Thursday, September 30, 2010

Wall Street Always Triumphs! After Larry Summers Comes The Winter of US Discontent & Rumsfeld The Liar (Again!) How Stupid Are You? The War Addicts

I just want to get this out there so you'll know where I've been living lately (psychically). And trust me, it's not a nice neighborhood. Today I realized for the first time that I am sick of being a "Liberal," a "Progressive," a supporter of civil rights for all, in short, a person with a conscience about how the actions of a few connected insiders so direly affect the lives of others in a country that once bragged that it protected the rights of free speech, association, habeas corpus, etc., etc., and no longer would be caught dead doing so. I've decided (as a matter of self protection) that I want to be a "Conservative" now so that I can join the rich, empowered, in-group (who do not know any of the proper definitions of the aforementioned "bad" words - which no one with power and wealth wants to be associated with in any way anymore). I am so sick that I live in a time when accumulated wealth has so perverted most of what we've grown to accept as the mainstream media that it is largely populated by uneducated bigots who not only cannot understand the dictionary definitions of the terms cited above, but they actually believe they can lie with impunity in public and not be called to account. I now regret every minute of the time I've spent trying to be a voice for reason and a supporter of the equality of persons in the public sphere in this once-proud country. I could say that I regret all my past efforts towards procuring civil rights for all as I see that this has led to the enshrinement of figures who wish to take rights away from others, such as public figures like Clarence Thomas, Ruben Navarrette, Jr., Armstrong Williams, Alfonso Aguilar, J.D. Hayworth, and the ever-present embarrassment Michael Powell. (And, yes, I just got ****** by someone I had tried to help. Gotta stop that nonsense.) And then, a somber moment descends, finally, and I remember more than several members of the "minority" who disprove all my grousing about the ingratitude of the others (and who are still holding on to their integrity). From Bob Herbert we learn the real economic truths:

Other folks who make their way to Master’s Manna are not so upbeat. The Great Recession has long since ended, according to the data zealots in their windowless rooms. But it is still very real to the millions of men and women who wake up each morning to the grim reality of empty pockets and empty cupboards.
Susie Madrak, that Suburban Guerrilla, is always a very good source of the truth about our "real" plight. I'm currently reading Michael Lewis' book The Big Short: Inside the Doomday Machine, which tells how the Wall Street gurus (knowledgeable about every step they take, and every hundredth of a penny they risk) never stopped encouraging (paying for) its workers (many of them minorities desperately looking for work) to do exactly what had wreaked local and worldwide havoc the time before. Don't doubt it. Read about it. (Emphasis marks added - Ed.)

Report: 28% Of Mortgages Didn't Meet Underwriting Standards - And Wall St. Knew It

It turns out that Wall St. knew almost one-third of the mortgages they bundled and sold to investors were bad. You're shocked, right? I know I find it hard to believe that this bunch of high-priced suit-wearing cokeheads, these Masters of the Universe would gleefully stiff American investors like that:

During a little-noticed hearing this week in Sacramento, Calif., a firm hired by Wall Street to analyze mortgages given to borrowers with poor credit, which were then packaged and sold to investors during the boom years, revealed that as much as 28 percent of those loans failed to meet basic underwriting standards - and Wall Street knew all along.

Worse, when the firm flagged those loans for potential issues, Wall Street banks ignored its recommendation nearly half the time and likely purchased those loans anyway - selling them to unwitting investors who were never told that the biggest home loan due diligence firm in the country had found potential defects in these mortgages.

The revelations give a better picture of what many have likely known for years: Wall Street firms knew they were buying lead yet passed it off as gold to investors who had no knowledge of the alchemy behind the scenes. But it also has real-world implications: the data released Thursday could bolster pension funds and other investors in their pursuit to force Wall Street banks to take back the bogus mortgages they peddled. An untold number of lawsuits have been filed in the wake of the subprime mortgage crisis and subsequent housing market collapse. Thus far, Wall Street has been winning that battle.

Clayton Holdings, a Connecticut-based firm that analyzes home mortgages for banks, hedge funds, insurance companies and government agencies, provided its data Thursday to the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, a bipartisan panel created by Congress to investigate the roots of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. The FCIC held its last public hearing in Sacramento, the home of the panel's chairman, where two current and former top Clayton executives testified under oath about the firm's role in the mortgage securitization chain.

During the height of the boom in 2006 and the period prior to its immediate end during the first six months of 2007, Clayton inspected home loans for Wall Street firms and government-backed mortgage giant Freddie Mac. Clayton looked at loans that the companies wanted to purchase from mortgage originators like New Century Financial, Countrywide Financial, and Fremont Investment & Loan. The company examined 911,039 mortgages, documents show. Clients included Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase, the nation's two biggest banks by assets which together have about $4.4 trillion; Citigroup, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers. Clayton controlled about 50 to 70 percent of the market, Keith Johnson, the firm's former president, told the crisis panel. Clayton, though, typically looked at roughly 10 percent of the pool of mortgages available for purchase, Vicki Beal, a senior vice president at the firm, said in response to a question by panel chairman Phil Angelides. But during the frenzied last months of the boom, when lenders and securitizers were trying to sell off as much as they could before the market collapsed, that figure reached as low as 5 percent. Of the 911,000 loans that Clayton scrutinized, 72 percent either met the mortgage seller's standards and other guidelines set by the buyer of the mortgages, typically Wall Street firms, or they had off-setting factors that allowed Clayton to give them a passing grade, like if the borrower who took out the mortgage put a lot of money down or had a very high income. But 28 percent failed to meet those standards. Of those 255,802 mortgages that Clayton flagged for what were a variety of reasons, Wall Street ended up waiving 100,653 of them, or 39 percent of those loans that did not meet basic standards. And Wall Street firms didn't share this with investors. "This should have raised red flags," said Guy Cecala, publisher of Inside Mortgage Finance, a leading trade publication and data provider.

Our buddy, Robert Scheer, is over at The Reality Zone where he has Master of the Universe Summers (NOT!) firmly in his sights. You see, Summers is one of those "sophisticated" investors who were the "flaw" that Alan Greenspan eventually had to admit were present in the market (but not in his "calculations," of course - purposely, it would seem). What I could never figure out was how the public that screams bloody murder if a poor person gets away with a light sentence for arson or even second-degree murder, has never even budged the graphic or had publicly reported that it suffered the slightest blip of incredulity about people like Summers who made out like bandits from their financial catastrophic ideas and were not even asked to pay any of their criminally-obtained gains back (to the people who would be repaying their debts for the rest of their lives - and longer). You may ask, "Where is my gun?" And I have to say that as I used to be a firm believer in gun control, my belief structure is getting shaky. (Emphasis marks added - Ed.)

After Larry Summers Comes The Fall

Robert Scheer

. . . Summers deserves the same fate as the millions of workers laid off because of the banking debacle he helped cause, the dire consequences of which he has done precious little to mitigate.

It was Summers who, as Treasury Secretary in the Clinton administration, pushed through the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, which opened the floodgates to the toxic mortgage-backed derivatives that still haunt the economy. The Federal Reserve now holds $2 trillion in junk securities it took off the books of banks. But the financiers who packed those devilish derivatives still hold a huge amount, and the houses they unload every time the housing market shows faint signs of stabilizing keep the economy in the doldrums.

The bane of our economic security now and well into the future is those collections of mortgages — the nest eggs and castles of 14 million families — now underwater or already foreclosed. Newfangled derivatives that were exempted from any regulation, and removed from the purview of any regulatory agency, by the law that Summers got President Bill Clinton to sign off on. Summers claimed that the suggestion of the prescient Brooksley Born, who headed the futures regulatory agency, to rein in those scams would have killed the golden goose of a derivatives market which, thanks to Summers, was allowed to run wild. He offered the following reasoning in congressional testimony supporting a ban on derivatives regulation:

“First, the parties to these kinds of contracts are largely sophisticated financial institutions that would appear to be eminently capable of protecting themselves from fraud and counterparty insolvencies. … Second, given the nature of the underlying assets involved — namely supplies of financial exchange and other financial instruments — there would seem to be little scope for market manipulation. …”

Tell that to the victims of the AIG crash, including us taxpayers, who funneled $180 billion in the government bailout of that sophisticated financial institution to equally sharp counterparties like Goldman Sachs, which got a cool $12 billion from the deal. Ask Summer’s protégé and now Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner why he bailed out those market manipulators when he was head of the New York Fed working with the Bush administration.

Summers got his cut from those grateful bankers, receiving $8 million in consulting and speaking fees from major Wall Street firms while he was a top adviser to the Obama election campaign. For just one speaking appearance, Goldman Sachs paid him $135,000.

