Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Standing on Principle

Conservatives in the House took a bold approach defeating the bailout and standing firmly in support of Market Principles and against creeping socialism. Conservative talk show hosts riled conservatives up to call their conservative representatives in Congress and demand "No Bailout!" Until it hit their pocketbook, upon which they acted like true conservatives and said the hell with principles!

"I started hearing from a lot of people who lost money on their investments thanks to the big drop on Wall Street yesterday" said Rep. Steven C La Tourette, Republican of Ohio, who voted against the plan. The switchboards are lighting up with calls from Really Stupid People who had a very sudden change of heart. This is hypocricy "so absolute that it becomes a kind of sincerity."

As credit continues to tighten Beakerkin acknowledges that derivitives are very complex financial instruments but I don't think this addressed the real problem. Over-accumulation and the decreasing rate of profit continues to be the underlying crisis facing capitalism and financialization is but a symptom of a much broader malaise. This is not a "bump" or "mere correction".

Friday, September 26, 2008

"This Sucker Could Go Down"

Was Pres. Bush terrified, bored, drugged, what? Is he standing up for "Core Conservative Principles?" ( Thats a joke, ha ha) Is this a "step down the path to socialism"? (quote from House Republican) ( not a joke) Rush Limbaugh wants the free market to prevail and is willing to let the "sucker go down". I'm certainly willing.
Mr. Fishman ( I like the name, he is Washington Mutuals chief EXECUTIVE) "who has been on the job less than three weeks is eligible for $11.6 million in cash severance and will get to keep his $7.5 million signing bonus", is also willing because he can now ride it out in the Caymans.

the "total value of the worlds stocks and bonds is 100 trillion dollars. The derivitives market is somewhere around 500 trillion." Except their value is ephemeral, a mirage, and depends on emotions such as optimism and pessimism. Be very afraid. Our economy is still growing. What to believe?

"The forger of history does not work in a vacuum: the scope he can give himself and the insolence he can afford depend on how large and heavy is the oblivion which time, indifference and previous falsification have already cast on men and events." Issac Duetcher

A great intellectual/activist who struggled to resist that "oblivion" was Eqbal Ahmad who passed in 1999. I just finished Confronting Empire which is the transcription of a series of interviews he gave and am amazed at his grasp of the history of all the worlds great civilizations. He also studied the politics of memory and we sorely miss his insight today as the NY Times reports that "Pakistani troops fire at US helicopters." It is a burlesque , blundering , beligerence dragging us through the empires periphery and the show is coming to a bloody, tragic end.

Vice Presidential wanna be Palin told Katie Couric that to her it was "clear who are the good guys and who are the bad guys." I'm guessing she had not read Eqbal Ahmed. She also said we would not "second guess" Israels actions! " Hard-core right-wing settlers have responded to limited army operations in recent weeks by blocking roads, rioting spontaneously, throwing stones at Palestinians vehicles and burning Palestinian orchards and fields all over the West Bank." NY Times Like Bolivian Right Wing, they worship at the temple of violence and racial superiority. Palin has read the Bible and westerns.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

So I Lied

Like I said, this economic crisis thing is just so damned pregnant. (I love John Stewarts "Free Levi" campaign) I admit to being taken aback by the fierce reaction by both liberals and conservatives. I assumed they would just be rolled over by the "emergency bailout" but the level of (deserved) distrust of the Administration and Congress has engendered a real reaction, a march on Wall Street even, by a joint ideological contingent.

The liberals have fallen back on the narrative of FDR and the New Deal, slapping the hands of "greedy CEOs", re-regulation of industry, re-investment in social programs, etc.. to save capitalism from itself. They keep talking about giving the American people "shares" so they can somehow profit in the event of a big turn around. This is a red-herring. The conservatives want to let the market wreak it's "creative destruction" and let the bodies fall where they may. Right-wing radio is throwing blame at irresponsible minorities who foolishly thought they could afford homes in America. Stirring up hate is their only tactic left.Politicians, meanwhile, are caught in a vise between their campaign contributors /corporate allies and a terrified and pissed off constituency. All of them are invested in seeing that the basic structure of capitalism remains unchallenged, despite critiques along it's periphery, and in saving their own hides (and portfolios).

