NYT: Obama Takes Page from Bennet ’08 Campaign

Carl Hulse of the NYT says that Obama campaign is using Bennet’s campaign as a model of how to win — capture women and Hispanics — in Colorado, if not further afield. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09…

Hopefully not.

1. Bennet was running against a Certified Nut Case (CNC), a real-life Tea Partier who left rationality behind years ago in Princeton. Romney may be a robot specializing in automated flip flops, but he doesn’t really come across (yet) as completely off his rocker.

2. Bennet rode in on Obama’s coattails. Whose coattails is Obama riding?

3. To some extent, Obama seems to be running (virtually) against Todd Akin — at least to the extent that I haven’t discerned a clear set of goals or plans to associate with Obama. Truth be told, in ’08 Obama was the candidate of Change — meaning that he would be a change from the wretched GWB. This time, he’s not Romney, which may well be enough to get folks to vote for him, but it won’t be enough to get them outdoors to wander their neighborhoods to get out the vote.

4. Bennet’s campaign for the Senate can’t be separated from the primary. He was the Out of State candidate versus the in-state candidate. I once bothered to look up his contributors and sort them by Zip code. Bennet was the candidate of the Upper East Side, and no, I don’t mean Julesburg. Does Obama imagine he can duplicate that too?

Deadly List

Pop quiz: What does Colorado have in common with Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Tennessee, inter alia?

Answer: They all have “stand your ground” laws, more accurately labeled “kill a nigger* on us” laws.

* includes people who speak Spanish in AZ and CO

Repealing this mass license to murder would be a good way for the special session to spend its time whilst lounging about to see how the Republican speaker feels about coming down on the wrong side of the future again, and as usual.

Time to hang up your six-shooters, boys. That era ended, oh, about 1890 or so.

Oops

This original version of this diary was based on incorrect electoral college math. Sorry.

The Wrong Question

Thanks, and hats off, to OWS for bringing “concentration of wealth” front and center in time for the 2012 elections.

But, this seems to me to be the wrong question to be addressing. More to the point is the governance of corporations.

For well over a century, since the explosion of the second stage of the Industrial Revolution after the Civil War, corporations have grown up alongside government to become an alternative form of governance. Their influence affects not just their direct employees, but the many people who depend on the earnings of their employees–store owners and clerks alike,  tellers at the local bank, anyone dependent on advertising … the list is virtually endless.

Towns, counties, states compete for their favors, offering tax exemptions, state funds to build roads and schools for their employees, whatever it takes to persuade corporate governors to locate a new plant here pretty please, so that citizens can earn a living.

For at least a generation, decisions by corporate managers have changed the American economic landscape. In the 1980s GM’s management made cost-cutting decisions that opened a yawning niche to high-quality, well engineered products from Japan. Corporate clothing manufacturers have successively moved manufacturing from New England to the American South to Latin America or Southeast Asia, all in the name of cutting costs and improving profits. Other manufacturers have introduced automation that greatly improves efficiency and requires fewer people to manufacture at the same rate. (It’s a myth that American manufacturing has all moved to Asia; the value of American manufacturing today is higher than ever, but modern plants use robotics in lieu of people, especially for lower level, repetitive work.) The point here, and it cannot be repeated often enough, is that businesses take decisions to benefit their owners, not their society, not citizens of the geographically-constrained entities like towns, states, or nations, not their employees responsible for their success. Their owners and only their owners. And that is why business expertise or experience is not a qualification for public office; au contraire.

Apologists for the system argue that efficiency is good, but good for whom? For owners of corporate shares, the 1%, sure. But the path to more comfortable lives, to the Middle Class (RIP), is increasingly shut off. We know exactly who is responsible for this shift, their names are regularly published in lists of corporate CEOs. But we the people have no vote in the boardrooms where decisions that affect thousands, or tens of thousands, of citizens are debated, analyzed, and made every day. For many, those decisions have a far more meaningful impact on their lives than anything the city council or state legislature could possibly do.

This year, we are witnessing a frontal assault on the only other source of real influence that isn’t beholden to corporations — the federal government. (Of course, I concede without argument that it’s debatable how much “independent” decison-making the federales still exercise, but it’s apparently too much to suit the tastes of hard-core Republicans, so I’ll take their campaign propaganda as proof that there’s at least some remaining influence subject to popular vote.) The conflict isn’t new, by any means, but Mitt Romney in particular represents the most naked, undisguised representative of corporate power against democratic government power in our lifetime.

The decisions not to hire workers, or to loan money to small business, are not made in the White House. Those decisions are made in corporate boardrooms dominated by overpaid executives who maneuvered to appoint friendly faces to join them on the board of directors. Superinflated CEO salaries notwithstanding, much of the “wealth” resides in the country club, where the stockholders are glad they don’t have to interrupt their string of martinis in order to exercise business judgment; that’s what they pay the CEO to do, and if it’s expensive, well, as long as the dividends keep coming, that’s okay. Witness Mitt Romney, who has admitted that his income derives from investments made long ago, thereby enabling him to spend years and years running for another office after governor of Massachusetts, and to tell voters that he, too, is “unemployed.”

It is this unrestrained power in the hands of a relatively tiny number of corporate fuhrers that should be at the center of the election, before their victory is complete.

Reason to be Afraid

First priority: read Chris Hedges’s piece on TruthDig ( http://www.truthdig.com/report… )about his suit challenging the legality of Title X, Subtitle D of the National Defense Authorization Act signed by President Obama on December 31:

With this bill, which will take effect March 3, the military can indefinitely detain without trial any U.S. citizen deemed to be a terrorist or an accessory to terrorism. And suspects can be shipped by the military to our offshore penal colony in Guantanamo Bay and kept there until “the end of hostilities.” (emphasis added)

Being an “accessory” opens up a broad, broad range of prospects, including encouraging emails or posts on the Web (see the case of Anwar Al-Awlaki). But, some may wonder, what about the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878? Doesn’t that bar the military from domestic police duties? The short answer is no; it only requires that such activities by the military be authorized by an act of Congress.

As we all know, fear and appeals to insecurity are arguably the most powerful motivation in elections. Candidates with no positive programs often fall back on fear … fear of foreign powers, of foreign ideologies, of foreigners “invading” the United States, or fear that the opposition will start telling you what doctor to see, will establish “death panels,” force your daughter to marry someone of another race… We have already seen these brought up in the Republican primary; more will follow.

