Saturday, September 08, 2007


Must-Read of the Day

According to Democratic candidates who ran for House of Representative seats in 2006, Rahm Emanuel, then head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, took sides during the Democratic primary elections, favoring conservative candidates, including former Republicans, and sidelining candidates who were running in favor of withdrawal from Iraq
How Emanuel came to his decisions about which candidates to support against Democratic opponents is known only to Emanuel and his staff. Emanuel declined direct comment on this story. But an examination of individual races reveals a pattern of financial and political support for wealthy conservative candidates and an assault on their grassroots-supported opponents who were running on platforms that included a full withdrawal of US forces from Iraq.

—Matt Renner writing in "Democratic House Officials Recruited Wealthy Conservatives"

In the matter reported here—of the continued conservative hold on the Democratic Party—you cannot possibly be surprised if you have been following the decisions of the Democratic leadership in Congress. Or even if you have been reading Simply Appalling.

There are true-believer Democratic supporters who, in order to keep their world-view intact, fantasize that the Democratic leadership are "biding their time" and "gathering strength" until such time as they can act decisively. In fact, just like the Republican leadership, the Democratic leadership are trying to retain their base. They do this by maintaining certain populist façades, the most critical being a show of support for withdrawal from Iraq and a demand for worker protection in the face of globalization. They believe in neither.1

You do not have to be privy to the councils of the powerful to know what they are up to—most of the time. Use your intelligence. Use your common sense. And inform that intelligence and common sense by paying attention.

In the article I'm proposing to you here, Matt Renner looks in detail at four Congressional Democratic primary races of 2006. He still doesn't have all the "facts"—that is to say, Rahm Emanuel hasn't confessed. Neither has Howard Dean, who Renner suggests opposed him. Neither has Nancy Pelosi. Neither has Steny Hoyer. Nor have any of the other wielders of power within the Democratic Party. But we do not need a confession to convict.

Related posts
"Here comes the truth" (6/20/05)
In case you were looking to the Democrats for your salvation (8/19/05)
No. Not some troops; all troops (9/25/05)
Observation of the Day (11/5/05)
Political Wire: Democratic Leaders Back Away from Impeachment Talk (3/7/06)
In religion Left is Right (5/20/06)
Political Profile of the Day (8/30/06)
Iran and the New York "money people" (1/12/07)



1I am not saying, however, that there are no rank-and-file Democratic Representatives who are working toward these goals. But the primary work they must do is to wrest the leadership of the party from the corporatists.

I am also not saying, as you too often hear, that there is no difference between the parties. Support for children's healthcare, universal healthcare and Social Security are aspirations of the party's base, and the Democratic leadership will continue to support or maintain them so long as they don't unduly interfere with the agenda of "business."

Of course, many business leaders are now calling for universal healthcare, since they want to be relieved of the burden of providing health insurance for their employees. With corporate support, even the Republicans may eventually hop on board with some mangled version of universal healthcare. [back]

Friday, September 07, 2007


Conservative Explanation of the Day

True believers gotta maintain their belief system, you know. And now self-identified "conservatives" find themselves in the midst of a losing war—not at all experiencing the glorious triumph of American power they had once dreamed—and at the mercy of a tyrannical government that has spent more money than Imelda Marcos and doesn't even have shoes to show for it.

I've always enjoyed the tales of the end-of-the-worlders who sell all their possessions—or perhaps turn them over to a preacher—as they go off radiant with faith to await that longed-for end of the world or coming of the Messiah at the next lunar eclipse or what have you. Not that I'm not very sad that they were so easily duped but that I find their explanations of "what went wrong" quite instructive—even, if I'm to be brutally honest, a bit entertaining.

So recently I heard some would-be conservative refer contemptuously to the Neocons as "ex-Democrats" and "liberals." How clever! I thought. They're trying to frame this debacle as the work of "Democrats," not "true-conservative" Republicans. So I googled on "Neocons ex-Democrats" and, sure 'nuff, word's going round the bulletin boards faster than cognitive dissonance can set in.

Here's an example that I liked—especially the part about a neocon being "a democrat in Republican drag."

Again for the #th time, a "neocon" is a democrat in Republican drag. They've infested the Republican party to the point of complete corruption. The current Republican party is more liberal than the Democratic party of old. That's appalling. —NiKita writing on a bulletin board

Dear NiKita,

First let me say that I'm the one who decides what's appalling. I'm the appalling decider. That's what I do. And what's appalling is that the Republican political apparatus—including the Christian Right get-out-the-vote machine, the Republican-owned media and the Republican politicians controlling the Congress and the White House, not to mention their conservative-minded supporters back home (along with some Democrats, let me hasten to add)—supported the agenda of the Neocons. And I hardly see that it matters what were their origins.

Would it matter if the Neocons were ex-Martians? Would it explain why they've had—and still have—followers for so long?

