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November 11, 2010

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I wonder if the investor class would be happier if the entities in which they are shareholders were taxed at a rate proportionate to their stress on the infrastructure, resources and need for a military presence to advance their foreign financial interests? 'Cause, you know,I've noticed that Walmart calls the police more than I do.

@Some old guy:

I recently said to my elderly mother, in one of our wonderful conversations on the state-of-the-day, "Mom, the police are there to protect property, not people."

She paused and stared, and I felt sad and guilty as I saw yet another light go on...

@Petro

Way to go, Dude.

With sons like you, your Mom doesn't need the media to crush her spirit.

@AZREBEL:

Heh. Her spirit's bigger than mine - truly an amazing woman.

@AZREBEL (II):

More to the point... as if "the media" would ever raise the point.

Anyway, Mom was raised post WWII with the whole rah-rah America thing, Catholic... in later life, she became involved with Corrections and juvenile sex offenders. So she's, well, tempered.

You are exactly right, Mr. Rogue columnist.

This comment may come from left field, but I'm wondering if GM's apparent turnaround might be a ray of light midst the darkness. Is it possible that there's some encouraging news about our bailout dollars at work?

"GM's apparent turnaround might be a ray of light midst the darkness." - Jim Hamblin

Wow!! GM has begun building passenger rail cars?!

Automobiles helped to get us into this mess; I doubt they'll help to get us out.

Reading David Brooks' attempt this morning to play the Tom Friedman card http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/12/opinion/12brooks.html?ref=opinionis is a useful reminder what's really at stake in this country. The deficit commission's recommendations are a political non-starter for many reasons, but what really stands out is its stark inability to acknowledge what's happened to this country over the past three decades. For Brooks, the fairy tale begins with Reagan and then turns sour when a few Democrats refuse to further exacerbate income inequality for most Americans. The great division in the American economy - this growing Randian chasm - is treated like conventional wisdom. All we need to do is incentivize "real" Americans by giving tax breaks to their betters.

Brooks is a propagandist for an ideology that has made a credo out of its own sociopathy. It's linchpin is the suburban citizen isolated from real community and ordinary social obligation. If the radicalized individualism of the right is appropriate for our national liquidation, there's no reason to expect any sacrifice anywhere EXCEPT from the least powerful and prosperous. Their despair is what's killing the Democratic Party since there aren't enough lifestyle liberals overall to fill that breach.

The specter of national bankruptcy is sobering but it's not some future grim reaper (in the form of a bond trader) who should haunt our dreams. It's the collapse of the American Dream. Once we deemed it permissible for sharpies in the banking industry to gull millions of Americans with some Ownership Society con game, the die was cast. This is war except its our generals who turned the artillery on their own troops. http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/17390/232611?RS_show_page=0

The conceit of "political transcenders" (as Brooks probably thinks of himself, and certainly Tom Friedman, Obama, Jon Stewart, and the PBS/NPR nexus) is that "national greatness" can be achieved without the cost of political struggle that ALWAYS underlies it. Politics is war. It's about real things, real casualties, and real blood. If someone expects the same people who aw-shucked their way through the financopathy of the past 30 years to solve this mess, there really is no reason to fight for anything since political persuasion has been degraded to tinny clarion calls and empty promises.

Soleri,

Have you been reading the "Anti-American Manifesto" by Tom Rall? It has a similar/exact line of reasoning. Heard Dylan Ratigan got in trouble over it yesterday.

electricdog, I'll check it out.

"It's getting so that it takes as much money to elect a dishonest candidate as it does to elect an honest candidate." Will Rogers - 1928

Not only is that quote timeless, it reminds you that the more things change, the more things stay the same.

Just about every subject Will Rogers addresses, would be applicable today. Including his ranting about those dad-blamed automobiles.

And of course this quote really applies at this moment, "I'm not part of an organized political party...........I'm a Democrat.

If we haven't been able to turn things around yet, either:

A) things aren't bad enough yet or,

B) the people of this generation of Americans are not capable of the things our predecessors acheived in the Revolution, Civil, WWI, WWII, Great Depression and Cold War/Space Race.

I hope it's A, but I fear it's B.

electricdog, I read an excerpt of the Rall book along with the reviews on Amazon. It seems to be a compelling book although I'm probably not that hopeful about the notion of unleashing a violent revolution. It's not that the idea itself hasn't occurred to me but that given the firepower differential, the right would easily prevail. America is veering in a fascist, not a socialist direction. The momentum isn't merely an aspect of the last election. It's the history of the past 30 years. It's also no accident that the military and paramilitary forces in this country have become virtual wings of the Republican Party.

