Bring it on

By Steve Klinger

Police in cities across the country did the Occupy movement a great favor when they raided the mothership Monday night and evicted Occupy Wall Street from Zuccotti Park. In a coordinated series of actions that Oakland Mayor Jean Quan admitted included an 18-city law enforcement conference call, police raided encampments from coast to coast, using batons, pepper spray, riot gear and whatever it took, short of lethal force, to retake the parks, in the guise of public welfare and safety.

Some, like Bill O’Reilly, calling it a “legitimate political movement” for the first time only in pronouncing its eptitaph, boasted hopefully that “the Occupy movement is dead…and it’s a good thing.”

Not so fast, Bill.  New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg screwed up big time, and so did his law-and-order buddies with their Gestapo tactics. The camps were actually becoming a major drag on the movement, though they were its necessary and effective beginnings. By mid-November they had drawn influxes of transients, druggies, drifters and grifters, far more interested in free food and lodging as winter began to bear down than in sweeping political change. Increasingly, they had filled the encampments with hard-core homeless and a variety of mentally ill social outcasts, whose tactics of Occupation were based largely on a misplaced sense of entitlement. They were draining energy from the political focus of the movement, sullying the image of the original Occupiers and deflecting focus from economic injustice in this country to stories of petty theft, drug use and assault, and spreading filth and squalor.

If left alone, many of the larger camps especially, in more controversial locations than Occupy Santa Fe, and with far less sympathetic mayors and police forces, would have descended into tent-filled slums in a matter of days or weeks, damaging the movement further and perhaps destroying it.

Instead, the widely broadcast brutality of cops with truncheons and klieg lights, dragging sleeping and nonviolent campers from their tents I the middle of the night, accomplished just the opposite of their objective. This is why the mood in Zuccotti Park the following day, after it reopened once a judge ruled that First Amendment rights did not include sleeping bags and tents, was one of liberation and near-euphoria.

As Gandhi famously noted: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

Stage 3 had begun in cities across the United States. The cops and mayors and 1-percenters thought the Occupiers would give up and go home, but they miscalculated, as the forces of oppression always do, after they panic when they realize they have overreached, big time.

There is too much wrong in this country for those who have become aware of it to give up and go home. The Occupy movement changed the dialogue from the trumped-up,  red-herring deficit issue to the real subject of injustice and unfairness in America. The 99 percent are the 99 percent for a reason. The emperors have no clothes, and now everybody knows it.  There is no going home, as the 30,000 or so rallying in New York’s Foley Square tonight and marching across the Brooklyn Bridge are exclaiming, as the thousands more who flooded Wall Street earlier are proclaiming, as the hundreds and thousands in marches and protests in dozens of cities, which will spread to hundreds of cities by this weekend, are reminding those who would continue to oppress and repress them.

We don’t know where exactly it’s all heading, but it is looking more real by the hour. Marches, rallies, teach-ins, move-your-money actions, and why not a nationwide strike, boycotts, flash mobs? If the cops stay violent, and the mayors keep making condescending speeches about the public health and welfare, they become the movement’s best recruiting tool. Bring it on, Bloomberg and your media minions, for you know not what you have unleashed!

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Time to pull up stakes

 

In an ironic twist few would have anticipated two months ago, the Occupy movement risks being hijacked—not by the cops, the media or the money of Wall Street, but by the homeless. As wintry weather bears down on Santa Fe and a lot of northern cities and towns, the political activists in tents and sleeping bags are being replaced by transients, drifters, vagabonds, conmen and grifters, druggies and misfits of all kinds, looking for a handout, a tent, a hot meal and a place to hang that isn’t a church- or government-run shelter.

 

Those who are serious members of the OWS movement and have slept at the Railyard encampment here report an increasing number of occupants who have no interest in the movement except what they can gain from it personally. Instead of social or political commitment they have an overdeveloped sense of entitlement. Naturally the mainstream media are picking up on the growing divisiveness, and it won’t play well on Main Street. People who don’t understand the movement or its goals are happy to exploit any perceived weakness or inconsistency. Violence, such that which broke out in Oakland a few nights ago, is the worst setback, especially when it is precipitated by the Occupiers, or appears to be. Camps full of disruptive misfits and social outcasts are nearly as bad.

