Bird that Sings

June 1, 2012

Dear John: memo from God

Filed under: Politics,Uncategorized — Tags: , — admin @ 11:03 am

Dear John,

I heard you say at your impromptu press conference that you didn’t think God was done with you, that there was still some good left for you do to in the world.

I’m sending this message to let you know, that no, I’m done with you.

You’ve done enough and I mean that in the best possible way.

Take your message in the 2008 campaign . . . please. You said that there were two Americas, one rich, one poor; that was there was an interlocking business and political elite running the empire, the country: That the system was unsustainable and headed for collapse.

It was a very good message, though from my point of view I have to say you looked a little distracted at the time; even conflicted, like you knew you shouldn’t be running but the thing had taken on a momentum of its own.

I’m sympathetic, up to a point. You should have been a man, John and gotten out when Elizabeth had her relapse instead of wasting a lot of people’s time and energy. But I digress. The thing is that you were a messenger but the torch has been passed, as it were, and you’re no longer needed.

At best you’d be a distraction, at worst you’d be an egomaniacal idiot and we’ve had enough of that, haven’t we?

And to put the best face on it, history will probably treat you better than you deserve. Your campaign speeches will look even better in thirty years than they look now, colored as they are by the blatant insincerity with which they were delivered. In thirty years you’ll probably even look like a tragic political figure, instead of a fool.

Though as I write this, it occurs to me, maybe there is a role for you to play: I hate to contradict myself, but hey, it happens.

There is always a role for the holy fool: for the one who dares to say what more sensible people, struggling to . . . maintain their viability in the system, dare not say.

In this case the audience would have to be the Democrats and Barry O. Boy, is that guy a disappointment. What did he think he was running for, the Supreme Court? He’d be a good judge, lousy President. At least that’s my judgment, but I digress.

It would be pretty bad for the empire . . . country, if that damaged Mormon nitwit got elected but I think the Democrats are in serious trouble.

Barry O should never have let Geithner convince him to give all that money to the Bankers on the assumption they were going to use it to stimulate the economy. You give away two trillion dollars to a bunch of bankers, what are they gonna do? They’re gonna keep it, that’s what they’re gonna do! Why should the Bankers do the business if the Government and the Fed are just gonna give them the money?

I won’t even ask what you would do, John, in that same situation. I don’t want to know.

The point is that Obama and Geithner kicked the can down the road, but it’s only a matter of time until the whole thing comes down on their heads and Obama just hopes it doesn’t come down before the election!

He should never have even planned to run for reelection in the first place! He would have really been able to do something then.

If he would have just proposed Medicare-for-all to begin with, he might have gotten a Public Option on his healthcare plan as a compromise. If he had nationalized one of the insolvent banks instead of throwing money at it, he could have made it into a New Deal style Infrastructure bank and gotten the economy, “out of the ditch” as he puts it.

The whole thing makes me to sick to think about. You people are such morons. . . But I digress.

The point is that Obama has to level with the people about the economy and what may be coming. He’s got to apologize for his mistakes, for his misplaced trust in the Banks, and say what he will do to put his mistakes aright if  reelected.

Someone’s got to say this stuff, John and since you had the temerity to think I wasn’t done with you yet, I nominate you.

Have a good life.


May 24, 2012

Mitt, Bain and the Banality of Evil

Filed under: Politics,Uncategorized — admin @ 11:12 am

Many people probably have trouble thinking of Mitt Romney as evil.


Banal? Yes. Maladroit? Sure: a two-faced politician with greasy hair and a bad dye job who will say anything to anybody to get elected, but evil?


Nonetheless, and the bubble headed advocacy of Cory Booker and David Brooks notwithstanding, if there is a single politician in the world who embodies the predations of the neo-liberal era; from the death of American manufacturing to the rise of finance Capital, from the hollowing out of the American middle class to the rise of the One percent, from the death of Main Street to the rise of Wall Street, it’s Mitt.


Now Obama and the Democrats are being attacked for their web ads against the right, honorable former Mormon Bishop of Boston.


The Democratic ads say that Bain Capital Management was a pioneering Private Equity Firm adept at picking up large and mid sized businesses, stripping them of Capital and employees and then selling them off piecemeal if not burying them with debt and killing them off all together.


Meanwhile Mitt apologists, or “Mitt-o-lytes” like David Brooks, tell us that yes, while that happens sometimes, Private Equity is in the business of building giant companies, not tearing them down. Brooks tells us that “Private equity firms are not lovable, but they forced a renaissance that revived American capitalism.”


