like the difference between two corporate-militarist-plutocratic Orwellian factions with different branding strategies: one cast somewhere in between a Benetton advertisement and the dust-covered box set of Will & Grace in your closet - and the other, far more politically incorrect, juvenile, and downright depraved in its antics. Now I think the difference is probably more akin to that existing between a calmer, more rational, and deceptively more "inclusive" Republican party, aka Ford's "more effective evil," which has not just moved to the right of both Nixon and Reagan but every once and a while poses and parades itself as a "Democratic Party" to muster appeal from unsuspecting sycophantic soi disant pwogwessives and their "centrist" collaborators - and,  a party that is simply far more politically incorrect, radical, depraved, and more apocalyptic in its antics. A more strategically "effective evil" does not mean a greater one in absolute terms just a less extreme, more compromised, stealthier one. Both still fail but there is a difference.

* UPDATE  9/9/12*

Watch Glen Ford address the issue again with Paul Jay on The Real News.

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More at The Real News

go ahead, make my day


Corrente writes,

Maybe it's me, but last night's convention/sideshow convinced me that this whole process of electing a president is nothing but a sham, something for the rubes to chatter about while the real action is going on in an entirely different tent.
Actually its not you - and you're not the only one. But what makes this time different?

People have suspected these things for a long time. The problem is that they know the show is fake but still fool themselves by thinking they've spotted the real distinction, the real importance, between what is real and what is not. Reality is multi-layered. Offstage creeps onstage. One convention is present in another while the same issues are absent from both. And as long as Americans continue their fickle love-affair with reality they'll always have something to seize upon, size up, and dispose of no matter how contrived. Reality requires an effort of the imagination. 


Paul Ryan's Ordo Praedicatorum


Libertarian ideology seems to be quite the rage these days. No longer the nomenclature of right-wing economists and nerds that it was in previous decades it has  gained considerable visibility and acceptance - despite its failures, despite Alan Greenspan. Ron Paul's attempts for the Presidency, for instance, though not exactly successful, have increased their following with each consecutive run, while, more tellingly, his libertarian son, Rand Paul, was elected Senator of Kentucky in 2010. Also, a movie based on Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged was released last year, and, just this last June, the first Ayn Rand Summit was held in DC and attended by John Stossel, Allen West, Grover Norquist, and President candidate, Gary Johnson. The Libertarian Party itself boasts having become the third-largest political party in the US. And considering the more substantial extent to which neo-liberal "free market" policies and talking-points have been adopted across the board, by both Democrats and Republicans, should any of this be much of a surprise?Another self-proclaimed Randian, Paul Ryan - who in 2009 admitted, "the reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, it would be Ayn Rand" - has now been tapped to share the GOP ticket. Ryan has not only reportedly said as far back as 1999 that the books he most often reads are "the Bible, Friedrich von Hayek's The Road to Serfdom, and Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged," but also confessed his proselytizing efforts to The Weekly Standard in 2003: "I give out Atlas Shrugged as Christmas presents, and I make all my interns read it. Well... I try to make my interns read it." Yet some libertarians are complaining. Though some see in Ryan a man of ideological credibility who can balance out the Republican ticket, others are crying he's a phony - a big-government conservative even. Indeed, as lots of the commentary has already pointed out this past weekend, Ryan's record suggests that he is both for economic "austerity" (the gradual privatization of social security, deep cuts to spending, and "a balanced budget") as well as for "big government" (government bailouts, TARP, Ethanol subsidies, unemployment extensions, the Patriot Act and other federal intrusions, Constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage as well to criminalize flag burning, and many proposed measures to restrict the reproductive freedom of women.)       That Ryan even started dialing back his Randian cred a few months ago, evoking Thomas Aquinas, may only cause libertarian voters to harden their convictions, and maybe vote for Gary Johnson. Who knows? But I wonder: what in the world can be more utterly glibertarian than to balance out neo-liberal Austrian economics with an "epistemological" turn *cough* to a 13th century Dominican Catholic priest? (See this take down of neo-liberal Aquinian grandstanding.) And what can be more harmful to the GOP in November than this rift between free-market contractarians who find inspiration in the atheism of Rand's "objectivism," and conservative God fearing Christians? Thus, in Romney's words, "Paul is in public life for all the right reasons — not to advance his personal ambitions but to advance the ideals of freedom and justice; and to increase opportunity and prosperity to people of every class and faith, every age and ethnic background. A faithful Catholic, Paul believes in the worth and dignity of every human life." Well, well...Ryan's move away from Rand signals the electoral liabilities of associating with her, which Ryan and the rest of today's politerati obviously recognize. Democrats will thus likely try to tag Ryan to her Social Darwinist prete[...]

war. what is it good for.