I agree fully with Rall's pessimistic analysis of our current situation. In effect, the right has already staged its coup and is now preparing to repeal the New Deal. It has captured most of the media, gutted unions, has allied corporate power and theocratic culture, and is now attacking the last pillars of the liberal establishment: education, science, and the very idea of secular progress.

How did the right do it? I think the explanation is layered yet dismayingly simple. They attacked some core features - complexity and ambiguity - which are hallmarks of any advanced civilization. Of course, civilizations must rejuvenate themselves periodically so this project was made easier by institutional sclerosis. But ultimately, liberalism failed because the change it unleashed in the 60s overwhelmed the nation's social capital. While change was necessary, the counterrevolutionaries were utterly relentless. The ordeal of change proved a bridge too far.

Simple explanations are very powerful. For the right, the notion of a lost America is couched in apocalyptic language. It has all the components of a dark fairy tale where heros and villains play out their assigned roles with familiar symbols and tropes. The left, by contrast, is cerebral and inwardly divided. I can't imagine beating reactionary zealots in a coming civil war. It's just beyond me.

soleri,

The only explanation I can grasp which explains the madness of our times is contained in the book, "War Is The Force That Gives Us Meaning" by Chris Hedges.

Some of the chapters are:

The Myth of War
The Plaque of Nationalism
The Destruction of Culture
The Seduction of Battle and the Perversion of War

How else can you explain that children of my friends are joining the military to go "fight the war on terror"?

The Far Right, the Military Industrial Complex, the Radical Religious Right have the nation in their grasp. Their grip is tight. We cannot loosen their grip, because they control the message. A message being received by all the low watt brains created by our failed educational system. As long as the caskets of the dead arrive on American soil in the dead of night, our cause is lost.

AZREBEL, I've got Chris Hedges' Death of the Liberal Class in my queue at the library.

I suspect the power of myth helps us understand the current right-wing domination of our politics. Belief is the most powerful force in human life. We ignore it at our own peril.

Someone here (Rate Crimes?) recommended the film Manufactured Landscapes. I watched it tonight and it's both visually arresting and wholly depressing. Maybe the End Timers have the right idea.

Okay, schadenfreude is a guilty pleasure. But part of me can't help but chuckle about the fact that older voters, who repeatedly side with the Republicans, might wind up poor and sick because of the policies they support by doing so. Perhaps a few years subsisting on cat food and skipping doctor visits will make seniors understand the true goals of the politicians they support. And if blue collar Republican enthusiasts see the retirement age rise beyond the expected lifespan for those doing tough manual labor, they might learn something, too. There's only so many years you can try to explain to people that they are voting against their own economic interests without starting to think, like Mencken, that they deserve to get what they want, good and hard.

@ "subsisting on cat food"

I think it's time to put this cat food thing to rest once and for all. Cat food is yucky. The cheap stuff and the pricy stuff are not nice. If things get to be that bad, give me a box of dog biscuits. They are every bit as tasty as a lot of the survival foods out there, so let's drop the cat food hand wringing and embrace the future with "People Treats". Us Doomers have to start looking at the positive aspects of our future. Pigeon eggs for breakfast, squirrel for lunch, dog biscuits for dinner. Cactus wine for an after dinner drink. What's not to like about that? ( : - )

AZREBEL: I hear that Phoenix has really plump roof rats now, at least around the older parts of Arcadia. Those giant sewer roaches might also make a crunchy, protein-packed energy snack. Don't know how things are there today, but when I was a young ne'er-do-well back in the sixties we used to catch bass and bluegill at night at Encanto. Big carp too, but I'd rather eat the cockroaches. But I think big ag and food retailers, who now most likely favor the whole "austerity" thing since they hate taxes, will soon rediscover the symbiosis between themselves and the growing lower class, and demand an expansion of the food stamp program. 'Cause out west, it's only socialism when the other guy gets it.

Soleri wrote:

"Simple explanations are very powerful..."

Yes, and the idea of a violent revolution in the name of socialism (or some other left-ism) in a country which has no organized Left is comical.

The first order of business is to properly understand modern capitalism. I don't think that very many individuals, in any part of the political spectrum, can say with any honesty that they actually do. This is not very surprising, since the mainstream version of events is obfuscatory, both by design and by virtue of the same ignorance among many of its actors.

