Author's posts

Why Labor Day Became a Federal Holiday

Why is today a federal holiday?  

It all goes back to a financial collapse, a ConservaDem, a labor leader and blood on the streets of Chicago.

Where the Battle Really Is in American Electoral Politics

For those manning the barricades at DailyKos, fending off the DLC and OFA hordes, it’s been a tough couple of weeks.  Horrible news arrives on a daily basis about the latest betrayal by the Administration, Congressional Democrats or the party apparatus, but discussion of these outrages is blocked or at least blunted by well orchestrated legions of loyalists.

Cassiodorus referred me yesterday to a link about “democratic centralism,” a Leninist, top-down approach to political organization that brooks no dissent once the majority has made a decision.  He noted the mind-numbing consistency of the loyalists’ message:

  1. Praise Obama.

  2. Cite Obama’s big resume.

  3. Denounce all of Obama’s critics.

All this has made me even more skeptical about the value of conventional politics in the United States, and confirmed my view that the Democratic Party is worthless.

What’s interesting is how the same thing is taking place in the Republican Party.  A Naked Capitalism link led me to David Frum’s lament about purges taking place in Republican think tanks.  Frum himself was a victim earlier in the year when he was fired by AEI, but today he’s writing about Cato purges:

The summer’s biggest inside-Washington story was the abrupt and simultaneous departure of co-authors Brink Lindsey and Will Wilkinson from the Cato Institute.

Lindsey was Cato’s vice president for research; Wilkinson a Cato scholar. They were working together on a book arguing for a new political approach fusing libertarianism and liberalism – a concept that Cato has previously endorsed on issues like drug control, foreign policy, and sexual freedom.

Frum then despairs about the effects of these purges on Republican policy initiatives should they gain the majority in either the House or Senate:

Right-of-center think tanks claim to do objective research that can be trusted by all policy players, regardless of point of view. They boast that they care about ideas, not parties or personalities. They aspire to set a broader agenda for the right, in lieu of the narrow demands of K Street special interests.

These claims look increasingly false. The right-of-center world is poorer for the dessication of the institutions that used to act as the right’s brains.

We are likely soon to have a Republican majority in the House of Representatives, maybe the U.S. Senate too. And what will that majority do? The answer seems to be: They have not a clue. Unlike the Republican House and Senate majorities of 1994, unlike the Republican Senate majority of 1980, these new majorities will arrive with only slogans for a policy agenda. After staging a for-the-record vote against Obamacare, and after re-enacting the Bush tax cuts, it will be policy mission accomplished.

There’s little other policy inventory, because the think tanks have not done their proper work. Without a think tank agenda, the new majority will rapidly decline into a brokerage service for K Street.

What we see are the two major political parties both engaging in an intense effort to purge those interested in policy, those who dissent from party political strategies and those who care more about ideology or principle than loyalty.

The rationale for the purges given by the parties’ leadership and its spokespersons to party members is that a great battle for the future of the nation, if not Western Civilization, lies ahead.  Only if “we” win can the world remain safe for the “middle class” or the “free market,” for LGBTs or Christians, for African Americans or whites, for freedom of religion or a Christian nation.

Of course, nothing could be further from the truth.  The policies of the two parties are indistinguishable because, as Frum points out, the source for policy for both parties is the same: K Street as it symbolizes the international, Capitalist Corporatocracy.  Imagine that you have arrived from Mars and been told a little about the history of the Democratic and Republican parties and the ideologies around which they supposedly coalesce.  Then consider how you would answer if you were asked which of the following enacted programs, foreign policy, military strategies and legislation were supported by which party:

Medicare Part D

2010 Health Insurance Reform

Iraq surge

Afghanistan surge

No Child Left Behind


Telecom Deregulation

Welfare “reform”

It is all but impossible to identify any of these as distinctively Republican or Democratic because the ideological and policy distinctions between the parties, minimal as they were in the pre-Reagan, pre-DLC period, have now shrunk to almost zero.  Note that you were asked only about those things that actually became law or were adopted as policy by the Executive branch, not those things that were advocated by either party but never enacted.  Republicans have benefited from the support of the Christian Right, but what part of the Christian Right’s agenda has ever become law?  At most, they have seen a little tinkering around the edges of abortion restrictions, some of which did not survive court challenges, something fully expected by the Republicans who enacted the bills.  Democrats have made many promises to Labor over the past two decades.  What of it has ever become law?  Immigration issues are treated similarly by both parties.  Each party panders to different interest groups, but the status quo that satisfies elites, is carefully maintained.

