Saturday, March 28, 2009
WWW--Here's a link to a couple of tracks I did recently. Free, and more to come, enjoy. All rights reserved. I wrote them, you didn't. Yes, I took the name from a line of dialogue from Buckaroo Banzai.
Friday, March 27, 2009
WWW--Virginia Senator (and former Governor) Jim Webb has introduced a bill to create an 18-month commission to evaluate our criminal justice system "from top to bottom," noting that it's "a national disgrace," which is being euphemistic. The bill was introduced yesterday without much fanfare and is reputed to be "quietly supported" by the White House. This bodes very well for the prospects of the legislation and the timing of its introduction is purposeful and serious.
Republican Senators Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) support the bill, and many others in the Senate are likely to follow.
But I believe he cares (amazing, isn't it?), and that he's doing something to reverse the damage of the Reagan era, an era where millions have been incarcerated under the failure known as the "war on drugs," really a racialist war on people. It should be remembered that our drug laws began as "race laws" and have continued this pattern of abuse that's reflected in American criminal justice statistics. Worse still, when Reagan closed our state-run mental health facilities, it threw the mentally ill onto the streets of American cities, then swept many of them into prisons to be housed with violent offenders. No society calling itself civilized would let this specific act of social negligence continue any longer.
Senator Webb notes on his Senate web site:
Why We Urgently Need this Legislation:
With 5% of the world's population, our country now houses 25% of the world's reported prisoners.
Incarcerated drug offenders have soared 1200% since 1980.
Four times as many mentally ill people are in prisons than in mental health hospitals.
Approximately 1 million gang members reside in the U.S., many of them foreign-based; and Mexican cartels operate in 230+ communities across the country.
Post-incarceration re-entry programs are haphazard and often nonexistent, undermining public safety and making it extremely difficult for ex-offenders to become full, contributing members of society.
Webb's social statistics are both shocking and solid, they check out, but we can assume that those who have enriched themselves through unconstitutional forfeiture, private prison building and ownership, investors in privatized prison labor that targets drug offender populations specifically for exploitation, sundry drug police equippers, and the rest of the drug war scum are going to fight this very hard. Bring it on.
I think these exploiters of social misery (who lamely call themselves "heroes") will lose their fight and that the tide has already turned against them and their allies inside and outside of Congress and the courts. Check Senator Webb's page and read the legislation, it's almost revolutionary in the best sense of the word, it's in the best spirit of America.
The Republicans are going to fight this and lose. They and police lobbyists who shouldn't have a right to lobby Congress for anything are going to keep saying what they always have: "If only we had more funding, we could win this!" With the funding we've given them, they should have been able to win WWII several times over. Yet--oddly--the victory never comes for the war that never ends. It's been said over and over that we could stamp-out the usage of illicit-drugs in America, but that it would take the creation of a police state to do it. That's what the advocates of continuing the war on drugs are suggesting in so many words. Their time is ending, now.
That's all the change I need to believe that real change is coming to America. Future generations might say that the National Criminal Justice Commission Act of 2009 was when America's "domestic" Cold War began to thaw. Let freedom ring, and let it ring true for us all. Legalization is coming, public statements to the contrary.
Monday, March 23, 2009
Rolling Stone Magazine--I haven't read a copy of RS since 1992, so you probably know from this fact that they don't elicit much respect or admiration from me.
At best, the publication has been patently mainstream from its inception, a cheerleader of the consumer model, and a part of what's gotten us into the economic crisis we're now inhabiting.
Occasionally, the dinosaur ownership realizes at RS how inane and unimportant that they've become (once, the criticisms came from old school RS writers like the late Hunter S. Thompson) and pays someone to write something substantial about where things are at.
Their political articles are often belated pieces that would have had a better impact had someone commissioned them when the corruption and crimes were everywhere--occurring literally out in the open, down the street from RS's NYC offices--but advertisers don't like political coverage, especially when they're involved in the mess, and that would mean spending the money on a full time investigative team.
This doesn't fit into all the wonderful business models of recent times, so they don't have one, because since the introduction of CBS's "60 Minutes," the news is supposed to be profitable and entertaining.
Somehow, in this peculiarly adamant pro-business environment, we're being entreated to ditties from the Fourth Estate itself that "democracy will be inhibited without newspapers," yet when we had all of them they did little to protect it, making for a zero-sum loss in the age of the Internet. Yes, coverage will definitely become deeply "impaired" for a time, and there will likely be further consolidations of media, but what future will the survivors have in a generally wrecked economy? Being king is fine, but king of the garbage dump doesn't sound very grand to these ears.
One might also factor-in how hard it is to do business during widespread strikes and insurrection, but that's what defense contractors are for.
Into this bloody fray comes a Rolling Stone article by Matt Taibbi on AIG and--please bear with me--the notion that the Wall Street bailouts have been a "coup."I don't believe that it's that simple, that many of these critics have been dangerously naive about our system and its promises because of their own "successes" ("You're just jealous."), and that they're finally discovering how America really works. You know: the American people are usually the last to know, because there are "unknown knowns," in the thankfully inimitable words of Donald Rumsfeld.
...["]When one considers the comparatively extensive system of congressional checks and balances that goes into the spending of every dollar in the budget via the normal appropriations process, what's happening in the Fed amounts to something truly revolutionary,” a kind of shadow government with a budget many times the size of the normal federal outlay, administered dictatorially by one man, Fed chairman Ben Bernanke. "We spend hours and hours and hours arguing over $10 million amendments on the floor of the Senate, but there has been no discussion about who has been receiving this $3 trillion," says Sen. Bernie Sanders. "It is beyond comprehension." ... ("Back to the Big Takeover," Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone, April 2, 2009 issue)If it's a "shadow government," it's only because Congress delegated those powers to the executive branch and consciously did so over a period of decades. The article at least makes this point clearly enough. It should be added that Sec. of Treasury Bernanke has to answer to the President of the United States, ultimately, since he might have problems with how the money gets spent...or not. Taibbi is wrong--it really is all about money, the only thing Americans can be roused to action by. In other words, the Treasury Department isn't a separate branch of government, although Taibbi and others seem to be suggesting that it is. Were it that simple.