A flip side is Romney’s “I love my country” routine, with the broad implication that anyone who disagrees with me doesn’t. Example: Mitt Romney on Sean Hannity on Dec. 15, thanks to Greg Sargent of WaPo ( http://www.washingtonpost.com/… ):

“I think the President has gone from being a failed Presidency, a guy over his head, to someone who is now so desperate to get reelection that he’s doing things that are very much counter to the interest of the country and he knows it.” (Emphasis added)

Paranoid, JO? No, I’m not afraid that a team of Navy Seals are coming by later night to haul me off to Guantanamo, or to launch a drone “hit” when I drive to the grocery store. But I can see that the definition of “enemy” of the country can easily be extended–and has been extended–to cover Barack Obama by the supposed moderate who’s likely to be the Republican candidate for president (fuggedabout Rick Perry accusing Ben Bernancke of “treason” using the very word).

This aspect of the defense appropriations bill was reported at the time ( http://www.guardian.co.uk/worl… ) but not, as I recall, widely remarked. It seems odd to add this to the defense authorization bill at this late stage of “war on terrorism.” It needs to become part of the public discourse.  

Will Bain Prove to be the Main Issue?

Beware the temptation to imagine that Obama and his Republican rival are the only players in the presidential election. While all eyes are on South Carolina and Bain capital at the moment, there is also this from the NYT ( http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01… )

In 2002, a classified, $250 million Defense Department war game concluded that small, agile speedboats swarming a naval convoy could inflict devastating damage on more powerful warships [in the Gulf]. In that game, the Blue Team navy, representing the United States, lost 16 major warships – an aircraft carrier, cruisers and amphibious vessels – when they were sunk to the bottom of the Persian Gulf in an attack that included swarming tactics by enemy speedboats. . . . ‘The whole thing was over in 5, maybe 10 minutes.’

We are not talking here about orders from the supreme ayatollah or the president of Iran, both of whom can understand and evaluate the threat to Iran posed by blocking the Strait of Hormuz, or by attacking U.S. Navy ship in that neighborhood (and both of whom are also playing to their own domestic audiences). The Revolutionary Guards have their own fleet of armed speedboats, and the fanatics to steer one or two into an American carrier, or to surround U. S. ships with mines, or even to fire rockets from shore, with or without authority from HQ in Teheran. It is in the real-time reaction(s) to such a provocation that the next dismal chapter of our role in defending supplies of oil may be written, not in a full-length position paper drafted by an Ivy graduate who majored in Middle Eastern studies, but by an Iranian student of the Quorn convinced that Allah is his helmsman.

Or will we seen retaliation for the latest assassination of an Iranian working on the uranium enrichment project? And counter retaliation, until someone, somwhere, pushes the Big Red Magic Button left unattended by more rational thinkers? Or the overnight doubling, even tripling, of oil prices in a panicky reaction to rhetoric delivered to a domestic audience in Farsi, Arabic, or Hebrew, with nary an interruption in actual shipments. Suddenly the 2 in $2.97 is replaced by a 3 or a 4, and $29.97 becomes $39.97 or $49.97 without a shot fired.

McCain didn’t plan on running in the face of a financial meltdown–but that was the case in just the last eight weeks or so of the ’08 campaign. How will Mitt’s experience at Bain Capital, or his proclaimed pleasure at being able to fire someone who provides him services, serve him in the light of a crisis in the Gulf, to say nothing of a Euro financial crisis that spreads to Wall Street in minutes and to Main Street a few days after that, thereby underscoring the role of capital in capitalism?

If the South Carolina primary, or Newt vs Mitt, seems to you to be the most interesting story in the Breakfast Soap Opera with Charlie Rose, by all means enjoy. But don’t ignore the rest of “the paper,” however it’s delivered.

H

From whence cometh Lord Mammon?

Mythology abounds and rules our lives.

Paul Krugman wites often about the Confidence Fairie … cut government expenditures, lay off enough workers, and the Confidence Fairie will appear to deliver the Great Economic Rebound.

ABC reports that “Iowa is too close to call,” as if we were a nation of sturdy farmers stepping forth into the January night to determine the future of our government in gymnasiums and church basements in the Heartland, one nation under God with liberty and justice for all.

But let us take a break, however brief, to drink a cup of kindness for auld realitie.

If any god rules o’er us, ’tis the Mighty Lord Mammon. His, or her, presence is everywhere. Most certainly it’s in the halls of Congress and in the White House in the City Upon a Hill (oops, gotta keep my myths sorted out here). But he or she also rules day and night over Everyman’s Castle Estates, the ubiquitous subdivision of little boxes on the hillside, each with a 2-car garage to store detritus of a lifetime, with a little sedan and a civilian version of the Bradley Fighting Vehicle parked outside, ready to transport Mom and Dad to work if and when they find a job that pays the minimim wage.

Lord Mammon certainly resides in his many temples constructed not like European cathedrals of ages gone by, but like built-in-week boxes surrounded by pavement. Fixating on Iowa, we many of us did, reminded me of many car journeys along Interstate 80, through that state, through Nebraska, through St. Santorum’s  Pennsylvania. Enter a Little town at one exit from the Interstate, rejoin the highway at the other end of a Main Street lined with empty stores once owned by the petit bourgeoise who now work where everyone else spends their money: at WalMart or, for the fashion conscious, at Target.

Mammon’s reign turns up in unlikely places, like academe. College graduate, are you? Might you be a business major, hoping that a B in Cash Register 101 will be sufficient qualification to be invited back for a second interview? Gotta pay down that loan somehow!

And the myths march on. Near the front of the quadrennial parade is the Presidential Election float, dedicated to the proposition that all dollars are created equal, and whosoever haveth the most can buy the ads on TeeVee that feed the selective data to support the foregone conclusions that support the Great Lies by which we live and in defense of which we eagerly salute our fighting men and women, including our newly militarized polizei, gazing out like robots behind their visors, fingering their MagicTasers, just like Spiderman.