Both parties tell their members that absolute party loyalty is required because the effects of losing to “the other side” would be so catastrophic.  Yet it is all but impossible to determine substantive differences between what is enacted by Republicans when they are in power from what Democrats do when they are in control.

The two parties do differ greatly in how they portray themselves and each other to the general public.  Republicans are consistent in their internal and external messages.  They tell both their membership and the wider electorate that Democrats are traitorous socialists who must be defeated and defeated completely.  The Democrats, however, are completely inconsistent.  They send out internal messages to their own members that Republicans constitute a grave threat to constitutional democracy, peace and the rights of minorities, but they follow a policy of reconciliation and bipartisanship when dealing with the opponents in Congress or in the press.  It’s no wonder that the two parties are often compared to the Globetrotters/Generals “competition” where one team is masterful and always victorious while the other is a perennial weakling and loser.  The only difference is that there are times when the public is so dissatisfied with how things are going that the “loser” party must step up, absorb the “throw-the-bums-out” votes of the majority and assume power for a while.  Once in power, however, they immediately revert to their Generals’ schtick and prove as ineffective and bumbling as ever.

If there is any battle left in electoral policy, any hope for change, it lies either in the emergence of third parties or in the battle for control within the existing major parties.  Inter-party politics, if confined to the Republicans and Democrats, is meaningless.  The behavior of the Obama Administration has confirmed that once and for all for anyone on the Left, just as the behavior of the Bush Administration confirmed it for conservatives like Frum and Bartlett.

The are several questions that Leftists need to ask themselves.  How they answer those questions will determine how they focus their individual energies in the coming hard times.  That Leftists answer these questions in different ways is not a bad thing, however.  There’s nothing wrong with concentrating energies in different venues if we do so in solidarity with one another and with strategies that complement each other’s efforts.

The questions:

1) Do you believe conventional electoral politics at any level offers any opportunities for change in the coming decade?

2) Do you believe conventional politics at the national level offers any opportunities for change in the coming decade?

3) If you answered “yes” to #1 and/or #2, do you believe that third party efforts or a takeover of existing Democratic Party structures offers better opportunities?

Depending on how those questions sort us out, we could find people working for change in a number of different ways:

1) organizing communities to become more humane, green, resilient and self-reliant and eschewing party politics altogether;

2) working to take over the local Democratic Party with the goal of preservingimproving public transportation and education;

3) building a regional third party movement to run a economic populist against a Blue Dog Democrat and a Lunatic Republican in a southern Congressional district;

4) coordinating a national movement to change the Democratic Party rules for nominating a Presidential candidate.

Ironically, even DailyKos can be used a tool in some of these efforts because the FAQs explicitly call for the site to be an “anti-Establishment” force in the Democratic Party.

Any effort to re-build a Left in this country must begin with the acknowledgment that the “competition” between the two major parties has no substance.  It even matters little to the party elites because they benefit as long as they play their designated role.  It is mere distraction, a way to absorb the ever growing dissatisfaction with the American social, economic and political systems.

In my view, there is no definitive answer to those questions posed above.  We can argue about them, but at this point, it may be best just to come up individually with the best answer we can and agree that we can disagree and still be comrades.  If we find that a particular strategy is working, great.  More focus can be placed on it.  If something appears fruitless, it can be abandoned.

One thing is clear.  Continuing to do what most of the Left has been doing is insanity.  

An Idiot’s Guide to Handling Radical Right Hate

We old codgers have to smile at the surprise and near panic on the Left generated by some recently publicized instances of Radical Right hate and violence directed at supporters of the health care bill.  Radical Right terrorism is older than the horseless carriage, and so is a media and government response that emphasizes looking the other way.

There’s another thing that’s been around as long as Radical Right violence, and that’s Left Wing courage.  If we’re going to do our ideological ancestors proud, people ranging from Eugene Debs to W.E.B. DuBois to Walter Reuther to Martin Luther King, Jr., we need to follow a little four-step plan to counter this hate with the firm love of Leftist solidarity.

Four steps is all it takes, and you can begin today:

1) Know the history.

2) Build your courage.

3) Demand justice.

4) Organize.

Details after the break.

