Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Arnold Schwarzenegger: Protecting you from robots and communists

In a courageous move, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has decided to stand strong against the communist insurgency besetting his state. As the The LA Times reports:
The governor wielded his veto pen against a measure that would have eliminated references in state law to communism as cause for dismissal of school, community college and other public employees.

"Many Californians have fled Communist regimes, immigrated to the United States and sought freedom in our nation because of the human rights abuses perpetuated in other parts of the world," Schwarzenegger said in his veto message. "It is important particularly for those people that California maintains the protections of current law.

"Therefore," his message said, "I see no compelling reason to change the law that maintains our responsibility to ensure that public resources are not used for purposes of overthrowing the U.S. or state government, or for communist activities."
You see, state resources are only meant for overthrowing other governments -- and President Bush and the US Congress are doing just fine bringing down the federal government on their own.

Unfortunately, despite Governor Schwarzenegger's brave stand against communism on college campuses, the ban apparently doesn't extend to former Justice Department officials -- and current University of California professors -- who advocated for the US president assuming such unlimited power Julius Caesar would blush; a "unilateral executive" torturing and invading on a whim without so much as a text message to the Speaker of the House's Blackberry.

But good thing we're not going to allow any communists to infiltrate California, for left unchecked -- why, the commies could take power and the US government might someday start nationalizing whole industries! And how would you feel if the United States turned into some morally and fiscally bankrupt kleptocratic state, run into the ground by a corrupt economic and political elite?

Monday, September 29, 2008

Sarah Palin & the Respected Statesman

Sarah Palin, like George W. Bush before her, is essentially an empty vessel when it comes to foreign policy (I'm being generous), so it was with great haste that the McCain campaign sought to educate her in the finer talking points of neoconservatism, beginning with a trip to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) -- accompanied/chaperoned by Senator Joe Lieberman -- where she reportedly "was interrupted by applause twice" for, one presumes, effectively echoing AIPAC's anti-Iran, pro-Likud agenda.

More recently, as The Onion reports, Palin met with former Secretary of State and mass murderer Henry Kissinger, who -- horrifically enough -- passes as something of a moderate realist in the post-9/11 foreign policy debate:
WASHINGTON—In preparation for her debate with Sen. Joe Biden next week, Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin met with seasoned statesman and Nobel Peace Prize–winner Henry Kissinger yesterday to take advantage of his extensive foreign policy knowledge and expertise in carpet-bombing innocent civilians in nations with which the U.S. is not officially at war.

"Dr. Kissinger has given Gov. Palin thorough instructions for launching deadly covert military operations in tiny Southeast Asian countries in blatant disregard for human life and international law," said McCain campaign spokesperson Tracey Schmitt of Palin's brief consultation with the Nixon and Ford administrations' former secretary of state and national security adviser. "In addition, the governor now feels completely confident that, if she is ever required to step in for Sen. McCain to mastermind the toppling of a democratically elected but left-leaning South American government without congressional consent, she will be fully prepared."

Sources close to the campaign said that Palin's meeting with Vice President Cheney about how to claim executive supremacy for the purpose of bypassing constitutional limits on torture has been canceled since advisers feel she already has enough personal experience with the subject.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

You'd be laughing too

In this instance, a picture truly is worth a thousand words.

The U.S. Congress, just as it did in the lead up to the invasion of Iraq, appears set to grant the Bush administration everything it wants in response to a phony, manufactured "crisis" being drummed up by the same corrupt politicians and businessmen that assured the American public that, soon, everyone could have a McMansion and a endless supply of easy credit. And brazenly enough, the $700 billion bailout -- which, sorry, Obamaphiles, pretty much rules out any fancy new social programs -- is being openly crafted by this very same incompetent elite that ran their companies -- and this country -- into the ground and that stand to gain the most from this massive transfer of wealth:
Sept. 28 (Bloomberg) -- Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson will have broad authority to hire financial managers quickly to help manage a $700 billion asset-purchase plan, according to the draft legislation under consideration.

