The GOP crackup

The purge of the moderates continues

TPM reports that:

In a huge development in the NY-23 special election, Republican candidate Dede Scozzafava has announced that she is suspending her campaign, citing an inability to win in light of recent polls and a lack of money — leaving this race as a vote between Democrat Bill Owens and Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman, and a strong message that the Republican Party can no longer nominate moderate candidates, or else face a right-wing revolt.


How could we forget?

This day marks the 80th anniversary of Black Tuesday, the stock market crash that signaled the onset of the Great Depression.

The health care filibuster

Rachael Maddow and Glenn Greenwald expose here the corruption of Joe Lieberman (Asshole-CT) and Evan Bayh (D-IN):

Making a case for the obvious

When buzzards hide among the doves

It is a case that has to be made, and Michael Neumann makes it:

Antisemites have flocked to criticism of Israel precisely because criticism of Israel is so amply justified. Criticism of Israel isn't a great disguise because the critics are sleazebags. Quite the contrary: it's a great disguise because criticizing Israel is not only correct, it's the right thing to do. The more-than-overwhelming majority of those who criticize Israel are genuine humanitarians, genuine enemies of oppression and ethnic nationalism, genuine fighters for justice. The more obvious this has become, the more antisemites get on board.


Judgment day a coming, here it comes, here it comes

The Teabaggers are having conniptions. In their minds the Countdown to Judgment Day has begun. Obama and the Democratic Party threaten the republic. They have usurped the power that rightfully belongs to, well, to the far rightwing of the Republican Party. The Teabaggers want their America back. They intend to get it back. Yet as Frank Schaeffer observes:

When the Tea Party folks say they want to "take back our country" who do they want to take it back from? It turns out it's going to be taken back from the democratic process itself. The effort here is to reverse the last election result.

In this scenario any time there is not a white, wealthy, far right Republican in the White House and any time Congress isn't controlled by the far (white) right of the Republican Party, then the country has been "stolen" from "us" "Real Americans."

Since the mechanisms of democracy, when in the hands of the American people, cannot be trusted to do what's right and Godly, the Teabaggers "…must now turn to 'other means'" to set things right. This, by the way, is one lesson the right can take from the 2000 presidential election. The means available to them are limited when they cannot be legal and democratic in character.

I find it odd, though, to read public declarations that express a willingness to engage in armed rebellion against a democratically authorized government. When did Congress or the Supreme Court abolish the Smith Act? Why does this law fail to apply to the Teabaggers? Who or what authorized an "armed insurrection exemption" for the far right? Must the country endure another Oklahoma City Bombing before public opinion turns decisively against the right?

Sociopath grabs the spotlight

The occasion: The health care reform debate. The victim: The citizens of the United States. The victimizer: Joe Lieberman, Asshole-CT. The Wall Street Journal reports:

The push by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for a public health-insurance option is creating fresh obstacles for health-care legislation in the Senate, despite new poll data suggesting a plurality of Americans support the idea.

Connecticut independent Sen. Joe Lieberman said Tuesday that he would vote to block passage of the Senate health-care bill in its current form, dealing an initial blow to Mr. Reid's effort to gather 60 votes. Mr. Lieberman usually sides with Democrats, but he said that unless the bill changes substantially, he would vote with Senate Republicans to keep it from moving to a final vote.

Lieberman worries that health care reform costs money, a concern which did not trouble him in the least when, for instance, he backed the Wall Street Bailout and the expansive military funding of the Bush era. While considering Lieberman's record, Robert Scheer was moved to ask: "Is there a more hypocritical figure in American politics than Joe Lieberman?" The question was rhetorical. Scheer surely believes Lieberman is a front-runner in that race to oblivion, for, as he notes as he nears the end of his article, "…it is not possible to feel anything but loathing for those like Lieberman who vote for every big government program, no matter how wasteful, in support of big business, but draw the line at a program designed to cut medical costs for the ordinary citizens they have been sworn to serve."