 

On the one hand, the greed of the 1 percent and a gridlocked, dysfunctional government are largely responsible for the legions of homeless this society produces, and the movement cannot ignore them. On the other hand, parasitic and unstable transients, not the foreclosed and the economically displaced, are the ones filling the camps, and Occupy movements are facing a major strategic decision in one city after another.

 

To launch the movement, physical occupation of a park adjacent to Wall Street was a great political statement and a focal point for drawing participants and media coverage. Though most of the sites occupied in other places weren’t as meaningful, the symbolism of staking out a piece of public property as an act of civil disobedience was still powerful and appropriate. Now some are starting to question whether maintaining the camps is becoming a form of fetishism—an obsessive attachment to something that is not really the heart of the movement.

 

The time has come for Occupy groups to contemplate abandoning their encampments rather than seeing them be held hostage by drifters and grifters. Occupation was always a symbolic act, and more can be accomplished by the process most of the groups have now successfully established, of holding general assemblies and working/action group meetings in a variety of public spaces. Exercises in direct democracy, marches, rallies, picketing, teach-ins, and maybe even flash mobs, are effective tools each group can use, now that adherents have come together and the media are providing coverage. There are many targets on which the 99 percent can focus, and the Occupy sites are no longer essential for that purpose.

 

While the encampments have had a certain historical resonance as well, mirroring the Hoovervilles of the Great Depression, they could not practically speaking be expected to exist in the long term, so why not move beyond them now that they are becoming a logistic and a strategic liability?

 

This doesn’t mean the many outcasts they are drawing should be forgotten by the society that created them, but that is not a new problem or one the Occupy movement can allow to drag it down. America needs a message of unity from OWS and its supporters, not mixed signals, and not the negativity that is waiting to happen the first time a major casualty is reported from some Occupy camp. It won’t take long, it will happen any day now, and it will further undermine the confidence of the public and the image of the movement.

 

Onward, Occupiers—it’s time to break camp.

 

 

—Steve Klinger

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American Fall: Rise up, our emerging band

By Steve Klinger

When the protesters are streaked with gray, they say they’re too old to be taken seriously. When they wave signs for peace, they’re called naïve or treasonous. And now that the left, for the first time since the Vietnam generation, has significant numbers of young people “occupying” Wall Street and its proxies in cities across the country, they call them rag-tag and un-serious.

Older liberals are even more cynical, intoning that nothing, absolutely nothing,  will happen unless there are full-out riots, and then they’ll just get their heads cracked open. Mitt Romney calls the situation dangerous, invoking “class warfare.”

But after three weeks and counting, even the stodgy news anchors with their striped ties are grudgingly beginning to take notice of this phenomenon, which has spread to such unlikely places as Wichita, Kansas. Obama himself observed that the protesters have a valid argument or two, given the unrelenting greed of those who have literally capitalized on the nation’s economic misfortunes. It remains to be seen if the Great Conciliator will use this last chance to reconnect with his populist roots and dust off his campaign rhetoric of hope and change, or if he’ll retreat in some pivotal moment-to-come and cast his lot irrevocably with the fat-cat bankers.

In the downtrodden and disillusioned circles of progressives who have seen their modest gains of many decades battered by the virulent onslaught of the plutocrat-backed Tea Party, by the sweeping reactionary tide abetted by Koch Industries and ALEC, a few voices are beginning to whisper: Could it be, might it be, is there any way, by any stretch it could be, can we dare say we are on the cusp of the counterpoint to Arab Spring: American Fall, both seasonal and empirical?

To which I’d say it looks from here like it could have a fighting chance, despite the lack of a cohesive list of demands, despite the absence of top-down organizational origins—or maybe because of these lacks, for the very reason that the spontaneous inception of this movement had to arise in its own good time, on the very social media that were criticized for addicting and distracting this country’s youth from any useful purpose whatsoever.