The bill would allow the Treasury chief to waive federal acquisition procedures ``where compelling circumstances make compliance contrary to the public interest,'' according to a summary of the draft law. The Treasury would have to notify Congress of such waivers within seven days, and also ensure procedures are in place to reach out to minorities.

If the plan is enacted, the Treasury likely will need a lot of Wall Street expertise to manage the assets it acquires, said Tim Ryan, head of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association. Ryan also is former director of the Office of Thrift Supervision, which oversaw the Resolution Trust Corp., the agency that liquidated failed thrifts after the savings-and-loan crisis of the 1980s.


Paulson has already recruited from Wall Street to help manage the current financial crisis, the worst since the Great Depression. He hired Morgan Stanley on a $95,000 contract awarded under emergency procedures to help assess options for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the mortgage companies that ultimately ended up in government conservatorship.

Goldman Sachs

Paulson also last week hired former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. colleague Edward C. Forst, now executive vice president at Harvard University, on a $5,000 contract to help with the plan.
I could be wrong, but to me this all sounds an awful lot like this:
Corporate Statism is an approach to state organization, the likes of which Othmar Spann, Benito Mussolini and others are credited with developing. Corporate Statism involves the ruling party acting as a mediator between the workers, capitalists and other prominent state interests by institutionally incorporating them into the ruling mechanism. 
Essentially, corporatism is rule by a political and economic elite, with nominally "private" corporations working hand-in-hand with the state for the benefit of the well-connected capitalists and politicians at the top. But, as Wikipedia assures us:
However, both in academia and practice, Corporate Statism (or Corporatism as it is also sometimes known) has fallen out of favour.
Yeah, someone might want to rewrite that.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The corporatist consensus

The Wall Street Journal reports:
WASHINGTON -- Key House and Senate negotiators were scheduled to meet Saturday afternoon to iron out the final details of a $700 billion rescue package for Wall Street, with a goal of being able to announce a final agreement before Asian markets open Monday morning.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D. Nev.) in an appearance on the Senate floor, said there are only a "handful of issues still lingering" for lawmakers to finalize. He said he hopes Congress and the Bush administration can at the very least release an outline of the bailout plan by Sunday evening to send a reassuring message to global stock markets.
When the entire U.S. political establishment agrees that there is a "crisis" that demands the public defer to their benevolent rulers to solve, it invariably means the American taxpayer is about to get royally screwed. Why, we must invade Iraq -- er, bailout our affluent campaign contributors or the entire economy will collapse, leaving your grandmother no option but to turn tricks on the street in order to pay for her blood pressure medication. Give us more power and money before it's too late! The sky is falling, the sky is falling!

What's particularly ironic about the proposed $700 billion transfer of wealth from the middle class to Wall Street is that it is self-proclaimed "progressives" -- the likes of Barney "Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are not facing any financial crisis" Frank and the corrupt Chris "friend of Countrywide" Dodd -- who are leading the charge to artificially inflate housing prices by paying above-market rates for worthless mortgage-backed securities, all to the benefit of their investment bank buddies.

Consider that these same lawmakers, who denied all along that there were problems with the government-backed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, claim to be the biggest advocates for "affordable housing". Yet, when housing prices finally fall to a point where they are actually affordable, these same defenders of the poor and downtrodden proclaim that there is a "crisis". Why, it's much better to give poor people massive loans for overpriced houses they can't afford -- to the benefit of the real estate industry and the investment banks now reaching for your wallet -- then to actually allow home prices to fall to their true market value, where low-income families just might actually be able to purchase them without falling into massive debt.

Instead, Democrats in Congress are essentially calling for a massive injection of corporatism -- wherein the economy is centrally planned by a a political and business elite -- in the name of the very poor who benefit the most from the bursting of the housing bubble. Indeed, the explicitly corporatist nature of the proposed bailout is evident everywhere one looks -- need I point out that the progenitor of the bailout scam, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, was the head of the very investment firm, Goldman Sachs, that now stands to gain billions of dollars at your expense?

