Shoving a Jeroboam Straight Up David Brooks’ Backside

by matttbastard

Jim Hightower has never let his pitchfork grow dull, as he shows in this merciless skewering of the latest idiotic bleat from token NY Times conservative columnist Bobo Brooks:

There is a fury in the countryside toward these plutocratic purse-snatchers who are being allowed to keep their exalted executive positions, draw fat paychecks and get trillions of dollars in bailout money from common taxpayers. People don’t merely resent them, they yearn for the legalization of tar-and-feathering!

Yet, Brooks and his political brethren are now bemoaning the plight of the plutocrats, assailing the “redistributionists” who talk of spreading America’s wealth. In his column, Brooks cried out for a conservative vision of “a nation in which we’re all in it together – in which burdens are shared broadly, rather than simply inflicted on a small minority.”

Do we look like we have suckerwrappers around our heads? Where were these tender-hearted champions of sharing throughout the last 30 years, when that same “small minority” was absolutely giddy with redistributionist fervor – redistributing upward, that is?

With the full support of their political hirelings from both parties, this minority created tax dodges, trade scams, corporate subsidies, deregulation fantasies, financial hustles, de-unionization schemes, bankruptcy loopholes and other mechanisms that turned government into a redistributionist bulldozer, shoving wealth from the workaday majority into their own pockets.

Brooks might have missed this 30-year class war, but most folks have been right in the thick of it and are not the least bit squeamish about supporting a national effort to right those wrongs. After all, even a dog knows the difference between being stumbled over – and being kicked.

If only Hightower’s fellow populist Texican rabble-rouser Molly Ivins was still among the living; we need her brilliantly pointed insight now more than ever to help puncture bloated elite windbags like Bobo.

Related:  Ok, I can kinda sorta grok fiddling as Rome goes up in flames. But dancing on tables at brunch while sipping on $2,500 ($2,500!) jeroboams of champagne–in the middle of the afternoon? Un-fucking-believable.

h/t Erik Loomis

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

New Challenges, New Opportunities

by matttbastard

The most recent edition of openDemocracy’s 50/50 quarterly features an interview with Dr. Yakin Erturk, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, on how the global economic crisis is affecting women.  Dr. Erturk also notes the import of ‘political economy’ in the pursuit of women’s rights, especially during a time of financial upheaval.

A sample:

We refer to human rights as if they were confined to civil and political rights; this is also reflected in the twin covenants which have divided rights into civil and political on the one hand, and economic and social on the other. The latter is generally seen as inspirational and the first one as the real thing. But we know from women’s lives that unless we have a holistic approach to women’s rights, whereby women can achieve economic independence or are at least empowered socially and politically, the rights they may read about in books do not reach them. So my final report to the council this year is taking up this challenge: I have argued that underneath the surface of many of the things that we talk about as being cultural, there is a solid, material basis which feeds certain concrete interests and relationships; and that unless we dig down into that base we are talking at a very abstract level. Culture can take on a life of its own, so that we assume that that is the reality, when half the time nobody really understands its true impact.

We are all cultural beings: it is very hard to attack cultures. What I wanted to do in my culture report was to connect this to a more profound analysis of concrete interests, real power – hence political economy. Particularly in the neo-liberal era, it is political economy which is creating new challenges for women’s rights, while at the same time, of course, creating some new opportunities.

As they say, read the whole damn thing.

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

Stephen Harper on Canada’s Economy: Catch the Wave!

by matttbastard

Uncle Steve is looking onward and upward:

Faced with complaints he wasn’t doing enough to soothe a nervous nation, Harper offered a detailed, if unemotional, dissertation on the economy.

“For Canada, this crisis does offer opportunity,” Harper told more than 400 people at a joint gathering of the Brampton and Mississauga boards of trade.

“Ultimately, it is an opportunity to position ourselves so that when the economic recovery comes, we’re among the first to catch the wave.”

The Prime Minister said that the government, though projecting a budget deficit for the next few years, is in the best financial shape of all G7 governments.

Harper noted that while Canada’s economy shrank at a 3.4 per cent annualized rate in the fourth quarter of 2008, it was half the decline experienced by the United States and Europe, and only a quarter of the devastating drop in Japan.

He said Canada’s stable banking system, low debt, low inflation rate and skilled workforce puts the country in a position of “significant comparative strength” to ride out the downturn.

“I say to you, as business people, as community builders, as citizens, if there ever was a time to put away that legendary Canadian modesty, it is now,” Harper said to applause.

Alas, the facts (yeah, those pesky things) belie Harper’s feigned deadpan optimism:

The parliamentary budget officer says the Canadian economy is doing even worse than published figures would suggest.