During his tenure as President Barack Obama’s top economic adviser, Summers has continued the Bush policy of throwing money at Wall Street without getting anything in return by way of a moratorium on mortgage foreclosures. Or increased power through the bankruptcy courts to force the banks to readjust the mortgages of folks swindled by the collateralized-debt-obligation and credit-default-swap con artists.

Now, Summers opposes Obama’s selection of Elizabeth Warren, who in the mold of Brooksley Born has earned a strong reputation as a consumer advocate, to head a new consumer agency. The man has no shame and has uttered not a word of contrition over his sorry record.

But, hey, he's in the club. They always get away scot-free! And Summers finally leaves - on his own - so they report. To go back to ruining Harvard's reputation for excellence. As Bob Herbert continues to say (emphasis marks added - Ed.):
We Haven't Hit Bottom Yet

Marcus Vogt is 20 years old and homeless. Or, as he puts it, “I’m going through a couch-surfing phase.” Mr. Vogt is a Wal-Mart employee but he was injured in a car accident and was unable to work for a couple of months. With no income and no health insurance, he quickly found himself unable to pay the rent. Even meals were hard to come by. (His situation is quite a statement about real life in the United States in the 21st century. On the same day that I spoke with Mr. Vogt, Forbes Magazine came out with its list of the 400 most outrageously rich Americans.) I met Mr. Vogt at Master’s Manna, a food pantry and soup kitchen here that also offers a variety of other services to individuals and families that have fallen on hard times. He told me that his cellphone service has been cut off and he has more than $3,000 in medical bills outstanding. But he was cheerful and happy to report that he’s back at work, although it will take at least a few more paychecks before he’ll have enough money to rent a room.

Other folks who make their way to Master’s Manna are not so upbeat. The Great Recession has long since ended, according to the data zealots in their windowless rooms. But it is still very real to the millions of men and women who wake up each morning to the grim reality of empty pockets and empty cupboards.

Wallingford is nobody’s definition of a depressed community. It’s a middle-class town on the Quinnipiac River. But the number of people seeking help at Master’s Manna is rising, not falling. And when I asked Cheryl Bedore, who runs the program, if she was seeing more clients from the middle class, she said: “Oh, absolutely. We have people who were donors in the past coming to our doors now in search of help.”

The political upheaval going on in the United States right now is being driven by the economic upheaval. It’s sometimes hard to see this clearly amid the craziness and ugliness stirred up by the professional exploiters. But the essential issue is still the economy — the rising tide of poor people and the decline of the middle class. The true extent of the pain has not been widely chronicled.

“The minute you open the doors, it’s like a wave of desperation that’s hitting you,” said Ms. Bedore. “People are depressed, despondent. They’re on the edge, especially those who have never had to ask for help before.”

In recent weeks, a few homeless people with cars have been showing up at Master’s Manna. Ms. Bedore has gotten permission from the local police department for them to park behind her building and sleep in their cars overnight. “We’ve been recognized as a safe haven,” she said.

In two of the cars, she said, were families with children. It’s not just joblessness that’s driving people to the brink, although that’s a big factor. It’s underemployment, as well. “For many of our families,” said Ms. Bedore, “the 40-hour workweek is over, a thing of the past. They may still have a job, but they’re trying to survive on reduced hours — with no benefits. Some are on forced furloughs.

“Once you start losing the income and you’ve run through your savings, then your car is up for repossession, or you’re looking at foreclosure or eviction. We’re a food pantry, but hunger is only the tip of the iceberg. Life becomes a constant juggling act when the money starts running out. Are you going to pay for your medication? Or are you going to put gas in the car so you can go to work?

“Kids are going back to school now, so they need clothes and school supplies. Where is the money for that to come from? The people we’re seeing never expected things to turn out like this — not at this stage of their lives. Not in the United States. The middle class is quickly slipping into a lower class.”

Similar stories — and worse — are unfolding throughout the country. There are more people in poverty now — 43.6 million — than at any time since the government began keeping accurate records. Nearly 15 million Americans are out of work and home foreclosures are expected to surpass one million this year. The Times had a chilling front-page article this week about the increasing fear among jobless workers over 50 that they will never be employed again.

The politicians seem unable to grasp the immensity of the problem, which is why the policy solutions are so woefully inadequate. During my conversations with Ms. Bedore, she dismissed the very thought that the recession might be over. “Whoever said that was sadly mistaken,” she said. “We haven’t even bottomed-out yet.”

And to increase your governmental trust factor (remember this guy (and this Court?)?):

US Cannot Document Any Payment to Detainees for Abuse at Abu Ghraib

Fending off demands that he resign over the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told Congress he had found a legal way to compensate Iraqi detainees who suffered "grievous and brutal abuse and cruelty at the hands of a few members of the United States armed forces."

"It's the right thing to do," Rumsfeld declared in 2004.

"And it is my intention to see that we do."

Six years later, the U.S. Army is unable to document a single payment for prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib. Nor can the more than 250 Iraqis or their lawyers now seeking redress in U.S. courts. Their hopes for compensation may rest on a Supreme Court decision this week. The Army says about 30 former Abu Ghraib prisoners are seeking compensation from the U.S. Army Claims Service. Those claims are still being investigated and many do not involve inmate abuse. The Army added that U.S. Forces-Iraq looked at its records and could not find any payments to former detainees. The Army also cannot verify whether any such payments were made informally through Iraqi leaders.

From fiscal years 2003 to 2006, the Defense Department paid $30.9 million to Iraqi and Afghan civilians who were killed, injured, or incurred property damage due to U.S. or coalition forces' actions during combat. The Army has found no evidence any of those payments were used to compensate victims of abuse at Abu Ghraib. So instead of compensation, the legacy of the most infamous detainee abuse episode from President George W. Bush's tenure is lawsuits, and the court battle mirrors the Iraq war — a grinding, drawn-out conflict.

At the U.S. Supreme Court, the former detainees are asking the justices to step into a case alleging that civilian interrogators and linguists conspired with soldiers to abuse the prisoners. All the detainees, who allege they were held at Abu Ghraib or one of the other 16 detention centers in Iraq, say they were eventually released without any charges against them.

Because they were just rounded up for the entertainment value? My new bf, David Michael Green won't let this moment go by quietly either. And neither should you. (I just love this guy!)
The Dismantling of Civilized Society

How stupid are you? I mean, let's just face it, shall we? That is precisely the question the right has been asking the American public for thirty years (and more) now. And that is the question the American public has been enthusiastically answering for the same period of time. Like a crack junkie, in fact.

In the 1980s, Ronald Reagan presented America with a set of economic lies so transparent that even a monster like George H. W. Bush called them "voodoo economics". When he was contesting Reagan for the Republican nomination, that is. Once Bush had lost it, and when he wanted to be added to the ticket as the Vice Presidential nominee, everything became hunky dory, and no more voodoo critiques were uttered. That was one of the greatest acts of treason (I choose my words carefully) in American history.

But back to Reagan. "Watch this", he said. "I'm gonna slash taxes, especially for the rich, spend huge sums on 'defense', and balance the budget at the same time."

Okay, so he wasn't a math major in college. Two out of three ain't bad, though, eh? Well, it is if you have to pay for his 'mistakes', plus interest, as so many of us continue to do to this day. Prolly not a big problem, though. Even though Americans hate taxes with the passion of the truly infantile, I'm sure they don't mind working extra hours flipping burgers each week to pay for the enrichment of the previous generation of plutocrats and defense contractors.


Or maybe it's just that their answer to the "How stupid" question is: "Very."

You might think that, because Reagan and Bush actually managed to quadruple the national debt with their little exercise in national folly. Or you might especially think that because Lil' Bush came along with the exact same snake oil a decade later. You had to be stupid to buy it the first time, but you had to have been really stupid to buy it the second time.

We, of course, were. And not just in terms of federal debt, either.

A generation of Reaganomics has now succeeded in suspending ninety-eight percent of the country in standard-of-living formaldehyde, so that they felt zero effect whatsoever from the substantial growth in GDP over the last thirty years, and now those policies are cutting off their legs from underneath them altogether.

All while the people of Reagan's class, of course, just piled on the riches. How stupid do you have to be to not notice who's diddling you?

Very, of course, but not necessarily as stupid as is maximally possible. 'Cause, guess what? Here they come again.

This week Republicans once again have issued a manifesto calling for slashing taxes on billionaires and cutting deficits, all at the same time. And once again they will win big electoral landslide victories in November despite that patent idiocy. Or perhaps because of it.