Freedom of speech, of course, so long as nobody hears you! Parks are meant to be the pretty lawns surrounding the temples of power, not places where people assemble. That would be the asphalt in front of SuperMammon’s Everything’s Cheaper Chinese Retail outlet, featuring 20-cents-per-hour trousers from Bangladesh this week. C’mon in and spend yor minimum wages here; doors open at midnight.

Take money out of politics? Why, sweet child, we might as well take WalMart out of Christmas. Come inside out of the cold and watch this week’s clown show. George whatshisname is back on ABC on Sunday morning, don’t you know!

Santorum and Colorado

David Brooks (whom I do NOT respect, either as an intellectual or as a writer) devotes his column today ( http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01… ) to Rick Santorum. He leads off saying:

The Republican Party is the party of the white working class. This group – whites with high school degrees and maybe some college – is still the largest block in the electorate. They overwhelmingly favor Republicans.

Colorado has a good deal in common with Pennsylvania, especially in the form of dry dirt farmers in the plains and mining-dependent mountain men and women in the West. Pennsylvania has been described as Alabama with Pittsburgh and Philadelphia at either end, just as Colorado might be described as Alabama divided by Denver (but not, certainly, Colorado Springs, which might be a candidate for state capital if that decision were being made today).

The white working class here as elsewhere is largely Republican … why? That must be the compelling question for every nominal Democrat to answer.

It’s certainly not because the party represents its economic interests. Au contraire, those who worship at the altar of St. Ronald can mark the start of the real concentration of wealth from Ronnie’s campaign kickoff–in Mississippi, symbolizing his role as Mr. Roll-Back: roll back the economic and social gains of the black working class (since replaced by the Latino working class, now described as “illegals”).

The success of Reagan lay in breaking down the separation of church and state, and with a purpose in mind: to take voters’ minds off economics (the real essence of politics) and to focus on social issues with a biblical flavour, whether it’s sexuality or the perogatives of the Father presiding over his half-starving, fully ignorant family living in Everyman’s 3BR2BLRDRK castle.

That narrative has not changed one bit over the past four decades. Republicans continue to represent the interests of a tiny minority that controls the finances not just of Wall Street but of corporate America working (or unemployed, as the case may be) on Main Streets from Altoona to Limon to Grand Junction. Republicans continue to succeed in disguising this contradiction by focusing on “social” issues, from equal rights to … well, from equal rights in all their manifestations. For the Republican faithful streaming to caucuses in Iowa tonight, this really means recoiling from the notion that their neighbors with darker skin might possibly be their equals and be entitled to the same privileges and social security as the shrinking white minority.

It’s impossible to escape the issue of race in the Republican mantra. Attacks on “welfare” are a poorly disguised substitute for attacks on “blacks.” Everyone knows that the hated “illegals” are Hispanic, not Chinese or European. I’ll not even mention the origins of the “birther” campaign to discredit Obama.  Every single Republican, without exception, is wed to this concept: “Get their minds off economics by focusing on fear of their darker neighbors.” It’s no accident that Iowa looms large in Republican campaign plans…a state with a combined “minority” population of around 10% vs about 29% nationally.

How does one refocus the attention of these white working class voters on the real challenge to their social standing, their entry into the middle class, their advance above and beyond peonage?

Obviously the Democrats don’t know. Once they find out, we will have a chance for a real political dialogue about the Main Issue confronting our society: the Rule of Mammon and how to end it.

Fact Free Politics: Latest installment (Updated)

OK, class, let’s match the name with the number. The numbers below represent how many new jobs the Keystone XL pipeline is predicted to create… according to whom?

A.  20,000       1. John Boehner

B. 100,000      2. John Huntsman

C.   6,500        3. Keystone XL company

OK, we made it easy. The answers are A-1, B-2, and C-3.

Just one in a long, long series of examples of Fact Free Politics (nod to Chris Hedges for coining the term). Who’d a thunk that the Speaker of the House would make up a number, entirely fictitious, about the number of new jobs President Obama might not be creating if he hesitates to approve…much less vetoes…the XL Pipeline proposal? Would any serious candidate, much less a former ambassador to China and governor of Utah, exaggerate the number by a factor of SIXTEEN?

Well, in the latter case, yes; and in the case of Boehner, that’s just what he did. The estimate of how many temporary jobs would be created in construction of the pipeline should … and has … come from the company proposing to build the thing. In this case, 6,000 – 6,500.

The fact (if I may use that word in the context of governance, much less politics) is that our political dialogue has left the realm of Reality and entered the World of Make-Believe Entertainment. The latter is a world of mythology (“America Is Still Number One” … in what isn’t specified; “America Is the Land Where Anyone Can Make It, with Enough Gumption, Guts, and Grit!”, et cetera). And wild, wild lies (“Obama is a Marxist,” “Obama hates America and wants to turn it into a European socialist state where the gummit will tell you want you can eat for dinner and will take your chillun away from you at age 3 months to be turned into robots…”) … not mere misrepresentations, not mere forgetfulness (that’s Governor Oops), not mere confusion. Deliberate lies.

The emergence of unmediated media, e.g. blogs, facilitates the process, even as Old Tyme media news freely acknowledges (in the product) its final transformation into Early Entertainment, including tonight’s Warm and Cuddly Pix of kids looking happy after their parents both lose their jobs, and the house, and their savings, and their childrens’ futures….

And not just to pick on the Right, although they are the more egregious. How ’bout a candidate of “Hope” and “Change”? Didn’t happen, and ain’t gonna happen!

Addendum from Tuesday (Jan. 2) TPM’s Josh Marshall:

Mitt Romney is now repeatedly saying that he created a net 100,000 jobs in his tenure at Bain Capital. But there seems to be no evidence to substantiate this claim. In fact, in previous campaigns the Romney campaign has been pressed on this number and to the best of my knowledge never been able to offer any evidence.

Dear, dear Jack

We’ll not let this date pass without remembering how things might have been, and how they yet might be.

S*** Management

Poor, poor municipal officials everywhere. So much human excrement comes with these Occupy protests that they can’t, much as they’d like too, let the protests go on!

Sorry, boys and girls, we have to dress up our cops in combat gear (they gotta have some fun in their dreary lives too, you know!) and send ’em in, clubs swingin’, gas sprayin’, ’cause we can’t stand litter in our parks, much less HUMAN EXCREMENT, which is what we think of when we see citizens protesting against government for the highest bidder, by the highest bidder, and by the highest bidder.