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If you ever watched public television in the NY-Metropolitan area in the late 1980s, as I did as a high school student, you may remember Bookmark, a weekly talk-show which invited authors to talk about their books, and was hosted by a younger Lewis Lapham. This particular episode includes Paul Fussell, author of Wartime, (1989) and crimson vested, Studs Turkel. 

road not travelled by progressives


From (Notes on) Politics, Theory, and Photography, 5/19/12, comes thisreminder:Let's see now, the government funds lots of basic research that leads to massive technological advance; let's call it the Internet. And a bunch of guys make oodles of dollars exploiting the technology for commercial gain. And then those same guys turn around and spend oodles of dollars on groups that spout libertarian nonsense about how "government regulation stifles innovation and, without innovation, there is no economic growth." Bullshit.And let’s not also forget, in addition to the public subsidies handed out to whole industries also  the massive expenditures for the building and coordinating of the interstate highway system, a la "the grid," as well as subsidies for public health, sanitation, and transportation systems. The Hoover Dam is just one example. And who can forget all those salaried uniform personnel to collect tolls and police the whole thing? I cant imagine war efforts either, like The Manhattan Project, without state involvement. Nor nuclear power. Jeff Madrick has written on these issues; his The Case For Big Government, (2009) convincingly argues that since public goods, like the aforementioned, benefit society overall more than any individual or business, public investments as well planning and regulation would simply not have been adequately undertaken by private firms. But even before I had come across Madrick's book, I had a good inkling to what libertarians were up to: despite their occasional Social-Darwinian pretensions and underneath their arguments for free-markets, sotto voce, is the concern for law and order. Turning civil society into an outdoor mall or gambling casino well-patrolled by security guards and surveillance cameras is their little ideological trade. They deny the very entity they are bed with: the state.          And yet, as much as I surely prefer large scale "social-democracy" with strong unions and active, albeit legitimate, economic involvement by the state, (including, of course, imposing very high taxes on the rich,) to large-scale plutonomy with gated communities and a decimated social and cultural landscape, I can’t help flinching whenever I hear progressives hope for rebuilding the big benevolent nanny-state. Large scale bureaucracies and centralized political power, whether acknowledged or not, are still inherently undemocratic both in design and orientation. The complex regulatory decision-making mechanisms devised through the administrative mega-state, like it or not, devalue democratic participation at the local level.Historically, progressive reforms have been more successful along the institutional axes of arranging and defining the scope of the power of the state to act than along a participatory axis of facilitating the exercise of democratic power.[1]This legacy is particularly striking given the broad sweep of social and educative initiatives that Progressives sought. Indeed as it turned out, the populist rhetoric to bust Wall St. and flout its indentured political parties and actors, though appropriated from earlier protest movements in the south, and animated by ethical-religious language as well as various Constitutional arguments, helped transform localist regimes of courts and parties into a more integrated national state. Progressives certainly succeeded in winning suffrage for women as well as greater bargaining power for labor unions. More generally, intervention by state power on behalf of those disadvantaged by the market forces of advanced capitalism became to be seen as legitimate. Millions were given n[...]

talking about unions



funny me, funny you


And watch Glenn Greenwald take on Andrew Sullivan on this same exact issue.

there are war criminals...and then there are war criminals


From Henry Farrell at Crooked Timber, we get some perspective on both.

On the one side of the balance sheet, we have Richard B. Cheney. This gentleman, now in private life, is a self-admitted and unrepentant perpetrator of war crimes – specifically, of ordering the torture of Al Qaeda detainees. Along with other senior members of the Bush regime, he is also guilty of the outsourcing of even viler forms of torture through the extraordinary rendition of individuals to regimes notorious for torturing prisoners (including the dispatch of Maher Arar, who was entirely innocent, to the torturers of Syria). The Obama administration has shown no enthusiasm whatsoever for prosecuting Cheney, or other Bush senior officials, for their crimes. While Obama has effectively admitted that they were torturers, he has indicated, both through public statements and continued inaction, that he would prefer to let bygones be bygones.
On the other, we have Bradley Manning. He appears to be a confused individual – but his initial motivation for leaking information, if the transcripts are correct, were perfectly clear. He was appalled at what he saw as major abuses of authority by the US, including incidents that he witnessed directly in Iraq. There is no evidence that his leaking of information has caused anything worse than embarrassment for the US. Yet he is being pursued by the Obama administration with the vengefulness of Greek Furies. While Manning was being kept in solitary confinement, and treated in an inhuman fashion, Richard Cheney was enjoying the manifold pleasures of a well-compensated private life, being subjected to no more than the occasional impertinent question on a Sunday talk show, and the inconveniences of being unable to travel to jurisdictions where he might be arrested.
It would appear then that the administration is rather more prepared to let bygones be bygones in some cases than in others. High officials, who ordered that torture be carried out and dragged the US into international disrepute, are given an ex post carte blanche for their crimes, while a low-ranking soldier who is at most guilty of leaking minor secrets at the lowest levels of classification, is treated inhumanely and likely, should he be convicted, to face life imprisonment.