But this has been a real point-of-contention with me, since a "coup" means a real world transfer of power, generally to people who weren't originally "in-charge," with at least some essence of "finality" to it, however fleeting. Paradoxical--yes--and welcome to the world of power politics where language and logic break down above the atomic level. Sure, the Treasury Department and the Fed have significantly more power at the moment, that's true, and that's really an expansion of the power of the executive branch in the end. Former Vice President Cheney must be proud of his contribution to all of this.
Not since Hitler has so much confusion been sown in the halls of a modern government. It helped to have enablers and other fellow travelers along the way. So, these calls of a "coup" are more than a little belated--they actually sound weird coming at this moment. Habeas corpus has been nominally restored through the courts, but significant breaches in our Constitution are still there. There were many voices on the left who warned about the economic crisis and the war on terror's rollback of our rights from the start, and a few on the right, and so on.
But they weren't especially passionate voices, and they were ignored as they usually are.
Where were all these cries from the right and the mainstream media during the passage of the Patriot Act and the Military Commissions Act? Off making money at the time, they couldn't be bothered to care at the time. When I question some of the "coup counters," they tend to settle on the term "paper coup," and neglect to go into any further details. A real world analog would help, like Yeltsin's creation of the Oligarchs through the Russian State granting them mineral rights, or similar moves in South America during the last sixty years. That would have been a business luncheon for the Bush II administration.
Perhaps it just sounds good to the ears, that "c-word." It gives one the appearance of being prescient, prophetic, like Ronald Reagan (in appearance only). Granted, the term "coup" is taking over (pun intended) throughout the political spectrum.
...The state is now being asked not just to call off its regulators or give tax breaks or funnel a few contracts to connected companies; it is intervening directly in the economy, for the sole purpose of preserving the influence of the megafirms. In essence, Paulson used the bailout to transform the government into a giant bureaucracy of entitled assholedom, one that would socialize "toxic" risks but keep both the profits and the management of the bailed-out firms in private hands. Moreover, this whole process would be done in secret, away from the prying eyes of NASCAR dads, broke-ass liberals who read translations of French novels, subprime mortgage holders and other such financial losers. ... (Ibid)And this is new in American history, because...? Frankly, I don't get it--these are the very same people in control of the system in the end (the original ones, the ones whose names are being withheld on TARP payout papers), the same super rich "investors" and business bureaucrats inside and outside of our government who played, and lost. Welcome to the inherent ( il)logic of our economy, you missed the memo. Was there some arch-conspiracy, or some kind of a plan to this? Were you paying attention?
This makes a grand leap of logic that these people on Wall Street were and are competent.
Are you kidding? Does it really look like they're good at anything done above board, legally? They aren't good at business, they cannot rule or govern effectively or sustainably, and it will all crash no matter how much they attempt to leave the rest of us with the bill. Their time is up, it's a given, even with these machinations that induce the apathetic, cynical, and gullible, to ascribe godlike powers to a bunch of Wall Street (and truth be know, Main Street) clowns.
That they're not good at business is a given, but that most of them are criminals has yet to be proven, but will be. They're going to keep playing the same games because it's all they know, and when the rules don't favor them they change the rules. Does that sound sustainable? Let them have their fun, playing with their Monopoly money, but if they get their way, any recovery is going to be short-lived in a system whose time came at least a generation ago, the rest being mythology.
Americans have often wrongly measured their freedoms and liberties through economic indicators and their ability to purchase while neglecting the very existence of a quality of life and the social contract. There will be plenty of time to reflect on that now.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Republican Senator Charles Grassley's comments that AIG executives who have been awarded $165 million in bonuses that come from government bailout funds (TARP) should return the money--or kill themselves--comes at a very interesting political moment:
Republicans, seeing that the Obama administration are as apathetic as they are about corporate accountability have found an opening-of-sorts and are doing their best to steal the coveted "Populist" outrage ball. This entails very real risks when one is engaged in the same behaviors. The Obama administration and many legal experts are saying that the contracts cannot be violated, that they're "airtight," and were made in the spring of last year. But contracts can be broken, and the federal government now owns 80% of AIG at this writing.
There's an interesting dynamic here of the dodge, and by all sides.
Most of the problems arising out of the bonus issue were the creation of the Bush II administration, just one-of-many gifts they left the American public and the Obama administration before leaving office. This could all have been avoided, and it appears that the new inhabitants of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. have walked right into one of their bear-traps...and one created by Congress, generally.
From the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Title VII, Sec. III:
"(iii) The prohibition required under clause (i) shall not be construed to prohibit any bonus payment required to be paid pursuant to a written employment contract executed on or before February 11, 2009 [Ed.--My emphasis.], as such valid employment contracts are determined by the Secretary or the designee of the Secretary.And who wrote these lines? According to Rawstory and the papers on the bill itself, it was Senator Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), one of AIG's largest recipients of campaign donations in 2007 and 2008, and a former Goldman Sachs executive.
The AIG contracts-in-question were written in April of 2008, so you cannot say Dodd and his fellow Wall Street lobbyists aren't proactive in their corrupt and unethical practices. They even left a little clause in there so that the burden then rests with the Treasury Secretary, a kind of a catch-22 of throwing the ball to the executive branch.
Yet the new president signed the bill with this language still contained within it. He may not have had any real choice in the matter and was more-or-less blackmailed into accepting the stimulus package "as-is." As a matter of fact, these could be some of the very lines that were fought over behind the scenes and reported about widely, though without detail since there was little transparency in the negotiations. If so, little of this is Obama's fault at all, and the attacks and demands that he do something are little more than political theater and a way for the authors of this mess to avoid the real brunt of public outrage.