War criminals beware

The Guardian warns that:

Ehud Olmert, Israeli prime minister during the Gaza war, would probably face arrest on war crimes charges if he visited Britain, according to a UK lawyer who is working to expand the application of "universal jurisdiction" for offences involving serious human rights abuses committed anywhere in the world.

Neither Olmert nor Tzipi Livni, the foreign minister during the Cast Lead offensive, and a member of Israel's war cabinet, would enjoy immunity from prosecution for alleged breaches of the Geneva conventions, predicted Daniel Machover, who is involved in intensifying legal work after the controversial Goldstone report on the three-week conflict. Neither are ministers any longer.

Prosecutions of Israeli political and military figures remain likely despite the failure to obtain an arrest warrant for Ehud Barak, the defence minister, when he visited the UK earlier this month, he said. In the Barak case a magistrate accepted advice from the Foreign Office that the minister enjoyed state immunity and rejected an application made on behalf of several residents of the Gaza Strip.

"This needs to be tested at the right time and in the right place," Machover said. "One day one of these people will make a mistake and go to the wrong country and face a criminal process — and then it'll be a matter for the courts of that country to give them a fair trial: that's what the Palestinian victims want."

One can only hope that Olmert, George Bush, Dick Cheney and others of their ilk will one day face the finite justice to be found in this world.


Grayson apologizes for smearing a whore

The pertinent deed happened in late September when Rep Alan Grayson (D-FL) called ex-Enron lobbyist and current Federal Reserve senior adviser Linda Robertson a "K Street whore." One can listen to the relevant interview here. But Grayson shows himself to be confused as to whom he wronged when he used the bad word, "whore," for he apologized to the wrong person, as may be seen in his statement:

"I offer my sincere apology to Linda Robertson, an adviser to Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke. I did not intend to use a term that is often, and correctly, seen as disrespectful of women.

"This characterization of Ms. Robertson, made during a radio interview last month in the context of the debate over whether the Federal Reserve should be independently audited, was inappropriate, and I apologize."

Grayson's apology should have gone to all women and to all sex-workers who deal with too much crap as it is. They were surely defamed by a comparison to an Enron lobbyist and Federal Reserve advisor, a taxonomic unit that is ambiguously related to the human species. They deserve the apology.


What’s right with this picture?

The original along with a brief comment can be found here.


Entitled to loot

This is one to savor as the world plunges into the abyss

One may find this sentiment expressed in the Guardian:

One of the City's leading figures has suggested that inequality created by bankers' huge salaries is a price worth paying for greater prosperity.

In remarks that will fuel the row around excessive pay, Lord Griffiths, vice-chairman of Goldman Sachs International and a former adviser to Margaret Thatcher, said banks should not be ashamed of rewarding their staff.

Speaking to an audience at St Paul's Cathedral in London about morality in the marketplace last night, Griffiths said the British public should "tolerate the inequality as a way to achieve greater prosperity for all".


Monday, Monday…

Can't trust that day

October 19 marks the 22nd anniversary of the Black Monday stock market crash.


Happy anniversary!

Wednesday, October 7 marks the eighth anniversary of America's Operation Enduring Freedom and Britain's Operation Herrick in Afghanistan.

On journalism’s crisis

Serge Halimi of Le Monde Diplomatique surveys journalism's current condition before stating the obvious:

The internet has not destroyed journalism. It has been stumbling for some time under the weight of restructurings, marketing-driven content, contempt for working class readership, and under the influence of billionaires and advertisers. It wasn't the internet that propagated the allies' untruths during the first Gulf war (1991) or Nato's during the Kosovo conflict or the Pentagon's during the Iraq war. Nor can we blame the internet for the media's inability to publicise the collapse of savings banks in the US in 1989 and the collapse of emerging nations eight years later, or to warn of the housing bubble for which we are all still paying the price. So if the press really needs to be saved, public money would be better spent on those who purvey information reliably and independently rather than those who just hawk malicious gossip. Those who want to make money from investments or from being pens for hire can find resources elsewhere.

The crisis in contemporary journalism is, then, self-inflicted.


