Thursday, December 31, 2009

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Surrey meets his benefactor.

Surrey meets his benefactor to discuss the interview with Amber Milgram.

original here.

Amber gets her bonus

Amber learns from Felicia that Progressive Reports Now will have a big influx of cash thanks to her interview with Surrey.

original here

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

No, thank you.

Don't rush Randall. Don't ask him about Amber's interview of Surrey.

original here

Surrey's 5 predictions for American Politics in 2010

Amber Milgram of Progressive Reports Now interviews Suresh "Surrey" Prabhupada of America Needs Progress Today regarding his Top 5 Predictions for 2010 in American Politics --

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Introducing the 2009 American National Champion

These are a sort of inside joke with some people I know, regarding the 2009 US National Men's DH Champion in one of of the over-40 categories...

1) The Champ talks about his new carbon 29er singlespeed project --



2) The Champ gets interviewed post-race by Betty Bumpdog of Poseurvision Sports --

No Bell

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Reform flim-flam

As long as we use anything less than a fully socialized network of government services, the "reform" of impossibly un-affordable health care in America will never be possible until we accept the reasons why it is over-priced, and repair the causes of that excessive cost.

I'm assuming here that America is going to remain a capitalist country, because that seems to be what most Americans want -- or at least will continue to tolerate. So I'm going to look at a classic cost-benefit analysis of the costs of health care, at a very tree-tops level. Hopefully the meritocratic "good government" liberal/progressive folks will understand this analysis, since it closely follows their meritocratic urges. To confirm my relative "expert" status, I can say that I have spent over a decade as a lawyer helping insurance companies keep their money, and a lot of that experience involved observing and assisting in insurance company corporate structure and operation. I am intimately familiar with how insurance companies work.

The germ of most people's arguments I've encountered in favor of supporting the "reforms" underway at the federal level is that something similar to Medicare-for-all will be the kind "reform" that will help everyone. This argument seems assumed to be relatively irrefutable, if my experience reading people's thoughts, blog posts, pundit essays is any indication.

Medicare does not impose a sufficient ceiling on the upward-spiraling of health care costs. It merely underwrites a chunk of those costs. One might even argue that by so doing, Medicare essentially helps the costs continue spiraling upward -- by not containing them aggressively enough.

I offered in a prior post some of my thoughts on how extensive are the causes of over-priced health care. I see the causes being organized around a philosophy of care that relies heavily on expensive diagnostic tests and/or expensive equipment, along with a lot of pharmaceuticals, being used in a palliative rather than informative & preventive scheme. This type of scheme is rewarding to those billing for the health care, because it encourages people to continue living in unhealthy ways, which generates more need for health care. The underlying message makes health care delivery people akin to saviors, while the truth is that by living in a healthy manner people can take more control and authority over their own well-being.

Medical care has become like a religion, with MDs being the priest caste.

As long as MDs and health care delivery people & businesses are given such artificially high regard and deference, it will be difficult to contain their fees.

And as long as the system generates rewards for keeping our population in ill health, it should not be considered "reformed" in a humane manner.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Health insurance is another problematic vector in the problem of ever-increasing health care costs. The primary driving force in this vector is the way in which the presence of a third-party payer (a health insurer or quasi-insurance benefit plan) amplifies the likelihood of the health care service/person charging a too-high fee for the service provided. If the health care provider has to directly charge the patient/customer, the fee must reflect the ability to pay. If I have to pay directly for my health care, I want to be sure that the money I spend is actually improving my health.

If someone else is paying the bill, I will not be as critical, and will not scrutinize the quality of care as closely, nor will I be so diligent about ensuring I got my money's worth. It's not my money, after all.

And that's where health insurance increases the costs.

The health insurer has not added anything to the value of the service provided. Yet it inflates the cost of that service. Who is the beneficiary of that inflated cost? The patient? The insured/covered party?

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Medicare-for-all is not a wise path to follow. A re-made system is what we need. We need real reform, with the end product being a system of health care provided by people whose first interest is in medical care as a basic right, not as a way for the provider to get wealthy. We need to eliminate middle-men like health insurers, third-party administrators, and payment-spreading financiers. We need to emphasize how to live in a healthy manner, and the ability to take control over one's own health.

All these needs are swept under the rug with the current "reforms" being considered at the federal level.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

It's a regular daisy-chain of corporate greed!

The Copenhagen climate summit is turning into a bad satire of the Kyoto Summit. The players that tossed a spanner into Kyoto's protocols have now taken that prior tactic and amplified it so that not only are the present discussions being derailed, but they're being rewritten to make it possible for Big Oil and other multinational industrial interests to keep polluting and essentially get paid to do so.

But don't take my word for it. Read these:

Boiling Point: Hijacking the Planet for Power and Privilege


Hopenhagen's Dirty Secret


Copenhagen climate summit in disarray after "Danish text" leak

Big Greens Criticized for Climate Compromise


You might be able to do a bit at the personal level to offset these rapacious greedheads' actions.

Getting Some Green for Your Green: Giving to Reverse Climate Change


Personally speaking, I am presently helping Climate Ground Zero with some legal defense, and I've helped the Native Forest Network in the past on some logging-related lawsuits. Give a little, won't ya?

Monday, December 7, 2009

NO to Obamacare. NO NO NO.

The plan is nothing but a giveaway to private insurance companies, who presently battle for customers with fairly competitive tactics.

Any plan that provides a guaranteed clientele by mandating citizen purchase of coverage is a massive windfall to insurance companies. Their biggest expenses are sales related. With a guaranteed clientele, not only do they have no fear of clients switching carriers, they have no sales budget needs.

HUGE windfall.

So don't go thinking WE should be paying THEM for this coverage. It's the other way around, people.

WE should get the best, broadest, most generous coverage available because we are letting them eliminate their biggest overhead -- the sales department.

This Obama plan is a racket. Don't get gulled by the "public" label it's been given.

..............

oh, by the way - if my thumbnail sketch above isn't substantive enough for you, Arthur Silber goes into much more detail:

How Bad is the Fuck You Act?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Dropping to their level. But only for a moment.

A keen way to become a popular blogger is to offer a namby-pamby, middling message that offends nobody. Pick easy enemies, excoriate them with a blog post. Pick easy saints, praise them with a blog post. Never tackle anything controversial. Surely, never offer a potentially abrasive or confusing remark. Above all, know your audience -- and coddle, placate, soothe and tranquilize them. They will love you. You will confirm all their preconceived notions about life, society, political machinations. They will love you. You will assure them that they've never been mistaken. They will love you.

Until reality hits them squarely in the face. Then they will want you to explain reality for them. And they'll accept your explanation, because you've become one of the "experts" and/or "authorities" that they have trusted all their lives to explain the mysteries of existence.

The blogger thus becomes a micro-pundit. And, I'd imagine, this is what many are aiming toward -- celebrity. Not truth-sharing, or information. Celebrity. Cultish following.

One of the leading "progressive" / "liberal" bloggers is a woman who calls herself "Digby" and has a blog called "Hullaballoo." In a hipster-esque nod to "irony," Digby's blog has a picture of Peter Finch's character from the movie Network. And of course the irony, the true irony here, is that while Digby fancies herself a Howard Beale who is "mad as hell, and not gonna take it any more," her coprolitically inspired blogging renders her much closer to Joseph Goebbels than to the character Paddy Chayevsky imagined as Howard Beale.

*************************

Digby's got a post where she's praising AIPAC Al Franken for criticizing a hated Rethuglican who had the temerity to question AIPAC Al's bill that would "prevent rapes in the Military." Now, I don't want to bludgeon dead equines, but I have to ask whether Digby's being as incisive an analyst as her loyal following imagines her.

