Sunday, November 15, 2009

Declaration Of An Independent

Illustration by Victor Juhasz

We accept the graceful falling
of mountain cherry blossoms,
but it is much harder for us
to fall away from our own
attachment to the world.


We were approached by the lobbyist, who asked if we would be willing to enter a statement in the Congressional Record. I asked him for a draft. I tweaked a couple of words. There’s not much reason to reinvent the wheel on a Congressional Record entry.

---Stanley V. White, chief of staff for Representative Robert A. Brady of Pennsylvania, one of dozens of lawmakers who used speeches ghostwritten by a biotechnology company during the health-care debate in the House.

Prig offered Pig the first chance at dessert,
So Pig reached out and speared the bigger part.

"Now that," cried Prig, "is extremely rude of you!"
Pig, with his mouth full, said, "Wha, wha' wou' 'ou do?"

"I would have taken the littler bit," said Prig.
"Stop kvetching, then it's what you've got," said Pig.

So virtue is its own reward, you see.
And that is all it's ever going to be.

---"Manners" by Howard Nemerov

I'm not a Democrat, although that's how I've been registered for years. The reason is I want to vote in their primaries. After Reagan through Bush, I can't imagine voting for a Republican in this lifetime. People think of me as a liberal, but I'm actually pretty far to the left of that position. When I say that, no one comprehends what I'm talking about. There never seems to be a candidate I really want to vote for.

The history of the radical left seems to most people as crazy as the radical right, but I think there is much to be proud of. The problem with the radical left is the same as for liberals and Democrats: we can't seem to organize anything. All the elections we lose are basically because of that. The right can issue marching orders, but my god where are they going off to? To me that's American's politics in a nutshell.

According to the polls and midterm election analyses, I'm not alone. It looks like most Americans consider themselves independents. I worked harder for Obama than during any election, but it wasn't because I was committed totally to him. I was working against the certain horror of a McCain-Palin victory.

The midterms revealed tens of thousands of Obama grassrooters stayed home, especially the young. I got to the polls late in the afternoon on November 3rd, and in my district fewer than 50 people had voted by that time. I keep hoping Obama has some brilliant strategy that will be revealed over the next year to prevent disaster in 2010. Every once in a while he seems to flash a hint, but essentially this man wants consensus. He doesn't knock heads together. Republicans will label it appeasement.

Has it been a mistake thus far to have left so much of the Bush program intact? If nothing works out, is it Obama's plan to blame the Republicans in his own administration? Shifting the war activities from Iraq back to Afghanistan seems to have been his own idea. But now he's bogged down, and the Sunday talking heads will tear away at him this morning.

The insurance companies, some of whom have monopolies in individual states, appear to be writing the healthcare bill. What about those stump speeches decrying unethical lobbyists? Did Obama miscalculate how powerful those people are? Does he fear not only for his political agenda, but for his life?

Then there's the Wall Street bailout. I just was reading an article by Naomi Klein, written a bit over a year ago, and published in the Rolling Stone issue predated November 13th, but before Obama was elected. In it she predicts with unerring accuracy exactly what has happened, namely that the banks didn't loan out any money but instead gave themselves bonuses and got bigger. Without the loans, which would affect small business, there are no new jobs. And she told us why that would happen.

What Ms. Klein wrote and the fact her prophecy has had absolutely no effect upon subsequent developments is the best argument I know for remaining in the great unwashed independent blob out here. But we have to keep writing, we have to keep trying. Perhaps there's some progress. Maybe stuff we didn't know about or merely suspected (in an insane conspiracy plot) is out in the open now. We have to shine a light on it, we have to protest...else all is lost.

Here's the beginning of Naomi's article and the link to the rest. The editor has a note saying the online version has been updated since the print edition, but I have the magazine in my hand and the only change I see is regarding the Jeffery appointment, which just maybe the original article sabotaged~~~

On October 13th, (2008), when the U.S. Treasury Department announced the team of "seasoned financial veterans" that will be handling the $700 billion bailout of Wall Street, one name jumped out: Reuben Jeffery III, who was initially tapped to serve as chief investment officer for the massive new program.

On the surface, Jeffery looks like a classic Bush appointment. Like Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, he's an alum of Goldman Sachs, having worked on Wall Street for 18 years. And as chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission from 2005 to 2007, he proudly advocated "flexibility" in regulation — a laissez-faire approach that failed to rein in the high-risk trading at the heart of the meltdown.