Of course what is most conspicuous by it's absense is a response from anything that might be described as "the left". Democracy Now puts on clowns like Jesse Jackson and Ralph Nader to provide analysis. Bill Moyer asks a few penetrating questions but comes back to "progressive" reforms. So I guess it's up to me. Hey everybody, capitalism is barbarism. That doesn't mean we have to go through some apocalyptic crash for socialism to emerge, quite the opposite. (I believe a crash will precipitate fascist overthrow) We just use the pregnant moment to show that a re-distribution of wealth combined with a participatory economic model would serve the mass of citizens much better than any attempt to prop up a discredited and failed market system. The "crash" is simply Condi Rices "mushroom cloud", a way to de-mobilize the public with fear and force them to rely on "leaders". Resources and labor exist, therefore needs can be met. We don't need leaders.Find a soapbox and plant some seeds. Use the language of justice and emancipation. I'm not saying the revolution is around the corner, but potential revolutionaries are!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Golden Parachutes

I promise to make this the last in my series on the global financial crisis but I can't resist, it's so ...pregnant with possibility! I am fascinated by the quick consensus focusing "blame"on EXECUTIVES. Given their exalted position in bourgeois ideology (the worship of the Executive at the Republican convention was especially breathtaking), we see clearly the schizophrenic American attitude toward authority,(Father) expertise, and trust in "the system". On the one hand they make the perfect sacrificial goats, with their Golden Parachutes , fancy wines, and greedy ways, why, they need to get back to the SMALL TOWN values (urban- rural divide) of "personal responsibility and accountability". On the other hand, who doesn't love the swashbuckling, risk taking GAMBLER, so free and courageous and full of life! The rich are not like everyone else and while we all hate them we all want to be them.

Actually,despite the dominant narrative, none of this crisis has anything to do with "rich people" . People are just a representation of capital but they are a convenient diversion and explanation for how things went wrong and after the sacrifices we can get back to "business as usual". Which is control.

In terms of social and political fallout, I have been warning about a Right turn and on Rens blog warned of a TREND towards fascism. It occurs to me we may need a new word, as well as analysis of the forces at play. In the early 1930s "The great mass of shopkeepers and white collar employees had hitherto followed the traditional bourgeois parties and had seen themselves as upholders of parlimentary democracy. They now deserted these parties and followed Hitler.."
At the same time the Bolshevicks and Russian proletariat were abandoning their revolution and throwing their support to a vicious, autocratic dictator and his bureacrats. Americans rallied behind the Ku Kux Klan. My point is, things can get ugly fast when a solid, comfortable, reality seems to be slipping away and Lou Dobbs and the 9/11 Truth folks and the Pentecostals and Constitution Party are going to be doing a booming business. What is the word I am looking for ? How to describe a slightly liberal State-Corporate Alliance with a well armed police force ready to "maintain order"internally( the enemy within) with a populace kept in perpetual fear of the Enemy Out There.

"I enjoy the spectacle, every scene of which I understand." Proudhon

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Beyond Irony or Post Ironical World?

So let me see if I got this right. In order to control a crisis of over-zealous borrowing and bad debt(somehow both unknowable and unlocatable) the government is going to borrow more money to buy the bad debt. So it is now "We the Peoples" future being re-mortgaged and what do we get in return? A bunch of over-leveraged houses, the assets of a company once called Bear-Stearns, Fanny and a Freddy and a newly raised debt ceiling to the tune of a trillion dollars and change. Thats enough zeros to totally lose most of the American public. You can watch peoples eyes glaze over when you talk about trillions.(myself included)

Of course they never can find the money to fund a school lunch program, or health insurance for poor children but war in the middle east or a 700 billion dollar bailout, thats a very different story. Perhaps Sarah Palin will pay for it by "cutting wasteful spending"and drilling here, now . Of course it is infrastructure for the next generation that will suffer, not just the physical stuff like roads and schools but social infrastructure like nutrition programs and better payed teachers. This is how hegemons become irrelevent but it is also how capitalism fails the majority. A falling rate of profit and over-accumulation of products and capital leads to "creative finance" and a populace trained to do nothing but consume and follow orders as they are told "there is not enough money" to send your child to a doctor or a university. There is a little outrage beginning to show but I'm sure a distracting circus is just around the corner, perhaps election politics or Brittany or a flood, whatever. The people of Bolivia, meanwhile ,are in a less ephemeral, truly historical fight for the future of their society and the privilege of irony has nothing to do with it Check out upsidedownworld.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Fundamentally Sound

Poor Paul Kangas, the old guy who does the nightly business report on Public Television, looked like he had EVERYTHING invested in Lehman stocks as he delivered the bad news. They paraded a few "experts" with wildly differing prognosises, but all sharing one thing in common. When asked how bad things might get, none of them had a clue. And very frankly admitted as much. Will AIG find enough capital? Will Citigroup be the next casualty?