But then, there's the president's lack-of-enthusiasm for doing much about the bonuses or the questionable methods of expediting the bailouts and the creation of the stimulus package of which Dodd was a major party to.
To say that President Obama's outrage is more than a little too subdued over the bonuses during an economic crisis would be euphemistic, as evinced by his comments yesterday, but it's possible that he had no other choice but to accept this provision or get no stimulus deal at all. That should tell you all you need to know about most incumbents now sitting in Congress. Is there a game being played? Of course there is, and by all sides, it's poltics. My bet is that much of this was done to smear the president, frankly. It's all about avoiding responsibility, and the longer these kinds of shenanigans continue, the longer we're going to be in this crisis. So be it until we get real representatives. Trust: where is it?
The crisis could even deepen as a result when trust becomes a foregone conclusion, a casualty of some of the same practices that created this economic crisis in the first place.
The GOP are the kings of claiming that someone else has engaged in "political theater," just never them. Rational adults should understand that it's a hollow position in every rewspect, but the real danger is in representatives like Dodd. However, the public's outrage, the monkey-like flinging of dueling rhetoric, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's introduction of a bill that would recover most of the funds could bring a kind of a "fix" for the public since it's the squeeky-wheels that get oiled.
If you want to blame anyone, blame Congress--especially Republican incumbents and red dog Democrats like Dodd who have an identity crisis of their own. The time to clean house is coming up again next year's elections. If order hasn't eroded by that time, we might know what to do to repair and restructure a wrecked economy.
One thing's certain here: President Obama had better start reassessing who his real friends are in his own party, and fast, and begin sweeping the federal bureaucracy of all Bush II appointments. The public also needs to look very closely at the voting records and public behavior of those yelling the loudest in Congress over these bonuses and the need for reform. Trust--it's a hard thing to come by in Washington and on Wall Street, and it's going to be crucial to any kind of a recovery, but there's little reason for it these days from so-called leadership.
These clowns could be running themselves out of office sooner than you think, you watch. At the head of the list should be one Sen. Chris Dodd, former Goldman Sachs employee and still a lobbyist for Wall Street.
"Senate plans on introducing bill to claw back AIG bonuses," Rawstory, 03.17.2009: http://rawstory.com/news/2008/Senate_plans_on_introducing_bill_to_0317.html
Sunday, March 15, 2009
tv--I don't know whether this show is the worst/best thing on television now, or if it's just total crap. Are they kidding? Surely, they are, but don't be so sure. That "reality tv" has that same revolting-yet-hypnotizing quality that infomercials once--once?!--had is one of its hallmark features.
I've had the misfortune to (un)watch several of these so-called paranormal investigator programs, and like most people over the age of 13, I think it's all faked, played-up, and basically a bunch of aspiring actors doing a very bad job at appearing to believe it's all real. That's called "acting," by-the-way.
The premise is exactly what you would think: a bunch of vacuous models are taken to some "haunted" building for the night where lots of people were alleged to have died violently, or whatever. Yeah, whatever is right. OK, so it's just a pilot, so let's hope it dies the death that "Survivor" should have nine years ago. Give them a head full of acid, I say, then those gals will believe the place is haunted. Viewers might try the same, but I don't advocate the use of psychedelics.
But I should really be fair here...and brutally crucify the creators of the show. A brief explication of "Hot Girls in Scary Places" is in order:
The show stars three University of Southern California cheer squad friends challenged to spend the night in a supposedly haunted abandoned hospital for a cash prize of $10,000 (which would pay for maybe half a semester at USC). To get the prize, the trio will have to complete a series of challenges.
“They’re totally scared, and totally believe experiences they’re going through,” says executive producer Gary Auerbach [Ed.--He has a Facebook account!]. “They’ll get scared and then be talking about a sorority party coming up. It’s a little bit 'Scooby Doo'-ish.” ("E! orders 'Hot Girls in Scary Places,' " The Live Feed, 02.12.2009)
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Official: Romanov Princess Anastasia and Prince Alexander were slaughtered by Bolshevik forces in 1918
Russia--It's a lieeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!! She's in Atlantis with Bigfoot, D.B. Cooper, and all those missing planes and ships from the (fictional) Bermuda Triangle! Lieeeeeeeeeeeessssss!!!!!!
Well, at least something along those lines. Hey, it sold books for decades, what with dumbells speculating for dumbells what had happened to the Prince Alexander and Princess Anastasia. Armies of crazy old Slavic ladies claimed that they too were Anastasia, and even a few faceless cranks claimed they were Alexander. All of it was a lie, a body of completely worthless literature.
Nobody should have cared. The only thing that matters now is what really happened, and now we know: all of the Romanovs were killed by the Ural Soviet under orders of Lenin and the Central Committee in the month of July, 1918.
Of course they were going to slaughter all of them. That was the M.O. of the Bolsheviks, beginning with the deposed Tsar's family. Like the "Night of Long Knives" for the Nazis, this was what kicked-off the slaughter that was to come, the crossing of a threshold. Nothing could be the same after the Ural Soviet's deed, under orders from the Central Committee under V.I. Lenin.
Lenin directly ordered the murders of the Romanovs, and it was hidden until around the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. One of the first publications to note Lenin's orders (in memo form) was in Lenin: A New Biography (1994, first published in Russia years earlier) a book by the late Major General Dmitri Volkogonov that details most of the known machinations at the time it was written. Volkogonov had unparalleled access to the Party archives during the last years of the Cold War and was finally able to release his discoveries during Glasnost and the final fall of the Soviet regime.
it means that the sun is about to set."
WWW--It was coming from Michael Moore, Naomi Wolf, and from all-points-in-between on the political spectrum back at the end of this last September and October: the bailout of Wall Street was a coup because "we're all being robbed," case closed. That we're all being robbed is a certainty, but a coup? I still keep hearing this weird contention, yet I'm not seeing any proof that any of the players being bailed-out are different ones.