lessig and hedges talk it out


brought to us by the fine people of Occupy Wall St. Think Tank.

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Moyers with Hacker and Pierson


allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="225" mozallowfullscreen="" src="" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="400">Jacob Hacker & Paul Pierson on Winner Take All Politics from on Vimeo.Hacker and Pierson argue in Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer - And Turned Its Back on the Middle Class (2010) that the widening gap of inequality in the US, (“the rich are getting fabulously richer while the rest of Americans are basically holding steady or worse,” p.20) has not primarily been due to changes in technology, education, and economics, or what is casually referred to as “globalization,” but changes in the American political realm. Not only are the growing rates of inequality in the US evidently foreign to other advanced countries which are also indebted to the globalized economy, say Hacker and Pierson, these inequalities are the product of a sustained assault on the American middle-class by business organizations and industry lobbies on myriad labor groups, social programs, and economic and progressive tax policies. The “sustained hyperconcentration” of wealth found in the US these days has been made possible by the coordinated efforts and planning of “trickle-up economics” dating back to the 1970s. And, “alas,” they remind us, “the evidence is overwhelming that upward social mobility has not increased at the same time that inequality has skyrocketed,” (pp. 28-29) and actually lag behind rates of mobility now found in Canada, Germany, Australia, France, Finland, Spain, Norway, and Sweden.   The important point made by Hacker and Pierson is that politics is not a trivial sideshow for cable tv but the battlefront where class warfare gets conducted by other means. Thus what their book attempts to do is repoliticize economic realities.   “Governments do redistribute what people earn.. But government policies also shape what people earn in the first place, as well as many other fundamental economic decisions that consumers, businesses, and workers make. Practically every aspect of labor and financial markets is shaped by government policy...Even the word 'redistribution' is symptomatic of the pervasive distortions in contemporary discussion. It suggests the refashioning of a natural order by meddling politicians, a departure from market rewards. But the treatment of the market as some pre-political state of nature is a fiction. Politicians are there at the creation, shaping that 'natural' order and what the market rewards. Beginning in the 1970s, they helped shape it so more and more of the rewards would go to the top.” (pp.55-56)So not only did powerful business and employer lobbies work together to achieve shared goals. They did so by generating mass political campaigns, and spreading large sums of cash throughout both political parties. When the cost of political advertising began to skyrocket in the 1970s the increasing hunger for cash gave the political parties good reason to listen to those with deep pockets. “The newly mobilized business groups understood that Democrats and Republicans could play distinct but complementary roles” (p.121). Business PACS could provide mixed donations to both parties - and even hedge their bets by spending on candidates competing in the same race. Eventually, both parties earned their business cred. They ostensibly embraced free markets as wel[...]

ny's finest...just obeying orders


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the occupation movement heckles michelle bachmann


  allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="280" src="" width="520">Occupiers cannot simply continue twinkling at electoral politics and the concentration of political and economic power, and this video suggests they are starting realize it... I think. I also wonder whether they'll be willing to heckle Democrats as well. Because even if the Occupation does not endorse candidates, preferring to “stay out of politics,” it should still plan on clarifying and coordinating its “autonomous” position in regard to the two-party system itself, its candidates, and schemes, especially in light of the onslaught of campaign rhetoric, (“the lesser of two evils,”) eventually on its way. 'Cuz, you know, power kinda works that way.UPDATE: 11/22/2011Watch here Obama spin the wheels of co-optation when speaking to an audience in New Hampshire, “including”, he says, “the ones who were chanting at me, you're the reason I ran for office in the first place.” Still no 3rd party people? allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="140" src="" width="235">though Rahm seemed far more perturbed.[...]