Why don't they just come out and do magic tricks, instead? Oh wait. That's their Jesus bit. Never mind.

On the one hand, I don't blame Americans for voting for the party that isn't the Democratic Party this fall. Obama and crew are miserable failures, as completely unable to provide meaningful solutions to the problems facing Americans today as they are inept at winning political fights against manifest criminals.

Looking at the landscape in front of them as it appears to voters' blinkered vision, it makes perfect sense to desperately swing to the party not in government when the house is on fire and the party in government is showing up with squirt guns. What could be more logical? This is, indeed, the fundamental notion of 'responsible government' itself, and it is at the core of democratic theory.

Please read on for a good black-humor laugh. And no, that's not racist in any way (no matter how it seems). It's just black. Professor Lawrence Davidson tells us about "President Obama’s Ahistorical World" next. It's almost spell binding (except that it's a telling death knell for US all), and it certainly simplifies his approach to problem solving, doesn't it? (Emphasis marks added - Ed.)
On September 23, 2010 it was President Obama’s turn to take the podium at the United Nations. There was a world of problems for him to draw on but, not unexpectedly, he chose to concentrate on the Middle East. Thus, as has been the case with almost every President since John Kennedy, Mr. Obama is also trying his hand at cutting the Gordian Knot and drinking the sea dry. That is he is trying his hand at making peace between Israel and Palestine. Will he succeed where all others have failed? Not likely, and his speech at the UN points to one reason why. His approach is ahistorical and, at least publically, ignores the context from which all this strife has emerged. This is not unusual for President Obama. From the beginning of his administration he has ignored history. His most notable early example was when he refused to investigate the prima facie war crimes of his predecessors, crimes which the Nuremberg prosecutors would have easily recognized. Instead he proclaimed a new day. We will look forward he said, and not backward. It was a foolish statement for such a reportedly bright man, for where does he think the new day and the fresh future come from? The present and the future are built on the past. With all due respect, only the very near sighted can suppose that they can defy historical gravity and float above it all, sublimely free of all roots. So now President Obama takes the podium in New York and tells us the following:

I can't go on today.

Read it for yourself.

And then read The War Addicts by Tom Engelhardt. Now that'll brighten our day!

Suzan _________________

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The GOP "Scorched Earth" Policy Aided By "Felony Blow Job" Charge From "Kooky Cult" (You've Got It!) "The Rage of the Privileged!" & No Criminals Here

(If throwing a contribution Pottersville2's way won't break your budget in these difficult financial times, I really need it, and would wholeheartedly appreciate it. Anything you can afford will make a huge difference in this blog's lifetime.)

Len Hart, the Existentialist Cowboy, is one heck of an historian/proselytizer for the truth. He speaks plainly always, especially now, and reminds us that the Rethuglicans' lies echoing through the last three decades have denied the United States' citizens their rightful place within the world's educated, productive community (emphasis marks added - Ed.).
The GOP 'Scorched Earth' Policy

The American Democratic party, the party of Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, was a force to be reckoned with. Most often allied with labor, Democrats - not Republicans - presided over the hard-won triumph over the Great Depression. It was Democrats, not Republicans, who later presided over a thriving economy, an egalitarian economy in the late 40s and much of the 50s. It was the Democratic regimes of FDR and Harry Truman that were the most egalitarian in U.S. History.

This prosperity continued through the JFK years. Not even Nixon could undo the good that had been done. That job was left to Ronald Reagan whose infamous, inequitable tax cut of 1982 breached the wall. Only the upper quintile benefited from Reaganomics of which the infamous tax cut of 1982 was the centerpiece. Only the upper 1 percent have benefited from subsequent GOP largesse.

Over the same period of time, American manufacturing - steel, automotive, appliances et al., - declined. Labor was denied a base upon which to build a movement or even an effective opposition. Out of work and out of money, labor was neutered. As a result, steel is produced in Japan and imported. Appliances are increasingly made in China and imported, denying jobs to US workers. Once a center of world automobile production, downtown Detroit is but a shadow of its former glory. Various suburbs like Flint have deteriorated.

The antipathy shown labor by the American right wing has a long history. In 1911, L.A.Times owner/publisher Gen. Harrison Grey Otis exploited the bombing of the L.A. Times building to win a landmark propaganda war against labor. Two brothers, labor leaders, were accused of this act of 'domestic terrorism' around which Otis rallied opposition to labor despite the fact that the trial ended with a plea bargain. Arguably, the more lasting fallout was the subsequent trial of Clarence Darrow who was accused of bribing prospective jurors.

The GOP has not won the debate with its 'scorched earth' methods and politics. It has merely hollowed out the soul of a nation for the benefit of just 20 percent in the 80s and only 1 percent recently.

The GOP did not defeat labor or its ideals. Rather, it exported their jobs and shut them up. It's the GOP way.

Not just labor, the nation as a whole has paid dearly for this cynical strategy. Confirmation and results can be found at the CIA's own World Fact Book where you will find the U.S. at the bottom of the list with the world's largest NEGATIVE CURRENT ACCT BALANCE; China, with whom GOP Presidents Nixon, Reagan, Bush cut sweetheart deals, is on top.

China prospers. America is near collapse and will eventually be reduced to third world status if it is not there already.

It was all by design. The GOP willingly amputated a nation's leg and arm to save the increasingly stupid head, a ruling one percent which has done little or nothing to deserve is role as the nation's ruling plutocracy! In the meantime, the Democratic party is robbed of its traditional, base - labor.

Thus, was forced upon Bill Clinton the odious 'triangulation' of the increasingly moribund 'center', a strategy for which he was roundly criticized and rightly on principle. In fact, however, it was all that was left him in the wake of the GOP's scorched earth policy.

The U.S. is now a limping, one-legged man where everyone fancies himself an aristocrat but, in fact, everyone but the top one percent are getting poorer. It's a slow boil but coming to a head very quickly now. Interestingly, those benefiting from Reagan's policies were but about 20 percent of the total population. More recently, those benefiting are reduced to just one percent of the population. At what point will the fabulously wealthy one percent become one-half of one percent, eventually, one half or just one quarter of that amount? This curve can be plotted on a graph. A rate of decline can be pinpointed. All it takes is a bit of first semester calculus to plot the very rate at which the GOP impoverishes all of us.

The transfer of wealth upward is deliberate. It's how the the 'pay-offs' are laundered. Clinton reversed the trend but briefly. That he dared get a blow job was much more important than saving a nation from a disastrous fate. In fact, it was all the GOP could pin on him, though he was under a sweeping investigation seemingly from the get go. An investigation in search of real crimes and, finding none, invented the 'felony blow job'.

‎(The Grand Inquisitor) said that Satan's biggest 'trick' was convincing the world that he did not exist. The GOP's biggest trick is convincing the American people that they are a political party. They are, in fact, a crime syndicate with characteristics of a kooky cult. Stanford University studies have proven that GOP-types have more night terrors and horrible nightmares than do normal people. This is understandable. Certainly, the GOP rank and file are insecure, in fact, frightened if not terrified. Nightmares are but dream manifestations of fears and anxieties. Likewise, GOP policy. In short, we, the people have paid and continue to pay for GOP fears and neurotic hang ups. I would think that like me, you are fed up with doing so! Edward R. Murrow: Wires and Lights in a Box

Paul Krugman tells us all about how angry the rich are now that they have been made whole (by us), and how they want no back talk about their past crimes. It's all good. For them. (Emphasis marks added - Ed.)
The Angry Rich

Anger is sweeping America. True, this white-hot rage is a minority phenomenon, not something that characterizes most of our fellow citizens. But the angry minority is angry indeed, consisting of people who feel that things to which they are entitled are being taken away. And they’re out for revenge. No, I’m not talking about the Tea Partiers. I’m talking about the rich.

These are terrible times for many people in this country. Poverty, especially acute poverty, has soared in the economic slump; millions of people have lost their homes. Young people can’t find jobs; laid-off 50-somethings fear that they’ll never work again.

Yet if you want to find real political rage — the kind of rage that makes people compare President Obama to Hitler, or accuse him of treason — you won’t find it among these suffering Americans. You’ll find it instead among the very privileged, people who don’t have to worry about losing their jobs, their homes, or their health insurance, but who are outraged, outraged, at the thought of paying modestly higher taxes.

The rage of the rich has been building ever since Mr. Obama took office. At first, however, it was largely confined to Wall Street. Thus when New York magazine published an article titled “The Wail Of the 1%,” it was talking about financial wheeler-dealers whose firms had been bailed out with taxpayer funds, but were furious at suggestions that the price of these bailouts should include temporary limits on bonuses. When the billionaire Stephen Schwarzman compared an Obama proposal to the Nazi invasion of Poland, the proposal in question would have closed a tax loophole that specifically benefits fund managers like him.