The need was stronger, the greed perhaps more blatant in Egypt and Libya and Syria, but the hard times are percolating through the towns and villages of this teetering nation now, and maybe, just maybe, the 99 percent can be awakened to demand the change that only numbers, accompanied by great resolve and youthful enthusiasm, can produce.

Now even MoveOn.org and organized labor are climbing on the bandwagon, and soon a few more prominent mainstream Democrats will forget their invertebrate nature and lavish timid praise on the Occupiers—until some untoward act or comment sends them slithering back into gelatinous retreat.  But true leadership may yet emerge from the ranks of the acolytes themselves—or the weathered activists who have been scouring a somnolent landscape in search of them.

What they will do if and when their ranks swell and the entire nation takes notice I can’t answer, since the solution seems so far-removed from the government that let the problem fester and itself became the problem. Whether the 99 percent will rise up successfully—or at all—I can’t predict, nor whether such an uprising would restore our democracy or rather usher in a disastrous authoritarian retaliation that would doom it. But from here, it seems damn well worth the effort, and I’m going with that demographic that has its own future at stake, and I’m hoping we’ve underestimated them, because they, if anyone must lead the charge.

Rise up, our emerging band.
Rise up and make your stand.

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What is it about ‘No’ that you don’t understand?

By Steve Klinger

It all boils down to a simple question: Why can’t Obama and the Democrats take the gloves off and expose the Republicans for the sociopathic subversives they really are?

Yes, Dr. Kidglove, as blogger Tom Wark likes to call him, gave a forceful speech and presented a jobs program larger than many expected. But as Robert Reich quickly calculated (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-reich/american-jobs-act-obama-_b_955250.html) it would not make a big difference in reducing unemployment or otherwise stimulating the economy or avoiding a likely double-dip recession. At $200-300 billion of new spending it’s just not big enough, and many of the tax cuts are extensions of what’s already in place.

I said “would” because it will not become law. The Republicans will block it, using Mitch McConnell’s cynical talking point, no doubt coined long before Obama opened his mouth:
“This isn’t a job plan. It’s a reelection plan.”

Except the shoe is really on the other foot. To the Republicans, everything is about the election and nothing is about human suffering and national priorities. Obama has hesitated, procrastinated, accommodated and capitulated for the better part of three years, naively hoping for bipartisanship. His self-deluded attempts at leadership have repeatedly met with solid and unrelenting GOP resistance – no, flat-out obstructionism. Unlike some leftists who believe he is bought and paid for, I think he has simply shown himself to be overmatched  and incapable of necessary confrontation. So once again, abandoning principle for the sake of perceived expediency, he has presented a program he thinks/hopes/prays will get enough Republican support to be enacted as a half-measure.

But it won’t be good enough to matter if it does, and anyway, it will not, precisely because Obama again underestimates the cold-blooded ruthlessness of his opponents, who do not put country ahead of politics, and certainly not ordinary working people (or those who wish they were working people). This is what he and every Democrat and every sentient media commentator should be saying, over and over, until voters get the message: How can you trust the Republicans to help ordinary folks when they are constantly demonstrating they’re willing to ruin the country for the sake of reclaiming power?

As many have pointed out, the Republicans would say day was night if they thought it would give them an electoral victory in 2012. And they would, and do, watch millions suffer while pretending to act in their interest. Using their own past proposals to get their support did not work with health care or the debt ceiling,  and it will not work with jobs.  Maybe someone on Obama’s re-election team is planning to exploit GOP opposition to this plan once the campaign season starts in earnest. But in that case, as Reich asks, why not push the program that’s really needed so you can make a persuasive argument about how the right is selling the country down the river?

Take the gloves off and swing back. What is it about ‘No’ that you don’t understand?

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It Was a Good Time for Tossin’ th’ Haggis

By Thomas Wark

 

I remember a beautiful end-of-summer in Scotland ten years ago. In lovely sunlight the soft breezes carried the lilt of lassies comin’ through the rye and lovers takin’ th’ high road to Loch Lomond.