But while the Democratic sellout to Big Business is completely predictable, what's disappointing is the response from rank-and-file Democrats -- the ones you think just might balk at granting the Bush administration the unilateral authority to run the economy. But as a liberal friend remarked to me the other day, the only ones opposing the bailout at this point are those in the "nutjob, black helicopter crowd". And while the bailout might be "unfortunate", with the right (wait for it) oversight -- from the same regulators who failed to stop or predict the current debacle -- another giveaway to Wall Street can be avoided.

The view that, with just the "right people" in place -- that is, Democrats -- the current credit-based, chronically-in-debt U.S. economy can hum right along to the betterment of all is to me rather curious, and not at all based on the actual history of these here United States. It also reminds me of a piece by Albert Jay Nock I noted a few months back, on the essential difference between liberalism and radicalism: while the average liberal sees the state as what it could be -- a guarantor of peace and justice for the downtrodden -- the radical sees it as it actually is.

As Nock writes:
In the philosophy of public affairs, the liberal gets at his working theory of the State by the "high priori road"; that is to say, by pure conjecture. Confronted with the phenomenon of the State, and required to say where it came from and why it is here, the liberal constructs his answer by the a priori method; thus Carey, for example, derived the State from the action of a gang of marauders, Rousseau from a social contract, Sir Robert Filmer from the will of God, and so on. All these solutions of the problem are ingenious and interesting speculations, but nothing more than speculations. The radical gets at his theory of the State by the historical method; by tracing back and examining every appearance of the State, to the most remote examples that history can furnish; segregating the sole invariable factor which he finds to be common throughout, and testing it both positively and negatively as a determining cause.

The result carries the radical to the extreme point of difference from the liberal in his practical attitude towards the State. The liberal believes that the State is essentially social and is all for improving it by political methods so that it may function accordingly to what he believes to be its original intention. Hence, he is interested in politics, takes them seriously, goes at them hopefully, and believes in them as an instrument of social welfare and progress. He is politically minded, with an incurable interest in reform, putting good men in office, independent administrations, and quite frequently in third-party movements. The liberal forces of the country, for instance, rallied quite conspicuously to Mr. Roosevelt in the good old days of the Progressive party. The liberal believes in the reality and power of political leadership; thus, again, he eagerly took Mr. Wilson on his hands at the last two elections.

The radical, on the other hand, believes that the State is fundamentally antisocial and is all for improving it off the face of the earth; not by blowing up officeholders, as Mr. Palmer appears to suppose, but by the historical process of strengthening, consolidating and enlightening economic organization. The radical has no substantial interest in politics, and regards all projects of political reform as visionary. He sees, or thinks he sees, quite clearly that the routine of partisan politics is only a more or less elaborate and expensive byplay indulged in for the sake of diverting notice from the primary object of all politics and political government, namely, the economic exploitation of one class by another; and hence all candidates look about alike to him, and their function looks to him only like that of Dupin's pretended lunatic in "The Purloined Letter."
While Nock's description of liberalism would appear to apply to your average Obama voter today, the above essay was written in 1920, highlighting the fact that while many believe in some form of progressive, linear view of history -- where things are constantly improving, with a few hiccups along the way -- nothing has changed when it comes to the relationship between the common man or woman and the government. 

Despite the pleading, self-interested calls from people such as Frank, Dodd, and Paulson to bailout Wall Street for the sake of "Main Street", the state, as Nock points out, has always been interested not in the common good, but in the enrichment of those in power; that is, "the economic exploitation of one class by another". Keep that in mind the next time you shell out half your income in taxes and wonder why it primarily funds war and tennis lessons for some investment bankers snot-nosed kid.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The audacity of irony

While I did my best to avoid tonight's "debate" (joint press conference) between Barack Obama and John McCain, living in DC makes that more difficult than it might seem, and I ended up catching a few exchanges while eating dinner at a local bar. 

What caught my attention was not the ludicrousness of the most powerful country on Earth pretending to be a "democracy" while allowing but two candidates to debate each other on whose biography is more compelling -- one party rule being totalitarian, while two parties is just right -- but Obama's laborious attempt to make McCain seem reasonable in contrast.

