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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Poll: Why Tim Geithner Is Or Is Not A Fatal Liability

The past few weeks have not been good ones for Tim Geithner, Obama's Treasury Secretary.  On Tuesday, Ron Suskind's book, "Confidence Men:  Wall Street, Washington and the Education of a President", came out detailing behavior that could be most generously interpreted as gross insubordination, if not an outright unconstitutional usurpation of executive power by a political appointee.  Nor did Geithner do himself any favors by openly proclaiming before European finance ministers:  "He [Obama] 's not in charge; I am".

Has this rendered Geithner a political "toxic asset"?  Should he be given his walking papers immediately?  Should Geithner be let free when soldiers refusing to serve 2nd, 3rd or even 4th tours of duty in Afghanistan are jailed for years?  In deciding a response, which is most important to you:  enforcement of the United States constitution, Obama's personal reputation, the Democratic Party's electoral viability for 2012 or polemical use of the issue to further Republican partisan aims?  Is there any justifiable defense for a man who has sacrificed the American economy in order to protect his personal friends on Wall Street?  Please take the linked survey and let me know your thoughts.*

Plan to publish first batch of results next week.

*As always, feel free to add a comment to discuss further if you like.  Just bear in mind that I only make a limited amount of revenue from the Victoria's Secret (tm)  banners here, so it may be awhile before I get arround to posting your comments.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Great News, Everybody: A New (Secret) Bailout!

This in from Business Insider:  Scuttlebutt that German Chancellor Angela Merkel will be softening up Obama, Federal Reserve Chief Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner for yet another round of bailouts for the incompetent multinational financial elites.

Awesome!  I was afraid that the next round of bailouts would require "patriots" like representative Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) to take to the floor begging again.  I feel so relieved now, knowing that the whole thing can proceed quietly without anyone having to jeopardize their campaign funding.

The Parable of the Blind, Pieter Bruegel, 1568
But where do our other, prospective "leaders" stand on this topic?  Hard to say.  Irrelevance and opacity seem to be the primary tenets of the major candidates' PR machines.  Here's what I mean.

Ron Paul's heart may be in the right place regarding the need to end counterproductive wars and pointlessly intrusive social wedge issues, but his knack for failing to identify urgent priorities remains unequalled.  Witness the most recent update to his news page:  Paul's response to the burning issue of a vaguely worded email RECEIVED (i.e., NOT sent) by a third-tier lackey in the slave galley of Obama's PR establishment.  Yeah, I know.  $527 million is 0.05% of the $1 TRILLION in bailout money supposedly at stake in the Euro bailout, but Ron's never claimed to be more than what he clearly is:  an amateur.

Still, it was a bit of a disappointment.  Those of us who had taken heart in the earnestness of Ron's campaign do feel a little saddened by his betrayal of it's core moral theme, that public figures should take firm stands on what they believe and know to be correct, regardless of the short-term pragmatic consequences.  Ron doesn't have and never had a snowball's chance in Hell of winning anything other than honorable mention.  But his piling on here to the failure of an innovative business venture, and one pioneering a technology that could threaten the petroleum-military complex at that, just feels like he's gotten himself lost.  Hopelessly lost.

And that was the high ground, folks.  The rest of the lot could either bore you with their predictability or make you laugh at their vapidity:

A quick visit to Michele Bachmann's website yielded only her trumpeted zeal for "politicking" in Iowa.  FYI to Bachmann:  You're from Iowa.  You have home turf advantage.  You already won the straw poll there last month.  Time to move on.  There's another 49 states in the union, some of them with more than 1 electoral college vote.

Rick Perry's site wasn't a helluva lot better.  True, he seems to have left last month behind him, but devil a word you'll hear about the impending bailouts.  He also spent all his gunpowder in low-grade partisan b*llshitting.  G*ddamn it, at least Bachmann gave us a few laughs.  All Perry did was bore me to tears.

Mitt Romney's response was a little more nuanced and amusing.  Yes, no one is surprised that the much-vaunted hedge fund manager uttered not peep #1 about the use of public funds to underwrite his pals' vacation homes in St. Tropez, or that he cleared his policy platform with these same scum bags.  But did you know you could win a once-in-a-lifetime date with this Tiger Beat dreamboat?  I don't know about you, but his flat, nasal automaton speech and "Reaganesque" elder statesman-y graying temples just make me melt.  'Specially the way he says:  "Corporations are people, too, my friend!"