However Brooks misses the truly damning thing about Bain Capital Management, Blackstone, KKR, and the other monster holding companies.


Whether Mitt and his Private Equity friends strip their newly purchased companies or build them into viable entities, the businesses themselves are of little or no interest to them. And while Mitt likes to brag about the success of some his ventures, like Sports Authority or Staples, Bain Capital Management is not in the business of Sporting goods or Office supplies.


Bain is in the business of leveraging debt and when Bain acquisitions are successful, they create leviathan economies of scale that squeeze out the small businesses; the sporting goods and stationary stores, that used to serve our cities and towns.


Mitt and his friends got rich doing this business but in the end, even their success stories will go under, be sold, and eventually stripped down again.


In theory, this is the creative destruction that is the engine of Capitalism. In practice, it’s an insane race to the bottom, turning once prosperous business districts into ghost towns of decaying, half empty mini malls.


Yes, in Capitalism there are winners and losers and Mitt’s success means creating waves of disposable, minimum wage, retail jobs where there were once small businesses and careers.


This is Mitt-o-nomics, where even our factories are turned into commodities to be bought and sold and our jobs shipped overseas; where stuff that used to be made here and would last fifteen years is made in China cheaper but only lasts three years; where small business is the enemy, an impediment to growth; where the true business of Capitalism is Finance, the business of money itself.


This is Mitt-o-nomics, where mild mannered, incense bearing Mitt-o-lytes like Paul Ryan and David Brooks, politely tell us that we are “economic illiterates,” that the ways of Capitalism are outside our purview: That the function of our elected representatives is to cut government spending so as not to crowd out private Capital. That to survive, Capital has to grow, we are born to serve it and that’s the way it is.


For the Mitt-o-lytes, Willard Mitt Romney is their bumbling Prince, a privately moral, if clueless fellow, who nevertheless understands the Dark Arts of Capital growth and accumulation.


For the rest of us, Mitt Romney is Satan in Mom jeans.




October 26, 2011

When Hillary met Muammar

Filed under: Politics,Uncategorized — admin @ 11:44 am
On Tuesday, October 18, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton went to Tripoli, Libya and announced that the US wanted Libyan ex-dictator Muammar Khadafy dead or alive, preferably dead.

And so when Khadafy was killed two days later, first bombed by a NATO sortie and then finished off by a band of Libyan partisans, one could only assume—protestations by new Libyan Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril to the contrary—that the ex dictator was knocked off at the behest of the First Lady of the Western Alliance. It doesn't even seem to be a matter of if; the question is why: Why did Hillary kill Khadafy? There are three possibilities: one, it was personal; two, Hillary, Barack, Nick Sarkozy and Dave Cameron are great humanitarians whose concern for the safety and well being of the Libyan people compelled them to take out Khadafy; three, it's the, uh, oil and even—who knew—the water! But, I hear you shouting, couldn't the West have had the run of the Libyan oil and gas fields without killing Khadafy? Couldn't they have tried him in open court as Mahmoud Jibril claims he wanted? The answer of course is yes, it's that then they would have had to put up with the "mad dog of the desert" going all delusional and anti-Imperialist while calling them out on their real intentions. So now Khadafy is dead while the more pliant oil barons of Bahrain are reinforced with a billion dollars worth of new arms to protect them from their Shiite majority. Meanwhile the Libyan people—at least the ones on TV—seemed pretty relieved to have Khadafy gone even if took NATO and the CIA to get rid of him. They don't even want to think about tomorrow today, and who can blame them. And even if they get upset, say eight months from now, once they figure out that the West has installed a dysfunctional Islamist kleptocracy prepared to hand over their countries natural wealth to foreign Capital (or at least what's left of it) who's going to know? The always idiotic and sometimes liberal media will be busy with the US Presidential campaign by then, and with Khadafy gone, nobody's going to think about Libya again for a long, long time. Personally I'm just proud of our President Barack Obama for his decisive actions in this matter—as opposed to his bungling of the economy(as the always supine and sometimes liberal media is now telling us.) I hate to admit it but it's true: I'll sleep better tonight knowing the mad dog of the desert is dead. As my National Security therapist once assured me, being American means never having to say you're sorry.



September 14, 2011

Barry One Term and the Lesser Depression

Filed under: Politics,Uncategorized — admin @ 3:32 pm

On November 30, 1967 Senator Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota declared his candidacy for the Democratic Nomination for President against the sitting Democratic President, Lyndon Johnson.