After making several cogent points regarding McCain's lack of judgment in supporting the Iraq war, Obama proceeded to repeat his call for a war with Pakistan -- though he of course did not call it that. Instead, the supposed peace candidate in this election-that-will-not-end cast his support for violating international law and Pakistan's sovereignty by speaking of "strikes" against "terrorists" in the the Pakistani tribal region bordering Afghanistan (the "good" military occupation to U.S. liberals).

What was amazing was that John "crazy old warmonger" McCain responded to Obama's call for another military conflict by pointing out that maybe, just maybe, the United States should not launch unilateral strikes against a sovereign nuclear power that just so happens to be an ally -- for better or worse -- of the U.S. government. (That said, McCain still hinted that perhaps we should launch attacks against Pakistan, but we just shouldn't talk about it.)

Now, while I won't profess to be a master political strategist (I still have something of a soul left), one would think the Democrats could capitalize on the American public's general discontent with the status quo with regard to the state of the economy and U.S. foreign policy by running a campaign centered around a rather simple message: no more wars, and no bailouts for the irresponsible rich. Unfortunately, one can rest assured that won't happen.

Why? Because rather than a departure from the status quo, Barack Obama represents merely a fresh new face committed to the same old policies in furtherance of the American empire -- as should be evident from the Democratic Congress' unabashed support for endless war, corporatism, and the centralization of power. 

Sadly, the difference between Obama and McCain is a lot like the difference between Coke and Pepsi: while some are committed partisans to one or the other, in the end, they are both little more than corporate products that ultimately just might kill you.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The bipartisan war on Pakistan

As the U.S. government's cronies on Wall Street press for taxpayers to pay inflated prices for their worthless assets, gone little noticed is that the United States and Pakistani militaries have, you know, been shooting at each other all week.

As the LA Times reports:
WASHINGTON -- U.S. and Pakistani forces exchanged gunfire Thursday along the Afghan border, as simmering tensions over American incursions into Pakistan reached full boil.

The incident began, U.S. officials said, when forces from a Pakistani outpost fired on two Kiowa OH-58 reconnaissance helicopters. That touched off a five-minute small-arms fight when a ground unit made up of Afghan and U.S. forces returned fire, U.S. military officials said.
Of course, only in America could an incipient war with an unstable nuclear power be dwarfed in media coverage by the release of a new Google-powered cell phone, but so it goes.

Worth noting, however, is that the U.S. policy of violating Pakistan's sovereignty to kill innocent civilians -- excuse me, "suspected Taliban" -- was first proposed by the progressive, vehemently anti-war Barack Obama, and only belatedly endorsed by the Bush administration.

As Obama adviser Susan Rice noted the other day, the Bush administration's attacks on Pakistan's Pashtun tribal areas is "the kind of policy we have to pursue and continue". Indeed, to the Obama campaign the Bush administration's policy of violating Pakistan's sovereignty -- practically inviting another military coup -- is just a "baby step in the right direction" that silly old peacenik John McCain has been all too slow to support.

Lovely. No wonder McCain is trying to pull out of tomorrow's "debate" -- after portraying Obama as a terrorist-sympathizing, crypto-Marxist McGovernite for the past few months, what could he say when the guy beats him at his own militaristic game?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Message to Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke

Dear Ben,

I know you must be busy, what with the U.S. economy collapsing and all, but could you do me a little favor? You see, like insurance giant AIG -- who you just nationalized with the help of $85 million in taxpayer dollars -- I have come upon some economic hard times. Not unlike many of my 20-something peers, I am saddled with a good deal of college debt (has Sallie Mae gone under yet?), and though I have a good job, I have nevertheless spent most of my money frivolously. Though I have acted irresponsibly, lending money to all of my friends when I didn't really have any and generally pretending to be worth a lot more than I really am, I have to ask: how 'bout a bailout?

Now I know there are a lot of other people are struggling out there. Banks are collapsing, houses are being foreclosed upon, and pretty much everyone but defense contractors is having to cut back on their expenses. 

So that said -- and I don't want to sound conceited or anything -- but let's face it: I'm a pretty big deal. You know it, I know it. The people that read this here blog know it.

But this isn't about me. It never was. No, this about the people that rely on me. I could care less if I go under, but what about those people that depend on me? And their families?