Say what? Send in portable potties to deal with the problem? Send in crews to clean dirty parks when/after/during they are used? Nah, cops are more fun, they need the overtime, and anyway, we’re experts in excrement — “At the State House, Excrement Is Our Most Important Product!” if I remember the old GE slogan correctly from Reagan days.

We don’t need no damned Occupy Wall Street, or even Occupy Denver. No, siree, our elected leaders can and will and DO make the point for us: when it comes to dealing with social problems, economic distress, popular protests, they know what to do: SEND IN THE POLICE. Fuggedabout portapotties. Those are for communists, or something.

Is It a Joke If Nobody Laughs?

I’m referring to Herman Cain, although I could just as well refer to Michelle Bachmann, Ron Paul, Santorum, or Gingrich. All five garner invitations to the serial nano-interviews that pass for Republican “debates.” It may seem laughable to imagine any one of these in a decision-making roll in the Oval Office, but after EIGHT YEARS of George W. Bush, nothing seems impossible!

Certainly, commentators in Europe find some of the current crop laughable, Cain most recently, and I might agree, except for our recent past. Are Republicans who name Cain as their favorite, or Bachmann before him, winking when they answer? We don’t know. On what grounds, besides our own preferences, should we think so?

There is much to be said for the unity of all, or at least most, social trends. Take, for example, the widely reported decline of American education standards vis a vis other industrial countries. Or the prevalence of irrationality evidenced in the size of the American Taliban, aka Christian evangelicals/fundamentalists. Might not these trends explain the appeal of simpleton candidates to simpleton voters?

It’s not too hard to round up evidence of the “decline and fall” of American hegemony in lots of fields–industry, education, global political influence. I fear it is on display during Republican dogs on parade.

And that is a depressing thought indeed. Have we seen the future, is his name Cain? It’s enough to hold a giant prayer rally in Houston!

Occupy the Oval Office

For anyone still skeptical of the real impact of Occupy Wall Street, look again. In just a month, it has progressed to the verge of dictating the direction of the Democratic Party in 2012-and the reelection strategy of Barack Obama. And not a moment too soon.

Evidence:  From The Hill, Oct. 10, 2011: “The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is asking supporters to sign a petition in support of the Occupy Wall Street movement.” http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-… Five days earlier, Obama declared that OWS represented the “broad-based frustration about how our financial system works.”

Not exactly an endorsement–yet.  But that is surely coming.

Obama really has no choice. In 2008 he was the candidate of Hope and Change. But no sooner did he sit down in the Oval Office than he bowed towards Wall Street, which had heavily favored him over McCain in the donations department, and appointed T. Geitner as his treasury secretary and L. Summers as his economic adviser. Having achieved the pinnacle of establishment power, he promptly began acting like he was at, well, the pinnacle of establishment power, which in this country means acting in accord with the captains of finance (the captains of industry having long since emigrated). One might think this would endear Obama to Wall Street, but alas, he seems to have been abandoned in favor of Romney (“Obama’s Wall Street donors shift support to Romney,” Yahoo. http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/ti… )

This has left Obama, one year before the election, sitting on the side that doesn’t support him, i.e. the Republican moderates, and alienated from the side that did support him three years ago. Barring the nomination of a certified nut case by the Republicans – can’t be ruled out, of course – Obama will soon wake up to the fact that the enthusiastic young and old supporters who ran doorbells, figuratively speaking, in 2008, are now marching with OWS. And for everyone actually in the street last Saturday, how many stay-at-homes were sympathetic?

Some polls have support for OWS, vague as its stated goals may be, as high as 65%, and certainly on a par with the right-wing version, the Tea Party.

The vagueness of OWS’s goals is precisely Obama’s opportunity: he can, should, and I predict will, translate the discontent of the demonstrators into specific proposals: to regulate banks, a la Glass-Steagall, to impose mega-taxes on incomes over $1 million, to classify capital gains as income (unless the investments have been held for 5+ years, perhaps), to launch public spending for infrastructure, schools, and education as stimulus, and steps to put American works on a par with Chinese workers (a complicated issue involving currency manipulation and tariffs), as well as mega-incentives to return manufacturing to the United States (also a complex issue). His challenge will be to make that translation sufficiently radical to appeal to both the need and to those sympathetic to the actual demonstrators.

His false friends on the right will be appalled, but they’re not doing any good anyway. Moreover, nothing is going to be accomplished before the election. Obama needs to stop pretending otherwise; his jobs bill is going nowhere, and if it were a partial solution to the crisis faced by the country, Republicans would certainly have nothing to do with it! Obama needs to go into full campaign mode now. He is already well behind the opposition.

Without the support of OWS sympathizers, Obama’s chances of occupying the Oval Office are roughly zero. With them — and whether he can persuade himself to adjust course sufficiently to gain that support remains a big IF — they are excellent.

Top Ten News Stories of ’11

Background: Relative referred me to Nassim Nicholas Taleb ‘s “Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable” on the importance of rare, random events. Taleb says these events are unpredictable; I disagree-except for the timing. Ergo, while others ponder the top stories of the year about to pass, I offer, in no particular order, the Top Ten stories of the year about the begin, at least one of which seems wholly feasible:

[Contents edited to fit replies new roster of front page editors.]

PS: We reserve the right to cross-post, take down, ignore comments, and to insult any and all who get huffy-puffy. Rational alternative top stories, however, will be considered for a possible revision of this diary later.

Top Ten News Stories of ’11

Background: Relative referred me to Nassim Nicholas Taleb ‘s “Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable” on the importance of rare, random events. Taleb says these events are unpredictable; I disagree-except for the timing. Ergo, while others ponder the top stories of the year about to pass, I offer, in no particular order, the Top Ten stories of the year about the begin, at least one of which seems wholly feasible:

1. Iran’s radical Shiite fundamentalist Revolutionary Guards towed five hijacked vessels and anchored them at strategic points in the Straits of Hormuz, threatening to detonate stolen Russian nuclear warheads stored on each of them if any oil tanker carrying Saudi or Emirates oil tried to pass into the Arabian Sea. Within two hours of the announcement, oil prices went from $85 a barrel to $1,200, when trading was halted. President Obama announced that the United States would draw on its strategic petroleum reserve, but admitted he did not know how long it would take to get supplies into the pipeline-and that in any case, only “critical” uses would be allowed, meaning military. The U.S. Navy sent a task force to the Straits, but backed off when a destroyer was sunk by a mine hidden by the Revolutionary Guards. Commerce in the United States ground to an almost instant halt as gasoline stations were emptied, partly by panicky motorists keeping their tanks full. Major food chains demanded to be provided fuel by the government to restock shelves, quickly depleted by consumers as the implications if the crisis became apparent.