Back home unemployment was a rising concern; it had reached 4.9 per cent in August, the highest rate in four years. Private employers had just cut 130,000 jobs, ten times the predicted amount, and shipped nearly 50,000 jobs overseas.

Independent economists said the bad news meant the long-awaited economic recovery still was not in sight. Not to worry, “we’re about where we should be,” said the chief economist at Merrill Lynch, one of the Wall Street firms that was happily selling AAA-rated investment packages that seven years later would be called “sub-prime” and “toxic.”

On a hillside east of a small town in the Scottish highlands, a natural waste-disposal field was in its fifth experimental year. Although toxic slush was deep underfoot somewhere, the air was scented only by a profusion of wildflowers. There’s more than one way to deal with toxic.

The remains of an ancient Roman fortification crested the hill. Later in the afternoon we would stand in its shade and watch Scotsmen sling a haggis in a traditional festival game. A few days later, we took a leisurely drive toward John O’Groat., stopping often to admire rocky shorelines and the occasional sandy beach.

When we stopped for fuel, the attendant for the single pump recognized us as Yanks. “Did y’ hear about the Twin Towers?” he asked. BBC radio told us the latest about the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The U. S. national debt was just a shade over $5 trillion.

When he finally emerged from hiding, the President of the United States led a campaign of fear, half-truths, outright falsehood and “cooked” intelligence to launch a war against a country that had nothing to do with the September attacks and whose sleazy dictator had nothing to do with those who organized and financed it.

When he left office, that president and his unfunded wars had doubled the national debt.

Unemployment was over 10 per cent.

The toxic assets Wall Street had sold as prime investments went “Poof!” and the richest banks in the world were on their knees, begging.

A new President printed new money and showered it on the bankers who had brought the world to the brink of depression.

The national debt rose to $12 trillion.

The wars went on.

The unemployment rate remained twice what it had been in 2001. That’s not counting millions more jobless who have been unemployed for so long they no longer count as “statistics.”

So far only one man running for President has offered a plan intended to provide jobs for some of the unemployed. It calls essentially for tax credits to private employers to encourage them to hire more people. (These are the same private employers who cut 130,000 jobs in August of 2010 and shipped 50,000 of them overseas, causing independent economists to warn that we’d better do something soon about unemployment.)

Last month, the U. S. economy did not add one new job. Zero. Zilch. As soon as John Boehner says it’s OK, the President will talk to the nation about jobs.

What he says isn’t likely to do much for the millions without work. Talk doesn’t buy groceries.

Last month, for the first time in ten years, not one American was killed in Iraq in George Bush’s war. However, it was the worst month ever for American deaths in Afghanistan, Barack Obama’s war. Nobody reports the losses here and there in the dozen or so clandestine wars we’re fighting.

No politician running for President is talking about ending the wars that put us deeply in debt as a nation. Yet all the politicians say the debt is a crisis.

It is such a big, big crisis that we can’t afford to create public sector jobs fixing a national infrastructure that has been neglected for so long that it’s a risk to life and limb for our common citizens.

But it’s not so big a crisis that we need to end the huge tax cuts we gave to our very richest citizens.

This isn’t a country. It’s a bloody zoo, and the animals are in charge.

 

Read more by Thomas Wark at http://bordellopianist.blogspot.com

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Thank Heavens For Green Chile Roasting

By Thomas Wark

They’ve started roasting the green chile here in southern New Mexico.  This produces one of the great food aromas in the world, like baking bread or fresh-brewed coffee or grandma’s roladen.

All great chefs understand the importance of the olfactory element in  food.  So, too, do dogs, often with results that displease their human companions.

A few fortunate folks have developed keen olfactory skills for political odors, as well,.  In this country they’re called liberals.  Every now and then they catch a political aroma like green chile roasting.  More often than not, in these United States, what they smell is rotten meat.

They are underwhelmed of late by a really bad stink on the wings of the winds out of Texas.  Gov. Goodhair, as he was dubbed by the late, great Molly Ivins, wants to be our President.

Honest Injun!  THAT Gov. Goodhair.