The second order of business is to understand how capitalism fits into the fundamentals (i.e., what the fundamentals are and how they overarch any economic system intended to cope with them). I doubt anyone has a good grasp of this, yet. One comes across tantalizing glimpses of partial truths here and there, but nothing like a comprehensive grasp of the fundamentals.

"Socialism" is at rock bottom an economic system. And to the extent that it implies democracy (and I think it must) it implies a public which has been educated to grasp the facts of the matter, which has argued them out, explicitly, with much passion and contention, and finally come to grips with them.

Violence might conceivably be justified when an educated populace, united in solidarity, finds their will thwarted by extra-democratic means. It might well come to that, because at present the Overclass depends upon information control and ignorance; once that is no longer feasible, only brute force will suffice to oppress the masses.

But until then, a violent revolution means giving extraordinary power to a clique of "hard" men: ostensibly temporary, expedient power, but truly, fascistic power. History shows that the ones most attracted to this, and the ones most likely to stick it out in the face of the brutal realities it involves, are also the ones least likely to be suited to wield power.

In short, the power hungry are attracted to brute power, and are likely to attach themselves opportunistically to whatever movement presents the means of realizing their ambitions. The "soft" ones who end up regretting the direction of events, who realize only too late that matters are more complex and ambiguous than their ideology admitted, are the first to be swept away by the hard men, because the former are already organized and empowered and they possess both bona fides and popular support, and thus are the chief threat to the unyielding ambitions of the latter.

A revolution which produces change that cannot be sustained must either be overturned itself, or else must sustain itself by even more vigorous repression and information control.

It's easy to see how, once one accepts the premise that one has the answer, that the answer will take time to become functional, and that in the short-term revolution and its aftermath will be dysfunctional, that anyone who challenges the answer in the short-term is both near-sighted and anti-social. That's a recipe for police state repression.

Emil, there's a bit of pushback on Ted Rall coming from the right (essentially: right-wing radicalism is not that bad because there's this leftie who's written a book calling for revolution - it even calls itself Anti-American in the title!). I was watching Free Speech TV, i.e., the Thom Hartmann program where he countered the notion that this is a widespread attitude on the left. Rall himself doesn't pretend to be either the leader or intellectual firepower behind this. He's calling for someone to step forward and fill these roles. Hartmann says pretty much what you say, that revolution in itself would be an unmitigated disaster. I'll leave it at that since this subject is simply theoretical. Hartmann does say that there are hundreds of right-wing groups, and even elected officials, making the case for some form of revolution (from secession all the way to the violent overthrow of the federal government). In contrast, there are really no leftist groups or public officials calling for anything remotely similar. This is one aspect of the profound power differential between right and left. It may be the cyclical moment has passed its apogee on the left. That is, the memory of Communism is still too recent to allow any romanticization of left-wing abuses. For the right, the memories are more distant, and therefore more sanitized of its evil.

Soleri & et al,

Ted (not Tom) Rall's book dances around the revolution part because, as he points out early on, it's now against the law to excercise your constitutional right to overthrow the government. And as a "leftist" cartoonist, he is not taken very seriously, even though he has made several trips to Afganistan without being embedded with the US military and lived to write about it. My take-aways from his book are:

1) Our government/political system is completely owned/corrupted by corporations and the filthy rich

2) If the far right does take over (by hook or crook), they will come looking for those that are not them (ie, just who is behind those monikers on Rogue Columnist, CFN, the NYT, etc.) and those on the "enemies list" should be prepared to defend themselves and/or run and seek the support of those that share your enemy.

"When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross." -- Sinclair Lewis

Gentlepeople--
Long time listener, first time commentor. Love the discussion tone, so it moves me to post.

I believe our country needs the return of the populist movement--call it...hmm, Lo-Pop Move...and it needs to be lo-pop because it is on the down low, apolitical, non-denominational, tolerant of all but intolerance, only judged based on the content of its character.

It needs local focus, community focus, it doesn't care about govt or corporates pro or con as long as it supports people's interests -- more like a co-op and the classic populist movement people-based action.

Best part--you don't need the president or congress or the pope or anyone to get on board--you just need you to get on board. Find the businesses that meet this people-based criteria and use them until you die or they lose their way (or get bought up by some mega-corp).

And you can begin today, no need to send money to some fundraiser first, no need to attend some b.s. meetings, no need to find candidates or appeal to their base, nothing but you doing some research before you buy stuff.

I recommend you begin your research at your local indy coffeehouse or sitting in your buy local restaurant...and if your town doesn't have one in your neighborhood, maybe you should start your own Lo-Pop business right there.

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