AIPAC Al has supported Our Obamessiah wherever He has gone. That includes Our Obamessiah's increases in America's militarism abroad. Did AIPAC Al criticize His Hopeyness's speech Tuesday announcing another 30,000 US Military being sent to Afghanistan? No. What has APIAC Al to say about Afghanistan, anyway?
Sen. Al Franken: “I am glad that the President has deliberated carefully and I will be closely examining the new strategy in the days and weeks ahead, starting with the testimony of Secretaries Gates and Clinton and Admiral Mullen this week. I go into that examination, quite frankly, skeptical about a strategy that involves a significant increase in the number of American troops. That is in no small part because I am deeply skeptical of the Afghan government.

“I need to be convinced that we have reliable partners in both Pakistan and Afghanistan; that the mission as outlined is achievable; that we are not making an open-ended commitment; and that there is a sensible way to pay for the war.”
See? The war is okay, it just needs to be affordable. That's AIPAC Al's view. Pseudo-critical, meritocratically rational in its fiscal focus. Pwog heaven, baby.

AIPAC Al and the rest of the Congresscritters are willing accomplices in this murderous occupation of Afghanistan that Our Obamessiah is now escalating beyond the levels conducted by Bush/Cheney.

But hey, AIPAC Al says we have to stop rapes within the US Military. That's more important than stopping the misuse and slaughter of our US Military as a whole, and the resultant slaughter, torture, displacement of native Afghanis that result from such misuse and slaughter.

The issue of rapes conducted by or within the US Military and/or its contractors would not be an issue if they weren't even in Afghanistan in the first place.

And the bill's focus on rapes doesn't even get to the question of why US Military contractors are being used in the first place, or whether it's wise to send them to places where they may run unchecked. So instead of questioning that -- which would be far more patriotic and noble, from a holistic perspective -- AIPAC Al sidesteps that crucial question and goes after an obvious enemy... rape. Like any of us supports rape, when asked about it.

Way to spot and analyze those issues, Digby!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Beating the house when in Las Vegas

Chris Floyd's latest contains all the passionate writing that his regular readers probably have come to expect.

Savvy to a Fault: Coming to Terms with Imperial Power


What Mr Floyd is saying there reminds me of a movie starring Wm H Macy, called The Cooler, in which Macy is a sort of sink for good luck, a virtual human onslaught of bad luck and losing. Macy is hired by casinos to put the kibosh on any gambler with a hot hand who looks likely to make a dent in the house winnings.

I'd say that most of the popularFN lib/prog blogs are a bit like Macy's character in The Cooler. Their purpose is to water-down and dis-aggregate any chance of tampering with the house winnings (Democrat or Republican power retention).

____________________

FN - "Popular" here refers to the term reflecting a personality-cult form of tribalism used in jr high and high schools across America.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

...and now, the Ugly Reality.

The other day I pointed out some unintentional satire in a glowing essay on Obama's first year as POTUS.

Today I bring the satirical circle to a close with an honest essay observing the ugly reality of Barack Obama's presidency and the role of the USA in global affairs. Sires and dams, bulls and cows, ladies and gentlemen... I give you Arthur Silber:

A Deadly Liar and Manipulator


and Chris Floyd:

A Death Warrant for the Future

Monday, November 30, 2009

Unintentional Satire

Satire works when the satirist knows he is mocking the object of satiric commentary. And sometimes it works when the writer is being completely sincere, but also is completely disconnected from reality. When the unintentional satirist revels in a position that opposes reality, the unintended satire borders on hilarity.

Example of unintented satire:

Obama's Brilliant First Year

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

the Mayan calendar

I have read in a few places, and been told by a few people, about the Mayan calendar's end in 2012. Some people forecast doom, on the premise that if the Mayans said the calendar ends then the world must end.

Calendars are man's creation, as a way to record the passage of time. Time itself is man's creation.

Plants show diurnalism, which represents recognition of light vs dark. And that's as far as I'll allow predictive power to hold sway. Coincidentally we humans can predict that there are day periods and night periods because we have grown up in the same dichotomous environment.

Any calendar that orients itself past observing day/night cycles -- well, that calendar is engaged in entertainment.

But that's just my opinion, I guess.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Mapping the Destruction of America

Paul Craig Roberts is someone that I ought to dislike and disagree with, if outward signals like one's resume are concerned. PCR was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury under President Ronald W. Reagan, and in that role he and others were champions of "trickle-down economics" -- a view which said, let the richest Americans have the most money, and their spending will "trickle down" to the rest of us unwashed undercaste dwellers.

But sometimes people can surprise you, and change their views quite radically. I have undergone such changes myself. As a youngster in college I thought the Republicans were great, I thought that one day I'd be a Country Club Republican myself. I wanted a big house and a big expensive car or two with a perfect sorority girl wife who was both sexy in a cute way, and maternal in the best ways. Yep, I believed in The American Dream. I even voted for Reagan in 1984 to solidify my record as an American Zombie.

But then something happened to me. I got a job covering tax legislation and related amendments, working for a DC law firm. My good college friend J.K. got me that job, he was already working at the firm and his workload was that of 2 people, so it was possible for him to persuade the employer that he needed help and knew of someone who would help adequately. How he figured I fit that bill -- adequate help -- I'll never know!

Shortly after I started that job I began thinking about going to law school. Some adults I knew had suggested it as a good path for someone like me... former Pre-Med/Bio major who had given up on med school and was adrift in uncertainty. Eventually I sat for that LSAT puzzle and did well enough to get accepted to a law school, which pretty well made my decision for me. I was going to go to law school. Yee haw. Or something like that.

Once in law school I began to see how American government actually works. Cases were decided based on monetary power, not detached and objective notions of justice. The fields of contracts, torts and property all confirmed that if you didn't have lots of money and clever lawyers hired with that money, you weren't likely to get anywhere. Sure, an occasional opinion was issued upholding the rights of the underdog, but most times the underdog merely got shat and peed on. The unspoken message conveyed: Get rich to avoid getting shat and peed on. Wield your riches like a sword, smite those who would try to get you to accept responsibility for your errors, defend your riches like they were your children.

Somehow between my 1st and 2d years of law school, I felt my empathies changing. I sensed that underdogs needed protection from the powerful lawyers and judicial system that was rigged against them. I decided to combine my undergrad Bio degree with a law degree to become an environmental advocate. I took environmental law in 2d year and found yet another disappointing fact -- environmental law is about administrative law, not the environment. It's about hoop-jumping, not science. It's about makework, not ecosystem health. It was just another charade, like the idea that tort law can help redress the injuries of people harmed by corporate behavior. Yep, a nice fantasy!

++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Paul Craig Roberts seems to have undergone a similar change of views. I'd like to offer below his most recent essay at Information Clearinghouse, which I will interrupt with a few observations here and there. On with the show.
US Joins Ranks of Failed States

By Paul Craig Roberts, October 21, 2009, "Information Clearing House"

The US has every characteristic of a failed state.

The US government’s current operating budget is dependent on foreign financing and money creation.

Too politically weak to be able to advance its interests through diplomacy, the US relies on terrorism and military aggression. http://www.reuters.com/article/newsOne/idUSTRE59H0AH20091019

Costs are out of control, and priorities are skewed in the interest of rich organized interest groups at the expense of the vast majority of citizens. For example, war at all cost, which enriches the armaments industry, the officer corps and the financial firms that handle the war’s financing, takes precedence over the needs of American citizens. There is no money to provide the uninsured with health care, but Pentagon officials have told the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee in the House that every gallon of gasoline delivered to US troops in Afghanistan costs American taxpayers $400.
What better evidence of the brazen conversion of "defense" into "rank profiteering." Why would gasoline cost $400/gallon if used by a bulk buyer, when individual buyers here in America are paying less than 1/100th that amount? In my town gasoline is under $3/gallon right now.