Why should we care if it's the same people? Because that's one of the main preconditions of a coup--someone else has to be in-charge, replacing the last group. What coup? It doesn't fit the definition, yet you have progressives and conservatives screaming one has occurred all over the place. Was there one? Well, yes, ages ago, and they missed it. They're making strange sounds over this, and I wanted to know why, and I've given it a lot of thought and reached a few tentative conclusions.
My belief: people like Michael Moore have had major investments on Wall Street like many of us have had (not me, however!), and that includes folks like Arianna Huffington, Al Franken, much of the wider society, and maybe even a few investigative journalists and media-outlet owners out there. But aren't they begging the question? That was my feeling back in September, and it still is, with a few more historical reflections.
Now, if you lost your ass on Wall Street and you heard that others were being bailed-out--and you weren't--wouldn't you be freaking-out and yelling too? Sure you would, and if you had a soapbox bigger than everyone else's, you'd use it, right? Perhaps. This shouting that the first bailout of the banks was a "coup" by some of these celebrities across the political spectrum reminded me of someone from our past: Father Charles E. Coughlin, the radio priest.
Today, most Americans have no idea who Coughlin was, but you could say that he was one-part Rush Limbaugh, one-part Michael Moore, and one-part Joseph Goebbels. Yes, this is about the 1930s and the Great Depression, what else would it be about? Coughlin was originally from Ontario, Canada and had confronted a group of the KKK who had tried to burn his church in an act of anti-Catholic hate, so he began with "progressive" and populist credentials. At the dawn of the Great Depression, Coughlin sounded like a voice of reason to many, and they supported him with money and activism. He went as far as founding a short-lived political party, the NUSJ (The National Union for Social Justice), and was most popular with Irish-Catholics during the 1930s, but had a much wider appeal.
Incredibly, he and Gerald L.K. Smith (a lieutenant of Huey Long) could be fairly credited with creating the white supremacist movement. How did it end up that way? From frustrated populist aspirations and a deep disdain for Western-style capitalism. Some people react dysfunctionally to social injustice because they're terminal racists. Where did it all begin for the "radio priest"?
Father Coughlin's American parish in Royal Oak, Michigan began doing radio broadcasts of his sermons sometime in 1926 out of Detroit's radio station WJR, the beginning of the radio age. It has been calculated that Coughlin had a listenership-peak of as many as 40 million, an incredible number for its time. Coughlin was radically populist one moment in his speeches, backing Roosevelt completely one day, and then making remarks totally against the New Deal the next depending on which way the political winds were blowing at the moment. For him--as with Limbaugh--it was all about ratings. In this respect, little has changed since the 1930s, but he accidentally pushed FDR further to the left, so he had some value.
While Coughlin was railing against Wall Street, he was heavily invested in it at a time when almost nobody in the general population was. Who had money then? Demagogues like Charles Coughlin, that's who; the radio priest was getting rich slamming Wall Street, from his appeals for donations, and his weekly radio program's advertising revenue. Unbeknownst to most Americans, by the mid-1930s, Father Coughlin was one of the largest holders of silver in America. In other words, he was a hypocrite in most respects, and vanity assured his fall. Coughlin began with very enthusiastic support of FDR's New Deal programs, but by 1934 he started having political aspirations of his own and began bitterly attacking Roosevelt and his policies. He also began broadcasting and writing anti-Semitic remarks and began his love affair with Continental fascism and the Nazi State.
By 1938, he reprinted the Tsarist secret police (Okhrana) forgery, The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion in his own newsletter, "Social Justice," and was witnessed at a Bronx speaking- engagement doing the fascist salute. It was all downhill after that, as radio stations stopped carrying his programs and the Roosevelt administration moved on him to curb his ability to disseminate first his radio programs, then his newspaper and related literature through the postal system. By 1942, with his support of Nazism all-but-complete, Coughlin became a marginalized laughingstock, and went back to his tiny Royal Oak parish to live out the rest of his life in relative obscurity.
Interstingly, he had connections with a domestic fascist group called the "Christian Front," who plotted to overthrow the government of the United States. He never renounced his connection to them.
I don't think Michael Moore is exactly the same kind of creature as Coughlin, and this isn't some attempt to smear him with the same brush at all, because it's not accurate or fair. But there are a lot of parallels between his life and that of Coughlin, and he's not alone. New communications media have empowered many individuals in the last two decades like never before, and with that access comes the same kinds of issues that arose during the 1930s, a time when radio was first emerging as a force. But the cries of "coup" smack of similar hypocrisies that people like Coughlin once engaged in. One might ask such celebrities like Limbaugh and Moore (or even "conspiracy" writers/activists like Alex Jones) what their holdings on Wall Street are today. You might get a very surprising answer indeed, even with the contemporary prevalence of investment.
Now is definitely a time of demagogues, but the question is: "Who are they exactly? Who are the demagogues?" Rush Limbaugh and most of the right-wing noise machine certainly fit that bill, but there are others out there, right now, waiting for their time. Intellectual honesty is as good an inoculation as you're likely to get, a proactive solution for the ages.
Washington D.C.--This guy just cannot control himself. Rollcall and Rawstory are reporting that Louisiana's Republican Senator David Vitter caused an incident last Thursday at Dulles National Airport upon missing his flight from the nation's capital back home to New Orleans, presumably for some tail (not his wife) and the "necessary" obstruction of federal assistance to the beleaguered state. Ir's a dirty job, but someone's got to do it.
Vitter went into the gate after it was closed to boarding, which anyone who's flown since 9/11 knows is a big no-no. It's restricted.
"So what?" thought the junior senator, "My party has milked 9/11 for all the political capital we could, and I can do whatever I want." And he did...thereby setting off an alarm. A United Airlines employee chided him for doing this, because it was his job to do so. The senator was not amused, and began yelling very loudly at the airline employee for his own mistakes and lack of impulse control. It was one of those days--every day, it seems--in the life of Senator David Vitter.