Too bad they didn't bring Phil Gramm (Mc Cains chief economic advisor) or Jim Leach on to explain the Financial Services Modernization Act which they co-authored and Big Bill Clinton signed into law. They could have told the viewing audience how much lobbyists paid them and the rest of congress to legalize their new get rich quick schemes. Where was the head of the Senate Finance Committee, Montanas own Smilin Max Baucus? There were some efforts to exhume the corpse of Milton Friedman but they settled on an interview with corpse-like ex Fed Chief Alan Greenspan who said he has never seen so much shit hit so little a fan. There is a spectacular struggle to explain the "crisis" while supporting the market system as such. Mc Cain has jumped on the familiar bogey men of "greedy people " and " bureacrats". Remember when they could blame "the Jewish Banking Cabal"? Not so politically correct now , I suppose.

Wednesday update: Now it appears the Socialist Republic of America owns yet another financial services / insurance firm, AIG. This is wonderful news and I'm waiting expectantly for the social product to add to our "way of life". Our Nationalization Program is keeping pace with that of Venezuela. The Bolivarian Revolution comes through the back door! Viva La Revolution!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

A Perfect Illustration

As if on cue, Mark Engler, an analyst at Foreign Policy in Focus , (see link in my blogroll) writes exactly the kind of piece I critiqued in my last post. Thoughtful, well researched and written, it discusses "alternative visions" for many paragraphs without ONCE mentioning the word capitalism. Imbued with a sort of radioactivity, the word is euphimistically danced around with terminology such as "neoliberal corporate globalization", to which he counters a model termed "democratic globalization". This is ephemeral jargon, un-historical, non-locatable and spectacularly unresistable. C'mon folks, this is just a new battle in the same old war over labor and profit and the tip toeing is simply bowing to it's hegemony. Stephen Zunes, who writes for the same outfit, is more willing to call a spade a spade.

Where do these billions come from and where do they go? I'm referring to the continuing saga of economic meltdown, this time over at Lehman Brothers where the concept of "to big to fail" may have tested it's own logic. Their "competitors" (a not-so-funny joke in today's monopoly capitalism) are deciding this weekend whether to inject billions into the over-leveraged brokerage.( they always do this on weekends so overseas markets don't implode) At least in the Great Crash they had the elan to jump out of buildings when they lost so much of OTHER PEOPLES MONEY. By the end of the Bush administation the government will have nationalized more banks than Hugo Chavez! The difference being the people of Venezuela will own more wealth while Americans will simply own more debt. Good thing we are such HARD WORKERS, and there is NFL on now to divert us. Move the deck chairs, fiddle away, more bread and circuses. Listen to the candidates debate!

In the latest IW ,the monthly newsletter of the IWW, there is an editorial criticizing Chavez for his treatment of the striking workers in the oil sector in 2002-03. The editor states : "The crushing of the strike sent a message to the rest of the Venezuelan working class: be an ally of Chavez or face overwhelming repression."
If this sounds like something Sonia would write, believe me , I was just as surprised at the lack of historical perspective. We workers better realize something. Workers can be reactionary forces of regression. Oh yeah( I remember Vietnam War protests vividly) . Reflexively supporting every "worker" action can lead to this kind of poor , simplistic analysis. Policemen beating strikers are workers too. Just as true is the fact that Unions are not always our friend and the IWW should know that better than anyone. What do you think Wobblies?

Monday, September 08, 2008

Neo- Liberalism

There is a growing body of critical work out there that attacks the foundation of "neo-liberalism" , that strain of economic theory which exalts "free" markets, "free" trade, privitization, de-regulation ,etc. Books such as Naomi Kliens Shock Doctrine or Janet Napoleanos Rogue Economics document the turn from Keynsian models to a "Chicago School" program built on the theoretical work of people like Milton Friedman. Other economists, notably Walden Bello and Joseph Stiglitz have long been critics of "laissez -faire" market worship as well as post-80's so -called "development strategies" by Bretton-Woods institutions such as the world Bank, WTO and IMF. I even heard a Cato Institute spokesperson today denouncing the "crony capitalism" that supposedly got us into this latest economic recession, with it's complex financialization schemes and government/ corporate collusion.

These critics from both the left and the right seem to me to be implying that it is just a TYPE of capitalism that is problematic and that it can somehow be reformed to better avoid periods of crisis or deliver more social benefits more fairly or whatever. They seem to me to be avoiding the truth and provide neither prescription nor explanation for how to keep these vicious cycles from constantly repeating themselves. Each "progressive" advancement towards social democratic models has inevitably and invariably drifted back to the anarchy of unrestrained profit taking and one need look no further than Americas flirtation with Keynsian reforms or the "free "market drift of European economies to see that the problem lies in the core logic of the capitalist system and not with some derivative form of some kind.