No, you won't hear much about Bailout III:  The Re-"Bush"-ening on any administration web site either.  Not the Fed.  Not the Treasury.  Not the president's blog.  Hardly much of a surprise.  Obama's always been an awkward, "play-behind-the-beat kind" of guy anyhow.  He seems continually caught off-guard by the way his bailouts, unconstitutional wars, plutocratic tax giveaways and civil rights violations have continued to erode the economy and the support of the people who voted for him in 2008.

But shouldn't we expect more from his "challengers"?  There should be no question of pragmatic compromises in order to achieve tactical victories, because going on the 4th year of 10%+ unemployment and simultaneously sky-rocketing unemployment claims and corporate profits, there's really nothing left to compromise any more.  Ergo a complete and overwhelming moral victory seems free for the taking.

Friday, September 9, 2011

The One Big Reason You Should Not Celebrate 9/11

Are you the kind of sick pervert that celebrates the murder of 3,000 civilians?  More than likely the answer is "yes".

"Hold on a minute, A-h*le," you may counter.  "It's not a 'celebration'.  It's a 'commemoration'.  It's one of the few things that can bring divided America together as a nation.  Mourning a shared tragedy, a loss of innocence.  Expressing gratitude for the selfless courage of the first responders.  Building community."

Ah, not so much.  In reality, it is a masterful manipulation of the complementary moral and intellectual weaknesses of the both extreme wings of the American body politic, a satanic appeal to our vanity and invitation to the destruction of our democratic institutions.  Stupid right wingers love the 9/11 narrative because it's a simple authoritarian parable providing clearly delineated foreign villains and glorifying nativist military authorities.  Spineless left wingers love it because they get to light all their coolest scented candles around the drum circle and feel each others' pain.

However, it's actual primary importance, though quite obvious to anyone who actually thinks about it, is rarely explicitly articulated: the destruction of our sense of agency.  The sense of individual and corporate empowerment and responsibility necessary to the successful conduct of affairs is decisively undermined by a morbid preoccupation with victimhood. 

Especially so when that impotent whinging becomes the sole focus of public discourse.  Remember:  The United States did NOT defeat the Soviet Union in the Cold War.  The Soviet Union defeated the Soviet Union in the Cold War--through the tragi-comic stupidity of insisting upon its vision of itself as the embattled last champion of a communal ideology beset from all sides by an insidious, corrupt capitalist enemy.  This tunnel-vision prevented a balanced, realistic interpretation of the nature and severity of the economic and political challenges facing them.  It foreclosed necessary policy options from even theoretical consideration.  And it inevitably concentrated the latent energies of its ignored population to a breaking point.  Even if those constitutents' ambitions have been imperfectly realized, and maybe even resulted in as much instability as progress, they undeniably achieved one goal--the destruction of the Soviet Union.

How ironic, then, that a nation of people professing to be can-do pioneers and innovators of the American frontier insist on painting themselves into a very Soviet-style ideological corner.  All "American" solutions must be private sector solutions.  Never mind that over-reliance upon and under-regulation of the corporate sectors recently resulted in the largest economic disaster in three generations.  Never mind the obvious fact that the single common business purpose embodied int he charters of ALL corporations worldwide, profit, is essentially anti-social and undermining of the impetus toward activity and exchange for which Americans are starving.  And never mind the fact that the most impressive and dynamic economic turnaround in our history was the result of progressive policy and vigorous governmental engagement.  We are committed to a death spiral of stupidity.

Anyone with even a single semester of Econ 101 or one year in the private sector knows that the real challenges to successful enterprise are capital and access to markets, not taxation.  If you're netting more than $250,000 per year and you can't get by on that, you are a pig.  If, however, you find that your dream of opening a corner grocery store like the one your grandfather owned is impossible due to the simple fact that you'll never be able to obtain the credit necessary to operate on the scale dictated by the Super-Walmarts of the world, you are simply being realistic.

But realistic observations like these count as heresy according to the current canon of acceptable American ideas.  Even if they accurately identify the forces thwarting individual economic freedom, they clearly run counter to the myth that America "won" the Cold War through total absence of economic regulation and the benign wisdom of the resultant corporate elites.  The true narrative isn't one of the plucky individualist overcoming adversity through enlightened self-interest; it's actually the peasant-like surrender of our rights as free-born American citizens.

9/11 is arguably the single most important feast in the liturgical calendar of America's cult of impotence.  Maybe you feel like a real patriot on the surface, tossing off a couple of cheap, content-free platitudes.  But deep down you should probably hate yourself.  Apart from displaying a disgusting indifference to the literally hundreds of thousands of lives lost and ruined in 9/11's aftermath, and utterly failing to explain the event itself in the context of American foreign policy, celebration of 9/11 reinforces a hide-bound mythology of powerlessness.  It guarantees, in fact, that America's situation will only become worse and worse in the years to come.