Bulk purchases of items usually yield reduced prices, not hugely inflated ones. That's how American "capitalism" has worked in my lifetime. Supply/demand. Basic "economics." Right?

If the military efforts in Afghanistan are essential, then the price of gasoline offered to the US Military should be far less than what I'm paying at the pump in my town. That's what seems to make sense to me.

But there's no evidence that the efforts in Afghanistan are essential. Rather the opposite appears quite true, if only one looks at the shallowest depths of inquiry!
“It is a number that we were not aware of and it is worrisome,” said Rep. John Murtha, chairman of the subcommittee.
http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/63407-400gallon-gas-another-cost-of-war-in-afghanistan-

According to reports, the US Marines in Afghanistan use 800,000 gallons of gasoline per day. At $400 per gallon, that comes to a $320,000,000 daily fuel bill for the Marines alone. Only a country totally out of control would squander resources in this way.

While the US government squanders $400 per gallon of gasoline in order to kill women and children in Afghanistan, many millions of Americans have lost their jobs and their homes and are experiencing the kind of misery that is the daily life of poor third world peoples. Americans are living in their cars and in public parks. America’s cities, towns, and states are suffering from the costs of economic dislocations and the reduction in tax revenues from the economy’s decline. Yet, Obama has sent more troops to Afghanistan, a country half way around the world that is not a threat to America.

It costs $750,000 per year for each soldier we have in Afghanistan. The soldiers, who are at risk of life and limb, are paid a pittance, but all of the privatized services to the military are rolling in excess profits. One of the great frauds perpetuated on the American people was the privatization of services that the US military traditionally performed for itself. “Our” elected leaders could not resist any opportunity to create at taxpayers’ expense private wealth that could be recycled to politicians in campaign contributions.
That last sentence bears repeating:
“Our” elected leaders could not resist any opportunity to create at taxpayers’ expense private wealth that could be recycled to politicians in campaign contributions.
Let that sink in, reader. And now imagine how much broad application the idea has. Mr Roberts can help you in your imagining.
Republicans and Democrats on the take from the private insurance companies maintain that the US cannot afford to provide Americans with health care and that cuts must be made even in Social Security and Medicare. So how can the US afford bankrupting wars, much less totally pointless wars that serve no American interest?
Think about that, reader. We can afford to give $400/gallon for gasoline -- a multiplier of over 100x reality -- but we can't afford real changes to give all Americans health care?

How can that be? Isn't it just a question of prioritizing the spending, and determining who deserves the money, and what goals we seek to achieve?
The enormous scale of foreign borrowing and money creation necessary to finance Washington’s wars are sending the dollar to historic lows. The dollar has even experienced large declines relative to currencies of third world countries such as Botswana and Brazil. The decline in the dollar’s value reduces the purchasing power of Americans’ already declining incomes.

Despite the lowest level of housing starts in 64 years, the US housing market is flooded with unsold homes, and financial institutions have a huge and rising inventory of foreclosed homes not yet on the market.
"Housing starts" are irrelevant, but I have to accept that Roberts is an "economist" and therefore he often relies on pointless data to buttress his arguments. That's one of my chief complaints about "economics" pundits and experts -- they use "facts" as if the "facts" are inescapable evidence of an economic principle. Let's just agree here -- Roberts is talking about an irrelevancy. It's a vestige of his former "trickle-down" mantra. He may never give up this ghost.
Industrial production has collapsed to the level of 1999, wiping out a decade of growth in industrial output.
This is another Roberts gaffe. The "growth" is another "economics" ruse, an assumption that we need "growth" eternally, and when things are not "growing" then things are bad. Actually, what is bad for our society is a mantra that growth is essential and must be perpetual. The only thing needed is meeting needs. Most "growth" is attuned to wants, not needs. And there, my friends, is the crux of the flaw of capitalism. But I don't want to get sidetracked. Back to Roberts.
The enormous bank reserves created by the Federal Reserve are not finding their way into the economy. Instead, the banks are hoarding the reserves as insurance against the fraudulent derivatives that they purchased from the gangster Wall Street investment banks.
Yes, this is true. More compelling is the fact that the fraudulent derivatives were known to be fraudulent. There was no "surprise" when these money-vectors collapsed. Anyone who can see how derivatives work can also see that they are about as safe as russian roulette. They are a massive gamble, and the massive gamble is the whole point of their use. Anyone who claims surprise at a massive loss in the massive gamble -- that person is crying wolf! This is why I say that none of the Wall Street firms actually got into trouble -- or at least, they didn't get into any trouble that they didn't fully comprehend before they got into it.
The regulatory agencies have been corrupted by private interests. Frontline http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/warning/ reports that Alan Greenspan, Robert Rubin, and Larry Summers blocked Brooksley Born, the head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission from regulating derivatives. President Obama rewarded Larry Summers for his idiocy by appointing him Director of the National Economic Council. What this means is that profits for Wall Street will continue to be leeched from the diminishing blood supply of the American economy.
Of course they have been corrupted. America's federal government now is owned by the businesses it purports to regulate. Hell, even The Wall Street Journal recently told us as much. See here.
An unmistakable sign of third world despotism is a police force that sees the pubic as the enemy. Thanks to the federal government, our local police forces are now militarized and imbued with hostile attitudes toward the public. SWAT teams have proliferated, and even small towns now have police forces with the firepower of US Special Forces. Summons are increasingly delivered by SWAT teams that tyrannize citizens with broken down doors, a $400 or $500 repair born by the tyrannized resident. Recently a mayor and his family were the recipients of incompetence by the town’s local SWAT team, which mistakenly wrecked the mayor’s home, terrorized his family, and killed the family’s two friendly Labrador dogs.

If a town’s mayor can be treated in this way, what do you think is the fate of the poor white or black? Or the idealistic student who protests his government’s inhumanity?
I can tell you from personal experience two years ago that the police in my supposedly "liberal" -slash- "progressive" town are adversarial, combative, and brutalizing. I got arrested for riding my bike for one block in the direction opposite a One Way street's flow. I was riding in the street's Bike Lane, which was unoccupied -- and therefore I posed no danger to anyone. The policeman in question saw things differently -- stopped me, yanked my arm up behind my back, handcuffed me, searched my belongings, took me to the station in a cop car, held me for 45 minutes in a jail cell, presented me to the judge. The copper cited me for not only going the wrong way on a One Way street, but also for "obstructing an officer." The whole episode was surreal. All he had to do was have a chat with me and explain what was so dangerous about what I was doing. Instead he felt a need to exert his authority and bully me, brutalize me, harass me, cuff me.

Luckily the municipal judge in my town is aware that our police are excessive and I got a very minimal $15 fine for the whole ordeal. But not before I went through all sorts of ridiculous hoops, including dealing with a public defender who wanted me to plead guilty and accept a massive fine of almost $500.

Citizens as enemies, that's the perspective of "law enforcement" personnel.
In any failed state, the greatest threat to the population comes from the government and the police. That is certainly the situation today in the USA. Americans have no greater enemy than their own government. Washington is controlled by interest groups that enrich themselves at the expense of the American people.

The one percent that comprise the superrich are laughing as they say, “let them eat cake.”