The one whose only policy decision about the state’s record, impoverishing drought was, “pray for rain.” (It didn’t work.)

The one who brags about the “Texas miracle” of increasing jobs during the recession, whereas in fact in true job creation data Texas ranks last among the 50.

The one who has compelled the state’s history teachers to tell their pupils that Newt Gingrich and Phyllis Schlaffly are “great Americans,” whereas Martin Luther King and Caesar Chavez are not.

The one who primed his base for his presidential run by staging a great pray-in featuring some of the most whacko, racist, ill-informed Christofascists on the face of the earth.

The one who set the all-time gubernatorial record for executing prisoners who suffered from mental disability.

Ramblin’ Rick thinks he can pull Texas out of the union with a stroke of his pen; calls Social Security and Medicare unconstitutional and — get this — thinks the way to get this country moving again is to suspend ALL Federal laws and regulations. And one of his lesser gaffes: Fed Chief  Ben Bernanke commits “treason” when he takes even mild regulatory action to keep the country solvent.

In Iowa, a handful of kooks got together in Ames to eat pork tenders and proclaim Michelle Bachmann, a Minnesota congressperson, their favorite for the Republican presidential nomination. This makes her Gov. Goodhair’s principal rival.

What a pair!

Bachmann could improve her knowledge of her country’s history by studying even Goodhair’s cockeyed version of it.  Last I heard she thought Paul Revere crossed the Delaware to warn Manchester, NH, that the British were comin’, which alerted Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain boys to win the battle of Lafayette, Ind.  Something like that.

She and her hubby made their little fortune by praying homosexual people into heterosexuality, the way God intended it.  Maybe her contest with Goodhair will come down to a praying contest.  What a choice to inflict on God!

Meanwhile, vile odors waft unto us from Minnesota and from Texas.  Fortunately, they come together right at the point of heavy green chile roasting, which neutralizes them.
Read more by Thomas Wark at http://www.bordellopianist.blogspot.com

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Start Over

A commentary by Craig Barnes

On a Monday in early August, 2011, AIG (American International Group) filed claims in federal court against Bank of America alleging losses of $10 billion. The insurance giant claimed that the bank had intentionally disguised the risks of products to be insured. At the same time, Bank of America was already being sued for $82 billion in a multitude of other suits.  According to The New York Times, JP Morgan was also being sued for almost $40 billion, Wells Fargo was being sued for $35 billion, Citigroup for over $2 billion.  All were alleged to have marketed securities as solid investments when at the time of the sale they knew that these representations were untrue. In legal jargon, when a person makes a deal based upon a fact that he knows to be false and intentionally disguises the falsehood, that is fraud.  The giants of American capitalism were therefore this August in a hugely costly family quarrel, suing one another for throat-choking amounts of fraud.

Humongous enterprises are suing to protect their balance sheets because—contrary to the theory of capitalism—the free market has not made everything right.  Worse, when the American congress decided on August 2nd that the way to solve the problem was for the government to spend less, resulting in less economic activity overall, the U.S. stock market in a few days lost 1,500 points.  Not only were the giants of finance suing each other; they were losing confidence in the market as their security.

At the same time, French bank stocks were pressured on the fear of default spreading from Greece, to Portugal, to Spain. Further, U.S. banks hold huge loans interwoven with those French banks and as a result of the European scare in three days the U.S. stock market fell at first, 600 points. Then the gambling started and the market rose hundreds. By then marketeers were only betting against each other and the market fell again hundreds, rose again, fell again, in a game of guesses and risks, hubris and chicken.

America’s free market capitalism has, over the last 30 years, failed to put more income into the hands of more people, has failed the middle and lower classes driving them under water, and now is, for the first time, failing those at the very top.  While they sue each other the stock market staggers and rises, staggers and rises, manufacturing stalls, people who already work two jobs cannot work more, or borrow more, and the governments of the U.S., Britain, France and Germany have all determined that they are going to help them less.