Are you saying that the Republican apparatchiks are so collectively stupid that they don't know they've been "infested"? Can it be that they can't detect the presence of "liberalism" when that's practically all they talk about—that is, when they're not talking about gay sex, God and the Bible or off screwing someone both literally and figuratively?

Were the good people of the Red States drugged, do you think? Subversive liberal ex-Democratic infiltrators can do that, you know—put chemicals in the water. Have you heard about fluoride?

Or maybe it was hypnosis—mass hypnosis. That's it! If I even think of the voices of Richard Perle, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz or Dick Cheney, something in me stirs and I fear I may fall asleep—a nice lulling sleep. Seeing and hearing them on television produces the effect a hundredfold. I can't imagine what it must be like to be in their actual presence. People with hypnotic powers like that can take over conservative minds with the snap of a finger. Zzzzz.

Seeing how it's all turned out, I realize that something has gone wrong. Remaining true to our true conservative beliefs will need some explaining—some explaining of what went wrong. And it's a relief to know that it was the work of ex-Democrats, ex-Marxists and ex-liberals. Though I sometimes wonder whether if they had remained Democrats, Marxists and liberals, things might not have turned out better.

Who did you vote for, by the way?

Related post
Thinking about death? Vote Bush! (8/1/04)


Thursday, September 06, 2007


Must-Read of the Day

It is, by any measure, a remarkable achievement, one of the greatest political feats ever. Despite Bush's standing as one of the most despised presidents in American history, despite a Congress in control of the opposition party, despite a solid majority opposed to his policies and his war, despite an Administration riddled with scandal and crime, despite the glaring rot in the nation's infrastructure and the callous abandonment of one of the nation's major cities to natural disaster and crony greed — despite all of this, and much more that would have brought down or mortally wounded any government in a democratic country, the Bush Administration is now in a far stronger position than it was a year ago. —Chris Floyd writing in "Post-Mortem America: Bush's Year of Triumph and the Hard Way Ahead"

I have praised and quoted Chris Floyd's writing in these pages, perhaps more than any other journalist. The praise is well deserved. In the piece quoted above Floyd sets forth a masterful summary of the momentous changes that have taken place within the American pollitical system and what we have lost.

If you do nothing else today, please read this article. Then come back tomorrow. He left a few things out.



Half Truth of the Day

Remember: Those who endorse early get goodies. Those who endorse late get good government. —Larry J. Sabato, Director, University of Virginia Center for Politics, in his newsletter

Sabato's admonition is directed to "hotshots in politics, eyeing that juicy post-election job, [who] want to jump on the bandwagon rolling the fastest--and to do so early."

Early or late, they ain't gonna get get good government, so they might as well go for the job.


Wednesday, September 05, 2007


Crocodile Bush goes to Sydney

It's been some time since I've checked in with Australia, one of our allies in the Axis of English, but since Bush is now gracing their shores, let's see what they've been up to.

The occasion for Bush's visit is the annual Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, which brings together leaders from the Pacific Rim and offers them the opportunity to plan their predations for the coming year without the bother of democratic intervention.

The APEC Australia 2007™ year culminates with the APEC Economic Leaders Meeting (AELM), the most significant international gathering of an economic kind that Australia has hosted. The AELM takes place in an informal, relaxed retreat setting in which leaders can address issues of strategic importance that affect the region.
It's more like a vacation really, which I suspect is the only way they could convince Bush to go.

Keeping things quiet

Of course, where Bush travels there will always be attempts at protest. But Bush has a special fondness for both Britain and Australia because neither has a constitution. It makes life so much easier for a dictator.

In his honor the police of New South Wales, where Sydney lies, were given "special powers," though there's some vagueness as to what they were. After they were announced, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) tried for more detail—

The ABC approached the New South Wales Minister for Police, the New South Wales Attorney-General, and the deputy Premier and Minister for APEC, but none were available for comment about the APEC police powers.

Ain't democracy grand?

This much was known—

The New South Wales Government has given police special powers, including a secret list of people who can be banned from the APEC area in inner Sydney.

People who breach the high-security zone housing world leaders face up to six months in jail and anyone assaulting police will find it harder to get bail.

It's really a warm-up for more severe restrictions on civil liberties—

Human Right Monitors is worried the special police powers might stay in place after the summit.

You think?

Special temporary police powers were also introduced for the Sydney 2000 Olympics and after the games some of the laws remained in place in areas surrounding Sydney Harbour.

"What it means is that in every big protest in the future there may be similar emergency powers, then similar emergency powers are introduced at small protests, then the emergency powers may become permanent," [a spokesperson for Human Rights Monitors] said.

Where Bush goes, freedom goes—out the door.

Protests were planned for a route that would pass the American Consulate, but the police felt it might disrupt traffic and have demanded that the demonstrations be held in a "protest zone," reminding us of the Orwellian "free speech areas" now created in the U.S.—areas set aside to assure that any "free speech" will go unheard.

But the police are prepared. ABC reports that for Saturday's march—

Police will have a $600,000 high-pressure water cannon to use on protesters if they become violent and threaten public safety and property during the September 2-9 summit.