Thursday, October 15, 2009

rumblings

I'm sort of an interwebtoobz spaz. Especially when I get sick like I have been for the past 5 days with the flu. I get hyper in my readings and postings on the internet. My fakebook page would show this to be true.

Recently from posts on various blogs I've made a few correspondence friendships, through emails triggered by comments on blogs. I think this is my preferred way to share knowledge, though I do blog and do other narcissistic shit on fakebook. I would prefer direct interchange, because I think the blogging and blog/website comments threads are far too indirect. They rely more on an artificial exchange that is almost like stilted speechifying, where people seek points for many things beyond information conveyed.

Blog and website comment threads obviously run the gamut of qualities, but one thing I notice as an exclusive trait in e-debate is this ridiculous preening, non-substantive, pseudo-lecture and veiled or overt dismissal quality of e-debate posts. People seem to be aiming to score points for a putdown, rather than trying to advance knowledge among the thread/group members.

Some sites keep that nonsense to a minimum, and since I've been posting on political and social discussion fora for over a decade, I've gained some experience in finding which ones are factories of noxious fumes, and which are more like a comfortable living room for someone like me who wants a bit of depth and scope in his exchange.

Recently I remarked the following to a friend in an email exchange prompted by some forum discussions. I hope this particular friend doesn't mind me using my own thoughts again here. I'll discuss them in turn.
IMO the pinnacle of left gatekeepers is found in Michael Albert and his Z Magazine. By "pinnacle" I mean, slipperiest and most sophisticated. Albert's a pretty interesting guy but his perspective is too dogmatic and too anti-"Right".
I say this out of personal experience trying to engage in discussion with Albert and others at the Z website. It's like they had a secret handshake, that I had to agree to certain precepts, before they would listen to my perspective. Sorry pals. That's a cult in my book. Next?
I have a lot of empathy for what many consider the "right" wing's views. I think there are sensible positions held by some Republicans. Most particularly I respect the desire for limited government and limited military.
It's not a secret that I grew up among Republicans. Nor that I registered as a Republican when I turned 18. Nor that I voted for a few Republicans between age 18 and the present.

Surely that means I'm a stupid, foolish redneck in the eyes of my "liberal" and "progressive" friends who call themselves "Democrats." Surely. But... sorry, friends!
On most everything I am interested in what works, not what plays well in an Us vs Them scenario. I don't care about Repub vs Dem, I think that is the biggest distraction available to Americans and the strongest cause of perpetuation of a scheme that oppresses and hurts the majority of Americans. If people focused on what they have in common -- what they all identify as problems -- and work forward from problem-spotting, it's more likely that the partisan crap will dissolve. But people have to be willing to give up their partisan preferences.
How likely will people give up those preferences? Damned unlikely, until a serious economic depression strikes. So we'll be seeing all manner of "rescue" from Uncle Sam to avoid that outcome.

Never mind that the rescue will always bail out the parties responsible for our current clusterfuck. Please -- never mind that. What matters is that the Feds are trying. No matter who they're trying to help, they only need to try. That's all.
I am anti-military because of how the military is used. Also because I watched someone get ruined by his time spent in Vietnam. I want nothing to do with the military. In a different world I might see the point of a military and serving in that group.
I'm not going into sad-sack confession mode here. I just want to say that I did watch an older relative get totally destroyed by Vietnam, and that it was enough to destroy my childhood "war hero" myths and fantasies. End of story.

........................

What positive things can I take from the above? That's a good Q.

1) I support public servants that promote diplomacy and peace. I think those are good values. I think being warlike is not a good value. I think my perspective is far more positive where respect for a fellow human is concerned.

2) I support a fair and objective analysis of public problems. I support a fair and objective analysis of how to fund (with money, or labor) those problems' solutions. I support an analysis which focuses on the problems and not the partisan politics. I support solutions that focus on the problems and not the partisan politics. I support improving things, not perpetuating the partisan divide. So I would wager I'm more positive than not, on balance. I want to avoid wasted energy, I want to move toward repair of problems and away from blamecasting. Positive.

3) See (2), but bear in mind the Republican vs Democrat dynamic that controls present American discussion of socio-economic-political problems. I'm suggesting the need to see beyond Repub vs Dem because those two parties are just two variants on a single theme, and the theme is against the interests of a majority of Americans.

4) See (2), but consider that at a level above Repub vs Dem there is another level of partisan pugilism focusing on what form of "leftist" system will replace the present "democratic republican" form of American Capitalism, and that I think -- again -- that the focus should be on the people and what they want, and not on what some pompous theoretician decreed. This refers to Michael Albert and ZMag, and specifically to the insistence among all "Marxists," and all reformed socialists like Albert, which demands that followers reject "the right" and adopt a view that believes in huge paternalistic government. I don't think that is necessary. I think Republicans and Democrats in America, as we draw in to 2010, are mistaken as to what aspects of life require government control. Both parties want too much control over things that require little control, and want relaxed standards for areas where more control is needed.

The Marxists are correct on saying that business needs to be fiercely controlled. Why? Because people are cutthroat, competitive, greedy, envious, acquisitive. Let people compete for "profits" and the devices of competition will startle you in their imaginative scope. Cynics resign themselves and say, "let's accept this bullshit and just use capitalism with very little regulation -- accept that there will be losses of life, profit, comfort, etc., due to cutthroat competition." That's the capitalist gambit, the free marketeer's angle, the libertarian's credo. Leave 'em alone, people will sort it out among themselves.

Fine sentiment, in a small community. In a system where corporations wield more power than fellow 1st world nations? Not exactly fair play, is it? I mean, who actually gets to barter the terms of employment, the real terms that is, when accepting a job with Microsoft? How many of Gates & Co's employees really bartered on meaningful terms of their employment contract? 5%?

Hmmm.

No, you're not slaves.

I think optimizing personal responsibility, personal accountability, personal freedom, personal rights, personal authority -- these things are positives. I think giving most of the power to people, and less to the government, is a positive thing.

+++++++++++++

In keeping with the theme of what's going on in my recent flu-based spazzing, I should note that I found a big vomitorium of nonsense at Booman Tribune right here. Look, friends... if you agree with Booman, we have some serious shit to talk about. Most of it will involve asking yourself to review Obama's "accomplishments" over the past 8 months, and asking yourself, what if Bush did it?

Reverend Booman Jones does one of 2 things: he either avoids the ugly truth that Obama/Biden is continuing as the 3d term of Bush/Cheney, or he offers the pseudo-sagacious, oft-repeated "caution" --

it's only been 8 months and Bush created a lot of shit to clean up

Oh. Yeah. That.

I forgot that there's some time-clock that didn't apply to Bush but applies to Obama, in which Obama can take his sweet time, and ignore opportunities to change the Bush/Cheney course of policy and government action, because there hadn't yet been enough time past since inauguration.

Yep, I totally forgot that quirk of "reality." Forgive me.

Bless me Father, for I have sinned

It's been a long time since my last confession. Probably since I voted for John Anderson in 1980.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

readings from the Ouija board

This is a point in US history where we're all going to be able to see more commonality and less division, because the difference between Repub and Dem is dissolving rapidly. Only a little investigation is required after this last Nobel Peace Prize fiasco. Us vs Them impulses should be re-directed, away from Repub vs Dem and toward We who do not benefit, vs They who are profiting mightily in power and wealth.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

chew on this

Jonathan Schwarz recently posted a reference to Tom Engelhardt's latest. In the comments following at ATR, I had this exchange:

Elise Mattu:
remember the sequel to The Terminater? Where the heroine is worried about the possibilitiy of all out Armageddon brought about by the nuclear war triggered by rebellious machines? So today we let the Afghanis be the victims of the Machine Wars against Man? If it is profitable to do this to the foreigners today, what will stop it from happening to us Americans tomorrow? When the Repulicans decide that destroying the liberal areas of the country is better than constantly fixing the election count?
me:
If it is profitable to do this to the foreigners today, what will stop it from happening to us Americans tomorrow?