Now, however, as decision time looms for the fate of the Bush tax cuts — will top tax rates go back to Clinton-era levels? — the rage of the rich has broadened, and also in some ways changed its character. For one thing, craziness has gone mainstream. It’s one thing when a billionaire rants at a dinner event. It’s another when Forbes magazine runs a cover story alleging that the president of the United States is deliberately trying to bring America down as part of his Kenyan, “anticolonialist” agenda, that “the U.S. is being ruled according to the dreams of a Luo tribesman of the 1950s.” When it comes to defending the interests of the rich, it seems, the normal rules of civilized (and rational) discourse no longer apply.

At the same time, self-pity among the privileged has become acceptable, even fashionable. Tax-cut advocates used to pretend that they were mainly concerned about helping typical American families. Even tax breaks for the rich were justified in terms of trickle-down economics, the claim that lower taxes at the top would make the economy stronger for everyone. These days, however, tax-cutters are hardly even trying to make the trickle-down case. Yes, Republicans are pushing the line that raising taxes at the top would hurt small businesses, but their hearts don’t really seem in it. Instead, it has become common to hear vehement denials that people making $400,000 or $500,000 a year are rich. I mean, look at the expenses of people in that income class — the property taxes they have to pay on their expensive houses, the cost of sending their kids to elite private schools, and so on. Why, they can barely make ends meet.

And among the undeniably rich, a belligerent sense of entitlement has taken hold: it’s their money, and they have the right to keep it. “Taxes are what we pay for civilized society,” said Oliver Wendell Holmes — but that was a long time ago.

The spectacle of high-income Americans, the world’s luckiest people, wallowing in self-pity and self-righteousness would be funny, except for one thing: they may well get their way. Never mind the $700 billion price tag for extending the high-end tax breaks: virtually all Republicans and some Democrats are rushing to the aid of the oppressed affluent.

You see, the rich are different from you and me: they have more influence. It’s partly a matter of campaign contributions, but it’s also a matter of social pressure, since politicians spend a lot of time hanging out with the wealthy. So when the rich face the prospect of paying an extra 3 or 4 percent of their income in taxes, politicians feel their pain — feel it much more acutely, it’s clear, than they feel the pain of families who are losing their jobs, their houses, and their hopes.

And when the tax fight is over, one way or another, you can be sure that the people currently defending the incomes of the elite will go back to demanding cuts in Social Security and aid to the unemployed. America must make hard choices, they’ll say; we all have to be willing to make sacrifices. But when they say “we,” they mean “you.” Sacrifice is for the little people.

Pooor them. Boo Hoooooo!!!!!!!!! HA! Poorer us (US). The Rage of the Privileged is not something that your political representatives want to evoke. After all, they like hanging out with them.

The Wail of the 1% As the privileged class loses its privileges, a collective moan rises from the canyons of Wall Street.

Please, indulge yourself. Read all about it! Our man on the cynical spot, Glenn Greenwald (our GlennZilla!) reveals to our easily shocked sensibilities the "Obscenity" of Comparing Americans to "Killers and Terrorists". Brrr. Is it Halloween yet? (Emphasis marks added - Ed.)

September 18, 2010 Salon A couple of weeks ago, I took issue with some of the objections being voiced by progressive critics of Markos Moulitsas' new book, The American Taliban. In particular, I found this sentence from The American Prospect's Jamelle Bouie - fairly representative of the negative reaction to the book - to be not only absurd but almost offensive in its self-loving nationalism: "Yes, progressives are depressed and despondent about the future, but . . . . it doesn't excuse the obscenity of comparing our political opponents to killers and terrorists." For the reasons I explained, it seems to me that only jingoistic blindness can account for the belief that it is "obscene" to compare the American architects and enablers of the attack on Iraq and the worldwide torture regime (among other crimes) to "killers and terrorists." The former are the latter, by definition. I didn't intend to return to this topic, but The American Prospect's Adam Serwer has now defended his colleague Bouie against my critique, a defense cited yesterday (presumably with approval) by Andrew Sullivan. Beyond that, there's one substantive point raised by this dispute which I think is quite interesting and important and thus merits more attention.

Initially, I must note how odd it is for Serwer and The Prospect, of all people, to be leading this charge, given that Serwer himself six months ago wrote a (genuinely superb) piece for The Atlantic entitled "American Takfiris" which equates John Yoo, Jay Bybee and their "cohorts in the [Bush] Office of Legal Counsel" with Al Qaeda leaders ("takfirism," Serwer explains, is what "allowed al Qaeda to, for all intents and purposes, kill anyone they wanted without violating the laws of Islam": somehow, "American Taliban" is beyond the rhetorical pale, but "American Takfiris" is perfectly acceptable). And then there's the fact that TAP's Editor-in-Chief, Robert Kuttner, wrote an article in February of this year - in that very magazine - entitled . . . . wait for it . . . . "American Taliban," which repeatedly compared the American Right to the Taliban with sentences like this one: "With the complete takeover of the GOP by an American Taliban, the party should be doomed to minority status."

How can Prospect writers possibly rail against Moulitsas as though he committed some grave sin without grappling with these identical "transgressions," including from TAP's own chief editor and from Serwer himself (Serwer claims that his Al Qaeda comparison was narrowly focused on Bush OLC lawyers while Moulitsas generalized much more, but I wonder if Serwer even read American Taliban because Moulitsas is quite specific in citing his culprits, as opposed to Kuttner, who applied the term to the GOP generally).

As for the substance of the argument, I want to be clear: I believe and wrote explicitly (contrary to what TAP's own Editor apparently believes) that in many areas - sexual morality, the status of women, state enforcement of religious dogma, etc. - the actual Taliban is so much more extreme than the mainstream American Right that, shared premises notwithstanding, they are not similar (and in those areas, Moulitsas is using a rhetorical tactic to subvert the Right's own tactics; the efficacy and fairness of Moulitsas' approach in that regard can be and has been reasonably debated). But in other areas, particularly war - which happens to be the title of Chapter 2 of Moulitsas' book - the comparison is more than apt in a literal sense. To see why that is so, just consider this chart, posted yesterday by E.D. Kain (click on image to enlarge, or see it and similar ones here): What's "obscene" is not the comparison between those responsible for this and the Taliban. The real obscenity are those who stand up and say: how dare you compare my fellow Americans who did this "to killers and terrorists" (it should be noted that this chart reflects the most conservative estimate of the number of Iraqis killed). That righteous objection is designed to minimize the breadth and depth of American crimes - oh, it may be bad, but it's not that bad/American warmongers may be bad, but they're still Americans, and thus shouldn't be compared to those inhuman foreign Muslims over there - and that's the real "obscenity."

In a Twitter exchange I had with him, Bouie argued that the number of innocent civilians killed is not the only factor determining one's immorality. That's true, but it's certainly one factor: a very important one. But move beyond numbers. As I documented in my original argument, The Nuremberg Trials established the proposition that "aggressive war" -- which is what the attack on Iraq unquestionably was -- is the supreme crime ("The central crime in this pattern of crimes, the kingpin which holds them all together, is the plot for aggressive wars"), and a central purpose of the Tribunal was to deter future "aggression by any other nations, including those which sit here now in judgment."

That GlennZilla! Boo! Eat 'em up! Then, of course, there are those stories no one wants to know about (emphasis marks added - Ed.).

Suffocating the Poor: A Modern Parable

They democratically elected a president to stand up to the rich and multinational corporations - so our governments have him kidnapped September 19, 2010 "Independent/" - Today, I want to tell you the story of how our governments have been torturing and tormenting an island in the Caribbean - but it is a much bigger story than that. It's a parable explaining one of the main reasons how and why, across the world, the poor are kept poor, so the rich can be kept rich. If you grasp this situation, you will see some of the ugliest forces in the world laid out before you - so we can figure out how to stop them.

The rubble-strewn island of Haiti is now in the middle of an election campaign that will climax this November. So far, the world has noticed it solely because the Haitian-American musician Wyclef Jean wanted to run for President, only to be blocked because he hasn't lived in the country since he was a kid. But there is a much bigger hole in the election: the most popular politician in Haiti by far, Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

He's not there because, after winning a landslide election, he followed the will of the Haitian people who demanded he take on the multinational corporations and redistribute enough money that their children wouldn't starve - so our governments had him kidnapped him at gunpoint and refuse to let him back.