Like Larry Craig--the other GOP senator still in the doghouse--he invoked the usual, "I'm a senator, who are YOU?!" routine so popular among the little people of the world. Things became so heated that the United Airlines employee felt compelled to find a security guard. After that, the senator realized the error of his ways, and turned tail like a yellow-belly and ran. That'll learn ya.' What's the deal with this guy?
And he's been up to a lot of other nastiness, mainly in his unfortunate tenure in the Senate of the United States:
This has been typical of the entirety of his unfortunate political career, going back to his time in the Louisiana State Senate. You'd think Huey Long was alive and well. Yet, we're told, Senator Vitter is "leading the charge"--in a party without any leadership--"against earmarks," when his own state really actually leads the way in unnecessary "pet" projects. His own most recent defeat came in his feeble attempts at stopping the passage of the $410 billion federal budget for the running expenses.
But Vitter wasn't about to be forced into submission by a prostitution scandal. In the 20 months since his disgrace, he has doubled his efforts to tie down the Democratic-led Senate, most recently with yesterday's attempt to force his colleagues to vote to give themselves a pay raise.
It was a clever maneuver. In a time of want, Vitter put his colleagues in the unenviable position of voting to keep the 20-year tradition of automatic cost-of-living increases. "The autopilot pay raise really is offensive to the American people!" he proclaimed with populist indignation. ...It was a win-win-win situation. Democrats got their spending bill. Lawmakers got to keep their automatic pay increases. And Vitter got something other than prostitutes to discuss with the voters back home. ("A Pay-With-Pay Scheme," The Washington Post, 03.11.2009)
What Vitter's really up to now is just more Republican obstructionism and phony populist posturing over necessary spending to continue the legitimate operations of the federal government in a time of incredible economic crisis, a crisis that the GOP owns, and handily. In short, he's one of their disposable waterboys whom they can dangle out there in the wind to see if there are any strikes or bites, and he gets to avoid the dead prostitute in the room for a little while. That he seems like a pursued man is a testament to his ongoing misbehavior and the fact that he's conscious of it and its effects on himself and others, but keeps doing the same things anyway.
That's a very big set of problems to have, and an impressive feat of wilfull degeneration and dissipation that would shock the most dedicated epicurean. Why wouldn't a rich boy from Louisiana want to end automatic pay raises for members of Congress? It just insures that only the wealthy will be able to be our representatives, since an honest man isn't going to be able to even begin to afford living in Washington D.C. as playboy aristocrats like Vitter can. Sen. Russell Feingold co-sponsored the bill, to his shame. He needs to rethink his position next time.
Here's to Vitter's defeat in the 2010 elections, and the rest of the senate GOP up for reelection. It's time to clean some house. That dead madam isn't going away, and neither is Paula Neble. With clowns like David, baby, he was born to run. Demagogues like Sen. Vitter are a dark reflection of the hollow men and women who put him into office, inflicting him (and themselves) upon the rest of us. The time to shut them all down passed a long time ago, and their inevitable downfall will be belated.
"A Pay-With-Pay Scheme," The Washington Post, 03.11.2009: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/10/AR2009031003583.html
Friday, March 06, 2009
In case you haven't noticed, some of your friends and neighbors are acting more than a little strange lately--even strange for Republicans or your garden variety Libertarian. Some of them are crying out--pathetically and impotently since it's their lot to do so--that, "There are socialists taking over!" What does that mean?
It doesn't make a lot of sense, even to those exclaiming it since they don't tend to know much at all about American history. Such are the vagaries of the ignorant and the terminally afraid.
According to Webster's newest edition, the term "red-baiting" arose around 1928, only eleven years after the Bolshevik counterrevolution in Russia against a revolutionary coalition (mostly of the left) that had deposed the Tsar in February 1917 (hence, the Bolsheviks called their own seizure of power, "The October Revoultion"). In many respects, 1928 was a flush year, a time when the bloated markets and an unregulated economy seemed to offer a "permanent" prosperity, which seems as laughable today as it did then. Systematic regulation of the economy was almost unheard of at the time, and the good times seemed to have no end. We know what happened after that: the Great Depression and another world war. Cries of "socialist" were being heard everywhere after 1933, just as they had at the end of WWI.
1928 was part of the tail-end period of Republican rule that began with the end of the Progressive and Wilsonian eras, meaning a feeding frenzy for the financial and business sectors, it being a venerable (and convenient) cycle in American politics and economy. But Republicans didn't invent red-baiting: It has a long and sordid history in America that reaches as far back as the labor clashes of the late-1870s, well into the 1900s, and came out of key events like the Haymarket bombing and the countless strikes, clashes, and protests that came afterward.
Today, we're hearing it come from the mouths of former presidential candidate John McCain, conservative pundits like Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh, and free market extremists of every stripe inside and outside of the beltway. That they're reactionary nuts is a given, but they are part of a very sad tradition in American politics and culture. They're no different than the scabs, the lynch mobs, Indian killers, the company goons and Pinkertons, and the bought newspaper editors, writers, and journalists of America roughly one hundred years ago.
Some moments truly define our times, and 1886 was one of those years.
1886 is one of those flashpoint years that tend to define the next few decades. There would be other key years that would contribute to the genesis of red-baiting, and the Haymarket bombing was one of those catalysts that come along and change everything, and sometimes for generations.
On the night of May 4th, 1886, several hundred Chicago immigrant workers assembled at Haymarket Square to protest the shootings of locked-out workers by the police the day before. Their radical demands? A call for an eight-hour workday. Many of the same police "shooters"were there to meet them that night and ordered the workers to disperse. Sometime after 10:00 PM, someone threw a bomb close to the police lines and the shock waves have reverberated ever since, partly in the form of future red-baiting. The reaction couldn't have been stronger, and many innocent workers were stripped of their rights and detained illegally if not outright killed in the subsequent hysteria. Sound familiar? It wasn't to be the first or the last time.