Johnson’s Presidency, born of the assassination of John Kennedy and consecrated in the Voting Rights Act of 1965, was in trouble over the War in Vietnam.

While McCarthy’s announcement roused a bunch of college students to cut their beards, stop smoking so much dope, and go “clean for Gene,” the official response to McCarthy was much more tepid. The New York Times invariably described McCarthy’s anti-war, protest candidacy as “quixotic;” as in Don Quixote, Cervantes faux knight who “tilted at windmills.”

Then in February of 1968, came the Tet offensive where the North Vietnamese regular Army along with the guerilla Viet Cong of the South launched a coordinated assault on the 500,000 strong American Army in Vietnam, all things considered probably the most powerful Army ever assembled, and suddenly Americans came to the shocked realization that in Vietnam there was no light at the end of the tunnel.

A month later, on March 12th, McCarthy came within a few thousand votes of defeating Johnson in the New Hampshire primary and then on March 16th, Johnson’s biggest political nightmare came true: New York Senator Robert Kennedy, the anti-war brother of the martyred JFK, announced his candidacy for the Democratic Nomination.

Two weeks later Lyndon Johnson, who’d won reelection to his own term as President in 1964 by the largest margin since FDR beat Alf Landon in 1936, officially withdrew his name as a candidate for the Democratic Nomination, having been beaten, not by Eugene McCarthy, but by history.

The “Tet moment” in the context of the 2011/12 Election cycle will probably come with the financial crisis triggered by the collapse of several European Banks in the Fall of 2011. Whether the crisis triggers a world wide credit freeze like in 2008, a sovereign debt default of Italy and Spain or the exit of either the EuroZone’s economically strongest or weakest nations is too early to say, but the cost to the World Economy will be staggering.

Just as the Vietnam War was not going well before the Tet Offensive, the US economy is already in “lesser depression” according to many economists.

While people know–and feel– this, unlike the Great Depression the current economic hardship has not affected either politics or the culture in a meaningful way. We’re still talking in the same political, social and cultural terms we were before the slump began.

This aura of normalcy has been a major achievement of the Obama Presidency but has also proved politically mistaken. Up until now, the guiding principal of the Obama Presidency has been “don’t do nothing stupid,” but in the eyes of many Americans the perception is “they didn’t do nothing” and that especially means nothing on jobs.

Aside from playing along with Big Business, the Banks and Wall Street, the big tactical mistake Obama and the Democrats made— most notably during the 2010 midterm elections— was their insistence that the economy was in a slow recovery rather than acknowledging the signs of stagnation many of the public were living with every day.

Now Obama has discovered we’re in a jobs emergency, but it’s too late: too late to change the politically minimalist narrative of his Presidency and also too late for the half measures he’s proposing. The entire political-economic landscape is about to change and the Administration is not only behind the curve, it’s about to get lapped.

This is the big reason Obama needs to be primaried. Among the blue collar middle class–never Obama’s base– there is already an understanding that there never was no recovery. Crystallization of the knowledge that things are going to continue getting worse for the foreseeable future will likely make Barry One-term unelectable in 2012.

At the very least Obama has to defend his ideas–as ideas–in another political arena and not just against a Republican Party simply bent on destroying him. Obama’s constant back pedaling on everything from health care, to tax cuts for the Rich to protecting Medicare and Social Security have earned him only contempt, both from his ex supporters and his enemies.

As for the up-until-now only imagined anti-Obama candidate in Iowa and New Hampshire, 2012 is going to be a year for insurgents, not incumbents and will favor boldness, rather than the conventional neo-liberal thinking that continues to hold Obama captive.

An insurgent Democratic Presidential candidate has to propose a simple agenda that promotes job growth while symbolizing the underlying problems in both the political economy and culture.

Here are a few suggestions.

1) Compulsory National Service
A National Service program for young people would be made up of two components. One would be the option of military service that would replace the volunteer army. The other option would be either domestic service in an enlarged and re-imagined AmeriCorps-Vista or foreign service in a fully funded Peace Corps.

National Service would not only provide a huge macro economic stimulus giving gainful employment to an entire generation who are currently underemployed at .  . . well, Depression era levels, but provide de-facto job training as well as a reinvention of Citizenship and the Democratic idea.

2) Carbon Tax
A carbon tax would serve several purposes. It would help level the playing field for American products and manufacturing, making them comparatively more affordable by factoring in carbon costs of foreign made products. It would create new American manufacturing jobs while serving as a powerful disincentive against outsourcing existing ones and would also discourage the use of conventional petro carbon based fuels and packaging. A carbon tax would encourage energy alternatives; hopefully before we begin dropping dead in droves on Main Street.