2.Dissident Pakistani junior officers (mostly colonels) arrested and executed senior generals and officials of the civilian government. The leader of the dissidents announced solidarity with the Pakistani Taliban and declared, with immediate effect, sharia throughout Pakistan. He also announced that the new government had distributed three atomic warheads from Pakistan’s inventory: one was given to the Quetta Shura led by Mullah Omar; one was given to Lashkar-e-Toiba; and one was given to Al Qaeda, whose effective leadership was not immediately identified.

3.Pyongyang announced that North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il died. The official announcement said that his son, Kim Jong-un, had succeeded his father, but the chief of the North Korean Army said that a new government would be named “soon.” In what appeared to be the result of the power struggle, the North Korean said its outposts had come under fire from “the running-dogs of the South” (Seoul denied it), and said North Korean troops were already moving south to “stop the aggression.” Efforts to stop them would be met by “a big bang,” Pyongyang said. American troops, already on full alert, quickly fell back from the surprising strength and rapidity of the onslaught.

4.China announced that rare earths were a strategic national asset and, reversing an earlier position, immediately halted exports for the second time in less than a year. The Obama administration said that halting commerce in products critical to the production of electronics, among other things, was a “de facto act of war” and demanded that Beijing reverse its policy immediately or “face consequences more drastic than those resulting from the new policy.” The Seventh Fleet was assembled in the Yellow Sea, with elements of the Sixth Fleet steaming full-speed-ahead to join it.

5.The government of Sudan rejected the results of an election that narrowly endorsed Southern Sudan’s independence. While Sudanese military forces moved to arrest leaders of the southern rebellion, troops from Rwanda and Uganda moved into the disputed territory. Full-scale war erupted on the third day after Khartoum’s announcement. China said it would defend its investment in the nascent Sudanese oil industry by sending elements of the People’s Army. The United States, which recognized the independence of South Sudan on the first day after the election, sent Marines and a regiment of the Army to repel the Chinese.

6. The left-wing government of Evo Morales announced that Bolivia had halted export of  lithium, a mineral key to production of relatively light-weight batteries used to power electric cars, pending a “thorough review of our relations with imperialistic capitalist powers,” a statement aimed at the United States just as the American public was beginning to place orders for GM’s Chevrolet Volt. The future of the electric car industry-hinging on batteries-was called into question. The policy had been the centerpiece of President Obama’s long-delayed energy policy. GM’s stock price plummeted to under $1 a share, while the price of oil soared in one day to $175 a barrel, driving the average price of regular gasoline to $6.79 a gallon. Economists said the impact of this “oil shock” could not immediately be calculated.

7.An earthquake registering 8.6 on the Richter scale virtually destroyed Los Angeles and the surrounding areas, causing secondary landslides. With roads and telecommunications brought down, hundreds of thousands of Angelinos set out by foot in search of food and water, often seizing what they needed at the point of a gun as far away as Arizona, where Sheriff Joe Arpaio ordered deputies to “shoot anyone from California on sight, especially Latinos; if in doubt, shoot first, ask later,” a policy dubbed Don’t Ask, Just Shoot.

8.The legislature in Austin voted 98-2 in favor of reversing the decision by Texas to join the Union in 1845. Governor Rick Perry, in an emotional address broadcast over what he called “The Voice of Free Texas,” said the citizens of Texas would not be restrained by a decision taken more than 170 years ago if it meant giving up their freedom to cut taxes, eliminate welfare “fraud,” and choose their own medical care, among other grievances. In an unexpected reaction, President Obama welcomed the declaration and said his government would do nothing to stop it. The legislature of Oklahoma went into emergency session to vote on a proposal to join Texas.

9.Colorado’s new director of tourism announced that his office had succeeded far beyond his wildest dreams, attracting just over 70 million tourists in 2011, of whom ten percent decided to relocate to the state without going home. He admitted that the state was unprepared to deal with the 42-day traffic jam that grew from a minor fender-bender at the intersection of I-70 and I-25, causing total gridlock as far south as Raton Pass, north to Cheyenne, east to the Kansas border, and west to Grand Junction, where the 2011 Western Slope Softball Championships were canceled because teams all left their balls at home. He also expressed thanks to Walmart for diverting its entire stock of tents and sleeping bags, along with battlefield rations, dropped by Army helicopters to desperate motorists, at least 2,145 of whom gave birth in their cars during the jam.

10.[Intentionally left blank, because, well, because we can’t predict the really life-changing and historical events, just like Taleb wrote.]

PS: We reserve the right to cross-post, take down, ignore comments, and to insult any and all who get huffy-puffy. Rational alternative top stories, however, will be considered for a possible revision of this diary later.

Christmas Eve with Bobby

Looking for a slightly twisted joke to go along with traditional decorations. Don’t want to spend too much. Dash into Big Lots in a somewhat manic mode looking for the throwaway item. Beeline to the toy shelves on the back wall.

And there she was. She and her daughter.

Something about her said single. No dad in sight. She a portrait of Weariness, pushing a junior cart with a handful of items, all small. Warily eying the shelves for what else might be left that could be bought with the available funds. Daughter around eight or nine, listlessly fingering the boxes of toys still on the shelf, knowing they would still be there when she and mom left the store. No fantasy about a jolly fat man coming in the night with a big surprise for her! No new Lexus in the driveway for her mom tomorrow morning. Just this handful of little things next to a small tree with some lights. Merry Christmas, dear daughter. Smile for me.

Damn me for not having a $20, a $50, a $100 to pick up off the floor. “Pardon me, madame, you dropped this.” Just this damn bank card; don’t want to seem weird, and who knows how that would go over anyway. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12…

So just a smile-returned.

