Friday, October 07, 2011

Krugman Does Buffalo Springfield — And Hits Nail On The Head

One of the anthems of the 60s demonstrations against the Vietnam War was the Rock classic by Buffalo Springfield, which later morphed into CSN&Y, "For What It's Worth." Many of the Occupy Wall Street protesters hadn't even been born when the song came out, but as with every great piece of music it has an enduring, universal message that is as relevant today as it ever was. Notably, Paul Krugman's column starts off with the song's opening, and he nails the landing. Here's Steven Stills with a kickass solo version of the song.

Confronting the Malefactors
By Paul Krugman

There’s something happening here. What it is ain’t exactly clear, but we may, at long last, be seeing the rise of a popular movement that, unlike the Tea Party, is angry at the right people.

When the Occupy Wall Street protests began three weeks ago, most news organizations were derisive if they deigned to mention the events at all. For example, nine days into the protests, National Public Radio had provided no coverage whatsoever.

It is, therefore, a testament to the passion of those involved that the protests not only continued but grew, eventually becoming too big to ignore. With unions and a growing number of Democrats now expressing at least qualified support for the protesters, Occupy Wall Street is starting to look like an important event that might even eventually be seen as a turning point.

What can we say about the protests? First things first: The protesters’ indictment of Wall Street as a destructive force, economically and politically, is completely right.

A weary cynicism, a belief that justice will never get served, has taken over much of our political debate — and, yes, I myself have sometimes succumbed. In the process, it has been easy to forget just how outrageous the story of our economic woes really is. So, in case you’ve forgotten, it was a play in three acts.

In the first act, bankers took advantage of deregulation to run wild (and pay themselves princely sums), inflating huge bubbles through reckless lending. In the second act, the bubbles burst — but bankers were bailed out by taxpayers, with remarkably few strings attached, even as ordinary workers continued to suffer the consequences of the bankers’ sins. And, in the third act, bankers showed their gratitude by turning on the people who had saved them, throwing their support — and the wealth they still possessed thanks to the bailouts — behind politicians who promised to keep their taxes low and dismantle the mild regulations erected in the aftermath of the crisis.

Given this history, how can you not applaud the protesters for finally taking a stand?

Now, it’s true that some of the protesters are oddly dressed or have silly-sounding slogans, which is inevitable given the open character of the events. But so what? I, at least, am a lot more offended by the sight of exquisitely tailored plutocrats, who owe their continued wealth to government guarantees, whining that President Obama has said mean things about them than I am by the sight of ragtag young people denouncing consumerism.

Bear in mind, too, that experience has made it painfully clear that men in suits not only don’t have any monopoly on wisdom, they have very little wisdom to offer. When talking heads on, say, CNBC mock the protesters as unserious, remember how many serious people assured us that there was no housing bubble, that Alan Greenspan was an oracle and that budget deficits would send interest rates soaring.

A better critique of the protests is the absence of specific policy demands. It would probably be helpful if protesters could agree on at least a few main policy changes they would like to see enacted. But we shouldn’t make too much of the lack of specifics. It’s clear what kinds of things the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators want, and it’s really the job of policy intellectuals and politicians to fill in the details.

Rich Yeselson, a veteran organizer and historian of social movements, has suggested that debt relief for working Americans become a central plank of the protests. I’ll second that, because such relief, in addition to serving economic justice, could do a lot to help the economy recover. I’d suggest that protesters also demand infrastructure investment — not more tax cuts — to help create jobs. Neither proposal is going to become law in the current political climate, but the whole point of the protests is to change that political climate.

And there are real political opportunities here. Not, of course, for today’s Republicans, who instinctively side with those Theodore Roosevelt-dubbed “malefactors of great wealth.” Mitt Romney, for example — who, by the way, probably pays less of his income in taxes than many middle-class Americans — was quick to condemn the protests as “class warfare.”

But Democrats are being given what amounts to a second chance. The Obama administration squandered a lot of potential good will early on by adopting banker-friendly policies that failed to deliver economic recovery even as bankers repaid the favor by turning on the president. Now, however, Mr. Obama’s party has a chance for a do-over. All it has to do is take these protests as seriously as they deserve to be taken.

And if the protests goad some politicians into doing what they should have been doing all along, Occupy Wall Street will have been a smashing success.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Chris Matthews Remedial Ed: Michael Moore Schools Chris ...

