Sunday, March 15, 2009

Wharton: Obama's no socialist; he's a hedge fund democrat!

Billy Wharton of the Socialist Party has a decent piece in today's Washington Post describing how Faux News portrayed Obama as a "Manchurian Candidate" socialist, and how Faux and other outfits paraded people like Brian Moore and Wharton himself on TV as a kind of sideshow. This is a candidate for quote of the next four years:
The funny thing is, of course, that socialists know that Barack Obama is not one of us. Not only is he not a socialist, he may in fact not even be a liberal. Socialists understand him more as a hedge-fund Democrat -- one of a generation of neoliberal politicians firmly committed to free-market policies.
Oh, and it's nice to know that Shared Sacrifice scooped Stephen Colbert in interviewing Mr. Moore. Small victories and all.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

we can handle the truth

Interesting debate in today's Los Angeles Times Opinion section on the idea of an independent commission to investigate the Bush years, counterterrorism, human rights, etc.
Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that you don't want to piss off the Republicans.

100,000 people have signed Senator Patrick Leahy's petition in support of a Truth Commission for the Bush years. But naysayers continue to express concern that, in the words of conservative Law Professor Jeremy A. Rabkin at George Mason University, such a commission would merely degenerate into a hatefest against Bush.

Frederick A.O. Schwarz Jr, of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law School, disagrees. He says there will be plenty of blame to go around if the commission is done correctly. He writes that such a commission
should examine the systemic problems and root causes that allowed unlawful conduct to become policy. Some of these underlying problems -- such as excessive government secrecy and lax congressional oversight -- clearly existed well before President Bush took office. (The need to examine Congress' role in allowing these policies to go forward is yet another reason to pursue an independent commission rather than a congressional inquiry).

stuff other people say much better than me 101 the world of finance, of fictitious capital, it is possible to make great profits by buying and selling financial assets. This is an enchanted world, a world of illusion, because here it is possible to make money simply through the manipulation of money. Money, through the payment of interest, seems to accumulate as a natural function of its existence. Money begets money as Nature herself nurtures the growth of plants and animals. How could labour possibly be the source of all profit when clever manipulations and trades by financial operators can result in the accumulation of vast wealth?
The enchanted world of finance not only engenders illusions in the minds of its inhabitants and those who profit from it, but also in the minds of those who would try and abolish it. From the very earliest days, financial markets have been denounced by those who would like to expunge or at least control them, but without overturning the capitalist economy as a whole.
“Regulate the bad side of capitalism!” is their catch-cry, so that the good—that is, capital in the productive form—might be able to grow and society advance. Insofar as finance capital is necessary, ensure it works for society as a whole! But, as Marx explained more than 150 years ago, such efforts are based on an illusion. The “good” cannot be separated from the “bad” and, in fact, it turns out that the “bad” is often the very driving force of historical development.
--Nick Beams

why does obama support the regressive cap-and-trade

As the ruling class spends "our money" to get us out of their economic and ecological messes, it's important for people to know the difference between progressive and regressive taxation--and to not be lulled into believing that the rich actually pay their "share" of taxes.

It's equally, if painfully important to remember that all sides of the ruling class are down with regressive taxation, including your hero Barack Obama, who has long sounded the theme of America needing disciplinary measures to "fix" the environment and the economy. This includes policies like a carbon "cap-and-trade" that will kill consumers and impose no price ceilings on producers. McCain found cap-and-trade attractive precisely because it allows producers to pass their costs downward. Obama presumably likes it because it sounds progressive to those who don't listen very carefully.