Dickens and Tiny Tim. So it has always been. But in the carols desperate to spread some sense of joy in this desperate place, amidst the celebration of deliverance to come, the voice of Bobby: “There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why? I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?”

Don’t stop hoping. Maybe next year a merry Christmas.

Beatitudes Plus

For a long time, a couple of millenia, we’ve had eight Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3: Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Etc.

Surely it’s time to update the list, maybe to a baker’s dozen. Here are some possibilities:

Blessed are the Tax Cutters, for they shall inherit the Deficit.

Blessed are the Moderates, for they shall Run in Place and Accomplish Nothing.

Blessed are the Tea Partiers, for they shall enjoy the Bliss of Ignorance.

Blessed are the Ignorant, for they shall be invited to Tea Parties.

Blessed are the Republicans, for they shall move forwards in reverse.

Blessed are the Boehnerites, for they shall shed false tears yet never be dehydrated.

Blessed are the Bennettistas, for they shall be Bought and Paid For.

Blessed are those who don’t ask, for they shalt be told anyway…over and over. (Ooops! Is that a candidate for the Cursitudes? TBD.)

More nominees before the polling place closes sometime or other when it suits the judges?

Space Invaders, Inc.

Via Krugman, from British sci-fi writer Charles Stross: corporations are alien creatures living among us and enslaving and/or governing human beings:

We are now living in a global state that has been structured for the benefit of non-human entities with non-human goals. They have enormous media reach, which they use to distract attention from threats to their own survival. They also have an enormous ability to support litigation against public participation, except in the very limited circumstances where such action is forbidden. Individual atomized humans are thus either co-opted by these entities (you can live very nicely as a CEO or a politician, as long as you don’t bite the feeding hand) or steamrollered if they try to resist.

Full piece at http://www.antipope.org/charli…

[Pressed for time? Suggest reading Stross instead of the JO that follows.]

As we know, these creatures were recognized as, well, as creatures with constitutional rights by the Supreme Court in January 2010 (Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, No. 08-205). Pending: Do corporations have rights to “personal” privacy? (FCC v. AT&T)

And for the benefit of the Near Horizoners: to what extent do corporations domiciled in New York or Silicon Valley determine the policies of the government of the State of Colorado, or municipalities in the state, all eager for new opportunities to work for that corporation in exchange for some bit corporate manna hereabouts?

Krugman ( http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.c… ) would have it that corporations are not alien creatures because they are controlled by individual human beings at the helm.

But are the CEOs at the helm? Could they shift course–say, at the expense of the corporation for the benefit of the broader population of humans–of their own free will? Or is the manna of these alien creatures so addictive that their top servants–and not just top servants, either; consider the large number of gray flannel suits coming to the polls every 24 months or so–are compelled to continue to do their bidding, at the expense of everyone else, including at the expense of their own servants who may be cast off randomly to keep the INCreatures growing.

Illinois Yearling, Where Are You?

I first encountered him when I was 10. I know this with certainty because it was my fifth grade teacher, Ms. Rosen, who announced one morning, “We’re going to have an Illinois yearling with us today.” I remember a certain sense of wonder: are we having a young calf in class?

Within an hour the answer became clear. Illinois Yearling was a new student. He was given a seat in the First Row, where he squinched down and said nothing. He wasn’t eager to put up his hand to answer Ms. Rosen’s questions–a method of teaching that makes some students feel they are smart and some feel they are not. He seemed a bit small for his age — should have been ten, but maybe he was younger and had skipped a grade or two.

And there was this: Illinois was black. Everyone else–in the class, in the school, in the neighborhood–was white. I think it’s safe to say that Illinois was the first black person I ever met, or rather, sat with in the same room.

At lunch recess, after eating, most of us were outdoors playing four-square. I noticed Illinois standing by himself in the sun next to the door. I imagine that I remember thinking I should invite him to join the game, or at least go over and say hi, maybe make Illinois feel that he had made at least one friend on his first day in the new school where he was the only black kid, give him a reason to smile when his Mom asked him, “How was school?” she hoping, perhaps, to hear that her dream of giving Illinois a shot at the world of White America wasn’t out of reach. But I didn’t.

Illinois came back the next day, but he wasn’t there on the third. Gone. No explanation offered. None requested. Gone, but not entirely forgotten. I don’t remember exactly what Ms. Rosen taught me that year; I do know what I learned from the teacher that everyone has had: Mr. Guilt.

For me, that lesson was: Speak up! Speak out!

Maybe, in time, Illinois Yearling sat at a lunch counter where he wasn’t welcome, where he wasn’t going to be served, wasn’t going to be asked if he’d like some apple pie for dessert, with or without vanilla ice cream. Maybe he rode a bus in Birmingham. Maybe he marched in Mississippi. I don’t know. I did none of those things, but I did join some of the marches, helped organize the transportation to D.C. I did choose journalism over law because I saw it as the best way to change the world using what gifts I might have, whereas, William Kunstler notwithstanding, lawyers by their very nature play by the rules. I did speak out. And I never did shut up, even when invited to do so by some young genius of eminent intelligence and superior literary skills.

But this a personal diary, using or abusing this blog for personal ends. ILLINOIS YEARLING, if you’re out there, please get in touch. I want to apologize to you, personally. Maybe get together for a game of four-square. The Secret Question is: What lily-white elementary school did you attend for two days in fifth grade? Post the answer and give me an address. Thanks, and all the best.

Merry Wikimas

In the latest chapter:

WikiLeaks supporters on Friday downloaded increasing amounts of the spam-shooting software used to attack companies seen as hostile – a development that could challenge even Internet giants such as PayPal and Amazon.com during the crucial Christmas shopping season. (AP) http://www.nytimes.com/aponlin…

Cyber guerrilla warfare? One possible description in a mounting conflict that includes on the other side a disinformation campaign by GOTUS, to say nothing of unproved “rape” charges filed, unfiled, and refiled by prosecutors in Sweden.

Example: WikiLeaks has put American lives in jeopardy by making public sensitive, secret documents. Of course, there are no examples provided of instances, or even a single instance, of a life being in jeopardy, much less any “blood on their hands.” Less known, I believe, is that WikiLeaks has never (to my knowledge) released any document marked Top Secret. The WikiLeaks release has not been indiscriminate; so far as we know, the documents have been vetted before being made public; all three of the most notorious WikiLeaks releases have come from Siprnet, which was specifically designed to facilitate different branches of the GOTUS to share information with lower security classifications, of which “secret” is the top. Top secret information, such as battle plans, are not distributed via Siprnet and have not been released by WikiLeaks.

Example: In the third release, of State Department cables, WikiLeaks made public about a quarter million documents. Fact: The latest number that I saw of documents actually released was under 2,000, from a cache (supposedly) of 250,000. These documents were released beforehand to credible news organizations, which themselves have not published the actual documents–just stories about the documents. Embarassing? Maybe. But not as embarrassing as the campaign to discredit WikiLeaks and its founder/editor/dickhead-in-chief (nod to SSG Dan, and also to introduce vocab judged appropriate to this site), Julian Assange.

Example: The government of China in particular is to be condemned, has been condemned, for interfering with the free flow of information over the Internet when that information reflects badly on the government of China. Government should be transparent. Well, foreign government should be transparent. There are limits, you know, and they begin where the ocean ends.

And then we have the cases of Amazon.com, PayPal, MasterbCard, Visa, and the Swiss postal bank, to which list we should add Senator Joe Lieberman (or, if that proves embarrassing in the future, a member of Senator Joe Lieberman’s staff) who mentioned to Amazon.com that offering its computer hosting facilities to WikiLeaks just might be the subject of future inquiry by the United States Senate–and, hide under your beds kiddies, the F-B-I.

All of which has been followed by the widespread downloading of DNS attack software. How long can it be before the word “terrorism” is introduced to the conversation, if “rape” doesn’t do the job? Who will be the first? Fox? Limbaugh? Beck? “Wasilla: Techosophisticate Sarah Palin today denounced cyberterrorists who…”

Cyberwarfare, including cyber guerrilla warfare, has its parallels in, say, iTunes. Let the people decide what’s public and what’s not; let the people decide which songs they want to buy and which not. The WikiLeaks saga has quickly expanded into a much larger phenomenon: who will control what information is made available on the internet? The governments in Beijing and Washington, plus the governing boards of Amazon and–who knows whether? who knows when? — the board of Comcast and other friendly internet service providers?

Or We the Wiki?

To be continued…on and on and on.  

The Democratic Party: Past, Present… and Future?

This diary is really based on Dwyer’s comments in yesterday’s Open Thread:

I am no longer a Democrat. I wish the party well; but, I cannot support it in good faith. … As for leaving the Dems, I have been a registered Dem for almost fifty years.  Right now, I don’t know WTF they are doing; I don’t know who is charge; I don’t know what the strategy is. I am tired of fighting the apathy and the crap.  I need a break.

I know there are others who also wonder for what and for whom does the Democratic Party stand, after November, with its new coat of shellac, where is it going from here? Others who feel tired and in need of a break. BUT, can we afford the luxury of a break? Can we let others answer his question: WTF is the Democratic Party?

Dwyer’s questions need answers lest the troops begin drifting off the field of battle.

The Democratic Party for a long time has focused on getting as many people as possible for vote for its candidates — the Big Tent theory. That has meant crossing class lines, or at least perceived lines. It once meant embracing the Dixiecrats and their never-ending struggle against Abolition and its malformed twin offspring, Segregation and Discrimination. For a long time, this did not conflict with the Social Democratic trend of the North, whose apogee(s) were the New Deal and the Great Society.

Republicans, on the other hand, for a least a century-and-a-quarter have had a laser-like focus on one idea: Protect Private Property from the People. Thus have they diverted attention from economic class warfare to a set of non-economic issues. Their biggest single success in this never-ending campaign came in 1968, when Richard III Nixon persuaded Dixiecrats to pour their jugs of poisonous racism into the the malodorous River Stinx upon which he was floating to the White House.

Things have never been the same since. Carter succeeded as Not Ford. Clinton won thanks to Perot (twice) while embracing some vision of GOP Lite. Gore won, but missed out in the Supreme Precinct that had just nine votes.

Until Obama. For some, perhaps many, he was another Carter: Not Bush. For others, he was a match that relit a fire some thought had been snuffed out one ghastly June night in Los Angeles 40 years earlier. No, he was not, is not, Bobby, nor is he Jack, whom he more closely resembles. But neither is he any of those now eagerly gunning down caribou in hopes of being invited to host the Tea Party.

But back to the present and the future of the Democratic Party. We are tired. We are down. Feels good to say, Enough! I quit!

[Following comes from Everyman’s Book of Cliches: Easier Than Thinking, c. Always.]

–The finish line in this race keeps getting pushed two years ahead every 24 months.

–The winner’s name is neither “Republican” nor “Democrat.” The winner is named Persistence; the loser is Quitter. Never changes.

The answer to Dwyer’s question — my answer, at least — WFT is the Democratic Party, what does it stand for? — is this: The Democratic Party is what the people in the arena make it. Resting is a luxury we cannot afford, no matter how long we’ve been in the arena, no matter how frustrated (and I’m talking pound-the-table Goddamn It to Hell frustrated, front page after front page after front page).

Will the Two Party system, and the Democratic Party in particular, survive the digital revolution, the Great Transfer of wealth that has occurred over the past three decades, the end of the Cold War and the American Empire, the demise of pure capitalism as a viable means of organizing society?

I vote Aye for its survival for this reason: Politics is about one subject: property–who has it, who benefits from it. For Democrats, the answer is: the people who create value–people who work. For Republicans the answer is: people who have sticky-notes with the word “Mine” written on them that they can paste on as many things as they can find.

Thomas Jefferson said it best (even if he didn’t live it at Monticello): “All Men Are Created Equal…endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights…Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness…that to protect these rights, governments are instituted…”

John Locke had mentioned property; Jefferson changed that to Pursuit of Happiness. And therein lies all the difference.

So to Dwyer I say: Back to work, brother. No time off. The next campaign is well underway…has been since before you joined the Democratic Party…will be long after you have left this vale of tears. Your resignation is not accepted.

 

One More Time in the Tenth Second

For your Christmas present to the world, your gift on the nth night of Hannukah, your acknowledgment of your humanity,

Watch the video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v…

In the 10th second you will see what this is about. If you haven’t watched the video, none of this will make the least sense. So watch the video first. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v…

I dare you to watch it and not be haunted by the image in the 10th second, and those following. Yes, you think you know, you’ve known all along, so bellies up to the bar across the street from the softball fields of St. Jude of Schmooze. But you need to be reminded, time and time and time and time again, until you–we– are moved to do something and then do something more. What that might be is up to you.

This is what politics is about. The video is not about Dawn Upshaw. It is not about whether your father’s second cousin thrice removed by his fourth wife’s fifth daughter once saw Dawn Upshaw for six seconds on her way to Studio 7 to record music that you like. No, the music, the video, the diary is about its title of the symphony: Song of Sorrows. It is about the Tenth Second.

Watch the video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v…

It is not about what you know, or like, or think, or feel. It is about what you do.  Whether or not you can stand in Tianmen Square and stop a tank as one man once did.  Whether or not you can hold a spoon in western Sudan or eastern Chad or anywhere in the Democratic Republic of Congo. You can march in Solidarnosc to change the immutable, if not forever then at least for a day, or a year, or a decade. On the eve of the bonuses, paid early this year to avoid the taxes, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12… you can write, email, shout out.

You can make the connection! You can help others make it. The one million and first dollar of the bonus is merely a down payment to sate the insatiable: greed. It is the greed that needs to be wrapped in a shroud, while the one millionth and first dollar, and every dollar after it, goes first to feed the hungry. And when that is done, what’s left goes to help fulfill the dream of every mother lying awake under the same stars: a better life for her child.

Watch the video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v…

Then next year you can hear the Buckaroos Choir sing Joy to the World at the Spendalot Mall and put Cash back into Christmas.

Michael Bloomberg

I wonder how local political sophisticates would respond if they read in the next eight weeks or so that Michael Bloomberg had formed some sort of exploratory committee with a view towards running for president.

Do they know who he is?

Does he have a reputation?

Does his religion matter, or is it perceived to matter?

Does his place of origin matter?

Does the size of his bank account, and how it got to be that way, matter?

My County ‘Tis of Thee

Races for the U.S. Senate collectively took center stage in 2010. Maybe they will again in 2014, given there will again be no presidential contest that year and depending on how the political breezes flow over the next two years. This is unfortunate because these races are based on the most fundamentally undemocratic institution in our government, one that originated to protect slavery and one that should either be abolished or consigned to saying “Slow Down” to the (expanded) House (which it already tends to do). This institution, the Senate, is in turn based on a set of anachronisms that should be given one-way tickets outta town on the 12:10 FasTraks to Douglas County.

I’m referring, of course, to the states. Practically speaking, states play no useful role–except to send two people each to the Senate. IF we are to join the 21st century, albeit a decade or so late, the states need to join the Senate in Dustbinicus Historicus, the sooner the better.

Not sufficient time to explore the origins of states except to say they trace their existence to royal charters during the 18th century when no one, and I mean no one, had a clue about fly-over country. (Except, of course, the people actually living there, but that wasn’t the sort of sentiment floating around Whitehall at the time.) Those charters made some sense at the time: they revolved either around religion or … or what, the penal status of the early inhabitants? Should contemporary Americans feel constrained by the whims of a long-past English monarch whose name we’re not quite sure of? (Quick: which monarch granted the charter to William Penn to establish Pennsylvania? Looking it up is cheating.)

Once established, however, these institutions had a certain there there when it came to relating to English-speaking folks across the river. Gradually they took on some form of permanence they never deserved. It’s time to move on.

Nor do these institutions today reflect some level of popular democracy, some means of carrying out the Will of the People. In the state of Colorado, for example, do inhabitants of the eastern swath of counties really have a telling influence in Denver? Do suburbanites in Jefferson County know something about raising corn and wheat? Of course not. Counties, on the other hand, are literally close to the people. They are democracy in action.

At least since 1820, the shape and very existence of new states has reflected federal politics, and specifically politics of the Senate. You remember Maine and Missouri, don’t you? And why Maine became a separate state, detached from Massachusetts? After the Civil War, Senate politics continued to dictate the creation and admission of states, including our own, in an era when Dixiecrats still fighting the civil war made common cause with Democrats fighting class warfare. The Steady Yeoman of the Midwest was the one who could be counted on to vote Plutocratican Republican, so new states were created to keep the Senate safe.

And so, my modest proposal:

1.  Abolish states.

2.  Abolish the Senate, or at least take a lesson from the Brits and turn it into a U.S. House of Lords.

3.  Refocus practical local government functions on counties.

4. Allow counties to join regional alliances to share common costs–or even to merge. (No. 1 obviously would allow this to take place “across state lines” as might make sense to the people living there, as in eastern “Colorado” and far western “Kansas,” for example.)

5. Create regional administrative districts, based on counties, to administer federal programs.

Lastly:

–Won’t happen. Why not?

–Won’t happen tomorrow. What are we waiting for?

–Don’t like it. What’s not to like, except perhaps that it’s a change and/or that you didn’t think of it first?

–Constitution doesn’t provide for it. Then change the Constitution–or replace it if needed.

–Crazy JO, hahahaha. ‘K, how about I try to sell you this thing that you can use to read any book in the New York City public library without leaving home in Kit Carson County?

11/22

Latin class. Amo, amas, amat, ama…

Unexpectedly before “we love,” a voice from the wall: “The President has been shot.” An hour later, the same voice again: “The President is dead.”

Every detail still sharp: best friend, pacing, frowning. A known twit expressing pleasure that Jack was lost. Everything lost in the fog of time past.

How many of these moments can there be in one life?

  Jack.

  Martin.

  Bobby.

Forty years later, almost exactly, since Bobby: Great good fortune to have a seat to hear the acceptance speech at Invesco. Suddenly, without warning, a feeling lost in Dallas, lost in Memphis, lost in Los Angeles, floods back: He is your leader, JO. Follow him. Yes, he can, you can, we can.

Mistakes have been made, will be made. Turn left, Barack! Turn left! We slog on, no other choice. God Save America from Ouigotcha Ubetcha.

Amidst fresh nightmares, we still dream. At the memory, on this day, we still weep. In his memory, and Martin’s, and Bobby’s, we carry on.

Amamus, Jack.