Paul Krugman calls out the GOP obstructionists

Their shameless gloating over the Chicago Olympic bid decision aroused Krugman's ire. Krugman concludes that:

…at this point, the guiding principle of one of our nation's two great political parties is spite pure and simple. If Republicans think something might be good for the president, they're against it — whether or not it's good for America.

Spite and obstructionism comes naturally to the Reaganite GOP:

Anyone surprised by the venomous, over-the-top opposition to Mr. Obama must have forgotten the Clinton years. Remember when Rush Limbaugh suggested that Hillary Clinton was a party to murder? When Newt Gingrich shut down the federal government in an attempt to bully Bill Clinton into accepting those Medicare cuts? And let's not even talk about the impeachment saga.

The only difference now is that the G.O.P. is in a weaker position, having lost control not just of Congress but, to a large extent, of the terms of debate. The public no longer buys conservative ideology the way it used to; the old attacks on Big Government and paeans to the magic of the marketplace have lost their resonance. Yet conservatives retain their belief that they, and only they, should govern.

The result has been a cynical, ends-justify-the-means approach. Hastening the day when the rightful governing party returns to power is all that matters, so the G.O.P. will seize any club at hand with which to beat the current administration.

It's an ugly picture. But it's the truth. And it's a truth anyone trying to find solutions to America's real problems has to understand.

The effective goal of the Republican Party: To exterminate the Democratic Party. That way doth dictatorship lie….


Pittsburgh encore

This is a republication of a post that was first published on 9.24.2009. The text had been corrupted, though.

* * * * * * *

As my trip to "dahntahn" Pittsburgh yesterday (9.23) made plain, the G-20 Summit has already worked a kind of bad magic on the everyday political and social life of the city of Pittsburgh.

I say this because it was not at all hard to find evidence supporting my belief that a kind of frenzy drives the local political culture more than a reasoned appreciation for the political, social and cultural predicaments of the moment. Fear — and thus hatred — pervades the city. This is unsurprising since a paranoid ranting has dominated talk radio for weeks along with the local news more recently. The streets were not empty, of course. They were only "not themselves," different in a way that pointed to the G-20 Summit and the political situation surrounding it.

The immediate cause:

"The Anarchists are coming, the Anarchists are coming…."

The anarchists are fearful because they are willing to contend in a direct and forceful way with the militarized and well-armed security forces in the city. Their tactic: Civil disobedience.

In other words, the federal government and its local adjuncts are seeking to suppress much of the politics that will originate from below when that politics fails to affirm in a decisive and direct way the despotic powers of the state and, to be sure, the anti-democratic features specific to the American form of governance. The suppression combines the law (rule by law) with force and violence (rule by law realized by a militarized police). The upshot: Something akin to a local state of siege had appeared as the Summit neared. Pittsburgh epitomizes police state American. Thus:

"The streets of Pittsburgh are secure and will remain so during the Summit. The dignitaries visiting the city for the event will not be molested in any way by the black flag folk especially or by any other movement that chooses to protest the event, the participants and their doings. Nor, for that matter, will they endure a confrontation with the indigent living under the city's many bridges or the famished scrounging for food, for they have been cleansed. Humanity will be disciplined so that unaccountable power might thrive."

As it turned out, the forces of 'order' and fear achieved their goal: Pittsburgh looked as though it were preparing to weather a Category Four political hurricane. Businesses were securing their windows. The police patrolled the streets on foot, singly and in large groups, on motorcycles, bikes and riding in other vehicles. Some of the sidewalks near the Convention Center were enclosed in long but narrow steel cages, creating pedestrian bottlenecks intended, one would guess, to pacify the crowds moving toward the Convention Center and its precious occupants. In short, Pittsburgh looked to be a social and political wasteland in the making, and has remained so today as I write this article.