I'd suggest it's already happening to us Americans now. I'd suggest the "bailouts" are evidence of this, the "rescue" of AIG and other companies are evidence of this. The police-becoming-militarized is another bit of evidence. Their behavior at the G20 --sonic cannons, paramilitary gear-- is more evidence.

We can choose to play along as if this isn't momentous shit. On the background of the destruction of habeas corpus, rendition reauthorizations, the changes to the FISA courts process, the warrantless eavesdropping (ATT v Klein), the Patriot Act, the John Warner Defense Budget Reauthorization Act, the Military Commissions Act, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay... the SERE program.... I shouldn't even have to list this stuff to any who consider themselves students of what's happening in America now, but I'm always surprised how many people aren't aware of the way these things indicate a clear pattern in America, one that's happened only in the past 10 years.

The practical fascism under "republican democracy" window dressing pretty much tells me that it's being used here in America just like it's used abroad. The bloodshed is not overt here. What scares me is the readiness they're showing, the eagerness in preparation, for such events to arise. The Halliburton-built "detention camps" around the country aren't exactly comforting in this context.
Would you prefer to ignore these things? Or maybe do something about them, does that sound better? More like something that would help you stop the feelings of powerlessness?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

a problem worth solving

As I've grown older I've realized that the more you do things involving other people, the more you must work from a common-interest perspective. For example, if you're going on a long alpine MTB ride with other riders, you can't just expect that the group will stop when you want to stop to change layers, to take a snack break, to take pictures, to simply take a breather or look at the world around you. Maybe not everyone takes those kinds of stops, nor takes them at the same intervals as you. Maybe you like to climb fast, to push yourself to get up difficult pitches, to hit the top first on every pitch. Maybe you like to descend fast. It's inevitable if you ride in groups that you're going to see different views on these little things. What happens, if you ride these longer alpine group rides for enough seasons, you sort out who are good riding partners and you develop a sort of group rhythm for taking breaks, for climbing pace, for regroups on long climbs or on descents.

For me it's tough to find people who are willing to climb as slowly as I like to climb. I don't like to climb slowly to see sights. Nor for some zen reason. It's really about how much or how little strength I have in my climbing-related physical self. And maybe it's also about my mental toughness, or lack thereof. It's also about knowing that I'm old enough to actually be at risk for some kind of cardiovascular mishap if I redline it too much.

I guess that means in my social outlook I balance self-preservation and the ability to be agreeable. I climb faster on my group rides, most times, because most of my riding friends are faster, stronger climbers than I am. Left to myself I climb pretty slowly.

Climbing slowly can mean you might not finish your ride before you lose the sunlight, so I'm grateful that my friends are faster and can push me along just by being faster.

********************

Some of my friends have said they like to climb quickly to get the climbing out of the way, because it's a form of self-torture. I can empathize with this approach. It's how I view social problems. I want to attack them quickly, I want to get the known difficulty finished, put it in the past.

Sometimes I get a little excited and I have to realize that not everyone sees the problems as I do... and even realize that not everyone agrees with me on what are problems facing Americans today, what problems we can work on, what problems we might be able to solve and begin fixing.

When I started hanging around in political discussion comment threads around the InterWebToobz, maybe 10 - 12 yrs ago, I used to get accused of being a "socialist." And also I'd get accused of being a "Republican." I can tell you how that worked.

-- libertarians call me a socialist because I tell them that a completely "free market" is unfair and will yield an inhumane society. I say this because people will be maliciously selfish, greedy, acquisitive, envious, spiteful, et cetera when they can freely pursue money, profit, et cetera. Especially when the people in question are Americans.

-- "liberal" and "progressive" Democrats call me a "Republican" because I openly disagree with and criticize various programs, ideas, arguments made by Democrats of all types. I do this not because I want the Republicans to win, but because the Democrats are liars -- much like the Republicans are liars. I am not aiming for a victory from either of the Republicans or Democrats. I don't see any real difference in my life arising from choosing either over the other.

After a few years of this consistent labelling I thought I'd investigate what the "socialists" around the InterWebToobz were saying. The "Republican" label I knew was bogus because I gave up on the Repub/Dem dynamic many years ago. but the "socialist" one made me think that I couldn't figure what in my personal political views would make me a scion of Karl Marx.

In the socialist websites I visited, I found a religion. This religion worships Marx, Engels, Lenin and assorted Holy Acolytes like Guy Debord and John Reed. There are schisms that resemble the various sects of Protestant Christian thought. The parallels to religion really are comically ironic.

Now, I'm not saying --for example-- that there wasn't wisdom in some of Marx's writings. That Jesus of Nazareth had some good observations, if I'm to believe the New Testament's stuff in the Gospels and elsewhere. But I don't think a cult is the best way to implement sound moral judgment.

Cults, religions, political parties -- these things all trigger my self-preservation response. I become acutely suspicious of what they're going to be asking me to give up, as a sacrifice, to achieve the goals of the Cult Leader, the Church, the Party. More importantly, I want to know the connection between my sacrifice for the group's good, and my own gains in the bargain.

What will I receive for my sacrifice?

**************************

When America was formed out of the Declaration of Independence, a bunch of interested people put together the Articles of Confederation. They were the forerunner document to what we all know now as the Constitution. The Articles were the formative laws and statements of principles that created the government for the United States.

When I compare the Articles and the Constitution with the words of the Declaration of Independence, I find that the Articles resembles the Declaration, while the Constitution does not. I say this because the Declaration is a litany of complaints about the problems of having to answer to a government that disregards your input, takes your money, give you nothing in return, and in fact will force itself on you, will enter your home or at least reserve the right to do so, will not give you fair procedure under that government's laws.

You probably haven't read the Declaration of Indpendence since you were a kid in school. And you might not have read it then. But you should go read it now. You really should -- and you should try, as you read it, to imagine whether any of the listed problems might exist today, for you, in your view, as an American citizen.

When you take that little intellectual journey, you should be sure to leave your guilty conscience back in some other room. Don't start feeling paranoid about questioning your government, or about asserting your own rights by imagining you have them! Just wonder, what was it these colonists were seeing, that made them want to do something about the treatment they were receiving from their government.

to be continued


*********************

Feeling antsy? Then on a related note, read this from Crispin Sartwell.

Monday, October 5, 2009

what do you want?

are you pleased with "bailouts" that reward those who caused our financial problems?

are you willing to accept "health care reform" that amounts to nothing more than a minor change in the way insurance companies, HMOs, hospitals, TPAs, doctors, clinics take your money and give you little in return?

if someone was to ask you what you thought would be fair, what would you think? would you feel guilty for considering your own finances, your own health, your own freedom, your own livelihood... ahead of the "success" of your employer?

what are the origins of human society? are they about the clever and deceitful taking full advantage of the rest of us? are they about people working cooperatively to find ways that make life more comfortable, more fulfilling, for most of us?

do you quickly blame everyone outside yourself when you see someone suffering, when you hear of people oppressed by others, when you are forced to contend with what the US Government does with your taxpayer dollars?

what is America?

is it what you were told in elementary, middle, high school?

or is it a huge society made up of you, and people like you, who might have their own ideas?

ask yourself.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

the real reasons for "war" in Afghanistan

the old saw says a picture is worth 1,000 words.

in this case I'd multiply that figure by perhaps 1 million.

click on the image to get it full-size, because it's got all sorts of info on it.

note: PNAC = Project for a New American Century. Now "formally" disbanded in the wake of lots of negative press, it has been continued under Obama/Biden under the name Center for a New American Security

Monday, September 14, 2009

serena williams gets robbed

30 years ago I was a lousy tennis player who loved to play and since I was still a young lad who had been weaned on the TV, I even watched a lot of tennis on the television. I remember well the "bad boys" Ilie Nastase and John McEnroe, both of them semi-famous for their inclination to show anger at themselves, and at line judges and umpires who made bad calls. I was a sort of temper-tantrum athlete myself, but most of my tantrums were inside my noggin, me yelling at myself for making the most minor of strategic or technical errors. Such is the lot of the perfectionist. All this I say to mean that I understood why Nastase and/or McEnroe would have their outbursts... and as I got older and began playing golf, my golf playing friends would surely be able to tell you today, I had a bad habit of throwing clubs when I popped my cork. I was a latter-day Tommy Bolt.