Bankers watching bankers, regulators who don't believe in regulating — that's all standard fare for the Bush crew. What's most striking about Jeffery's résumé, however, is an item omitted when his new job was announced: He served as executive director of Paul Bremer's infamous Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad, during the early days of the Iraq War. Part of his job was to hire civilian staff, which made him an integral part of the partisan machine that filled the Green Zone with Young Republicans, investment bankers and Dick Cheney interns. Qualifications weren't a big issue back then, because the staff's main function was to hand over stacks of taxpayer money to private contractors, who were the ones actually running the occupation. It was this nonstop cash conveyor belt that earned the Green Zone a reputation, in the words of one CPA official, as "a free-fraud zone." During Senate hearings last year, when Jeffery was asked what he had learned from his experience at the CPA, he said he thought that contracts should be handed out with more "speed and flexibility" — the same philosophy he cited back when he was in charge of regulating Wall Street traders.


Quinty said...

Thanks for bringing up the Klein piece once again. It’s good to know who has been right in the past. Along with Byron Dorgan in the Senate who clearly saw what was coming in the financial sector with deregulation. There have been others of course, but I very much doubt we will ever have a Dorgan Klein ticket.

Here’s the Quinty theory on the natural history of regulation. A problem exists, an abuse which requires regulation. Government installs the regulation. It works and the problem disappears. Many years later those who would benefit by deregulation tell us there is no need for the regulation because there is no problem. They claim the regulation is a hindrance to progress and growth. The regulation is eliminated and the problem returns. With a vengeance.

I too am a member of the “loony left.” That is what the right calls us. In Europe our left is seen as part of the overall right. We have no genuine left here in the US, but for a minority which the establishment and MSM ignores. In many cases rightly ignores. The left can, indeed, be irrelevant and “loony.” Look at the SWP.

I recall visiting Lisbon once and the local CP was out in force. They actually showed their faces, proudly. The riot police weren’t called and women with baby strollers calmly walked by. There was no smell of brimstone in the air. Nor did they appear at all linked to Russian Communism. That day they were celebrating the anniversary of the return of democracy to Portugal when Salazar was kicked out. It appears they had been instrumental in that event, though I admit my knowledge of modern Portuguese history is quite shaky.

What I am saying here is that there are many left parties and groups and ideologies, many of which are democratic and well meaning: or at least put labor rights first. Here, in the US, the right has lumped liberals with socialists and communists into one overall group intent on destroying individual freedom. Such an attitude conveniently ignores diverse points of view, condemning even the most moderate progressive programs as tyrranical. This, on their part, reflects a paranoid blindness or fundamental lack of faith in democracy. An “our way or the highway” rightist point of view. And the Republicans in the Congress enforce that attitude.

Perhaps because the far right today is so colorful and entertaining they have grown in national attention, illustrating the power the MSM has to shape our view of ourselves. Rarely a day goes by without one of the far right’s stars appearing prominently in the news: Palin, Rush Limbough, Carrie Praejean (sp?). The more inflammatory the comments the more entertaining. And they have enough followers and political power to provide them with an aura of seriousness.

Dennis Kucinich is not nearly so colorful and extremely dry. Byron Dorgan was right about the financial markets but he is not nearly as entertaining as Sarah Palin. Some of us hope she will receive the Republican nomination because that would make a Democratic 2012 shoe in certain. I think we hope she gets the nomination at our peril.

I’m not a Marxist but I admire Marx’s analysis of Capitalism. The seeds of Stalin were in Marx, I think. He had little tolerance for dissent. Of course, Marx was motivated by urgency, and Capital replied violently to Labor’s simplest aspirations. Nowhere in the world has Capital been more successful than here, in the US, it seems to me: destroying the public commons in order to advance corporate interests. Look at the healthcare debate. If we were at all rational we would be searching for ways to curb the power of the insurance companies, which work for their own benefit, not ours, and at our great expense. Yet millions of ordinary Americans defend them, thinking a curb on their abuses would be an assault on liberty. Part of this can be due to ignorance, true enough. But it also reflects our national ideology. Just as Marxism has been likened to a theology Capitalism has its devout orthodoxy: and no where else in the world has it been so successful.

Princess Haiku said...

Hi Richard,
Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving a comment. I am getting Helene's Beethoven CD for xmas. I know because I bought it for myself already and put it away. LOL I hope she comes to the SF Bay Area next year so I can hear her live again.

You have an interesting blog. I have given up on politics lately. It's all about lobbyists and corporations I fear.