But we have to start a little earlier if this is going to make sense. For over two centuries, Haiti has been effectively controlled from outside. The French enslaved the entire island in the eighteenth century and worked much of the population to death, turning it into the sugar and coffee plantation for the world. By this century, Western governments were arming, funding and fuelling the psychopathic dictatorship of the Duvalier family - who slaughtered 50,000 people - supposedly because they were "our friends" in the fight against communism.

All this left Haiti the most unequal country in the world. A tiny elite lives in vast villas in the hills, while below and all around them, the overwhelming majority of the population live in tiny tin shacks with no water or electricity, crammed six-to-a-room. Just 1 per cent own 50 per cent of the wealth and 75 per cent of the arable land. Once the Haitian people were finally able to rise up in 1986 to demand democracy, they obviously wanted the country's wealth to be shared more fairly.

And you thought that fight against Communism was largely a phantom, didn't you? Silly you. Or US.

One commenter has it straight on.

c.t. 1 day ago

Aristide had to be crushed for the same reason they all had to be crushed. Chomsky called it "the threat of the good example". If any third world leader were to be successful in throwing out the oppressors, lifting his people out of poverty and bringing justice and dignity to his country, that example (and the techniques used to achieve it) would be propagated throughout the third world. For that reason Aristide and those like him have to be destroyed (or co-opted) completely.

Can you stand one more morality tale from PCR? It's a doozy!

The Collapse of Western Morality

September 23, 2010

Yes, I know, as many readers will be quick to inform me, the West never had any morality. Nevertheless things have gotten worse. In hopes that I will be permitted to make a point, permit me to acknowledge that the US dropped nuclear bombs on two Japanese cities, fire-bombed Tokyo, that Great Britain and the US fire-bombed Dresden and a number of other German cities, expending more destructive force, according to some historians, against the civilian German population than against the German armies, that President Grant and his Civil War war criminals, Generals Sherman and Sheridan, committed genocide against the Plains Indians, that the US today enables Israel’s genocidal policies against the Palestinians, policies that one Israeli official has compared to 19th century US genocidal policies against the American Indians, that the US in the new 21st century invaded Iraq and Afghanistan on contrived pretenses, murdering countless numbers of civilians, and that British prime minister Tony Blair lent the British army to his American masters, as did other NATO countries, all of whom find themselves committing war crimes under the Nuremberg standard in lands in which they have no national interests, but for which they receive an American pay check.

I don’t mean these few examples to be exhaustive. I know the list goes on and on. Still, despite the long list of horrors, moral degradation is reaching new lows. The US now routinely tortures prisoners, despite its strict illegality under US and international law, and a recent poll shows that the percentage of Americans who approve of torture is rising. Indeed, it is quite high, though still just below a majority. And we have what appears to be a new thrill: American soldiers using the cover of war to murder civilians. Recently American troops were arrested for murdering Afghan civilians for fun and collecting trophies such as fingers and skulls.

This revelation came on the heels of Pfc. Bradley Manning’s alleged leak of a US Army video of US soldiers in helicopters and their controllers thousands of miles away having fun with joy sticks murdering members of the press and Afghan civilians. Manning is cursed with a moral conscience that has been discarded by his government and his military, and Manning has been arrested for obeying the law and reporting a war crime to the American people. US Rep. Mike Rogers, a Republican, of course, from Michigan, who is on the House Subcommittee on Terrorism, has called for Manning’s execution. According to US Rep. Rogers it is an act of treason to report an American war crime. In other words, to obey the law constitutes “treason to America.”

Please read it all. It's the least you can do before our own Nuremberg Trials commence.

And then, we read about the 20 Signs That The Economic Collapse Has Already Begun For One Out Of Every Seven Americans. Hard to argue with these facts (excepting that poor, unfortunate rich 1%, of course, which will argue you to death if they think they can pick up a penny by so doing). (Emphasis marks added - Ed.)

September 19, 2010 "Economic Collapse Blog" - For most Americans, the economic collapse is something that is happening to someone else. Most of us have become so isolated from each other and so self-involved that unless something is directly affecting us or a close family member than we really don't feel it. But even though most of us enjoy a much closer relationship with our television sets than we do with our neighbors at this point, it is quickly becoming undeniable that a fundamental shift is taking place in society. Perhaps you noticed it when two or three foreclosure signs went up on your street. Or perhaps it got your attention when that nice fellow down the street lost his job, and he and his family seemingly just disappeared from the neighborhood one day. The Census Bureau made front page headlines all over the nation this week when they announced that one out of every seven Americans was living in poverty in 2009. Every single day more Americans are getting sucked out of the middle class and into soul-crushing poverty. Unfortunately, most Americans don't really care because it has not affected them yet.

But this year, millions more Americans will discover that the music has stopped playing and they are left without a seat at the table. Meanwhile, neither political party has a workable solution. They just like to point fingers and blame each other. The Democrats blame Bush for all the poverty and advocate expanding programs for the poor. Not that there is anything wrong with a safety net. But the "safety net" was never meant to hold 50 million people on Medicaid and 40 million people on food stamps. The number of Americans on food stamps has more than doubled since 2007. So do we just double it again as things get even worse?

I don't agree with all the views that I publish here at Pottersville, but they all have some valid points worth consideration. This one's is that it's time for a real change. Does anyone have a way forward? Or do we all need to prepare to immigrate now that that wealthy 1% (or is that only .1 of that 1% - I forget - the figures boggle little minds like mine) have triumphed?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

"The Simulacran Republic" (Reaching The Bottom) & What's Down There (Don't Eat the Seafood!)

One word of warning before I start this day's calm, soothing (heh heh) words to the wise:

Despite repeated assurances from federal officials and President Obama, independent scientists and public health experts have serious concerns about the long-term safety of Gulf seafood consumption.

As if anyone needed to say this. Anymore. We are on the edge. Don't push us. (Do you feel enough of a fool yet?)

Meanwhile, America’s thirty year March to the Sea goes on unabated. It is the most astonishing thing, if you think about it. Of course ‘thinking’ and ‘America’ are increasingly becoming words that can no longer be smashed into the same sentence anymore, even with the use of advanced new weaponry the Pentagon is producing. But indulge me for the moment. What has happened to this country is that the United States – which was holding a pretty goddam good winning hand, thank you very much, by the middle of the twentieth century – started following (what were inaccurately labeled) conservative politicians and policies in the 1980s, and things got a lot worse. Then we followed even more regressive idiots this last decade, and things got a whole lot worse yet.

So what are we up to now, in reaction to these twin debacles of precambrian policymaking? Following even crazier still über-extremist right-wing monster freakazoid criminals dressed up as ordinary angry citizens, of course. Natch, babe. In for a penny, in for a pound. In for a pound, in for a planet.

I have a difficult time finding anyone more eloquent than this working man (although the scholar's essay at the bottom of this entry is another fine candidate). But you know him already.

Don't miss a word of this (and I wouldn't run it all except that it's really something my faithful readers wouldn't want to miss, and Joe's prose is not that bountiful (or easily found) anymore - except at his site). (Emphasis marks added - Ed.)

Joe Bageant, "The Simulacran Republic"

Thursday, September 16, 2010 "A while back it was announced that a Japanese inventor had successfully created an invisibility cloak using a material made of thousands of tiny beads called "retro-reflectum." I found this so amazing that I told six friends, three men and three women, about it over the next two days. Not a one of them found it even interesting, much less amazing. Two of the men subsequently showed mild interest when I pointed out that it could be used to mask tanks and soldiers in combat, and one speculated on its terrorist implications. Our techno hyper-reality has so gutted and rewired the brains of Americans that ordinary intelligent people are not even capable of amazement at such a thing as invisibility! To me, this is an indication of a near-total death of the individual mind and imagination caused by our over-technologized, effects glutted sensory environment. The pure miracle of invisibility is uninteresting unless it can be linked to, say the rumbling terror of an armored tank - made perhaps even more attention-grabbing by squashing the bloody guts out of an Iraq under its tracks? It’s the sensory effect that matters, the simulacrum, not the reality. It’s the kind of thing about America that drives me to thoughts of emigration daily. Americans, rich or poor, now live in a culture entirely perceived through, simulacra-media images and illusions. We live inside a self-referential media hologram of a nation that has not existed for quite some time now, especially in America's heartland. Our national reality is held together by a pale, carbon imprint of the original. The well-off with their upscale consumer aesthetic, live inside gated Disneyesque communities with gleaming uninhabited front porches representing some bucolic notion of the Great American home and family. The working class, true to its sports culture aesthetic, is a spectator to politics ... politics which are so entirely imagistic as to be holograms of a process, not a process. Social realism is a television commercial for America, a simulacran republic of eagles, church spires, brave young soldiers and heroic firefighters and "freedom of choice" within the hologram. America's citizens have been reduced to Balkanized consumer units by the corporate state's culture producing machinery. We no longer have a country - just the hollow shell of one, a global corporation masquerading electronically and digitally as a nation called the United States.

