Wednesday, April 23, 2008

On the 40th Anniversary of My Lai

The logical outcome of a racist empire.

The BBC explores the destruction of villages and free fire zones in Southeast Asia in the context of the Vietnam War.

Friday, April 18, 2008


ABC's debate, bittergate and the Jeremiah Wright treatment have shown us how pathetic our political culture has sunk. And now the Democrats have internalized the narrative! Thanks Hilbillary and the DNC.

Three articles have caught my eye throughout this phase of the agitprop:

Bill Kristol's ominous "The Mask Slips" which exposes the centrist millionaire Obama as the closet Marxist that we know all silver tounged Ivy Leaguers are,

Paul Krugman's opportunistic "Clinging to a Stereotype" which "debunks" for the liberal set the tenuous link between the poor and backward ideas,


Mark Schmitt's "What's the Matter With Bitterness?"

All three articles take on the issue of economic stress and reactionary politics. One, Schmitt's take, embraces the link while the others shamelessly exploit the link for partisan political purposes. Schmitt's take goes to the essential politics of the time; if the Democratic Party is to even be a liberal party of the New Deal type they must look at the last 30 years as a time of speculation and supply side redistribution in the upward direction, including the Clinton years. Schmitt correctly realizes that if the US wants to maintain the standards of living and mobility for the working class that existed from 1945 to 1970 a new deal has to be dealt. He gives up on the answer but the below post on Germany is at least a swat in the right direction.

From Schmitt's article:

"While Tom Frank's claim was that Republicans had, in effect, tricked voters, Obama was suggesting something different -- that the Democratic Party had tricked them as well. "They fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate, and they have not," he said, in the context of explaining (to a supporter who was planning to go to Pennsylvania on his behalf) why people might be cynical about another 10-point plan or promise from a politician.

That's an indictment of the Clinton years as sharp as Clinton's indictment of Gore and Kerry. Obama is basically arguing that the 1992 campaign that promised "Putting People First," with a sharp, substantive agenda of public investment and health care -- the basic Truman/New Deal package -- instead put the bond market first, delivering balanced-budgets, NAFTA, welfare reform, and symbolic appeals to the suburban middle-class swing vote. The near-full employment economy of the Clinton years was a boon for many poorer areas and families -- many cities recovered from the crisis of the late 1980s, African Americans did well, and much of the Rust Belt economy improved. But it did very little for the coal, steel, and textile towns in the region that Gore lost, areas dependent on transferable industries disproportionately affected by globalization.

Why not bring that critique?"

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Social Democracy

The Euro has skyrocketed, regulations keep small and medium size businesses afloat through government regulation, taxes are high, unions are as powerful as ever and the public sector is thriving. A recipe for disaster? If you were to read the Wall Street Journal, the Economist, the New York Times or any other liberal western media outlet you would think that this a description of a country in the depths of crisis but alas I describe Germany and Northern Europe where the economies, although beginning to slow at the moment, maintain growing wages, trade surpluses and continuing growth BECAUSE of the above recipe of government planning and state intervention, not in spite of it.

German exports boom.

The US on the other hand has thrown over the helm to the speculator class. One does not have to read Monthly Review to get an understanding of the power of finance capital of late. The fight between finance and manufacturing capital was at least a fair battle from the 30's to the 60's but since then the movement of money and capital has become the national religion and we have all, but particularly the working classes in the cities, have paid the price.

Here's how we got here.

The 2008 election will not solve the serious issues that have been in the making for 40 or so years. One of the primary reasons is the bait and switch of racism that much of the white working class has bought into, why exactly are my wages on the decline? It must be those immigrants and welfare! The other reason is that much of the suburban types that hold sway in the Democratic party like Wall Street, they have bet the farm on it and Hillbillary and Barack represent, and have represented, them well. It will take a lot more than a vote to change the direction of this massively leveraged ship.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Big Finance

Kevin Philips on big finance:

Economic, financial and regulatory issues should dominate politics and government in the United States for the next two or three years, which is important enough. National discourse may also have a new and deserving bogeyman. Franklin D. Roosevelt had Big Business, Ronald Reagan had Big Labor, and my guess is that the new president inaugurated next January will have Big Finance.

True, finance has been whupped by presidents before. Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson, for example. But that was in the quill-pen era when the financial sector was a pup. Today's financial services sector, by contrast, is a grasping, gargantuan combination of banks, stockbrokers, insurancemen, loan sharks, credit-card issuers, hedge fund speculators, securitization mavens and mortgage operators. Over the last five years, financial services has reached a swollen 20-21% of U.S. GDP -- the largest sector of the private economy.

Manufacturing led financial services by 2:1 back in the 1970s, but by 2006 beaten goods production had shrunk to just 12% of GDP.

Do most Americans understand this? Of course not. Newspaper front pages have shunned any discussion; 60 Minutes has not even spared the transformation sixty seconds, despite its vast implications. This upheaval is probably "the greatest story never told" about the two decades between, say, 1986 and 2006.

Nor was it an economic accident. Computerization was a prequisite, as was the rise of financial mathematics. However, I would say that the two most important underpinnings of financialization lay in the rise of public and private debt as a mainstay of American culture and economics and the perpetual liquidity and bail-out support of the Federal Reserve Board under Alan Greenspan. During Greenspan's 1987-2005 tenure, the sum of public and private debt in the United States quadrupled from just over $10 trillion to $43 trillion. Finance became the industry that was not allowed to fail but was permitted to enlarge and metastasize its behavior almost at will. Regulation was minimal. Favoritism was omnipresent.

The result, alas, has been all over recent headlines. America's biggest ever housing bubble, with 57 varieties of exotic mortgages and home prices now plummeting at rates unseen since the 1930s. The United States turned Credit Card Nation, with a citzenry in thrall to plastic, 20% interest rates and late fees for just about everything. Huge banks like Citigroup feel no shame in paying billion-dollar fines for colluding with Enron's tax and accounting deceits. And since mid-2007, national and world credit markets have been panicked and paralyzed by hitherto obscure instruments -- the stand-outs are collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) -- that not even their designers and packagers can explain.

The bit for his upcoming book.