Hell, let me get to the point: I'm too big to fail.

Give me money.


Charles Davis


PS -- For all you concerned granola eating types or right-wing militiamen who might object to my unabashed attempt to get the federal gub'mint to finance my lavish lifestyle at your expense, I suggest you check out Chris Floyd's latest post, which provided the inspiration for my request:
The rich and powerful spend years making foolish deals in a market they rigged with the connivance of utterly corrupted politicians on both sides the aisle; their fraudulent scheme finally collapses, exposing them to some of the most horrific financial losses in history....and YOU will have to pay for it. For generations. Not only directly, with the tax money straight from your pocket, but even more so in the further degradation of national life: infrastructure, services, programs, amenities that will be starved or abandoned as even more of the government's money is poured out to shield the wastrel elite from suffering the consequences of their own rapacious folly.
Sign me up for some of that!

By the way -- what is up with bald guys with facial hair always trying to nationalize things?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

That which must not be said

Democratic blogs are erupting with righteous fury over a statement made by John McCain's running mate, Sarah Palin, suggesting the United States may need to go to war with Russia if it attacks would-be NATO members Georgia or Ukraine.  But before I get to the hypocrisy of the partisan reaction, let's go to the tape:
When asked if the United States would have to go to war with Russia should Georgia join NATO and Russia invade the country, [Palin] said, "Perhaps so."
"I mean, that is the agreement when you are a NATO ally, is if another country is attacked, you're going to be expected to be called upon and help.
Unfortunately, though the prospect of war with the nuclear-armed Russia may seem horrific, that is nonetheless the widespread -- though unstated -- view of much of the bipartisan Washington foreign policy establishment. 

Consider that Barack Obama, who once fashioned himself as something of an "anti-war" candidate, in response to the recent Georgia-Russia conflict called for "deepening relations between Georgia and transatlantic institutions, including a Membership Action Plan for NATO". Translation: if Georgia becomes a NATO member under an Obama administration, the United States would be obligated to militarily aid Georgia should it ever be attacked by Russia.

As the blogger IOZ points out, article 5 of the NATO treaty says just as much:
The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.
Of course, the problem liberal bloggers have with Palin's statement is not that she agrees with the Obama-Biden position, but that she frankly states what that position actually entails. As Ilan Goldenberg writes at the Huffington Post:
Technically, if Georgia and Ukraine were to become part of NATO under Article Five, we would be obligated to protect them and even Obama-Biden support bringing them into NATO. But here's the thing...

No sane American or European leader would ever ever ever give an answer like that . . . . Barack Obama would never give that answer. Joe Biden would never give that answer. They would say that we don't discuss those types of hypotheticals. That might sound like a cop out, but think of the Palin alternative and what kind of alarm bells that sets off in Moscow. Prescisely the type of alarm bells that could one day lead to mushroom clouds.
You see? Everyone agrees that Georgia should be allowed into a mutual security agreement that could conceivably lead to a hot war between the United States and Russia -- but gosh darn it, you're not supposed to be so honest!

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Obama and McCain on Latin America

While I never got around to dissecting Barack Obama's acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention (short take: a whole lot of talk about "change" and "hope", with the same -- albeit well-delivered -- proposals for U.S. intervention around the globe), I did spend this past weekend analyzing how an Obama or John McCain administration would deal with Latin America.

The bottom line? Neither candidate promises much of a change, as I note in this piece for Inter Press Service:
WASHINGTON, Sep 3 (IPS) - With an election to replace an immensely unpopular president just weeks away, Republican nominee John McCain and Democratic candidate Barack Obama have both sought to distance themselves from the record of George W. Bush -- but when it comes to Latin America, neither candidate promises a major break with the policies of the last eight years.

From maintaining the embargo against Cuba to expanding efforts to fight the war on drugs in Mexico and Colombia, McCain and Obama support most aspects of current U.S. policy toward Latin America. Indeed, outside of their shared pledge to close the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, there is little to suggest that either candidate would overhaul the Bush administration's approach to the region.
Read the rest here. The article is also available at CommonDreams.