This debacle — and it was a debacle — received a mixed reception from the locals. I often overhead some of them — "Yinzers" — complaining about the protesters who allegedly were "ruining the Summit for the City," were in need of "a full-time job," a bath, more variety in their diet, better manners, good clothes, etc. It seems the protesters needed, if one were to believe their critics, a whole new identity and way of life, an identity and life that conforms to the expectations the critics have for themselves, their kind and for all 'real' Americans. The protesters ought to become "one of us," so to speak. Apparently, Pittsburgh's anti-protester protesters believed the normalization of the event necessarily meant the complete pacification and integration of the city and, by extension, the people who will host and participate in it. Pacification in this case means the elimination of an opposition politics.

What the protest critics neglected to mention was the purpose animating these protests: To secure a higher quality of life in the present and the future for those who need it the most. Nor did they consider the issues the G-20 countries would discuss while convening in Pittsburgh or, for that matter, the situation that they and everyone else confronts today. They treated these as irrelevant. They were beside the point, it seems, because their presence could only undermine the spectacle of the event and the security of the city.

In short, the critics of the protesters had erased the political essence of the event which would have scared the Hell out of them had they taken seriously this essence along with the issues history has made relevant today.

But, they could instead obsess about the spectacle at hand: A spectacle composed of despotic and unaccountable power doing as it pleases, of armed forces crossing the streets of their hometown, of political liberties breached and undermined, of a garrison state as it appears to those subject to it.


Enforcing ‘civility’ in Pittsburgh

Nearly all is quiet today in Pittsburgh. Only the groaning over the most recent heartbreaking Steelers' loss breaks the silence.

The G-20 Summit concluded on Friday, so too the street clashes between the police and some of the G-20 protesters. The sirens now sound less frequently, and mirror the rhythms of violence and illness specific to the city, not the workings of the security-surveillance apparatus as it disciplines the burghers. The locals can be thankful Allegheny County's Long Range Acoustical Device can no longer be heard at all.

What remains of the G-20 for the Steel City?

For one thing, Western Pennsylvania's talk radio goons are working hard to keep the recent spectacle alive and present within the collective memory of the region. Their effort in this matter was to be expected. This is what they do, after all. They rouse the rabble by focusing on something disturbing or by creating a creating a disturbance when reality proves stingy in that regard. It is their job! They get a paycheck for it. Thus, it would be silly to expect them to say anything good about the anarchists who behaved so 'badly' last week, that is, who proved themselves willing to contend with the city's well-armed, well-fortified and militarized police forces while relying on the "weapons of the weak" available to them. In this they physically defied America's garrison state in the making. They refused to recognize the authority it claims for itself and implicitly appealed to the rights granted to them and to every American citizen by the Bill of Rights.

For another thing, the talk radio goons also want to defend the political repression that characterized the state's use of its policing powers in Pittsburgh. Why would these 'liberty loving' folk support the political use of the police? They seemingly did so because they despised the anarchists and everything for which the anarchists stand.

I believe this because the deeds, words and intentions of the anarchists made one thing clear to the goons: The anarchists belong to that social category — "the other" — which sits well beyond the fringe that separates the American from the non-American, the the friend from the enemy, the "one-of-us" from "one-of-them." The anarchists are "strangers" living among the 'real' Americans — living vicariously and illicitly among the 'producers. This, in any case, is the political space where the talk show goons and their followers want to place the anarchists and near to the place where, one suspects, the anarchists would place themselves.

While something like political peace has returned to the Steel City, looks can be deceiving.

Peacefulness does not imply civility! I say this because one crucial element of a modern civil society — the rule of law — had a bad time of it during the Summit. Events during the past week revealed once again that, in the United States today, the rule of law has given way, in part, to the rule by law. It has ceded ground to this kind of authoritarianism because the contest between the strong and the weak has become especially lopsided, to paraphrase Stephen Holmes (2003, 23). It is so lopsided that it is not even close to being a fair contest. Not everyone is subject to the law equally nor does every citizen participate equally in the creation and use of public power. This imbalance tends to make the law a technique of elite governance, not an expression of a democratically ordered, legally rational form of self-government. It transforms the law of a democracy into a repressive tool.

Thus, America's recent return to the imperial presidency, which it allegedly tamed when the Congress humiliated Richard Nixon and which surely looked dead after the Clinton impeachment. "Alas, the obituaries were premature," as Arthur Schlesinger observed in the latest edition (2004, ix) of his critical book on the problem.

How could the imperial presidency die when this is the America of, among other things, The Patriot Act, The Protect America Act, The John W. Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2006, The FISA Amendments Act of 2008, but also the America of preventative war, enhanced interrogation techniques or torture, extraordinary renditions, of an extensive prison system along with those laws that have made a prison system of this magnitude inevitable (e.g. The Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 and The Violent Crime and Law Enforcement Act of 1994). These legal mechanisms reveal that the United States has traded a generalizable concept of liberty for class-specific and therefore partial forms of security.

Barack Obama is only the latest executive charged with enforcing the prerogatives and operations of the neoliberal system. He has not often or effectively acted to reverse this trend towards governing the country through fear-mongering and its security-surveillance apparatus. Nor, most notably, has he worked to bring to justice America's torturers and those who authorized these illegal practices. The symbolic effect of Obama's act of omission is easy to discern. Despite the bombastic law and order sermons given by so many of America's political candidates since the 1960s, the Obama administration has already proved itself soft on crime when the criminals at issue sport white collars or khaki uniforms. The Obama administration thus prefers stability over rational legality. For some, crime pays.

Obama's discretion in this should surprise no one who has thought much about the matter. A law and order regime in the United States was always meant only for the "many" that lack self-discipline and the power needed to defend themselves; those few who sit atop the heap are mostly and thus effectively exempt from the limits set by the law when it is a matter of their meeting their system-consistent role obligations. Their effective restraints are few. They are deemed too big to fail and too powerful to bring to justice by those who also are too big and too powerful. Any threat to them and their power amounts to a system threat, and will thus not be tolerated by those charged with defending the system.

From the defense of the Bush administration's position on state secrets, habeas corpus, the Obama administration has already compiled a sorry record with respect to its handling of matters of right and justice. Should we be surprised, then, by the near state of siege or martial law that prevailed in Pittsburgh during the G-20 Summit? No. As a matter of fact, the situation on the ground in Pittsburgh during the Summit was not one of which Obama was at all ashamed. He seemed pleased by the fact that the G-20 protesters in Pittsburgh were not overly disruptive when compared to their predecessors. He did not comment on the police harassment of the Climate Convergence Project, the Seeds of Peace Collective and the use of the legal system to deny those who would protest the G-20 their rights to protest. He nevertheless treated Pittsburgh as though the city and its economy reflected the kind of world the G-20 wanted to promote.

Pittsburgh, in Obama's hands, was a Phoenix that rose from the post-industrial wasteland and achieved a regional renewal around the new economy. It counts as a neoliberal success story — a model city, as it were.

Ironically the Pittsburgh of the G-20 Summit was a neoliberal success story insofar as the American state could deploy its despotic powers to suppress a counter-public and its politics and this use of the state's powers is consistent with neoliberal dogma and practice.

The recent militarization of everyday life in Pittsburgh became apparent to me early on since I am a resident of the Western Pennsylvanian region and travel often enough to downtown Pittsburgh. By Wednesday (9.23), the security forces in the city had placed the David L. Lawrence Center within a 'secure' environment. They gave the Summit this kind of environment even though the protesters posed no significant physical threat to the conference participants or, for that matter, to the people of Pittsburgh. (Presumably, the security forces were also defending the Center and the Summit against a terrorist attack meant to eliminate the G-20 leaders, although it is unclear how effective this security would have been if it had to contend with a motivated and well-equipped terrorist group.) In other words, the state of siege seemingly was meant not to provide only for the physical security of the Summit participants but also to present a spectacle that represented to the world the power at their command and their comparative unaccountability to the pöbel. The messages this spectacle conveyed to the protesters in Pittsburgh, to the observers of the Summit and its environment as well as to those individuals who might choose to protest any future official event:

  • Do not protest
  • Do not speak you mind in public
  • Do not act politically
  • Do not act autonomously
  • Do not threaten the system in any way