Kevin Page says in a new assessment of the economy that last quarter’s 3.4 per cent contraction in gross domestic product doesn’t begin to reflect how far Canada’s performance has fallen.

He says an even better indicator is gross domestic income, which measures Canadians’ purchasing power, and that shows a plunge of 15.3 per cent in the fourth quarter over the previous three months.

Oh, and about that 3.4 per cent figure so heartily humped by the PM?

The report says even the often-cited GDP figures which finds the U.S. economy shrinking by 6.2 per cent in the fourth quarter compared to Canada’s 3.4 per cent are misleading.

Those are annualized figures, Page notes, adding that compared to a year ago, Canada’s GDP is down 0.7 per cent and the U.S. by 0.8 per cent, almost identical records.

Yeah.

Almost identical.

Don’t opportunistically and immodestly grab your surfboards just yet, kids — the wave of economic recovery is likely to crash long before it crests.

Related: Michael Ignatieff: The Harvey Dent of Canadian politics.

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

Losing the Forest Behind the Trees

by matttbastard

Via Memeorandum, some of the other progressive bloggers highlighting McHenry’s statement seem to be primarily concerned with how the Dem0cratic leadership in Congress can use the GOP’s apparent lack of ‘discipline’ to partisan advantage. Yeah, um, so what does the obstruction uber alles strategy mean for the economic health of the fucking nation and world, to ordinary people worried about the future?

We’re talking 4.4 million US jobs lost since the recession began (with more losses almost guaranteed to occur), further bank failures, potential state government bankruptcies. And yet it’s still all about scoring points and the perpetual fucking horse race?

Really?

This isn’t a fucking game; this is class warfare, kids.

Sharpen the goddamn fucking pitchforks.

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

GOP Rep. Patrick McHenry: Sabotaging the Future is SOP

by matttbastard

Greg Sargent notes that House Taliban lieutenant Rep. Patrick McHenry has finally given voice to the blatantly obvious motivation driving the GOP obstruction uber alles strategy:

McHenry’s description is buried in this new article from National Journal (sub. only):

“We will lose on legislation. But we will win the message war every day, and every week, until November 2010,” said Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., an outspoken conservative who has participated on the GOP message teams. “Our goal is to bring down approval numbers for [Speaker Nancy] Pelosi and for House Democrats. That will take repetition. This is a marathon, not a sprint.”

McHenry’s spokesperson, Brock McCleary, tells me his boss is standing by the quote.

Of course McHenry is standing by the quote.  The leaderless GOP insurgency has nothing left in its depleted arsenal except recycled guerrilla tactics, the ideological equivalent of roadside IEDs.  They are literally betting the House on the efficacy of this strategy.

And, as D-Day notes, the asymmetrical campaign goes beyond mere electoral gain:

Over the long term, all [Congressional Republicans] are doing is chipping away at the notion that government can perform its core function, demonizing the activities of the Congress, evoking mistrust in elected officials, and poisoning the whole notion of federal spending. That’s their REAL project.

Which makes one wonder if yesterday’s stark warning from Paul Krugman should perhaps be heeded by the blog-averse POTUS:

So here’s the picture that scares me: It’s September 2009, the unemployment rate has passed 9 percent, and despite the early round of stimulus spending it’s still headed up. Mr. Obama finally concedes that a bigger stimulus is needed.

But he can’t get his new plan through Congress because approval for his economic policies has plummeted, partly because his policies are seen to have failed, partly because job-creation policies are conflated in the public mind with deeply unpopular bank bailouts. And as a result, the recession rages on, unchecked.

Bottom line is this: The GOP is perfectly willing to sacrifice the economic solvency of the United States–of the entire fucking world–simply to gain a few seats in 2010–and, in the process, will do whatever it takes to guarantee the fulfilment of its by-now tired contention that public investment never, ever works.

Frank Schaeffer is absolutely correct:

[T]he Republican Party has become the party of obstruction at just the time when all Americans should be pulling together for the good of our country. Instead, Republicans are today’s fifth column sabotaging American renewal.

Sharpen the pitchforks.

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

651,000 US Jobs Lost in February; Unemployment Rate Now at 8.1%

by matttbastard

Yep, it’s that time of the month again, kids:

U.S. employers axed 651,000 jobs in February, pushing the unemployment rate to its highest in 25 years, as companies buckled under the strain of a recession that is showing no signs of ending, according to a government report.

[…]

The Labor Department on Friday said the unemployment rate surged to 8.1 percent in February, the highest level since December 1983. That was above market forecasts for a rise to 7.9 from January’s 7.6 percent.