The libertarians insist a more purely unfettered market will lift all boats this proves to be utopian fantasy world possible only in a theoretical sense. This is why I put the quotation marks around free. Were such a pure equalibrium achievable, it would be a nasty Hobbsian world of each against all with a merciless division of winners and losers. It would require a suspension of all moral sensibilities but even so, the presupposition that it could remain uncorrupted by either monopoly forces, political schemes or "bleeding hearts" is what makes it irrational.

As much as I admire Naomi Klien she (and others of her ilk) remains unwilling to admit that the democracy she craves is impossible given capitalisms ability to reproduce it's own ideology through market exchange. It's internal logic renders her prescriptions anti-historical and unrealistic.

The solidly unrepentent anti-capitalist Michael Albert explains his forward thinking and rationally designed participatory economic system to a gathering in Venezuela here.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

What About the "Black Bloc"?

The disruption at the Repub convention has brought up a re-occurring tactical question for anti-capitalists, namely, what up with "anarchists"? I put it in quotation marks because it is my experience (from more than one encounter) that these young, black garbed, bandanaed outliers may have more to do with Mick Jagger than Bakunnin. The more I read about the time of American anarchisms "surge"at the turn of the century (check out the trial of Big Bill Haywood, defended by Clarence Darrow, or the trial of Sacco and Vanzetti) and relate it to the mythos surrounding this rebel lifestyle, the more I have to wonder about what it means for a meaningful politics and for the emancipation of workers in general. Didn't the bombs just consolidate capitals hegemony?

Drawing on rock, punk and Black "bad boy" imagery, the swaggering Zapatista-wanna-be is not without a certain outlaw charm, especially when confronting the Darth Vaderesque "Security" forces marshalled by the State to maintain "order and control". Totally "out numered and outgunned", a heroic sheen envelopes those who would set out nobly on their Quixotic mission to "Smash the State". Unfortunately, windows are not the State and people with less poetic, if more realistic goals end up caught in the crossfire. When do these cultural, individual anarchists become the FARC of the global justice movement? What does it say to the real struggle on the ground in Colombia, Bolivia or Peru?

We live in a Spectacular world of image power and the State has a monopoly on coercive power. The helicopters and personel carriers are both symbols and efficient killing machines plus, there are cameras literally everywhere. How do we turn this logic on itself? What contradictions create points for attack? How to keep the "street fighting man" from becoming a cartoon caricature?

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Hold Your Nose

Just how do all those flag waving Repub delegates keep the energy going? I believe they are still fighting the sixties cultural wars,that is , racial and gender equality , free love, sex ,drugs and rock and roll. Hippies. Panthers. Playgirls. Bra burners. Fear of anarchy and God unites them.Plus the fact they have become true connoisseurs of totally wack illusion and myth, the more preposterous the proposition, the deeper the belief.

The conservative agenda is totally built on illusions, for instance, how about their plan for energy independence: Drill Here,Drill Now. Reality: With the 876,000 barrels a day ANWAR could provide (not till 2025) the US reliance on imports would drop from 70 to 66%. Whoopie. Same with "offshore fields, literally a drop in the world bucket. Illusion: Oklahoma delegate on how she determined the economy is "largely in good shape." "When I drive by Mc Donalds, there are so many cars in line there. There are still a lot of cars on the road." Reality: She is insane? Illusion: Abstention based sex-ed. Reality: Gov. Palin's daughter. Illusion: conservatives are against "big government" earmarks Reality: Palin's earmarks as mayor. Illusion: All Of It, using air strikes on mountain villages to win the War on Terror, Tax cuts for the rich will spur the economy, letting gays marry will destroy the institution, the government wants to take your guns, ALL of IT, affirmative action is discrimination, intelligent design, privatizing creates efficiency, all junk theory, magic , superstition, marketing. If you work hard and play by the rules... anyone can become President.

It is all one Little House on the Prairie and they will cling to their illusion with an insane ferocity. If they find Gov. Palin is a member of a polygamist cult? Well, gee, we need to focus on unity. If it turns out the cult practices cannibalism? You know, these are private matters. The porn films? Sure,the vetting could have been better but we need to stick together as a party.

The Dems have their own illusions but they do support the pro-union Free Choice Act and they aren't as pasty white boring as these John Wayne worshippers so I suppose I will just hold my nose and vote for them.