This past weekend I was sitting around in an antisocial mood, and I caught some of the US Open women's semi-final tennis match, Kim Clijsters vs Serena Williams. I haven't watched women's tennis forever, other than to catch a quick scene here and there when flipping channels. I was amazed at how hard the two ladies hit the ball, how fast and powerful their serves were. The color commentary was annoying so I stopped listening and just watched. Clijsters was playing very solidly, composed and methodical, responding well to Williams' power and placement. I hopped to another channel and then came back just in time to see the foot-fault call late in the 2d set, on instant reply. I didn't get to see Williams' outburst, I saw the slow-mo of Williams' footwork and I thought "jesus, what a shitty call." I understood why Williams might flip out at that call, given that it was the semi-final of the US Open and she was playing a very tight match against Clijsters.

I flipped channels for a moment and returned to hear Clijsters announced as the winner. And not because she'd beaten Williams in 2 sets straight. Nope.

Because Williams received a mandatory forfeit for "unsportsmanlike" play, for berating the line judge who totally fucked up the call. Well what the fuck is that?

Johnny Mac blew up at umpires and referees all the time, it was practically a part of his schtick, like Earl Weaver when he was Manager of the Orioles.


For some reason, Americans were pretty accepting of McEnroe's tirades. But now, some 25 years down the road, it seems that anger isn't allowed. Nope.

People are fond of calling such events "meltdowns." I guess that makes the person doing the labelling feel superior... as in, "well, I never melt down, I'm too composed for that, but this ...fool... melted right on down, like Chernobyl."

I think it's shit that Clijsters won the semi on such a nonsense point. A line judge in tennis should expect to be blasted for being so fucking wrong on something. A player who blasts the judge should be allowed to vent. The fact that Ms Williams pointed her finger at the line judge? So what... big fucking deal. The fact that Ms Williams said she'd ram her racket down the judge's throat? So what... big fucking deal. Does Serena Williams have a record of violent assault on others? Couldn't her venting have been... well... merely some venting?

I mean, let's be realistic folks. Business meetings that have adversarial facets sometimes have that sort of heated discussion when the dollar or power stakes are high enough. I've heard lawyers in a law firm yell at each other that way. I've heard politicians yell at each other that way. Heard couples yell at each other that way. Heard other athletes yell at each other that way.

We're going to pretend it's not possible? That the stakes of the US Open aren't high enough for emotions to run high?

If that line judge can't handle an emotional outburst after a shitty call, the line judge needs a new job.

And Ms Williams deserves to finish her set with Ms Clijsters.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The tribe, the tribe... it's always about the tribe!

One of the "liberal" -slash- "progressive" pundits in Blogtopia that I sometimes follow with mixed feelings is David Michael Green, a professor at Hofstra. Green is a very partisan sort, full of vituperation regarding Republicans, so full in fact that even when he finds it within himself to criticize a Democrat, it's always couched in terms of lesser-evil-ness where he'll criticize a Donkey but then say "at least McCain isn't president" or the like.

In other words, no matter whether a Democrat is behaving identically to a Republican, at least the Democrat still calls him/herself a Democrat. Who knows what would happen if a leading Democrat actually switched parties. It might cause Green to implode.

Such juvenile partisanship presumably is valuable to the "liberal" -slash- "progressive" segment of America. I mean, Green keeps getting published outside his own blog, which suggests that many find him useful. I struggle to understand that perspective most of the time, although recently I have witnessed an occasional DM Green willingness to see Obama as a fraud. Case in point: a recent essay published at Smirking Chimp.

Following that essay are some interesting comments, most of which reveal immense naivete and insecurity in the form of a very serious tribal identification. But one following comment stood out to me, and I've reprinted it below.
I didn't notice your rejoinder until today so I'm site-mailing you this to open up a dialog. It was this statement:

"I can't help but wonder how Smirking Chimp moved so smoothly and so swiftly from an anti-Bush site to a join-the-R's and-hate-on-Obama site?"

that triggered my response to you. That and my continual fury at watching my country plummet headlong into oblivion. I believe, correctly, that all we did was change the branding on the fascism. You believe that my anger with Obama over his policies puts me in the same corner as the "R's". This is insulting, and deserves a response.

"you have no idea what my thinking is"
No, I only know what you purport to be thinking by what you write. I respond to that. Isn't that the purpose of a comments dialog? I admire your political and human-rights activism. I was always too caught up on the economic treadmill to engage in activism, but I helped out on a smaller scale (taking in homeless people, talking to crazy people who can't afford a shrink, literacy volunteer teaching a retarted guy to read, etc...) I've always lived my life in such a way as to make the world a better place however I can. And maybe you live in a nice, peaceful American Utopia where everybody is honest and politicians always work for the common good, but I grew up in the NE and know that there is very little to be gained by working within the system. For example, a friend of mine managed to be elected mayor of a fairly large (65k people) town. She spent four years accomplishing nothing, then the mayorship was turned back over to the crooks. The entire previous administration was indicted and the brand was too toxic so they let a reformer run the place for a term while blocking her every move. I speak from knowledge and experience in my cynicism, dear. Also, as a belligerent atheist, I reject out of hand all superstition-based NGOs and therefore "work" alone.

"Or of needing the comfort of smart, like and right (*correct*) thinking minds"
The moral absolutism here is worthy of bushie himself. You are right and I am wrong and to persist in your rightness you need a continual pat on the back from other people sharing your worldview? I'm sorry, but that was never the purpose I took from the SC. I thought it was a narrow window into the real workings of our political process. I thought it was journalism, not a group hug. And what's wrong with vulgar, anyway? We live in vulgar times. The good people need to develop the vocabulary to deal with them. I certainly managed to engage you, and might possibly change your perception to one closer to what is actually happening.

"your rude efforts to deny MY opinion"
I'm not denying it, I'm challenging it. There's a difference. Opinions that stand unchallenged are worthless. I can believe there's an invisible goat who demands I face SSE and swallow one wooden nickle five times every day. That's a valid opinion and, if never challenged, would never be remedied.

""The Smirking Chimp" was specific to Bush"
Well then, why did we all give them another ten grand to continue the site? If that's all it was, why not shut it down? Ditto MoveOn. Their raison d'etre expired in 2000. I believe that, by drawing a group of like-minded people together in the first place, these organizations continue to serve a viable purpose. We really need some sort of public message-board to sound out ideas of what that purpose should be. And, yes, this frequently resembles the traditional Democratic circular firing squad. Would you rather we subsumed our individual ratiocination and marched in lockstep like the wingnuts?