"Class traitor" Warran Buffet agrees:
Warren Buffett has waded into the debate about a cap-and-trade system for slowing greenhouse gas emissions in the United States — something for which President Obama is pushing hard.
Interviewed today on CNBC (transcript), Mr. Buffett responded to a question about cap-and-trade by saying that regulated utilities would pass the costs on to customers, effectively resulting in a carbon tax.
“In the utility business, it’s going to be borne by customers. And it’s a tax like anything else,” he said.
Mr. Buffett, the chief executive of the conglomerate holding company Berkshire Hathaway, also said that the “tax is probably going to be pretty regressive,” and that public utility commissions in various states would determine “what customers it gets passed through to.”
While cap-and-trade legislation has not been enacted in the United States, as Mr. Buffett noted, projected revenues from the system are built into President Obama’s budget, which was unveiled last month.
It gets better: If you think my criticism of Obama above is unfair, listen to Robert Gibbs' vacuous (I mean completely, totally vacuous) response to Buffet:
Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, was asked about Mr. Buffett’s remarks in his press briefing today.
Mr. Gibbs responded:
In terms of cap-and-trade, the President and the administration look forward to working with Congress to put a solution together — a market-based solution that will drive us to energy independence and create a market for — an even more robust market for alternative fuels and, as I said, the steps that we need to become energy-independent.
This is a process that rewards the innovation of the market, a principle that many previously have espoused.
Gibbs is asked a specific question about the class imbalances of cap and trade, and says nothing. Nothing.

Obama's notion of shared sacrifice is a lot different than mine. It would be one thing if Democrats merely sought to NOT hurt the wealthy (they're not revolutionaries after all). But why proactively hurt the working class and not even attempt to justify it?

"Why are you hurting the working class--Why?"

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

3 cheers for Zack de la Rocha and everyone who protested that racist moron Joe Arpaio

I met Zack de la Rocha in 1994 at a farm workers' rally in Sacramento. Soft-spoken, thoughtful, and extremely critically reflective, he nevertheless shows up at every important progressive event, and frequently leads the charge where confrontation is needed the most. That mass of human garbage Joe Arpaio is a prime example of someone who needs a can of whoopass compliments of Mr. de la Rocha.

According to the February 28 New Phoenix Times (the source of the above photo), as many as 4,000 people were at this protest.

If you don't know who Sheriff Joe Arpaio is, read here...but not on a full stomach. In a just society, Joe Arpaio would either be in prison himself or be a curious living artifact at the Museum of Regressive Pathologies.

Monday, March 02, 2009


Mark Leibovich at the New York Times had a great column over the weekend on the redeployment of the term "socialism" during the presidential election and since.
“Socialism” became a star of subsequent McCain and Palin rallies in the same way that a dead bull is the star of a bullfight ...
Last week’s blizzard of economic developments — the administration’s new budget, its partial takeover of another major bank — was fortuitous timing for CPAC, which ran from Thursday to Saturday, giving conservatives an opportunity to give full-throated voice to this re-fashioned refrain.
“The right would use ‘socialist’ against Franklin Roosevelt all the time in the
1930s,” said Charles Geisst, a financial historian ... “To hear him referred to as Comrade Roosevelt during that period was not unusual.” ... it is a less potent slam than it once was. Vermont’s Bernie Sanders — an actual real-life, self-identified socialist in the United States Senate — agrees ... since there are so few Communist regimes left today, and generations have grown up since the end of the cold war, that stigma has been muted. Mr. Sanders said he was encouraged that even some conservative critics ... seem to be equating Mr. Obama’s economic agenda to “European-style socialism,” ... “I think this country could use a good debate on what goes on in places like Sweden, Norway and Finland,” said Mr. Sanders, saying that notions like universal health care, more funding for education and a greater tax burden on the wealthy have accessible models in those countries.

I haven't done an inventory recently on how much I agree with classical Trotskyism, but I have long agreed with the Socialist Workers Party's assertion that U.S. imperialism lost the cold war. One of the ways they lost is linguistically (though we should be careful not to overdetermine the impact of this). Everyone--and I mean everyone engaged in a serious conversation about capitalism versus socialism since the 1990s--has always recognized distinctions in "socialism" that rendered an absolute defense of free markets virtually impossible.

What has happened in the last six months is unprecedented, but it's also a reflection of how working people, academics, and even non-GOP politicians have already long acknowledged that "socialism" is not totalitarian, that it's somewhat inevitable, and that it was cleanly salvaged, saved, from the ashes of Stalinism.