Capitalism provides no theory to explain why it is failing from top to bottom.  The oligarchs are searching out more people to blame, more to sue, and different momentary heroes to elect to high office.  Blame is, however, not a solution for bad economic theory.  Someone is going to have to think new.  Not just about stimulus.  About corporations. About property. About plutocracy.  About monopoly.

American government is also a mess.  In the words of former republican congressman Tom Davis, “The political system, Republican or Democrat, over the last decade has delivered two failed wars, an economic meltdown, 20 percent of homes underwater, [and] stagnant wages.” (NYT, 8/8/11, The Caucus.)  In other words, the American political system is also stalling out.

Anyone who has watched the minority party in the first two years of the Obama administration, and the stalemate of the last months over the debt ceiling will agree.  The American political system is dysfunctional at best, failing at worst.

While capitalists sue capitalists and everyone blames the politicians for not being able to fix the capitalists, and while the capitalists spend billions to elect people who will prevent their being fixed, it is clear that this is a political and economic culture that is in deep trouble.

Some effort will be made to change politicians in 2012.  But changing the incumbents in the congress or the presidency will have little effect if no one has a better story to tell, or something more promising than killing either government or corporations.  They do not need to be just killed.  They need to be newly understood and reframed in a world of scarcity, a world of limits to clean water and air, limits to growth, limits to greed, and limits even to the rights of property.

It is time to move beyond Adam Smith and Ayn Rand or misleading slogans like survival of the fittest.  It is time to start over, and this time to follow some new instinct that appeals to the heart and not just the sword. Start over, and if the heart leads to feminine principles or to generosity and community, have the courage to follow on. Start over, and touch the earth and when we touch it try not to everywhere make it sore. Start over, as if life mattered, as if it mattered more than the fear of death.  Start over as if to live for each other and as if the future mattered.  Start over.

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The Reverse Midas Touch

By Thomas Wark

 

It’s Like Having a Reverse Midas Touch; All That’s Gold Turns to S—
Paul Krugman (whose name Kidglove can’t even pronounce) said it, and said it well: “The real question facing America, even in purely fiscal terms, isn’t whether we’ll trim a trillion here or a trillion there from deficits. It is whether the extremists now blocking any kind of responsible policy can be defeated and marginalized.”

If even the President of the United States won’t stand up to them, who’s going to lead the effort to “defeat and marginalize” these idiots? I’ve cupped my ear, my friends; the answer isn’t blowin’ in the wind.

What’s really depressing for intelligent, visionary, progressive Americans is that the extremists of whom Krugman speaks won’t be satisfied until they’ve destroyed and dismantled everything good the federal government has done in the last 100 years.

When Kidglove caved in on the phony deficit “crisis,” he opened the door for them to destroy Social Security (“the dole”), Medicare (“socialized medicine”) and Medicaid. No doubt the Cato Heritage squad is already putting the plan for this into the hands of the corporate puppets in Congress, something enabling us poor suckers to put roughly the equivalent of our Social Security payments into their beloved Market, so the hedge fund managers who pay no taxes can steal billions more.

Meanwhile, at the back door, the wolf has already entered the house of environmental protections.  Goodbye, clean air.  So long, potable water.  Hello,  cancer.  Goodbye, Grand Canyon, Arches, Vermillion Cliffs and a thousand other beautiful and wonderful places owned by We, the People.  Hello poisonous mining, fracking, drilling, coal burning and mountain top removal.  Goodbye green landscapes, blue skies and sweet-smelling earth.  Hello mercury run-off, fiish kills, oil spills and black lung disease.  They’ve already slipped a rider into H.R. 2584 (the 2012 appropriations bill) to severely weaken many environmental regulations.

In time, they’ll eliminate or emasculate OSHA,  the EPA and what shred of manhood remains in the NRC.  Fukushima II, anyone?

Here’s a sample of what they’ve already got in the legislative pipeline:

–Natural gas and oil drilling in and around Arches National Park.

–Uranium mining in the Grand Canyon.

–Increased amonia emissions from power plants.

–Ending requirements for better gas mileage in automobiles beginning in 2016 and reducing limits on carcinogens in exhaust emissions.

–Allowing chemical companies to dump pesticides into waterways and publish false information on pesticide labels.