The corporation now animates us from within our very selves through management of the need hierarchy in goods and information. Sure there is flesh within the machine, but its animating force is a viral concept, a meme run amok. Free market capitalism. We got to move them refrigerators, got to sell them color teevees. Meanwhile the culture generating industry spins our mythology like cotton candy. We all need it to survive, Hollywood myths, imperial myths, melting pot myths, the saluting dick male myths. They keep the machine running. And when the machine is running correctly, it smoothes its own way by terrifying uncooperative people into submission in prisons and torture rooms, where we do not have to look at the corpses on ice and the naked hooded bodies handcuffed to the bars. We are innocent as long as we keep our eyes taped shut. And only with our eyes shut can we keep seeing the hologram.

And with duct tape over our mouths, we can recite its slogans with one hand over our heart with the other one resting on the trigger. The average American spends about one third of his or her waking life watching television. The neurological implications of this are so profound that they cannot even be comprehended in words, much less described by them. Television creates our reality, regulates our national perceptions and our interior hallucinations of who we Americans are (the best and only important tribe on the planet.) It schedules our cultural illusions of choice, displays pre-selected candidates in our elections, or types of consumer goods. It regulates holiday marketing opportunities and the national neurological seasons, which are now governed by the electrons of the illusion. We live within a media-generated belief system that functions as the operating instructions for society.

Anything outside of its parameters represents fear and psychological freefall to the faceless legions of within it. Our civilization, our culture, in as much as it can be said to exist in any cohesive way, is based upon two things, television and petroleum. Whether you are a custodian or the President, your world depends upon an unbroken supply of both. So it is small wonder that we all watch a televised global war for oil. As in all produced illusions, everyone we see is an actor. There are the television actors portraying what passes for reality, and real people performing for television. Non-actors in Congress perform in front of the cameras, grappling over the feeding tube on Terri Schiavo; real actors portray non-actors in "reality shows." Michael Jackson showed up for court in pajamas and Jeff Weise shows up for class with a gun. The demand for "newsmakers" is relentless as the empire’s corporate cultural machinery weaves the warp of consumer illusions that make up our notion of individualism, and the weft of democratic mythology that constitutes our political system. This is by no means a free country and given the intense luminosity of the hologram, we cannot even see freedom from here, and probably would not recognize it if we could.

Moreover though, we cannot tear our eyes away from the great flickering glow of the hologram. As my late friend Timothy Leary put it, "An enormous industry, similar to the national projects of pyramid-building in Egypt, cathedral-building in medieval Europe, and prison-camp building in Stalinist Russia has emerged in America - the production of political martyrs, fallen heroes and concept outlaws. ... The essence of 'news' is, of course, the modern version of Roman coliseum shows and gladiator combats." And like clockwork, there is the nightly ritual bloodletting through televised wars and domestic murders, with detective Lenny Briscoe finding the corpses at seven, eight and eleven PM weekdays. The hologram that is our cathedral of consciousness and our national mind is an ever-darkening one. The average American, if he even thinks about the mind, thinks of it in the obsolete "mind-contained-in-the-brain" way. A few intellectuals and a handful of old dopers like me understand that reality is consensus based and is an interconnected network consisting of many minds operating along a theme. And the theme seems to be pathological. America suffers from a psychosis, a psychosis being nothing more than an insistence upon staying in an untenable state of consciousness, despite the normal modeling of those around you. This is not out of meanness, but rather an indifference so profound as to be a sickness. The hologram IS the psychosis made manifest. Psychotics love to play ominous games with those around them, just as America does with the world today. It always comes down to the one thing we never study in school, the one thing we cannot learn about in this country without a great deal of personal extracurricular effort - consciousness. As we have known at least since the Sixties, the core issue of our existence is consciousness, which our corporate state is compelled to control at all times. That’s why drugs are illegal; that’s why we have hundreds of television channels; and that’s why you will never find anything much resembling the truth in U.S. newspapers and magazines. But there are still those of us who remember our consciousness experiments in the Sixties. Remember what it is like to peer into other realities, not to mention observe the inherent folly and frequent horror of our own war-profit-driven, animal murdering, death-and-sex-without-love obsessed culture. There are those of us who know that when a thrush cries out from the branch it echoes throughout the galaxy. All things are connected and ownership of things is meaningless. The purpose of life is to know this. Lao-tsu knew it, just like Einstein knew it. But you and I are not allowed to. It would shatter our revered hologram, the one that threatens to shatter the world. To even begin to dissolve this dangerous hologram we would have to examine the biggest lie of all - that technology is neutral and that people determine its ultimate effects. What divine horseshit! Consider what even the best use of nuclear energy leaves in its wake over the long haul an uninhabitable planet. No matter who is in charge we end up with millions of tons of waste with a half-life in the tens of thousands of years. But the hologram we revere asks us to judge the technology at its heart in strictly personal terms - cars, vacuum cleaners, and digital amusements. Pay no mind to the toxic rivers and a sky turning red. Science and technology are our religion and all philosophical decisions are made in the corporate world whose function is to sell commodities. Easily the most terrifying aspect of the industrial/media/political hologram is that we are trapped. There is no way out of a technological industrial machine where you need at least a car, a phone, etc. to function, to participate at all. Thanks to the hologram, American culture, as such, is nearly over. It is not sustainable. It is not reformable. Not only are TV and all digital media unreformable, but they are sure to accelerate our demise more rapidly because of the technological capitalist paradigm of growth at all cost. We cannot eliminate the generators of the hologram, television and electronic media. They are the glue of the hologram, the mediators of our human experience. We will all die without them, now that they have replaced all other previous forms of knowledge, the ancient forms, and have colonized our inner lives like a virus. The natural world is not only boring but does not even exist, as we sit mesmerized, while the hologram sells our very feelings back to us. Are we adequate? How are we supposed to act? Did you phone someone you love today? What and whom are we to fear? You are rendered numb by a hypnotic medium, react to your own feelings which have been stolen and doled back out to you, and pay money to do so. Brilliant! The commodification of human consciousness is probably the most astounding, if ghoulish, accomplishment of American Capitalist culture. Meanwhile, there is the omniscient "one voice that speaks out to the many," the disembodied military/corporate voice, that all but guarantees an authoritarian political scenario. Unlike the humans who constitute their living innards, the corporations animating the hologram are themselves deathless. The citizens cannot harm them. Under U.S. law corporations have all the rights and protections of individuals, and they cannot be regulated because corporations are "fictional persons" and have the same right to free speech as persons. Of course, given that the media are corporations, their speech is a helluva lot more impactful and significant than any one person’s. "But," as the brilliant author of In the Absence of the Sacred, Gerry Mander puts it: "They have none of the commensurate responsibilities. Communities cannot control them because they can always move to other communities. They do not have corporeality; they can't be executed. You can imprison certain people within a corporation if they engage in criminal acts. The corporation itself, however, lives beyond the people in it." The light of the hologram plays on material reality and remakes it in its own image, destroying all connection with the natural world. Malls and suburbs and hyper-real surfaces and speed - meaningless but dazzling technology. The earth gets a makeover in the image of Disneyland and becomes inhabited by humans who are commodified versions of themselves. It is difficult for people to grasp that we are in an age of corporate dominion just as we were once in an age of domination by royal families, kings and warlords. Somehow it is hard to equate our tribute rendered to the credit card companies, the insurance companies, the IRS, the power cartels, the mortgage banks, with the kind of bondage it is. Yet we must do these things to be allowed to live in society. The only other choice is to sleep under a bridge. And these days, whether due to an on-setting depression or creeping wisdom, I often contemplate just that. I really do. Of course I understand that even under a bridge one cannot escape the hologram’s blue flicker issuing from a hundred million encroaching suburban windows. But like I said, there are still a few of us old bastards out here who remember. And we can still hear the cry of the thrush echoing, still out there shattering galaxies. Freedom is possible."

And then there's our MAN standing on the ramparts trying to keep back the flood (Hell, he's already over the edge!). Listen to his final sermon (I never thought I'd see this well-educated, relatively soft-spoken prof catch fire and call out the damnation on the responsible parties in this public a way and in quite this degree). (Emphasis marks added - Ed.)

Just when you thought you’d reached the ground floor in the well of American self-destruction, you find out once again that that pit is absolutely bottomless.