The American legal system actually colluded in the construction of this spectacle by authorizing the militarized police forces to act as they did. The repression observed in Pittsburgh was legal, more or less. The protesters had a legally secure opportunity to protest. Yet, the repression would be characterized best as an instance of rule by law. Had the rule of law prevailed during the Summit and with respect to the protesters, then the protesters would not have had to fight for every bit of public space they had wanted, whether legally or illegally. The protests, rather, would have been a part of the Summit, and would have been included in the Summit even if the Summit organizers had kept the protesters from entering the Convention Center. Their recognition and inclusion would have made present a faction of a global civil society that the Summit did not and even refused to include. Thus, the early appearance of a political wasteland in the city.

There is, I believe, no reason to expect a return to the rule of law in Pittsburgh or in any other part of the country. Rule by force, through fear and for the sake of elite security remain an implicit feature of the American political system. Political passivity is the goal, especially when that passivity is imposed on the left. But, a pacified society need not be a civil society. It can be a society intimidated by the use of force, rendered dumb by incomprehension and hopelessness and prone to believe that the powerful stand as the real master of its fate.

Taking Obama to task

Eric Stoner adopts this project in his recent article for AlterNet, and he rightly does so. Consider these statements by this supposed radical socialist: When recently asked if a younger Barack Obama would have taken to the streets of Pittsburgh as a protester of the G-20 Summit, he replied: "Probably not." His answer was a characteristic response to a question of this sort, one that a system politician would make in most instances. What was truly astonishing was Obama's defense for his position:

"I was always a big believer in — when I was doing organizing before I went to law school — that focusing on concrete, local, immediate issues that have an impact on people's lives is what really makes a difference; and that having protests about abstractions [such] as global capitalism or something, generally is not really going to make much of a difference."

Stoner has no trouble demolishing Obama's silliness:

It would not have taken an incredible investigative feat [for Obama] to discover that the protesters descending upon Pittsburgh were doing so for very "concrete" reasons that touch their daily lives in very real ways.

They came to advocate for greater assistance for everyday people during these tough economic times, for more serious government action on global warming ahead of the U.N. climate talks in Copenhagen, Denmark, and for an end to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that have already taken such a staggering human and financial toll.

In fact, as a general rule of thumb, most people — whether they are diehard activists or not — don't normally travel great distances to face ominous riot police firing rubber bullets, pepper spray and deafening sound cannons, unless they have been deeply, personally affected the issues being protested.

And given the global financial meltdown that has hit working people so hard, can anyone really say that those who critique the entire capitalist system don't have a point?

Stoner could have added the presence in Friday's march of single-payer health advocates and Tibetan exiles who addressed China's imperialistic control of Tibet. Moreover, one can be both pro-capitalist (prefer an economy coordinated by a market system) and pro-single-payer (because of its efficient and fair allocation of goods when compared to its competitors). Likewise, environmentalists need not be anarchists or socialists because of their environmental concerns. It would be a sad ending indeed for humanity if it had to successfully make the transition to socialism before it could tackle climate change and other environmental catastrophes!

Stoner continues:

Obama's dismissal of mass nonviolent action was disingenuous for other reasons as well. Behind his desk in his Senate office, Obama prominently displayed pictures of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.

In an interview last year, he explained that the portraits were there "to remind me that real results will not just come from Washington, they will come from the people." And only weeks before the G-20, during his "controversial" address to school children, the president brought up Gandhi, calling him "a real hero of mine."

Could anyone possibly argue with a straight face that King, who was killed while planning the Poor People's Campaign, would not be on the streets with those calling for economic justice? Would Gandhi not oppose the diversion of $700 billion this year from meeting people's basic needs to fund the Pentagon and the military occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan?

Of course, King would have been in Pittsburgh in spirit if not also in the flesh. Gandhi will celebrate his 150th birthday tomorrow (10.2); the world, for its part, will celebrate Gandhi by marking his birthday as the International Day of Non-Violence. Obama, on the other hand, will spend the day as the Commander in Chief of the greatest military apparatus the world has ever known.