"As for your rudeness"
Yep. I'm rude. I'm rude in real life, too. Not that I can't be gentle, I'm not a monster, but I think it's goddamn fucking well time to get a little cunting rude over this subject. Millions of people are dying, and you are concerned about the language with which I choose to express my disagreement? Civility never accomplished anything. The labor unions were rude, the women's suffragists were rude, the civil rights protesters were rude and the abolitionists were eventually rude enough to murder a couple hundred thousand people in their cause.

"You're new here, apparently"
No, I'm not. It was summer of 2k4 that I started googling "liberal news". I'm still an occasional reader of elemming2.blogspot.com, which was the top result at the time. Eventually I found the SC and became a loyal, albeit intermittent, fan. After Kerry gave away his presidency, I declared the entire system broken and tried to ignore the political world for a few years, with varying degrees of success. Unfortunately, I'm a political junkie who's been reading the paper, and preferrably the editorials, since I was in single-digits. The editorials here are wonderful. JamesPB is usually better than the article about which he's commenting. Nedlud makes great points. Ditto NightGaunt. I even like our resident socialist, although he appears to be new here. Every liberal organization needs one. I don't recall anything else I've ever read by you. You never registered on my perceptions.

"Your need for instant gratification"
Now you partake of the exact same misapprehension of which you accused me when you said "you have no idea what my thinking is". I understand the legislative process takes time. I also understand that there are some things that can be done quickly. I won't bother with the particulars because you already know them, but 'Bama has managed to do terrible things very quickly while spurning good things that could be done quickly and, to all evidence, intentionally tanking the good things that need to be done slowly.

"your obvious and, IMO, shortsighted hatred of him"
Not true. Granted, he's a despicable weasle with the spine of a twinkie and the ethics of an ant, but so is almost any other politican. Those are necessary attributes to hold public office in this country. I actually like the guy. I'm sure I'd enjoy spending time with him, unlike his predecessor or opponents (although I do get an evil twinkle in my eye at the thought of debating palin. Jon Stewart should kidnap one of her kids and force her to appear on his show.) My hatred is for his policies, hon.

"They eat, sleep and live on negativity"
True. A point of agreement. Liberals are driven by happiness, and want everybody to be happy. Conservatives are driven by anger, and want everybody to be angry. But, like pacifism, that's a self-defeating position. It's much easier to breed anger and violence than happiness and peace. If we refuse to get angry, we lose. Fact. If, eventually, we refuse to use violence, we lose. Fact. It's long past time for liberals to get angry and, until we do, nothing is going to change. I'm hoping we can get angry before we're reduced to using violence.

"Do you really believe that insulting other liberals on a liberal website; that vilifying those on the same team, ostensibly, will help to heal us?"
Aye, there's the crux. And, no, I don't. But I don't value the same things you do. I don't value "healing". Democracy is an open wound. Always has been, always will be. What I am attempting to do is draw your attention to the fact that you are supporting right-wing policies. It's transparently obvious, now, that a polite approach wouldn't get through to you. It's also obvious that I tweaked your nipples and engaged your mind. Basically, we're not on the same team. We have the same goals but differ tremendously in how to achieve them. Your team has had since Watergate to accomplish liberal goals. And has shown some success, it's true. But you've also shown tremendous, society-destroying failures. You are clinging to a failed ideology.

"rather than being a large part of the problem"
I can say the exact same thing about you, with a vastly larger catalog of factual points to back it up.

"It seems one of us is on the wrong site here"
Just one point to back up my previous assertion. Neither of us is on the wrong site. We're engaging in a free exchange of ideas, a debate. This is how minds, societies, and democracies grow. Your approach encourages the atomization of society into microscopic mutual-support groups. Run and hide if you want. Eventually you'll be on a site of one. I like this site because it's the only place on the internet I've ever found like-minded people. Radicals. Liberal radicals. You can find an Obama apologist under any rock.

"More importantly, who cares?"
I really pissed you off! *pats self on back* If you don't care about the difference between logical debate and ranting, if you are positive your position is the correct one and it is so calcified that tit'll never change, if the world of ideas can be measured on a linear scale depending on how closely they reflect your own, what makes you better than a fundie bush supporter?

"I still hope that you find some measure of peace"
Ahhh, I finally got a little snark out of you. Good. You want me to find peace? Legalize the green. I can get nice and peaceful any time I want. Until then, I'm going to view the world with open eyes and be angry that ignorance trumps knowledge, hate trumps love, violence trumps peace, and anger trumps kindness.

"Arguing with anonymous strangers on the internet is a sucker's game because they always turn out to be, or be indistinguishable from, self-righteous sixteen year olds with infinite free time."--Neil Stephensen, Cryptonomicon
_______

Those who are aware of history are still doomed to repeat it because the ignorant are in charge.

Submitted by Michael Hunt on September 9, 2009 - 5:16pm.
Bravo, Mr Hunt!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

circuits, rounds, laps, perimeters

1) Dmitry Orlov was interviewed yesterday on Pacifica Radio's Guns and Butter show. I haven't found many thinkers who are writing or speaking as wisely as Orlov, on the subjects interconnected in the collapse of the American Imperial Project. Orlov watched the USSR collapse as a native of that country, and he later moved here in time to see America begin to mirror the collapse of the USSR. What he sees, and how he interconnects those things, is unparalleled among the writers and/or speakers I've encountered. This interview is about the most interesting thing of his I've read or heard. He gets bonus points for using the term "economics" in the pure honest sense, not in the ideologically-loaded sense.FN Give it a listen.

2) Dennis Perrin's most recent entry is an interesting assessment of The Mighty Donkle. You should go read the whole thing because it's interesting and because after you read it, you can read his other entries which are often very funny, as well as pretty astute on many political matters. But here's an excerpt:
Bill Clinton hasn't lost a step. Regardless of his actual record, which includes various war crimes and assaults on that wax deity, the Constitution, Bill's sexy swagger still makes the lib boys and girls swoon and come on cue.

I've never seen anything like this in American politics. Sure, reactionaries grovel before images of Reagan, but his appeal is religious in tone. Clinton is more down to earth, someone you fantasize spending with, and if you're lucky, fuck. (Right-wingers tried this same approach with W., pretending he seemed salty and real, but it never gained the same traction as Clintonphilia.) His corporate centrism is favored by professional liberals high and low, something not lost on Obama. His imperial management was savvier and in many ways more effective than Bush's cloddish attempts (another lesson for Obama). He even survived impeachment, which thankfully avoided any mention of real impeachable crimes, focusing instead on lies about blowjobs.
The rest is here.

3) My friends Lee and Sharon were down this way last week on a road trip from their native Vancouver BC through the northern Rockies. I did a ride with them and Lee's narrative and photos, plus video, are here.

4) The recent disclosures about murder allegations in a lawsuit filed on behalf of Iraqis, against the corporation Blackwater/Xe in the US Distrcit Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, was something that caught my eye in my yesterday evening news-roaming. Over at Feral Scholar, Stan remarked on it yesterday. The discussion following looks like it will get interesting. Michael Anderson's comment was excellent.

5) Some brief thoughts about the current cluster-copulation on national-scale health care. I note that the Prius-driving latte-drinkers are now on-board with National Medicare, thanks to NPR and PBS doing a bang-up sales job on it. A little help was thrown in by Denny the Dwarf and Sleazy Johnny C.

I'm a little more inclined to believe in and agree with the perspective recently offered by Mary Lynn Cramer over at Counterpunch.

Meanwhile the Prius-drivers are clamoring for National Medicare -- as to what I'm typically seeing from the "liberals" and "progressives," here's Dave Lindorff and here's Dave Lindorff again, with some bonus lying for the Donkle... or they're arguing for its equivalent, with pretty much the same problems continued -- here's Jeff Sher.