Now that primary season is almost over, the far-right tea party movement has scored impressive victories over the far-right establishment in a slew of Republican primaries. I’ve always said that the regressive movement would end up eating its young, and now it is.

The new batch of Republican monsters includes a candidate – now the official Republican nominee for the United States Senate from Delaware, mind you – who has staked out a tough position against – no, I’m not kidding here – masturbation. Christine O’Donnell once averred that “The Bible says that lust in your heart is committing adultery. So you can't masturbate without lust.” And why the hell not? Surely the reason that our country has so rapidly fallen into decline is that god is punishing America because so many of us are jerking off all the time.

You know who you are. Oh, and did you hear that she was once a witch? That she believes that scientists have bred mice-men with human brains? That she has no job? And that – despite running on a platform of cleaning up Washington’s fiscal disaster – she has a train wreck for a record of her personal finances? I’m not kidding. Remember way back when – like, you know, yesterday – when you would have accused me of bad comedy writing for making such things up? Guess what? None of these are.

America, this is you, 2010. Kinda makes you pine for the good ol’ days of the thirteenth century, doesn’t it? Here in New York the nominee is a bazillionaire who sends out racist and pornographic email to people. Hah-hah. Love that kind of real working man’s humor, don’t you? After being rejected by the Republican party initially, Carl Paladino hired Richard Nixon’s political hit man to run his campaign, injected millions of his own money to fund it, and trounced the hapless establishment candidate, Rick Lazio, who just couldn’t get extreme enough to win, whore himself as he might, and as he readily did. The Christian Science Monitor notes that, “Paladino, who espouses family values, has a daughter with a former employee who is not his wife”. It is also noted of this great and incendiary paragon of small government that, “As a landlord, he made a lot of money renting space to the state in Albany and using state tax incentives for his real estate empire”. Similarly, Paladino has compared labor unions to pigs, and, according to the Huffington Post, “said he would transform some New York prisons into dormitories for welfare recipients, where they could work in state-sponsored jobs, get employment training and take lessons in ‘personal hygiene’”.

Did I mention that his father was employed by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression? Perhaps if Franklin Roosevelt had incarcerated père Paladino and instructed him in better hygiene – instead of wasting taxpayer money to create a monstrously big government in remote Washington, DC that continually oppressed the people with stupid wasteful programs that like, oh, you know, kept starving Americans alive – we in New York wouldn’t be stuck with the fruit of his loins assaulting our senses today. Whatever. I mean, what’s the point of having Republicans if it’s not gonna be all about hypocrisy and twisted sexual obsession, anyhow?

. . . . It is the stuff of fiction, really – almost unimaginable to remotely sentient beings operating in the real world. Something that requires a master novelist to do it proper justice. But Orwell’s long dead, so even that possibility is off the table. Not everybody quite gets how perilous is the moment, however. Democratic pundits who are rejoicing over the tea party primary victories, thinking that they are good for theDemocratic Party, are stupid slugs who ought to have the living shit kicked out of them, just for brainlessly taking up space on the planet. First of all, who could possibly care in the slightest about the fate of the Democratic Party? Am I really supposed to be so filled with motivating joy about the prospects of electing slightly less regressive agents of the American oligarchy to Congress that I will run down to party headquarters and start phone banking for my local Democrat? Are we really supposed get electrified and rally around our president and the inspirational likes of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, simply because they are marginally less obnoxious than the alternative? Golly, I just don’t think so. But more importantly, Democrats are the very reason for the tea party, this latest episode of American idiocy. Had the party done something with the grand historic opportunity handed to them two years ago, none of this would be happening. Had they not booted so badly a rare alignment of the stars that gave them crises allowing real, serious solutions, along with a despised opposition allowing the final crushing of the conservative disease for a generation or more, we wouldn’t be sitting here today laughing at serious candidates for the United States Senate who have staked out firm positions on the societal perils of onanism.

If Barack Obama had channeled Harry Truman instead of Neville Chamberlain, this show would have been over a long time ago. But the president instead decided to make nice with vicious thugs, even though he never needed to, and even though they were publicly excoriating him in the ugliest and most deceitful terms, just as he was negotiating with them. And negotiating. And negotiating some more. The Fool Down The Hill spent a year cutting deals with Republicans in Congress on his health care debacle, giving in to them at every turn, and stiff-arming the progressives who had made him president, only to achieve exactly what anyone who has been remotely conscious since Joe McCarthy’s day knew would be the outcome: no Republican votes for a bill they themselves had helped water down to near insignificance. Add to that Republican obstruction on every other issue, the almost complete absence of GOP votes on anythingeven legislation they had previously sponsored – the Democrats favored, along with the right’s continuous assault on every real or (mostly) imagined personal characteristic of the president, and now you see a huge part of the explanation for the tragicomedy that is American politics at this moment.

What’s worse, Obama’s stupidity is a gift that will keep on giving for a long time. By means of his actions in the White House so far, he has nearly guaranteed that he cannot recover in the coming years, no matter what. He has done one of the few things that more or less assures his presidency of being finished. The right will never let up on him, even if he were to adopt their agenda wholesale. And let’s be clear about this – he more or less already has. If you lay out the positions of the Obama administration on everything from civil liberties to gay rights to economic policy to national ‘defense’ and more, there’s hardly a damn shred of difference between his positions and George W. Bush’s. It’s a ludicrous lie to call this milquetoast regressive in a Democratic suit a liberal, let alone a socialist. And we’ve only just begun with Bad Barry, folks. After he gets his ass royally kicked in November, Obama will lurch even further to the right. But that will engender even greater scorn from the sickos living over there under their slime-infested rocks, as well as endless congressional investigations of bogus administration scandals, likely including an impeachment. Or did you miss the 1990s entirely, Barack?

But that’s only the start of it. Because Obama was too dumb to recognize that everything hinged on reviving the economy (did you miss the last century, too, Bro?), and because he was too cowardly to move boldly on anything whatsoever that he did, he has also lost ordinary, centrist, independent voters who think both parties are generally worthless but will vote for anyone who can actually produce solutions. It’s possible that you can bring those people back, but it ain’t likely. The first rule of politics is that people vote their pocketbooks. Thus, any prayer at winning again would require an economic recovery. But that isn’t gonna happen, in part because Half O’Bama half-assed the stimulus bill, partly because he was seeking bipartisan support which – wait for it now – never came, despite the compromises which reduced the size of the stimulus and turned one-third of it into ineffective tax cuts that the one-tune-jukebox Neanderthals demanded. It’s also not gonna happen because this downturn is less a one-off event than it is the culmination (we grimly hope – it could get worse yet) of a thirty year grand national downsizing project, and because it is less an economic recession than it is a wholesale and permanent restructuring. No economist I’ve heard of sees any shred of economic recovery anywhere on the horizon throughout all of 2011, and neither do I. In fact, there are good reasons to think it gets worse from here. And that means Obama and his party are toast, not just in this election cycle, but the next one as well.

Having thus irrevocably alienated aliens on the right in addition to the just-gimme-some-results voters in the middle, Obama is producing some of the same effect on progressives as well. It was a very bad idea to speak in bold, Lincolnesque strokes as a candidate if you intended to govern like a small town city manager, and a feeble one at that. Lots of young folks, especially, who flocked to the banner of hope and change are now feeling burned, and well they should. For many others – including the dude I see in my bathroom mirror every morning – this is more like the last straw, the final frontier. Having spent decades holding our noses and voting for Democrats just because the Republicans were so goddam destructive, many of us are now done, possibly forever. Not only is it unimaginable to me that I would vote for Obama in 2012 – no matter who is his Republican opponent – I refuse, with rare possible exception, to vote for any Democrat ever again, until the party can at least get back in the ballpark of progressive politics.

And so it is Obama and his co-conspirators in Congress have lost the right and the center, and at least the enthusiasm if not the votes of the left. But, more importantly, they have done so in ways that are mostly permanent, ways that mostly preclude any possible recovery of these voters’ support. This is precisely the reason that Democratic pundits and functionaries are even more self-destructively stupid now than they have been for thirty years, rejoicing in tea party primary victories, thinking that those represent good news for their party.

Consider the appropriately-named Bob Shrum as one example, he whose great wisdom has produced an astonishing zero-for-eight record as a top presidential campaign staffer over the decades (in a hissy fit after nine days on board, he actually quit the Jimmy Carter campaign, the only successful one he was ever involved with). Looking ahead to the presidential prospects of 2012 given the surge of the tea party, he surveys the Republican field, noting that, “The GOP’s 1964 tragedy of Goldwater, who was at least a serious figure, could be repeated in the farce of Palin.