3) Fund National Infrastructure bank/end Bush Tax cuts for the Rich
True, Obama has proposed a version of this as well as new taxes on the Rich. They’re good ideas. The problem with Barry One-Term’s proposal is that he can’t get enough Federal money to make it effective, having already ceded the stimulus debate to Republicans by his timid refusal to address the underlying dysfunction of Finance Capitalism that led to the crisis in the first place.

Instead of Obama’s proposal, his primary opponent should call for enactment of Ed Rendell’s original National Infrastructure Bank proposal, to be fully funded by ending George Bush’s tax cuts for the Rich. This, yet another initiative that Barry One-Term already whiffed on last December.

December 15, 2010

The Voodoo Economist: Obama+Clinton=Politics-Policy

As Karl Marx once said, History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.

It wasn’t so surprising then, to see old Bill Clinton, aka the ghost of Christmas past, back at the White House the other day with a ruefully smiling, but sick looking, Barack Obama at his side.

Clinton had come to offer his support for Obama as the latter attempts to triangulate with the Republicans over the expiration of the Bush Tax cuts.

Actually the only real surprise of the day was that the other of yesterday’s men, former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, didn’t join them for an impromptu symposium on how to define yourself against the base of your own party.

In the 90’s, both Clinton and Blair played this game to great political advantage, but of course Clinton and Blair had the open range of the great bull market to ride back then.

Obama doesn’t enjoy the same economic wind at his back and that’s why his tax deal with the Republicans is, at best, a parody of Clinton’s sell-out on Welfare Reform.

The Obamaites claim that the deal to extend all the Bush cuts, which also includes the extension of unemployment benefits for those out of work for over ninety-nine weeks, will serve as a backdoor economic stimulus. They add that these measures, along with the Federal Reserve’s six hundred billion dollar purchase of Treasury Bills, aka “Quantitative Easing II” will flood the economy with liquidity, stirring up a Kool-Aid of instant demand, which will in turn stimulate hiring.

Maybe, but as with Clinton and Blair, there is another agenda at work.

On the left hand, the deal with the Republicans is meant to further isolate grassroots Democratic activists increasingly bitter with Obama, even while lining up the support of liberal, deficit spend-your-way-out-of-the-slump Keynesian Economists (and those who love them).

Meanwhile on the right, it’s meant to provoke the conservative tending, cut spending, balance-the-budget-now crowd into attacking House Republicans for making the deficit exploding deal with Obama in the first place.

This is certainly a higher level of triangulation than we’ve seen before and David Axelrod and the Obama political team must be pretty happy with themselves at the moment.

The politics are smart. It’s the policy that’s a disaster.

Here at the Institute, we admittedly feel the crisis a bit more acutely than mainstream academic economists but to us, the flaw in the Administration’s neo-Keynesian stimulus argument is readily apparent. Simply put, all stimulus is not equal.

The Fed’s QE II is a poster child for what not to do in the aftermath of a financial crisis: that is, re-inflate a bubble in the stock market. This is the real purpose of the Fed’s buying up of debt; to reduce the return on Treasuries and hence make equities look like a better deal.

While extending the Bush middle class tax cuts is obviously a good idea, extending the tax cuts for the Rich is not only morally and politically reprehensible, it’s terrible economics.

As Robert Reich and others(see “Which Side are You On/Dec ’07) have pointed out, our current economic problems are not cyclical but structural.

For thirty years, the blue-collar middle class has been downsized and seen its’ jobs shipped overseas.  All through the 90’s and into the first decade of the new century, working and middle class Americans went deeper and deeper into debt trying to keep their accustomed standard of living even as the good jobs went a glimmering.

The financial crash of ’07-’08 ended the debt game, but it had already done it’s work, effectively transferring the wealth of a downsized middle class to the new financial elites who prospered even as the broader National economy was hollowed out.

To extend the Bush tax breaks for the Rich would not only reward the frankly criminal style of Capitalism that created the crisis, it would build onto the structural inequities that are collapsing the system. It would also saddle the country with unsustainable fiscal deficits as a far as the eye can see.

The Administration’s notion that you can further exacerbate the real causes of the crisis and still claim your policies as beneficial is either madness or magical thinking.

In either case, Voodoo Economists believe that House Democrats need to show Obama some tough love. Vote down the Obama deal to extend the Bush tax cuts for the Rich. And somebody slap him, please.

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