–Repealing health-based air quality standards fior offshore oil operations.

–Eliminate regulation of mountaintop removal water runoff into streams, ash from the burning of coal and  hard rock mining.

There’s more.  Much more.  ALEC, the right-wing source of Koch- and Exxon-friendly state legislation, is propagating  laws to make it virtually impossible for environmental groups to sue polluters.

And then there’s education.  Besides cutting  funding for public schools they will in effect subsidize (with taxpayer money) private, religious schools through things called vouchers.  Any inducement for our best and brightest to become teachers will be doused by cutting teacher pay, benefits and pensions, a la Wisconsin.

The concept of trust-busting and regulating corporate crime is as old as Teddy Roosevelt’s presidency.  Deregulation, depending upon the Holy Market to regulate itself and allowing corporations to run the country is the new, raw deal.

Defeat them?  Marginalize them?  Not in Dr. Kidglove’s U.S.A.

Read more by Thomas Wark at www.bordellopianist.blogspot.com

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One more cave job

By Steve Klinger

The Democrats, in a baffling instance of rapid-cycling mutation, are proving again to be a subspecies of Homo sapiens that appears to have a backbone only when they are live on C-Span. In the backrooms where the deals get done they are total invertebrates, as demonstrated by the debt-ceiling deal emerging in Congress this weekend.

Republicans are pleading for just a little more Democratic support, which tells everything about whose plan is moving forward to avoid the trumped-up deadline for national default. Despite months of rhetoric about not making the little guy pay for budget austerity, the Democrats’ version of the “compromise” going forward is even more of what the Republicans wanted than they ever expected to obtain: A 12-member “Super Congress” that will have to come up with about $1.8 trillion in cuts by Thanksgiving – or entitlement programs will automatically be cut instead (the right’s objective all along). No revenue enhancement, no expiration of the Bush tax cuts, apparently no legislation even to eliminate tax loopholes.

The cardinal rule of negotiation with terrorists and rogue states is, don’t ransom hostages or you simply reinforce and encourage the behavior. This is especially true when you have taken yourself hostage. The Republicans in Congress, with the Tea Party sticking knives into their backs, are a gang of terrorists, holding the United States and its system of democracy hostage. The debt ceiling crisis is an artifice – blackmail, pure and simple. The right knew from Obama’s cave on the budget a few months ago that he and Senate leaders would not only blink on the debt ceiling but would deliver the keys to the candy store with their eyes shut tight.

Obama had a reasonable option: invoking the 14th Amendment, which states that the debts of the United States shall not be questioned. Certainly there was some legal gray area, but in the absence of a reasonable and fair legislative agreement, he could have kept the option open and exercised it under a state of emergency – but not this conciliator-in-chief. He could have led, as he was elected to do, but he abstained. Essentially, he abdicated his constitutional duties, as he has been doing for two-and-a-half years.

Majorities of over 70 percent of the public in recent polls have said they want the rich to pay their fair share of reining in the deficit, but the Republicans continue to lie shamelessly in pretending they are following the will of the people. The media perpetuate outrageous false equivalencies in reporting the so-called balanced view that both sides need to compromise. Only some bloggers, a few columnists and a handful of radio and television commentators have pointed out that the emperor has no clothes: The “compromise” is persuading the kidnapper to take your food away in four months instead of next week as the price for agreeing to leave the oxygen flowing to your tomb.

And this from a party that putatively controls the Senate and the White House. Last time I checked, that was two-thirds of the day-to-day decision-making authority in this country. Why should they be the ones to blink in this game of chicken, especially when the President holds the trump card of invoking the 14th Amendment?

This deal should incite a riot but will probably only get AARP members to bang on their bedpans for a few days. It should bring millions into the streets with signs and shouts of protest. All it will do is send those millions into the streets and under the overpasses one family a time when all the safety nets erected over decades of social progress are ripped away from them by the plutocratic predators who will devour the nation until, like the parasites they are, they succumb along with their host victim.

And sadly, most shameful of all, is a president so many of us supported to change the way things are done, who wasn’t up to the task, who proved oh so much better at spouting promises than  protecting his charges and the democracy that elevated his sorry ass.

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Time to draw a line in the sand

By Steve Klinger

This blog has been fulminating for a couple of months (or maybe since the midterm elections) as I watch the spectacle in Washington that the President elevates by describing as a three-ring circus. As any circusgoer or participant well knows, meticulous planning and coordination go into every circus stop at every town, and every act, from trapeze to juggling to animal routines. This is not to be confused with the dysfunctional frenzy in the Beltway.

The debt-ceiling crisis has in common with the circus that it is built on role-playing and enacted to mesmerize the audience, but the Washington version goes beyond entertainment and has no logical script other than the objective of maximizing political gain on behalf of those seeking financial gain.

In the final days of this trumped-up crisis, an artificial day of reckoning that only further denigrates government in the eyes of the populace, extemporaneous grandstanding rules the show. Republicans hold government, the President, the Democrats in Congress and the America people hostage in a cynical and hypocritical game of brinksmanship, alleged to be about controlling deficit spending but in reality about completing the redistribution of wealth from the middle class to the plutocracy.

Democrats have made strategic mistakes; for far too long they have lost the media-driven battle of public opinion, as usual being unable to match the Republicans’ ability to manipulate the victims themselves (Tea partiers, blue-collar workers, retirees, struggling homeowners) into orchestrating their own economic and political demolition.

The most offensive aspect of the whole thing has to be the collusion among the triumvirate of greed-driven plutocrats, co-opted politicians and mainstream-media talking heads whose rank hypocrisy knows no shame. Correspondents and news anchors talk about spreading blame and purport to provide a “balanced” perspective in lamenting that the sides can’t seem to compromise. Public opinion polls are twisted into confirming that the frustrated public just wants the two parties to reach an agreement. A problem almost entirely generated by wartime spending, Wall Street excess and self-serving deregulation has been allowed to be portrayed as one of runaway “entitlement” spending and false comparisons to balancing household budgets.

Commentators talk ad nauseum about compromise and deal-making. To our woe, the smartest guy in the room is the President, who has brainwashed himself into believing the compromise dictum, though he should have known a month into his presidency that “compromise” and “bipartisan” are code words for a strategy to prevent his re-election, even at the risk of destroying the nation.

Better-informed observers than I have chronicled the steadfast refusal of virtually the entire Republican delegation (especially in the current House) to compromise, while the Senate has elevated the filibuster to a new art from – all to thwart Obama and the Democrats, no matter how centrist or even right-leaning their agenda. But Obama can’t get the C-word out of his head and persists in the mindset of some self-styled ambassador instead of the leader and the agent for change many of us thought we were electing.

He has already capitulated on his principles regarding everything from the environment to single-payer health care, torture and secret rendition, drone attacks, national security, immigration, and is now willing to send Medicare down the slippery slope to pay the rightwing ransom in a scenario that is entirely of their making.

What he needs to do is explode the myth of equal blame and expose the total hypocrisy and cynicism, his re-election hopes be damned (though ironically they might well be advanced if he showed an iota of leadership). At this eleventh hour he needs to give Congress a very short leash to reach a workable agreement on a debt-ceiling extension and a package of spending cuts plus revenue-enhancement measures that will settle the issue through the 2012 elections. He needs to draw a line in the sand.

If no deal is reached in another two or three days, he needs to invoke the 14th Amendment, declare a state of emergency and extend the debt ceiling by executive decree.  There is much Democratic support for exactly such a course in the absence of a deal. The Republicans will scream bloody murder, but let them. They can’t lie, posture and manipulate any more than they already are. If the House wants to deliberate impeachment proceedings, so be it; at least it will give them something to do. If the courts must get involved, let them; they can’t be any less rational than the Republican leadership in Congress. If it costs Obama his re-election, he should realize that’s a better alternative than allowing the nation to slip into default and bring disaster on the economy and the American people.

He just might find an unexpected reaction – a groundswell of support from a nation that decisively elected a president to lead, not follow.

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