... Newt Gingrich is positioning himself as Palin with a brain. Gingrich has now become a font of smears and off-the-rail ideas – from privatizing Social Security to the transparently racist charge that Obama channels the Kenyan anti-colonialism of the father he barely knew. With his pandering to both prejudice and extremism, Gingrich could be the 2012 nominee. He would be unelectable. ... So would Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor who’s proposed scrapping the progressive income tax, the sinister idea championed by that great socialist Republican Theodore Roosevelt. ... In desperation, Republican strategists are thinking of Mississippi Republican Gov. Haley Barbour, who would also compete with an appeal to the birthers, the resentful, and the backlash base. But Barbour was a legendary D.C. lobbyist for the most powerful vested interests, from tobacco to oil. Perhaps he could run on the slogan: ‘Remove the Middleman.’ For Republicans, payback could come as early as November, with Democrats keeping the Senate – maybe even the House. But 2012, I believe, will provide the ultimate irony: The people who most revile President Obama – and the Republican leaders who enlisted them only to see their party hijacked by them – may assure an Obama re-election.”

To say that this analysis displays astonishing naivete would be an unfair and unkind cut on simpletons the world over. This is pure lunacy, and it shows both the self-interested narrowness and the analytical imbecility of Democratic strategists (to abuse a term) and pundits. Maybe these folks haven’t noticed lately, but in American politics “pandering to both prejudice and extremism” is not exactly a losing strategy. Maybe these people (and there’s a lot more of them than just Shrum) aren’t paying real close attention, but most American voters don’t even have a clue who Teddy Roosevelt was or what he did. And they don’t exactly shrink from the idea of slashing taxes just because some dude had a different approach a hundred years ago. Or was it a thousand?

Most importantly, Shrum’s assumption of rationality amongst voters leads him to conclude that the nomination of Palin in 2012 would result in the “ironic” “farce” of her Goldwater-like crushing defeat at the polls. It is no surprise this guy keeps booting presidential campaigns. The twin wonders are why anyone continues to hire him, and why anyone publishes his analysis of politics. For all I know, he could be a world-class expert at philately or the intricacies nineteenth century cricket, but, meanwhile, opinion journal publishers might want to take note of the increasingly inconvenient fact that the guy clearly knows nothing about politics.

Here’s the deal, Bob (et al.), and feel free to take notes: This is not 1964. The country is not flush. The middle class is not robust, thriving and expanding. The incumbent party is not riding a wave of peace and prosperity, nor is it benefitting from public sympathy for the young, handsome, witty and beloved leader just recently tragically cut down in his prime. Okay? Which means that, unlike Lyndon Johnson and crew, Democrats are not gonna get a lot of votes from people happy with the magic of our moment, and therefore especially uninterested in a taking a gamble on a self-described extremist like Barry Goldwater. Indeed, precisely the opposite logic applies here, which will produce precisely the opposite outcome. Democrats should be familiar with this – it’s exactly the reverse of what transpired not even two years ago: Very unhappy voters in 2012 will choose the candidate of the party not in the White House, because those voters will desperately crave change. You remember “change”, don’t you, Bob? Thus, the real race will be for the Republican nomination – decided exclusively by Republican primary voters, who are merely certifiably insane on a good day – not the general election, which will be a sure thing for the GOP. And thus the next president of the United States will be Sarah Palin.

It would be nice if that were the bad part. But, sadly, as ugly as that prospect is, it’s only the warm-up act for the real fun. Republicans – tea party variant or not (and, ideologically, there ain’t much difference between the two) – have absolutely zero solutions for the crises the country faces (not to mention the irony of them being responsible for creating those crises, of course). Their only plan for economic recovery is more tax cuts for the rich. That will do nothing for the economy, of course, other than plunging the country deeper into debt and exacerbating already dramatic disparities in the country’s distribution of wealth. Their plan for health care is to repeal Obama’s. Their plan for global warming is to pretend it doesn’t exist and support fossil fuel related industries such that the problem gets worse. Their foreign policy is war. Their plan for Middle East peace is to support Israel no matter what it does, thus guaranteeing no peace agreement. Their plan for the financial crisis is to slash any restrictions that might meaningfully control the behavior of Wall Street predators. And so on. They have no solutions, and can only succeed in making the bad situation they created worse.

And now here is where it starts to get really scary. Imagine us in 2014, the same distance into a Republican government (on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue) that we are today into a Democratic one. Except that there are two big differences. The first is that the public has had four more years – four years! – of decline, demoralization and economic terrorism under their belts by this time, with no solutions remotely in sight. What is their likely disposition? They will be turning on Republicans and showing their canines in a way that makes 2010 look like a friendly game of Scrabble by comparison.

The second difference will be in the nature of those inhabiting a government which at that point will be firmly backed up against the wall. About the only positive thing I can say regarding Democrats is that they have some limitations on what they are willing to do out of self-interest. Not much, but some. Not so the animals of the GOP, least of all the tea party sociopathic freaks. These people are not going to go down lightly. These people will be faced with a choice between humiliation and destruction on the one hand, and generating a diversionary, and probably jingoistic feel-good, catastrophe on the other. They would not be the first failing government in history to choose the annihilation of others in order to sustain a bit longer the unsustainable. They would not even be the first to take out tens of millions in such a quest. Scary only begins to describe where this is all going.

People often scoff at me when I tell them that I think Sarah Palin is likely to be the next American president.

Or they think I wax a bit apocalyptic when I start talking about outcomes that smell all too much like Germany in the 1930s. So let me review the bidding in summary form to explain why we should be very afraid. Jump in anywhere you see a chink in the chain of logic.

The first question is, Will Barack Obama preside over economic recovery substantial and early enough to be reelected in 2012? Perhaps, of course. But not likely as things look now. Second, will voters conform with nearly universal past practice and choose to go with the alternative to the status quo under conditions of economic (and other) duress? Highly likely. Third, will they be willing to elect somebody whose ideas are extreme and who quite recently was widely portrayed in the media as a dummy and a clown, if that is their only realistic alternative to the failed sitting president and his party?

I dunno – can you say “Ronald Reagan in 1980”? Fourth, given the composition of Republican primary voters who are already choosing candidates so extreme that even Karl Rove is describing them as “nutty”, and given what we saw from these people in 2008, who is most likely to be the 2012 GOP nominee, and therefore shoe-in winner of the general election in November of that year? You know her name. Fifth, will a Republican program of tax cuts for the rich, reduced standard of living for everyone else, increased economic insecurity, more war, environmental wreckage, a Wall Street bacchanal and unfettered corporate pillage give Americans in 2013 and 2014 the solutions they were looking for when they desperately voted out the incumbent in 2012?

Of course not. And, finally, and most grimly of all, Would a Sarah Palin administration or its equivalent stand by and watch itself go down in flames of complete destruction – sorta like what Barack Obama is now doing – when it had at its disposal a way to instead change the channel of public dissatisfaction? I think we all know the answer to that one too. Each of these questions has more than one possible answer, and I am far from claiming any outcome as inevitable. However, I will say that I think the sequence of events I’ve outlined above – not just individually, but the more daunting probability of all these things happening – is more likely than not.

I have a hard time seeing this country recover in two years time. I have a hard time seeing Obama winning reelection. I not only cannot imagine a non-radical GOP nominee in 2012, I can’t even name one such person in the party considering a presidential bid. I know for sure that their ‘solutions’ don’t work – indeed, I, like you, am living the consequences of those very policies as we speak. And, finally, I also know that the people who did Iraq and debt hemorrhaging tax cuts and Katrina and torture and the rest are capable of anything. Anything. And these weren’t even the tea partiers, who are even sicker than the Bushes and Roves out there.

People like Bob Shrum or perhaps Barack Obama and the strategists around him would merely be insane to applaud tea party successes this year, if all that was at stake was their own worthless careers. (And it is, of course, a measure of their utter failure as politicians that the best thing they have going in this election cycle is the hope that their opponents will choose lunatics as candidates.) Yes, yes, Bob and Barack and Rahm and David and David, this may be good news six weeks from now for a Democratic Party that is so pathetic it depends on the GOP to implode in order to only get partially devastated in the coming election. But even that won’t stop scads of tea baggers from winning seats in the United States Congress this year. And – far more importantly – it won’t stop the rise of this movement that is so disastrous for the country going forward.

Far, far more is at stake here than one failed president’s second term, or the careers of a bunch of party hacks and media retreads. The truth is, we stand now on the edge of a precipice. And it is a very long way down to the bottom.

Joining many already resident there.

Don't laugh. You're there too.

Suzan _______________