Oh, and about the figures for December and January:

January’s job cuts were revised to show a steep decline of 655,000, while December’s payrolls losses were adjusted to 681,000, the deepest since October 1949. Since the start of the recession in December 2007, the economy has purged 4.4 million jobs, with more than half occurring in the last 4 months.

Y’know, at this point, I might as well just do up a template for posts on the monthly US job figures report.  The latest numbers always seem to be the highest in umpteen years, with a swift recovery less likely than the possibility of Keith Olbermann STFUing about Rush Limbaugh any time soon. (Dude? Seriously? STFU about Rush Limbaugh.  The obsession has going beyond grudgewank, beyond drama-humping, to fucking pathological.  You need help–a 12 step program of recovery, to quote the best RNC chair EVA.)

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

Quote of the Day: “A crisis of the moral economy.”

by matttbastard

The greatest irony of the Thatcher crusade is that its economics pulled against its ethics. I doubt if the idealised abstinent, puritanical, self-respecting Grantham of her imagination ever existed in the real world. It certainly didn’t exist in her Britain. As a quick reading of the Communist Manifesto would have warned her, free-market capitalism is, of its very essence, subversive. It is restless, heaving, masterless, wonderfully dynamic and creative, but, in itself, utterly amoral. The hot breath of the cash nexus dissolves the ties of faith, community, family and tradition. And, as Friedrich von Hayek pointed out more vigorously than any critic of the free market, entrepreneurial success has nothing to do with merit or fairness. It is about satisfying wants and even at times about creating or manufacturing them; and the wants are as likely to be bad as good. The speculative frenzies and spectacular frauds that have studded its history are of its essence, too: among the forces that drive it, greed, credulity and the herd instinct loom much larger than the rationality that most economists celebrate.

– David Marquand, The warrior woman

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

The Shock Doctrine 3: From Chicago to Santiago

by matttbastard

Chapter 2: The Other Doctor Shock: Milton Friedman and the Search for a Laissez-Faire Laboratory

(Series intro here, Sarah’s posts here, my previous two installments here and here)

In the first installment of this series, I noted that shock was “a theme Klein continually examines and reexamines throughout the book–and not simply  in a metaphorical sense.”  Last week we saw just how literal–and visceral–Klein’s thesis could be, as she recounted in agonizing detail the infamous CIA-sponsored McGill University shock therapy experiments. In the second chapter, Klein finally shines the spotlight on the key villain of the book who will eventually tackle shock therapy on a macro level: noted economist Milton Friedman of the highly influential Chicago School of Economics.

As Sarah notes in her examination of Chapter 2, “there’s a thread of commonality with religion running alongside the development of radical capitalism–not just through the uneasy relationship that the two formed with the rise of the religious right in the Republican party, but in the religious devotion to markets as a good in themselves.” Their mission was chilling in both its simplicity and, at the time, its revolutionary audacity: “stripping the market” of U.S. government ‘interference’–price-fixing, minimum wage legislation, public education–they believed “were actually doing untold harm to the market.” To save the integrity of the world economic system would require nothing less than, in the words of Klein, “a capitalist Reformation: a return to uncontaminated capitalism.”

Klein notes that Friedman’s charismatic ambition helped drive the efforts,  that it was his “energy that gave the school its revolutionary fervour” in its collective drive to return the world  economy “back to a state of “natural” health, when all was in balance, before human interferences created distorting patterns.” As an expression of their radical devotion, Friedman and his then-largely-marginalized acolytes made a concerted effort, with the financial assistance of government and corporate patrons, to quietly evangelize the global South, where in most nations the prevailing system was “developmentalism”–a nationalistic economic theory anathema to free-market fundamentalists so righteously preaching the doctrine of laissez-faire capitalism.  A number of Chilean citizens were eventually recruited and trained in Chicago in what became known as the Chile Project, later returning to staff high-level government positions that would eventually allow them to shape economic policies in directi0ns prescribed by Friedman in his book Capitalism and Freedom:

First, governments must remove all rules and regulations standing in the way of the accumulation of profits. Second, they should sell off any assets they own that corporations could be running at a profit.  And third, they should dramatically cut back funding of social programs.

The born-again laissez-faire faithful came back to Chile fully indoctrinated, as Klein observes, quoting economist Mario Zanartu,”more Friedmanite than Friedman.”  They began to establish themselves within local government and academic circles, quietly lying in wait as Nixon ascended to the presidency and the CIA began to work in concert with the Chilean opposition to plot the overthrow of the democratically-elected socialist regime of Salvador Allende.  Recent coup d’etats in Brazil and Indonesia would provide a template for violent, shocking regime change in Chile that would allow the vaunted tabula rasa so long desired by the Friedmanites to be established–by any means necessary, as we will soon discover.