The newspapers of the time wrote that the organized immigrant workers were anarchists (in reality, a tiny minority were) who were ..."long-haired, [and were] wild-eyed, bad-smelling atheistic, reckless foreign wretches, who never did an honest hour's work in their lives, but who, driven half-crazy with years of oppression (before coming to 'the land of the free') and mad with envy of the rich... [came to America]."(Albany Law Journal, 15 May 1886) A cultural theme was created out of events like the Haymarket bombing, but its roots came from an already prevalent racism and anti-immigrant nativism, not unlike today's, but with its hands untied and its mouth un-gagged, so it ran riot. Was it all really about "radicals" and "anarchists" threatening the status quo? We don't know this entirely, but we can see from the results of this social behavior over the decades that red-baiting was once a very effective tool in limiting organized labor and movements working for civil rights.
In essence, the GOP is trying to play an old game that has--for all intents--ended. But who threw that bomb on May 4th, 1886?
Ironically (or not), nobody ever discovered who threw the bomb that harmed dozens of workers (killing a policeman, wounding seventy others--police shot four workers to death during the melee) that day, but the red-baiting that followed has continued into our own era. There's a good reason for this. Until very recently, red-baiting worked, keeping down efforts of immigrants, minorities, and workers, from organizing to protect their basic rights from employers and ownership. With the Soviet Union gone, the game has become a dead one, not that the truth ever stopped the Republican Party from doing something inadvisable. Their love of "the good old days" (that never were) is legendary.
To the current GOP, it's still 1919, the Cold War generally, 1949 specifically, or even 1889. But never mind that, there are careers to be made as well in our market economy, even in the ranks of the police:
As the city [of Chicago] writhed in fear, kept at a high pitch by a frenzied press, [Police Captain Michael J.] Schaack took center stage as a detective-hero, casting himself in the role of master detective, a figure that in the nineteenth century gripped the popular imagination, whose daring and skill would unlock mysteries and bring him acclaim as the man who had not only solved "the crime of the century" but rescued the city and nation from destruction. How could his vision be marred by such piddling details as apprehending the actual bomber? Instead, he bragged unceasingly of his cleverness and courage in rooting out secret conspiracies, confident that no one in the fear- ridden city would dare challenge his boastful disclosures, however absurd or incredible.We've heard similar bragging and a general lack of results in our own era. The effect of Haymarket and the media hysteria that was whipped-up virtually destroyed the first genuine national union, the Knights of Labor, founded out of the bloody railroad strikes of 1877. Later, elements of the Knights would go on to form the radical I.W.W. (Industrial Workers of the World) in 1905, the first American union to admit women, immigrants, and African-Americans. Sometimes, there are unintended consequences to repression, and sometimes things simply happen on-accident.
This self-styled master detective left no stone unturned to keep himself in the public eye. Not only did he falsely announce the discovery of bombs, but he actually sought to set up anarchist cells on his own. (Protectors of Privilege: Red Squads and Police Repression in Urban America (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1990), pp.12-22.)
The 1901 assassination of big business ally President William McKinley by the lone (and deranged) anarchist Leon Czolgosz also inflamed the passions of a racialist and anti-immigrant, nativist America against the progressive left and unionization. It was a short walk. Ongoing and brutal labor violence and economic downturns only aggravated things, and the situation continued to feed on itself, and the cops and the politicians were there to fan the flames. It should sound familiar that there was a feeling by the end of WWI that things were coming-apart in America. In the backdrop of this were the ongoing public lynchings of African-Americans, often created and attended by the same mobs that were hanging union organizers. This escalated at war's end. The tone of the time was one of incredible violence and anger, and scapegoating was commonplace.
Just one hundred years ago, Americans were still working 10-14 hour work days, sometimes as many as 16 hours if they were working in immigrant-filled sweatshops and factories for starvation wages. To say that there were plenty of reasons for American and immigrant workers to be angry about would be understating the issue, and change was long-in-coming. It wasn't until 1916 when the Adamson Act made an eight hour workday national law, affecting private workplaces. But this didn't end things...
A 1917 Supreme Court decision confirmed the Adamson Act's constitutionality, but most Americans didn't get that eight hour workday until 1938 with the New Deal and the FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, 29 U.S.C. Ch. 8). There would be many more labor battles and more unnecessary violence in the years between the wars, and it was all avoidable. After decades of brutal back-and-forth between organized labor, politicians, the police, goons, and ownership, things started coming to a head during WWI. This became particularly acute in its aftermath when an economic downturn brought the Seattle General Strike in early-1919, a national coal strike, the Boston Police Strike, and a national steel strike. Ever wonder why you were never taught about any of this?
Strikes in solidarity with American workers also broke-out in several parts of Canada, especially in its Northwest provinces. To America's wealthiest, it seemed that things were coming apart and that their position was endangered. This wasn't necessarily true, but it's an indicator of how tenuous American elites have viewed their position as for some time. They still do. There were definitely warning-sings back in 1919.
True, small-scale bombings by anarchist groups had gone on for decades without much attention given to them, but in the postwar climate of fear and paranoia, all it took was a series of them to set things off like never before. These acts came first at the end of April, and once again on June 2, 1919 in a wave of bombings that targeted America's wealthiest, including the home of President Wilson's Attorney General, A. Mitchell Palmer (FDR's neighbor at the time), major banker J.P. Morgan, oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller, and numerous other "captains of industry"and government.
Out of this general state of paranoia and an anti-immigrant and racialist hysteria came the first national Red Scare. Race riots and lynchings of unionizers, immigrants, and African-Americans would also occur during the panic, showing that a significant portion of the fear was racially-inspired, including a specific racism directed at Eastern European immigrants thanks to the Russian Revolution. The irony is that several of the bombing attacks probably came from Italian "Galleanist" anarchists, many of them operating out of New Jersey, and that they were actually known to law enforcement at the time.
All these kinds of confrontations were avoidable through the passage of progressive legislation that would merely give the working-class some marginal breathing room, but they met strenuous opposition, and from both major parties until the advent of the New Deal. As one can imagine, the Republican Party was violently opposed to these kinds of pieces of social legislation at the time, and still are today. Republicans labeling the New Deal as "socialist," "communist," and even went so far as to later label them as "Kremlin inspired" during the Second Red Scare of late-1940s into the 1950s, the era of Joe McCarthy and HUAC (the House Un-American Activities Committee, an apt name) and the communist witch hunts. For some reason, the GOP of today thinks this is going to work again in a climate where they're disgraced, where the public is fully-aware of their primary responsibility for the current economic crisis.
But what red-baiting really constitutes are attempts at keeping the "little people" at the bottom by dividing them and diverting them from their own economic interests through scapegoating, by throwing the attention off of ownership and big money. Issues of racism and hollow nationalism fit that bill nicely in the past, and many chomped at the bit of bigotry and ignorance to their eternal shame. How little has changed since then, but ignorance is a double-edged sword: the kids don't remember most of this, or red-baiting's emotional appeal to earlier generations.
For most young Americans of this historical moment--many-of-whom weren't even alive during the Cold War--little of this registers or matters and red-baiting has not only lost its effectiveness, but its original context and meaning. It's a dead horse. Nowadays, red-baiting is just the babbling of scared racists and bigots who are becoming more and more culturally and demographically isolated. The reality is, that that's all it ever was, ultimately: little people who felt their way of life was being threatened throwing the ugliest fit imaginable and accomplishing their own downfall.
To most Americans now, it's weird watching footage of Dixiecrats and Republican politicians of days old calling Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and desegregation activists "communists," "pinkos," "commies," "socialists," and much worse. And that's exactly how weird Republicans yelling "socialist" sound today. Not only do they sound out-of-touch, they sound as demented and bizarre as they all really are. It was a long road to this present state of affairs, but one thing's certain: red-baiting no longer works, and the GOP and red-baiters everywhere are obsolete examples of those still living in the back alleys of America's very dark racialist and classist past.
If the Republican Party wishes to continue engaging in this self-flagellation, why not cut to the chase? Why not call our new president what you're thinking he is--that he's a "socialist" (check) and a "nigger" (unchecked)? Because, that's become unacceptable to the average person in the United States. But leave it to the GOP to channel the black heart of where our culture has been for the new age, they're doing the lord's work, they'll tell you. Thanks for the reminder, and thanks for letting us know where you really stand. Time's up, but at least there's Google so that they can spell "socialist" correctly. Fat chance.
"The First Red Scare: Facts, Discussion Forum, and Encyclopedia Article," Absolute Astronomy.com, 2009: http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/First_Red_Scare
Protectors of Privilege: Red Squads and Police Repression in Urban America (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1990), pp.12-22. : http://www3.niu.edu/~td0raf1/history471/Frank%20Donner%20brief.htm
Tuesday, March 03, 2009
A'murka--It seems that Ms. McCain--Senator McCain's daughter--has had some romance problems before, during, and since the elections. I'm not surprised, and concurr with her opinion that the libido dries-up whenever politics gets mentioned, a real mood killer. Well, duh.
She's got the goods, though, she's gonna be OK. I can feel it in my loins. The title contradicts the article, incidentally, something only achievable through a privileged education.
Hint to prospective beaus: act apathetic about politics and she's your'n.
"Looking for Mr. Far Right," The Daily Beast, 03.03.2009:
CPAC--If you don't have to shave your knuckles (or wear gloves on them since you drag them when you "walk"), you know that the Republican Party has no solution to the current economic crisis and that they're now going to have to settle for White Supremacists, market extremists, the intellectually challenged, and worse, for their political base.
But enough about America's ruling class and trailer trash: This was a self-inflicted wound, like all the rest.
With no real leadership or vision within their party, they're degenerating--it's hard to believe they could fall lower, I know--but they are. The best indicator of their imminent collapse? Rush Limbaugh's ascendency as leader of the GOP. When you have a nationally syndicated conservative radio commentater running your party, and when you have a scab plumber advising you on your national strategy as a party, you're basically fucked, you have no future staying the same and acting the same. Their solution? The aforementioned.
Logically, this can only be a good thing for Americans and the world, but the GOP are still going to be a big problem that has to be taken care of, and they're being very open about their intentions to derail the process again. Luckily, this is a self-correcting process--voters will continue to rebel and leave the Republican Party in-droves as it becomes clearer that they have no vision for the future and no solutions to problems that are largely their own creation. They will continue to lose seats in Congress without actually changing with the times.
That they won't change, and that they're making the same mistakes that they did in the 1930s makes them the world's largest Civil War reenactment outside of punk rock, that other Shibboleth of the right. This means that--once again--truth is out the window for them, it's messy and inconvenient, so out it goes from the chamber pot.
Do we give them what they want? Of course not, that's why we're in the current economic crisis, an ongoing constitutional crisis (the reason investigations and convictions are necessary), and two worthless wars. If President Obama doesn't address these and many other problems forcefully and directly, we may never recover as a nation. Does the GOP really want to own the fact that they created an economic crisis, then made it terminal? Apparently, the answer is a positive one: "YES!" Isn't it nice to say "yes"? In the backdrop, behind the curtain, Rush Limbaugh keeps declaiming that he's "not the leader" of the Republican Party.
Yet, from watching even just a sliver of the coverage from CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference, begun during the Watergate hearings), it's clear that Limbaugh really is the de facto leader of the Republican Party, not that one guy...uh, what's his name? Black guy. Anyone? Right, Michael Steele. Why wouldn't Rahm Emanuel (aka "Dutch Schultz") want to go to the trouble in pointing out the obvious last week? Like the Bolsheviks, Limbaugh saw a power vacuum and he's exploiting it, even abusing it in publicly flexing that power and forcing the de jure leader of the GOP into recanting his criticisms? That Steele recanted today is just underscoring the obvious.
A few Limbaugh highlights from CPAC that aren't getting much attention:
..."I learned that Fox, God love them, is televising this speech on the Fox News Channel, which means, ladies and gentleman, this is my first ever address to the nation. [Applause] Now, I have someone in back taking phone numbers. In fact, I would like to introduce to you my security chief, a man who runs all of my security. His name is Joseph Stalin. Joseph, would you please --
[Laughter ] I am safe from any liberal attack, in public, because they would be afraid of offending Stalin. [Laughter]..."
And: ..."But don't make the mistake at the same time of feeling liberated as thinking we're better and we can do better as a minority. Because we're not a minority. And if you start thinking of yourselves as a minority, you're going to be defensive. And you'll allow the majority to set the agenda and the premise and you're responding to it. The American people may not all vote the way we wish them to, but more Americans than you now live their lives as conservatives in one degree or another. And they are waiting for leadership. We need conservative leadership. We can take this country back. All we need is to nominate the right candidate. It's no more complicated than that. [Applause]"...
And, very tellingly:
..."There are certain realities. We don't have the votes in Capitol Hill to stop what's going to happen. What we can do is slow it down, procedure, parliamentary procedures, slow it down and do the best we can to inform the American people of what's really on the horizon. I know it's going to be tough. At some points, I don't think it can happen even right now."...
And, ..."So what is so strange about being honest to say that I want Barack Obama to fail if his mission is to restructure and reform this country so that capitalism and individual liberty are not its foundation? Why would I want that to succeed? [Applause]"...
And, thankfully, there is no economic crisis, the Democrats are lying that there is one, and the GOP had nothing to do with it at all, so move on: "
..."President Obama is so busy trying to foment and create anger in a created atmosphere of crisis, he is so busy fueling the emotions of class envy that he's forgotten it's not his money that he's spending. [Applause]"...
As you can tell, there were a lot of "crowd pleasers" (jokes for the humor-impaired) in there for what's becoming a smaller and smaller voting base for the Republican Party. Limbaugh's comments aren't going to go anywhere in making that base any larger, and his exhortations for congressional GOP incumbents (for now) to slow down the process has extraordinary risks, especially when that obstructionism is found to be an incontrovertible truth as to why the crisis has deepened. That's enough to kill any political party, fragmenting it in a constellation of third parties, if not a new and singular one.
And up on that stage, speaking at the very end of the CPAC sing-along ("Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport!"), Limbaugh just looked and sounded weirder than he ever has. It's not just that he's totally out-of-step with reality or how the history of ideas and their rejection or acceptance works (see Fukuyama piece below), it's that he's disconnected from the very idea of causality itself. Hey, don't go changin', it has the rest of us elated at the prospects.
No, what CPAC and Limbaugh all appear to be are the mutants from the Omega Man, suggesting pathetically and nihilistically that, "There is no solution!!" just as actor Anthony Zerbe tells Charleton Heston towards the end of the story, another permutation of Richard Matheson's apocalyptic story, "I Am Legend." Conversely--conversely?!--the words coming from Limbaugh's mouth could almost have been voiced at CBGB's in 1976, or any number of heroin "shooting-galleries" over the last 75 years. That's the GOP: so punk you can taste it, and the taste is as bad as you imagined it would be. According to them, it's capitalism or death for the human species, just reminding us that they have their cause and effect mixed-up again.
Obama Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel releases more Bush II administration war on terror documents
Washington D.C.--You wanted change? You're getting it, today. This is a switch--even for the incoming administration: the release of more key Justice Department legal documents from the immediate aftermath of the events of September 11th, 2001, and they're eye-openers.
The Obama Justice Department has made available a series of key legal memos crafted byt eh Bush II administration that cover the power of the office of president to declare war, "Congressional Authority over Captured Enemy Combatants," the legality of torture, "Interpreting FISA and its Applicability to Presidential Authority," "Presidential Authority to Suspend Treaties" (curiously, ABM ones in one case), " 'National Self-Defense' as a Justification for Warrantless Searches," and so on.
The Obama Justice Department has made their stance on these questionable legal opinions of the Bush II Justice Department crystal clear:
For all the foregoing reasons, the propositions highlighted in the nine opinions identified above do not reflect the current views of the Office of Legal Counsel and should not be treated as authoritative for any purpose. A number of the opinions that contained these propositions have been withdrawn or superseded and do not constitute precedents of this Office; caution should be exercised before relying in other respects on the remaining opinions.Here's what this writer finds most interesting: the opinions by the OLC were made just five days before the Obama administration came into office on January 20, 2009! In short, these decisions were likely being withheld from release by the outgoing Bush II administration and this week's release indicates the decisions were all but predetermined by the incoming administration for potential release. In other words, the Bush II administration was doing some back-peddling in their legal assertions at the tail-end.
We have advised the Attorney General, the Counsel to the President, the Legal Adviser to the National Security Council, the Principal Deputy General Counsel of the Department of Defense, and appropriate offices in the Department of Justice of these conclusions. ("Office of Legal Counsel Memoranda," DOJ.gov, 0303.2009)
That it took a little over a month for the Obama administration's Attorney General to releases them is a very tangible change considering these memos were suppressed by the Bush II administration for years. Say what you want--that it's "not enough," that it's "belated" (for whom?), and that we "won't be seeing much more of this," but it doesn't matter. It's real, and it happened, and more is coming. So far, it doesn't appear that the Obama administration have ruled on the findings of the OLC, but it's likely that they will concur with them in their own decisions.
Maybe it's just a start, but it's one of the best starts we've seen in at least three decades (if not more), and it's happening almost overnight. Patience has its own rewards, but keep demanding more of this, don't ask, and do tell.