In contrast, I think Norman Solomon is onto something here, and this pair of data graphics helps underscore why Solomon's aim is good.

My friends over at Dead Horse discussed this recently and Rob seems to like the Medicare-expansion option. My quarrel with this option is that it retains all the problems of Medicare and expands them, further wasting taxpayer $$$ on an inefficient, problem-riddled system.

I also think that at this point, quarreling over the mechanics of whatever system will be used is a distraction being wrought by either naive-but-well-meaning "activists," or a serious psy-op angle worked by various bloggers and other quasi-news-media sources.

The first arguments should be about what are the premises of a national health care program. We will find more agreement on basic premises, and if you're trying to resolve a problem that generates a diversity of opinions on how to solve it, it's better to work from agreement than disagreement. Obviously it's counter-productive to nurture disagreement from the start, eh?

The first arguments should concern the points that (a) health care is a right, not just some privilege; (b) health care should be delivered efficiently, not bureaucratically or with a frenzy of middle-men taking pieces of the overall cost pie; and (c) any system which approves the use of middle-men between doctor and patient should be rejected as unworkable and corrupt.

From those 3 points the details of a workable system can be hashed out. Medicare will not qualify because it is inefficient and it rewards non-contributing middle-men.

Expanding a counter-productive system to all Americans further undercuts what little strength may remain in our government, by confirming that it's just a handmaiden to corruption.

____________________

FN - In other words, he doesn't assume "economics" is premised upon capitalism and its continuity into perpetuity.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

CounterPunch = ShadowBoxing

Jeff St Clair once again shows that he's out of his element in most every single subject on which he writes. This time, it's about AIG.

I refer to his latest at CounterPunch. Witness:
AIG, perhaps the most recklessly managed company in the world, was so thoroughly enmeshed in nearly every sector of the American—and even global—economy that to let it sunder would be to risk the crash of the nation.
Wrong, Jeffy.

AIG was actually the most aggressively conservative, self-protecting insurance entity on earth. And I know this because I used to work for them. Here is the AIG model of growth and stability:

1) price policies for maximum profit

2) aggressively deny and defend all claims

3) aggressively push state regulatory entities for leniency whenever AIG breached a state regulatory provision

4) invest premium income conservatively, on the whole -- meaning, any risky investments are countered with loss-proof stable positions in excess of the possible loss on any risky investment

5) thanks to Hank Greenberg's connections in US intelligence (primarily CIA), AIG got a lot of secure, replicating (renewing and expanding) business writing commercial coverages for CIA front companies

This is how it went from being a small brokerage under Cornelius VanderStarr to the international powerhouse it became under Maurice ("Hank") Greenberg.

If AIG ever got into any form of "financial trouble" then that trouble was fabricated as an accounting exercise, with actual profits being sent to offshore accounts where they'd remain safe for Hank Greenberg and the other major shareholders.

Here's St Clair again, stepping in a big pile of horse-shit:
All through the high-flying 90s, the AIG risk-swallowing business continued to defy gravity, posting amazing profits on ever more opaque financial confabulations. Then in 2002 came the first whiff of rot. AIG insiders told Michael Lewis that the decomposition began to gnaw away at the FP Division the very moment Cassano replaced his mentor Tom Savage as CEO of the subsidiary. Of course, this retrospective was almost certainly motivated in large measure by post-fall ass-covering. But there’s no question that Cassano was an abrasive personality and not, like many of the traders, an Ivy Leaguer with a DNA profile shaped by generations of old money.
I'm sure it feels good for St Clair, an aging "activist" lefty who despises all things that have a whiff of the GOP, to talk so condescendingly and informedly. But where is St Clair's insight here? He has deferred to Michael Lewis, a man who --like another fraud, Naomi Klein-- has built a profitable book-writing career on talking about his own favorite economic practices as if they are evil, but never renouncing those practices or overtly stating that the practices should be ended. Like Naomi Klein, Michael Lewis loves the money he makes from these nefarious practices and so he cannot bring himself to actually tell the truth about them. Why would he? His font of funds would cease to spring greenbacks!

The structure of AIG was one which would not allow the "financial products division" to destroy the whole company. Hank Greenberg would never allow such a thing to happen. Go back to the 5-point formula above, and then tell me where a greedy high-risk go-for-broke strategy in the FP division would be allowed. Please.

I'm sure Lewis & St Clair will counter this assertion by saying that New York's Atty Gen'l, Eliot Spitzer, had Hank Greenberg "removed from power" at AIG. This notion is comical. Hank Greenberg is the sort of tyrant who would not be removed from practical power no matter what on-paper happenings transpire. So if Spitzer had Greenberg removed on paper, you can be sure that Greenberg's power and influence remained in place. It's not hard to imagine. We all know that Mafia bosses can run their enterprises from prison cells. Dick Cheney and Dubya Bush ran operations in Iraq from Washington DC. Et cetera, et cetera.

The truth about AIG is a whole lot different than St Clair and Lewis would have us believe. The truth about AIG is this.

Hank Greenberg is the emperor of AIG. And he's old. And his sons wouldn't be suitable for running the company as he was doing, so he needed to find a buyer.

Unfortunately, AIG is an American company whose operations are premised on the strength of the American dollar. And the US Dollar has been tanking. So Hank couldn't get optimum acquisition pricing from the likely buyers -- Swiss and other European insurance conglomerates.

Luckily for Hank, AIG insured a lot of CIA front businesses, which means that Uncle Sam would hate to see the details of those businesses in the hands of a foreign insurance conglomerate. And those details would surely pass to whomever bought AIG.

But if Hank Greenberg could orchestrate a reason for Uncle Sam to "bail out" AIG, then what a coup! Hank would get high dollar pricing for his company if Uncle Sam was buying it. Uncle Sam wants to keep the CIA details hush-hush, of course.

So, like many of the other recipients of the Fed "bailout" money, AIG created a fraudulent set of books to make it appear as though "unexpected losses" dragged the company to fatal depths.

If Jeff St Clair had half a notion of how to do investigative journalism, he could have uncovered this shit.

But his writing is just to fan the flames of anger and antipathy in a prurient partisan pissing match between Democrats and Republicans.

Fuck Jeffrey St Clair, that fucking fraudulent phony.

Insurance is the economic lubricant of all global transactions. Commercial liability insurance policies gather all sorts of information on the commercial entity being insured. This information includes what types of risks the entity creates through its operations, and includes past legal and regulatory problems. Any entity writing commercial liability policies is in a position to see the dirt on whatever entity it either underwrites and insures, or at least provides a detailed quote for coverage.

This means AIG has a lot of dirt on a lot of commercial enterprises around the world. A lot of dirt. A phenomenal amount of dirt. And that dirt is valuable as "intelligence" -- valuable to entities like the CIA, the NSA, and all the military and quasi-military intel entities that operate on behalf of the USA and/or its most powerful individual and corporate citizens.

For Uncle Sam to now have possession of that information... well, I leave that to you, reader, to understand why that would be something that would make Uncle Sam salivate.

If Jeff St Clair knew anything about insurance, he could have sniffed this out quickly. But he doesn't know insurance. He knows only partisan pissing, and inflaming the Eternal Death Match of Donkey vs Elephant. In the case of AIG, he's trying to paste this one on Bush/Cheney. Or Geithner. Will we see St Clair lambaste the Saintly, Noble Democrats?

Nope.

This is what Jeff St Clair does. He writes not to tell the truth, but to keep his income flowing. And that's why I say,

fuck Jeff St Clair.