Touted as the "Great Democratic Debate"— should President Obama jaywalk or go "passionate progressive" (code for "HARD LEFT") — Chris Matthews pitted Mark Penn, a contemporary of Bob Schrum's in the can't lose (Hillary) win-loss column and Democratic establishment pol with a rather gross Nixonesque upper-lip sweat (worse in HDTV), versus filmmaker Michael Moore. Viewed as a "passionate progressive" (code for non-politico, non-pragmatic silly idealist who will argue generalities against the pragmatic electoral/electorate analysis of pros like Penn) Moore was supposed to be a relative pushover in this opening segment. Oops ...

Michael began by schooling the Beltway Idiot Punditocracy on key definitional terms, pushing back against their twisted, right-leaning political worldview: "I don't know that I agree with the definition of terms here. Let me say this, President Obama should actually move to the center, because he's not there now. The center of American public opinion right now is the vast majority of Americans want to tax the rich. Every poll shows that. The vast majority of Americans want these wars to end ASAP. The vast majority of Americans want strong environmental laws. And you go down the whole list of things, that's the center position."

Here it is, AGAIN, a nice picture for the slow learners among the Idiot Punditocracy:

Michael Moore continued: "What you're calling the left position is actually the center, middle position — the majority of Americans want this and they don't want Social Security or Medicare touched. Not one single dime of it touched. The more that [President Obama] talks about creating some grand bargain with the Republicans or trying to appease them in some way, that's why he, I think, has suffered in recent times, because he's left where the center of real — where the real political majority is in this country right now and he`s gone over to try and placate this other side. And when he does that, he loses so many people that are either no longer interested in him or they`ll vote for him but they`re depressed about it."

GAME, SET — MATCH to Mr. Moore!

From Chris's perspective, his planned choreography of the wimpy center (actually the center-right) went downhill from there. Chris got snippy when Clarence Page, columnist for the conservative Chicago Tribune, unsettled him by going off-script — Chris's script. Chris (irritably): "I thought you were going to make the moderate argument, the Mark Penn argument, the Eddie Rendell argument, should go down the middle ..."
PAGE: That is the middle.

MATTHEWS (Irritably): Progressives — OK. Here we go with the definitions.

WALSH: That is the middle.

MATTHEWS (Über-irritably): We can play this game all night.

WALSH: I know.

MATTHEWS: If the progressive side was such a popular side in this country, why do they have to keep changing their title, their name? If liberalism sold, we'd still be calling it liberalism. This country has a built-in resentment against big government.

PAGE: That's not the real America, Chris. That's not the real America part about populist, liberal, conservative. People of real America care about the issues; rebuilding roads and bridges. Whether you're left, rightor middle or whatever, it doesn't matter. They want to see the jobs. They want to see the work being done. They want to see Obama out there fighting for their side. They want to feel like he is an ally, and not too aloof.
Then Chris gets downright snippy and confrontational when his guests go off-script, and lets us in on, maybe this wasn't supposed to be an open, free-wheeling discussion after all:
MATTHEWS: I thought Clarence was going to go on tonight — and that's what I thought you said you were going to do (Oops ...) — and back the Bill Clinton approach, not the populist approach. I'm going back to Clarence. What is your position, sir?

WALSH: No, but you know what?

MATTHEWS: I need to know. You first. (Condescendingly) I know where — I know where you are, Joan. Where are you, Clarence?

WALSH: So compromise with Boehner. Forget about it. The other thing I want to say —

MATTHEWS: (Inaudible; blowing Joan away). I got to divide the time. I'm sorry. Clarence, should he be seen trying to make friends with Republicans across the aisle, having beer lunches and all that other crap? Or should he be going to war with the right?

PAGE: He should be seen — he should be seen as getting something done or trying to get something done. And if he fails, at least he'll be able to say he fought hard.

MATTHEWS: OK, there we got your position, trying to cut a deal with Republicans.

Um, Chris ... FYI, it may be your show but the audience isn't stupid and neither are your guests. You lost it here trying to fit a square peg into a round hole to push your bankrupt Beltway Media political fallacies. You present us (and your guests) with a false choice, go to "war" with the right or "make friends with Republicans across the aisle." Huh? That's yesterday's news, pal. The ONLY thing on the table now is the President's jobs bill, which he is pushing hard with support from a phalanx of progressives while it's your remaining so-called MOR Blue Dogs who are balking. What Clarence is saying, CLEARLY, is the President should get his jobs bill done, and if he fails the American people will know he tried and he can run on it blaming Republicans BY NAME.

Incidentally, THIS BLOG, not some of our friends at MSNBC now taking credit for it, was first out of the gate (as we are with most of our cutting-edge political analysis) in pleading with President Obama to "take numbers and name names." So far, he's called out John Boehner, Mitch McConnell and Eric Cantor, the top Republican leadership in Congress. So much for the "expertise" and "wisdom" of the Idiot Punditocracy.

And Chris, you and Joan may go way back, but even old friendships can be strained by the kind of rudeness you showed Joan. She deserves an apology. A real one. Best quote of the program from one of my favorite historians, Douglas Brinkley:
"Obama has to not just work about his reelection, but he`s fighting for the history of the Democratic tradition of Franklin Roosevelt, and to abandon it by a kind of mealy-mouthed middle course would be a mistake. There is no grand bargain. This is war in 2012, and Obama has to win."

Monday, October 03, 2011

TEA PARTY Remedial Ed: OCCUPY WALL STREET Protester Schools Fox

Attention Teabaggers: Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be able to articulate more than three words into a coherent sentence rather than a stupid slogan — "SHUT 'ER DOWN!" or "TAXED ENOUGH ALREADY!" — when the Fox propaganda machine shows up at your widdle demos? I know, I know, you're brain-addled, overweight, middle-aged white people in stupid costumes.

But there's always room for growth, if you're willing to reform your ways and join a true-blue populist movement. Hell, even Dylan Ratigan found a Teabagger amid the protesters to justify his wingnuttery even as he works through decades of his Reaganomics neurosis. What I'm curious about is what's this "lefty agenda" that so offends Dylan.

But we digress. Take note Teabaggers, here's how a LEFTY protester in regular street clothes schooled a Fox crapagandist ON THE ISSUES THAT MATTER TO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE, AND HOW FOX AND THE REST OF THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA ARE GROSSLY MISINFORMING THE PEOPLE. POP QUIZ, Teabaggers: Was this clip, or any part of it, ever aired by Fox. What do you think, Teabaggers? I can't HEAR YOU ...

The young man's name is Jess LaGreca, and I LOVE how SMART AND ARTICULATE these kids are. You're totally awesome, Jess:

Here Comes The GOP ELEPHANT (Are You In Or Out?): Chris Christie's Campaign Song

Waiting for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to throw his FAT into the ring ... MEANWHILE, here's the Republican savior's campaign song:


Plugging Chris Matthews, LITERALLY: EXTRA RIDICULOUS Show Tonite!

You can always count on the Dean of the Idiot Punditocracy for some totally amorphous, irrelevant, unintentionally hilarious political theater. Let's LISTEN to Chris:
"Which way should Obama go? Which way will offer the most compelling case for reelection next November? What will attract the majority of voters to decide that an Obama second term, four more years of a Democrat controlling the White House and setting national direction is a better bet than giving the Republican candidate a chance? ...

But the problem for Obama is that like a batter in the Major Leagues, by the time you know what pitch is coming your way, it`s too late to adjust your swing. So, it would be best for Obama to make up his mind, HARD LEFT OR DOWN THE MIDDLE."
Hmm ... Well, it seems Mr. Yellow-Stripe-Roadkill has already made up his mind and President Obama's for the rest of us. Since it's Dean Matthews's show, count on it to be accordingly tilted and choreographed with an assortment of Chris's favorite idiot pundits to make the case for Chris's treasured "40-yard line" where nothing much other than lots of spectatin' speculatin' (Chris's specialty) happens. Here's some homework for Chris: Please to define what, and who, is "HARD LEFT." Is it Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman? Is it Gene Robinson, David Corn, Eric Boehlert, E.J. Dionne? Is it his "blogger friends"? Or his hated "netroots people"? Is it Michael Moore (we already know he's being set up for an attempted takedown on Hardball)? Or could it be Chris's colleagues Lawrence (a self-described Hollywood "socialist" — we call them "festive left" in South America) or Rachel, our muse? Maybe it's some "gadfly" Chris and Michael Steele hadn't read about first on this blog, when I described Ron Paul as a GOP "gadfly" and therefore a safe target for (MS)NBC-POLITICO to ask the anti-government questions of, when everybody else on that debate stage subscribed to the same basic nonsense.

So please define for us, Chris, who or what is "HARD LEFT" on the American political spectrum. Unfortunately, I'll bet Chris was too busy scurrying under his desk, fearful of those mean commies on the "HARD LEFT" ...

To catch this political science class — and he's been mangling this reality ever since; even when we show him the PICTURE!

Chris, you will begin the road to recovery once you realize the problem isn't US ... it's YOU. AND THEM:

The REVOLUTION Is Being Televised ... Sort Of

This weekend New York City's finest staged a mass arrest of some 700 protesters participating in OCCUPY WALL STREET with relatively little fanfare. The protesters were blocking traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge, creating a public nuisance. But the BIG STORY here is the ho-hum attitude of the mainstream media that continues under-reporting this true grassroots populist uprising, a peaceful occupation of the Wall Street area by people representing the rest of us 99ers — barely topping 53% of the nation's wealth compared with 47% owned by 1-ONE-UNO% of the occupied shuffling trillions of money bytes in their trading casinos. Here's Michael Moore at Liberty Square, lending his support to the protesters: "I want to see a perp walk! I want to see the people responsible for destroying the lives of millions of people in handcuffs, and put away, and brought to justice — IMMEDIATELY!" Yeah!

Oh the media came, for a spell, when three young women were MACED by a PIG named Bologna. (You're on YouTube, ASSHOLE.) "If it bleeds, it leads," noted Keith Olbermann sardonically. But not for long. You see, the diverse rainbow of humanity occupying Wall Street — multicultural, multilingual, multiracial and overwhelmingly poor — don't have a "TEA PARTY" label in front of their movement. Therefore, in the corporate media's "editorial judgment," they aren't worthy of anything more than drive-by coverage. Why? Well, they don't have the financial backing of right wing millionaires and billionaires; they don't have a dedicated propaganda network (Fox) hyping them 24/7; and they don't pose a (perceived) threat to the mainstream media's financial assets.

Wall Street isn't governed by the ups and downs of Bulls and Bears. It's ruled by SACRED COWS. As we have learned (below) from the eye-opening insights of a Eurozone trader, the markets could care less whether this rescue package or that jobs bill succeed or fail. They stand to make money hand-over-fist no matter what, as long as they prepare and are properly positioned to profit from a "downward market."

The fact is, Wall Street and the top 1% are the ultimate anti-government nihilists; they are governments unto themselves, and they have the hubris and power that comes with unlimited wealth to believe and act as if they're above the law — ANY LAW, national or international — when the rubber meets the road. Oh they'll put up with defanged rules and regulations as long as they don't hurt the bottom line, for cosmetic purposes mainly — go along to get along, and make sure they've bought the whole damned government with millions in chump change to do their bidding. They even fund private groups to write the state and federal laws and regulations that govern the rest of us — 21st century serfdom is their business model, they being the Lords of the Manor.

And they control what's left of freedom of the media, to varying degrees. We still have pockets, enclaves of free media that push back against the corporate media narrative that seeks to box all substantive news and commentary within certain defined parameters. The Beltway Media narrative is one example of peer pressure gone wild. If you don't have "access" (a word that defines emasculated faux journalists) you're nothing. "Access" means giving every rogue and liar the deference due their exalted titles. "Access" also means reporting whispers, innuendo, gossip and lies from anonymous sources as if they're the gospel truth.

Sadly, we acknowledge, celebrate, and encourage the few, the stalwart journalists who are televising the first rumblings of a new American Revolution which began in the states, kept alive by Big Eddie's passionate advocacy for unions and the middle class (they're symbiotic, linked at the hip; people need to understand this), and moved on to Wall Street with an ongoing, remarkable demonstration against the entrenched power of the oligarchs, plutocrats, and ruling elites.

KUDOS to MSNBC's LAWRENCE (my DVR's not working, so sue me!) who has been on top of this story from the very beginning, hosting Michael Moore with a live feed from the Belly of The Beast, Rachel, and Chris Hayes, and of course, the great Keith Olbermann. Everywhere else there's been a virtual news blackout. But not for long. Welcome to AMERIKA!