A five-kilometre fence will run through the city, along Bridge, Macquarie and Phillip streets.

Police say pedestrians will be able to access to the fenced-off areas through control points.


ABC also reports that a former American Marine, who has served two tours in Iraq, has gone to Sydney "as a chance to directly voice his dissent over the war." He seemed to be under the illusion that the Australian government would let him speak in a way that he couldn't at home. But his opposition is at least being reported in the Australian media in a way that would never pass the corporate censors in the U.S.—

"We are done being told under the threat of court martial to run over children that get in the way of our speeding convoys.

"We are done raiding and destroying the homes of innocent Iraqis on a nightly basis.

"We are done abusing and torturing prisoners."

And Bush?

As for what Bush has been doing, he's made a deal with the Australian Prime Minister John Howard to keep Australia's token force of 500 "in Iraq."1 The bait was a promise of easier access to American arms merchants.

With most of our original "allies" in the Iraqi invasion long gone and with the British doing their best to hightail it out of Basra, the Bush administration would offer just about anything to maintain the appearance of international support for the Iraq War effort. And if the U.S. can export more of the one thing it unreservedly manufactures better than anyone else—weapons—so much the better.

Related posts
Howard gains in Australia (10/9/04)
Brownshirt terrorism in Australia? (3/29/05)
Terror in Sydney Australia (3/31/05)
Imperial Alliance of the Day: the Axis of English (3/31/07)



1Last time I checked the Australians were actually to be found only in the general vicinity of Iraq in places such as Jordan where they were not likely to get hurt. [back]

Monday, September 03, 2007


A note on understanding elites

One of the tenets of economic theories, be they Marxist or Keynesian or Friedmanian or whatever, is that human beings run around making rational choices. I've seen little evidence in support of that and a great deal to contradict it, which is one reason I regard economics as more a religion than a science and the body of economists as more a priesthood than a professional association. The "common sense" insights into human behavior of my dear Grandma Fuse frequently carry the day over the insights of even the best intentioned economists.

Last week "Lenin," chief author of the blog Lenin's Tomb, wrote an interesting post occasioned by his reading of the RollingStone article "The Great Iraq Swindle," which surveys the looting of the U.S. Treasury by private companies working in Iraq. "Lenin" goes beyond that and puzzles over the capitalist rationale for the war in Afghanistan and Iraq along with its possible expansion into Iran and god knows where else. He attempts an economic analysis of it but admits his puzzlement. The behavior of the ruling classes is indeed hard to make out.

I left a comment to "Lenin's" post. Since I hate to write anyway and hate even more to waste words already written, I thought I'd pluck out and polish that comment for a brief post here.

"Lenin" asks himself,

They do not particularly require a state with diminished capacity, so why on earth would the US ruling class partake of a scheme that threatened their interests?

I did not attempt to answer that question, since many of these Simply Appalling posts, taken together, do attempt to answer it. Call it "insight-by-installment." Instead, for understanding the behavior of the ruling classes, I merely suggest under which rocks we should investigate.

This was my comment, now expanded and edited to make sense—

I very much enjoyed reading your post. But one of the problems I find with Marxist analysis is that the people who are capable of it tend to assume that the ruling classes are as intelligent as they are. As someone who has very occasionally participated in the councils of the elite, I must say that has not been my experience.

To put it more simply, the ruling classes do not always act in their own interests. Indeed, they frequently haven't a clue where their interests lie, which is not to say that they do not hold a set of beliefs about the matter. After all, many of them were shipped off to business school and/or studied economics.

They are nevertheless insulated in myriad ways from the consequences of their ineptitude.1 Many of their decisions might as well be made by a coin toss. But until such time as a massive economic collapse occurs and a different social order is established (don't hold your breath!), the rules of the game are "Heads, I win! Tails, you lose!" Even under the harsh circumstances of economic chaos, many still emerge as winners, however unjustified by their choices. (Consider, for example, the ruling classes of Iraq and Afghanistan.)

It scarcely helps that the ruling classes pay enormous sums of money for intelligence and advice. Sometimes they are merely rooked; sometimes they get what they pay for. But how are they to know? If we assume they've received good intelligence and advice, it remains that whether from hubris or inbred stupidity, the intelligence and advice they've paid for are more often than not ignored.

My point is that some puzzles may be more readily solved by looking at the sociology of the elites and at the psychology of certain key individuals than at the overarching economic consequences of their behavior, of which they remain remarkably free.

Related posts
Sad Tune of the Day (12/09/06)
A war we can't afford to win (1/24/07)
A fresh approach to capital punishment in the U.S. (2/27/07)
Economic Indicator of the Day (4/19/07)
Economic Indicator of the Day (6/6/07)



1It's always entertaining to listen to members of the elite fulminate on the bad choices of the poor and working classes and the need for them to "bear the consequences." Then they tender bromides such as "tough love" and "compassionate conservatism" to cloak their utter indifference. [back]

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