Red Scare

The impotence of the Democratic Party’s Left Wing in attempting to affect the content of the party’s health care reform legislation has produced triumphalist rhetoric from DLC enthusiasts and discouragement verging on self-loathing among “progressives.”  The once-proud Leftist contingent has been reduced to whining queries about how “Rahm,” the President’s Chief of Staff, can simultaneously be so mean (“fuckin’ retards”) to those on the Left while solicitously offering compromise after compromise to Blue Dogs and even Republicans.

This defeat for the Democratic Left has led to some self-examination of tactics.  Glenn Greenwald lays the blame for the irrelevance on an inability to convince power brokers that Lefties were serious about not supporting a bad bill:

Until they can not only imagine it, but in fact project it in a political negotiation, progressives will remain irrelevant outside of Democratic primaries, when they will receive a plethora of campaign promises sure to be abandoned by pols. Cuz that is what pols do.

We need more than a critique of tactics.  If the Left is not careful, we may begin to adopt the view promoted by the corporate media and the Democratic Party’s leadership that Leftist ideas and policies are themselves irrelevant and hopelessly unpopular.

The irony is that the opposite is the case.  From a longer historical perspective, it becomes clear that Leftist views, especially radical Leftist views, are so potentially attractive that they are labeled as anathema by the power elites.  For more than a century, any idea, no matter how violent or rebellious, can be advocated and promoted in America except for Leftist ideas.  In fact, the Radical Right has been allowed, sometimes invited, to wage terrorism against citizens and even parts of the government while that same government expended considerable resources to harass, imprison and murder Leftists for exercising Constitutional rights.

What is the truth?  Do Leftist ideas really hold no appeal for the average American, or are America’s corporate and political elites really scared of Reds?

The Toilet Paper Revolution

(cross-posted at dKos– go there and rec it if you like it)

Good morning, Ameeeeeriiiiica!

People are waking up to the incredible fraud that is being perpetrated by the investment banksters, the former Goldman Sachs bankster, Henry Paulson, and the complicit Democratic Congressional leadership.

Now this abomination is on the fast track to passage just like what happened with the Patriot Act after another “unforeseeable” crisis.

And your cards, letters, calls and emails will have about as much impact as they did with Alito and FISA.

So here’s an idea that might get some media attention and put some pressure on these thieves and their accomplices.

UBS Economist: End of Capitalism?

CNBC interviewed Paul Donovan, senior international economist at UBS, who is out shilling for government bailouts like all the other bankers.  Here’s what he has to say:

The financial system is ceasing to function effectively. The government needs to step in to support the financial system, or else capitalism is over.

Perhaps more dire was his answer to a question about whether injecting all this money into the economy would have an inflationary impact:

What we’re concerned about at the moment is salvaging something…If, in two or three years time we get back to a more normal function, [then that will be a concern.]  For the next two or three years, deflation is the concern.


Deflation is really a codeword for Depression–for years stretching into the future.

Capitalism in Hospice Care

The patient is terminal.  Second and third opinions from specialists all confirmed that any effort to prolong its life even past November 3 would be in vain.

Key members of the family gathered last night privately (very, very privately) to make the hard choices.  Ben Bernanke and Hank Paulson had been making all of the key decisions about the patient’s care up until now, but for this last step, they felt it was appropriate to have everyone on the record:

Attending the meeting on the Capitol Hill were Democratic Senate leaders that included Charles E. Schumer of New York, Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut and Kent Conrad of North Dakota A contingent of Republicans was led by Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, and included Richard C. Shelby of Alabama, Jon Kyl of Arizona and Judd Gregg of New Hampshire.

House leaders included John Boehner of Ohio, the Republican leader; Spencer Bachus, Republican of Alabama; and Barney Frank, Democrat of Massachusetts. Members of the leaders’ staffs were asked to leave the meeting shortly after it began.

Henry Paulson: Hero of the Revolution

When the history of the early 21st century is written, we can only hope that Henry Paulson, America’s Secretary of the Treasury, will receive the praise he deserves for his role in hastening the collapse of capitalism.  While Rosa Luxemburg will always be remembered for her brilliance and courage, and Che Guevara for his daring and love for the people, Henry “Hank” Paulson will never be forgotten because of his incredible cunning in service of the revolution.

Hero of the Revolution

Paulson’s cover for his incredible mission was established by fate.  He was born into a bourgeoisie family in the famous luxury resort of Palm Beach.  They later moved with little Hank to the wealthy Chicago suburb of Barrington Hills, Illnois.  From there, he proceeded to check all the necessary boxes and jump through all the required hoops to join the American ruling class: an undergraduate degree from Dartmouth and a M.B.A. from Harvard Business School.