Next Week: State of Shock The Bloody Birth of the Counter-Revolution

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

Sharpening the Pitchfork

by matttbastard

Oh FFS, part deux:

“Last February, an heir to the Johnson & Johnson fortune wrote on the Huffington Post, ‘For the mega-rich, recession brings with it the ability to live well at a lower cost and with less of a hassle.’

In Decemeber, Arianna Huffington’s daughter Christina came out at New York’s International Debutante Ball.* The organizer’s justification for the $14000 a table event: ‘Watches cost more.'”

Watches.

Cost.

More.

Buh?!

Ok, not to get all class war and shit, but. a FUCKING COMING OUT PARTY IN 2009 DURING A FUCKING RECESSION?! You know what? Fuck it — Sarah, via email (h/t), is absolutely fucking correct:

[T]hat’s exactly when we need to get all class war. Right now, when even my Republican parents are pissed about bailouts and CEO pay.

I mean,  an asymmetrical class war has already been going on for too fucking long (Tax cuts! Welfare reform! Deregulation!), only with hostilities coming from the top down–and they’ve been kicking our fucking asses. With all that wealth still concentrated at the VERY top,  it’s about goddamn time the little people finally started fighting back. Because it really, really says something that some people (even nominal progressives ) still have the fucking stones to throw $14,000/plate debutante balls during the worst economic crisis since the Great fucking Depression.

That’s it — I’m fucking done taking hunks of cake without question and pretending to like the taste. Time to import a non-violent modern variation of the French Revolution to North America post-fucking-haste.

*[insert tart observation about how not paying your writers really helps with the bottom line — and the coming out party expenses.]

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

Shorter Rick Santelli: “My wife feels you’re glib, Matt.”

by matttbastard

The preceding exchange–especially Dylan Ratigan’s asinine contention that Rick Santelli is “channeling an emotion that everyone in America is feeling”–ties in with what Glenn Greenwald was saying the other day about how the Beltway press corps is still obsessed with transmitting and furthering GOP talking points in the name of some mythical ‘bipartisanship’,  basically making shit up about public opinion, regardless of all evidence to the contrary:

The political establishment has never come to terms with, and the media establishment just refuses to acknowledge, how deeply unpopular and discredited the GOP is among most Americans in the wake of the eight-year Bush disaster.  Political and media elites don’t want to acknowledge that because they lent their continuous support for eight years to Republican power, yet — even with Bush gone — it’s scarcely possible to imagine how a major political party could be held in lower esteem among voters.  By huge margins (63-29%), Americans believe the GOP opposed Obama’s stimulus package for political reasons, not because they genuinely believed it would be bad for the economy; they overwhelmingly disapprove of Congressional Republicans (38-56%) while approving of Obama (68-25%) and even Congressional Democrats (50-44%); trust Obama over Congressional Republicans to handle the economy (61-26%); and trust Democrats over Republicans “to do a better job in coping with the main problems the nation faces over the next few years” (56-30%).  Those are enormous margins.

The punditry’s claims that Americans want Democrats to dilute their policies in order to attract and include Republican support is entirely misleadingThe endless media stories that Eric Cantor, Michael Steele and Rick Santelli are now riding some resurgent, anti-stimulus GOP wave are pure fiction.  And the incessant calls for “bipartisanship” are anti-democratic in the extreme.

The Villagers stubbornly insist on reading from a hackneyed, out-of-date script, one that no longer even remotely resembles reality (if it ever actually did).  But no matter what steaming, stinking bullshit manufactured outrage merchants like Santelli, Ratigan, or Michelle Malkin brazenly peddle,  as Greenwald notes the bottom line is this:

[T]he reason that Americans voted overwhelmingly in favor of Democrats in the last two elections and overwhelmingly against Republicans is because they want Democratic policies and not Republicans [sic] policies .  They drove Republicans out of office in massive numbers because they don’t want Republicans and their policies governing the country.

In other words, spittle-flecked fauxpulist motherfuckers like Rick Santelli can suck it.  Hopefully he gets banished to the PJTV wilderness post haste, so he can serve heaping plates of bloody red meat to the Chicago Tea Party massif alongside his ideological (and, um, intellectual) brethren Glenn Reynolds and Joe the Plumber.  And the rest of us can get back to, y’know, trying to fix the mess we inherited from the previous administration.

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers