Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Sick to death of "serious" politics

By Richard K. Barry

Last week John Dickerson at Slate said what I have been thinking (hoping) for some time. His said that even though Elizabeth Warren would (likely) not beat Hillary Clinton in the Democratic presidential primary, she would, if she got in, change the debate.
What do you mean you know
where I live?
If Warren joined the race, she would not win, but she would till the ground, putting grit and the smell of earth in the contest. She would energize the Democratic Party’s liberal base, which would then stir up other Democrats who seek to moderate or contain that group. Warren would challenge the Democratic Party on issues like corporate power, income inequality, and entitlements. She would be a long shot and she would have nothing to lose—which means she could keep talking about those ideas out loud. Because Clinton is close to Wall Street and finance executives and Warren is gunning for them, she has the potential to put campaign pressure on Clinton that other candidates can’t. Clinton and other candidates would be forced to explain where they stood more than if Warren weren’t in the race.

Everyone knows, and serious people will confirm, that one cannot credibly run for president while speaking too energetically about corporate power and income inequality. Serious people will tell you that this is proof positive a candidate is not, in fact, serious.

Hillary Clinton won't go there unless she has no choice, and Elizabeth Warren is the only one who can force the issue.

To repeat:
Because Clinton is close to Wall Street and finance executives and Warren is gunning for them, she has the potential to put campaign pressure on Clinton that other candidates can’t.

What does it say about the Democratic Party that our highest aspiration is that someone might run for the presidency who is capable of articulating a truly progressive vision, but who cannot win the nomination?

(Cross-posted at Culturolio.)


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Monday, July 21, 2014

Unlimited money in politics sucks (was that too subtle?)

By Richard K. Barry

If you stack up all my million dollar bills, 
it's way higher than this. 

CNN has been reporting that conservative patron Sheldon Adelson might donate as much as $100 million to help Republicans take back the Senate.

Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has officially declared money to be the same thing as free speech or, put another way, that billionaires can freely put elections in their trophy cases along with those rhino tusks bagged last summer, democracy is truly fucked.

More significant than any other use of the green stuff, needless to say, is that money buys media. 

Ever since the earliest days of advertising, whether for soap or cigarettes or cars, consumers have hated to think they can be influenced to do things they may not otherwise do. Sure, they reason, it's all bullshit but we can see past it and make up our own minds. It doesn't matter how many images, catchy slogans, beautiful women and men, or lies are put in the mix, they think, we are independed-minded American citizens and we'll decide for ourselves, Goddamit!

The problem is that they can't and don't; none of us do. Advertisers have long claimed they aren't responsible for creating demand, they simply respond to it. Political spinmeisters similarly claim, just a bit disingenuously, that they don't create opinion, they simply put the truth out there and let voters decide for themselves. Fox News, the formal advertising wing of the Republican Party describes it like this: "We Report. You Decide."

This guy.
Advertising, whether political or product, is about manipulation because, ever since Edward Bernays, they know how to do it, and we're very close to being helpless once they get us in their sites. 

But, because voters in particular don't like to believe they are capable of being led, they aren't as upset as they should be that billions more in paid media increases the likelihood that others will be telling them what to think and for whom to vote. 

I'd like to believe that Democrats won't engage in the same kind of manipulation as the other side with the gazillions they raise, but of course they will.  So, this is not really a partisan rant. 

The sooner we realize that independent thought in the face of incessant media conditioning is harder and harder to achieve,  the sooner we will get at least a little frightened at the idea that unlimited money in politics leads no where good. 

(Cross-posted at Culturolio.)

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I don't often link to Pierce

By Carl

I like to keep that as my private stash, but this, this was too good not to share:

It's not just that TBOTP [ed. note: Tiger Beat On The Potomac also known as Politico.com] invited the Manson Family of American geopolitics to come together for an exercise in ensemble prevarication. It's not just that the account of said exercise is written in the kind of cacophonous cutesy-poo necessary to drown out the screams of the innocent dead, and to distract the assembled crowd from the blood that has dripped from the wallet of the celebrity war-criminal leading the public display. And it's not as though this was a mere interview—a "get" that could help you "win the morning (!)." In that, it might have been marginally excusable. No, this was one of Mike Allen's little grift-o-rama special events—a "Playbook lunch," sponsored by that noted mortgage fraud concern Bank Of America. There's an upcoming TBOTP "event" in L.A. that is sponsored by J.P. Morgan. I know what Mike Allen is, but I am so goddamn tired of haggling about the price. Here's how TBOTP's own account of the event begins.

If I could write like that, I could put away my shitty little blog and become world-famous, and have women dripping off me like rainwater in a monsoon.

(Cross-posted to Simply Left Behind.)

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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Who fired that shot?

By Capt. Fogg

Another Malaysian plane goes down, but this time we know why. We don't know who, because Putin denies it, the Russian separatists say it wasn't them and the Ukrainian government says it was. All of them are wrong however and we can be sure our friends the Republicans will soon let us know that this crisis, like all crises can be charged off to Barack H. Obama, the Kenyan born, Madrassa educated, communist Muslim jihadist demon.

What did you think? After all he didn't invade and his sanctions were either too little or too much and that's impeachable. Just as George Bush's decision to allow minor immigrants to have a hearing before deportation was Obama's fault -- just like The Republicans refusal to beef up security at the Benghazi embassy was Obama's fault and the deplorable conditions in Central America have never had anything to do with any Republican administration or policy.

Isn't it amusing -- or perhaps disgusting, but we can be sure that our Republican Congressional hostage takers will take precious time out from doing nothing but Obamabashing to bash Obama, but hey -- at least we'll know whose' fault it is.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

If you had told me this appeared on the Federalist website....

By Carl

…I would have laughed in your face. But it did:
Why abandon K-Street, and acknowledge, then reject, the Big Business perception of the GOP? They’ve had the Republican Party’s back for some time, right? In the past, the largest companies favored one party over the other because they understood a pro-capitalist, low-regulation government benefits them.

However, in recent years, especially since the 2007-2008 recession, many have turned to viewing government as a revenue source, a competition crusher, an error-eraser, and a partner in padding their bottom line. Their interest in cheap labor, bailouts, and selectively-favorable legislation has led to a flood of dollars into the Democrat Party, or into political action committees (PACs) that attempt to move Republican congressional votes away from their bases’ expectations, like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s push for amnesty. Meanwhile, a mix of bad deals and worse legislation left taxpayers and shareholders on the hook for trillions, millions lost their homes and jobs, and the senators and corporate heads responsible are laughing all the way to the bailed-out bank.

Christ, you’d almost have thought that I, a dyed-in-the-wool leftist, a Marxist of the Adam Smith school, wrote that and not Brandon Finnigan.

And it’s true. This corporatocracy that the United States has become, where corporate bribes have made it nearly impossible for the average citizen to exercise his freedom without being drowned out in a chorus of “Me too” from the corporations, a place distinctly unfriendly to human beings.

Take the last big bipartisan initiative: the TARP program and it’s immediate antecedents. Everybody jumped on board because “too big to fail.” And now, they’ve gotten even bigger and we’ve become even more diminished and the next big bubble is here, Right now. In front of our eyes. You want to know the glaring warning sign?

Corporate mergers.

Mergermania has forecast nearly every single economic downturn since, well, downturns began in America and certainly every one since the 1800s.You can trace the curves almost perfectly. After all, these are the business leaders who have their fingers on the pulse – and thumb on the scale – of the American economy.

In this instance, mergers aren’t happening because there’s a lot of spare money on the table (there is, but it’s not the primary reason). They are happening because Big Business knows that the tax haven that they’ve banked on for decades, even centuries – America – is about to go all pitchforks and tumbrels, and start soaking the rich.

And the rich aren’t Americans. They are Dollaricans. They will flee this nation in a heartbeat if we raise taxes even a fraction of a percent and this is evident from the wave of mergers overtaking the nation.

Of course, liberals and their progressive progeny have been all over Corporate America since long before Occupy Wall Street, long before the G8 Summit protests, long before the NAFTA. So welcome to the party, Finnigan! Pity you waited until it was too late.

(Cross-posted to Simply Left Behind.)

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Todd Akin deserves as much sympathy as Joe McCarthy

By Richard K. Barry

You remember Todd Akin. Think hard. He was the 2012 Republican U.S. Senate candidate in Missouri who said that women who were victims of "legitimate rape" could not get pregnant because, you know, the "female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."

Nearly everyone with an opinion, on both sides of the aisle, distanced themselves from the jackass and he went down to well-deserved defeat. 

He's baaaack!

In the latest he argues that what was done to him was exactly what they did to poor old "Tail Gunner Joe McCarthy" who, Akin says, was "assassinated by the media."

You've got to give Akin credit. Who else would attempt to defend himself by association with one the most despicable monsters in the history of American politics?

Not only is Akin a creep, but he continually shows himself to be an irredeemably stupid creep.

Sure hope the GOP has a few more of these types kicking around for future elections.

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Sunday, July 13, 2014

Elizabeth Warren's charm

I fully understand why Hillary Clinton is still playing hard to get. Though we all know she will be the Democratic presidential nominee in 2016, she has to roll out that fact on her own timetable in order to minimize her exposure as a target for her opponents. 

Elizabeth Warren will not run for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, and though I think her "economic populist" message is one of the most important recent themes in American politics, Ms. Warren is not ready for prime time. 

Still, she is a hot ticket, especially on the fund-raising circuit. As per Huffington Post:  
Sen. Elizabeth Warren is quickly becoming a top Democratic fundraiser and campaign powerhouse, hitting the road on behalf of candidates in key races the party will need to win to retain control of the U.S. Senate in November.

Since March, the Massachusetts Democrat has stumped for candidates in Ohio, Minnesota, Oregon, Washington and Kentucky and has trips planned this week for West Virginia and Michigan. It's a hefty schedule for a freshman senator who not long ago was teaching law at Harvard.

Campaigning in Kentucky with Democratic Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes, Warren had this to say about Senate Republican efforts to scuttle a bill that would let college grads refinance their students loans at lower rates: 
When you've got a choice between billionaires and students, Mitch McConnell says it is more important to protect the billionaires.

Not that this is overly incendiary stuff, but it is the kind of stuff I'd like more of those in the Democratic leadership say. I'd really like Hillary Clinton to beat this particular drum, though I'm not holding my breath.  She and Bill are simply too close to the boys and girls on Wall Street and wouldn't want to suggest that the wealthier sort are a great part of the problem, not the solution.  In the words of Bush '41: 'Not gonna happen."

Yes, Hillary is the best way to ensure the GOP doesn't get its grubby little hands on the White House. For that reason alone I'm on board. Sad that American politics has come to this.

As for Elizabeth Warren, it's probably too late for her ever to run for the presidency, though she can do some fine work in the Senate. And if, in the longer run,  she encourages a few on the left to understand that you don't fundamentally change a corrupt system by begging the wealthiest in the land for table scraps, we could do worse.

Are you listening, Hill?

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Saturday, July 12, 2014

Chris Christie: Whoring for GOP love

By Richard K. Barry

Just back from a couple of weeks sitting on a dock in Northern Ontario, with a stack of books. Now I'm trying to catch up to events. At the cabin we get a single channel using old-fashioned rabbit ears. And almost no high-speed Internet access. I know - living like animals. 

One of the first stories I came across is a piece in which New Jersey Gov. Christie mouths a bunch of right-wing platitudes in order to make himself palatable to the GOP faithful. Speaking to reporters at a National Governors Association gathering earlier today he said the following: Obamacare isn't working, Republicans should continue to bring up their opposition to same-sex marriage and, the Obama Administration is partly to blame for recent violence between Israelis and Palestinians because they "don't stand up for our friends." 

Clearly Christie hasn't yet given up the ghost. He's running for president in 2016, though he is toxic to so many conservatives that it's hard to imagine he actually has a shot at the GOP nomination.

Look, I'm not inside the guys head, and I really don't like the son-of-a-bitch, but he's the governor of a pretty blue Northeastern state and probably won't believe most of the shit he'll have to say to make Republicans trust him, which most will never do anyway. 

Go ahead, Chris. Sell whatever tiny piece of your soul there might still be left. It will be fun to see how low you'll go. 

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