Meaningless Human Life in Neoliberal America

Ice(3) by Gerhart Richter from the Art Institute of Chicago

The whole thing is now a ritual. White cop kills unarmed Black man. His family and friends and neighbors are outraged. Public officials, white people mostly, promise to look into the matter. The leaders of the Black community call for peaceful protests, and tell everyone to give the System time to work. Then the System announces that a careful investigation has been made (always using the passive voice), and that the System is quite satisfied with the actions of the White cop. The news media surrounds the family of the dead man, and the family asks that any demonstrations be peaceful. It works pretty much the same way when cops kill poor White men, and poor Hispanic Men, at least if their friends and families can work up any public support. The system is just fine with killing poor people, but the families are expected to call for peaceful protests.

We got a full dose of this in the killing of Michael Brown. After the ludicrous secret trial of the killer cop, represented by the Prosecutor’s office, with no one representing the dead, or the public interest, Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden, played her role, but Brown’s father didn’t. As the outside agitators at CNN report:

As throngs in front of the Ferguson Police Department listened to St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch’s announcement on cell phones and radios, Louis Head stepped onto a platform above the crowd and embraced his wife, Brown’s mother. He then turned to the demonstrators — some of them shouting “F— the police!” — and yelled, “Burn this motherf—er down!” and “Burn this bitch down!”

Then the foul excuse for a police department announced that it was investigating Head for inciting to riot. That forced Head to renounce his righteous anger in a depressing apology.

“Something came over me as I watched and listened to my wife, the mother of Michael Brown Jr., react to the gun-wrenching news that the cop who killed her son wouldn’t be charged with a crime,” Head’s statement said. “My emotions admittedly got the best of me… I was so angry and full of raw emotion as so many others were, and, granted, I screamed out words that I shouldn’t have…. It was wrong and I humbly apologize.”

Mr. Head isn’t allowed his anger. He has to play the role of peacemaker after his son is killed by a coward. The System tells him “Our cop killed your kid fair and square, and you can’t do anything about it.” Then the System says: “So suck it up, and protect Property”, and if you don’t, we’ll sic the legal system on you. Why? Because everyone knows Property, not human beings, is the thing cops and the System Serve and Protect. When cops hired by the System to Serve and Protect Property kill your son, you are required to join in and Serve and Protect Property yourself. Your feelings don’t count. You don’t count. What counts is Property.

That’s just the way it is here in the neoliberal US. Human lives are only of interest in their transactional form. Just being alive is meaningless unless you are doing something with money or property. Just walking down the street enjoying the day is nothing. What matters is what you buy. What matters is who you do business with. What matters is working at some job, preferably for next to nothing. What matters is your investments, in financial capital, in human capital, in social capital, and how you manage those investments. Nothing about you as a person with a loving family, a rooting interest in some sports team, a deep faith, a love of graphic novels or the works of Harry Potter, none of that. Only what you buy and sell. That’s just the way it is. Just ask the soi-disant Public Intellectual, Richard Posner, judge on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals:

“I think privacy is actually overvalued,” Judge Richard Posner, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, said during a conference about privacy and cybercrime in Washington, D.C., Thursday.

“Much of what passes for the name of privacy is really just trying to conceal the disreputable parts of your conduct,” Posner added. “Privacy is mainly about trying to improve your social and business opportunities by concealing the sorts of bad activities that would cause other people not to want to deal with you.”

See? You use privacy to defeat the market, so it’s bad. It’s bad for the market, and that’s the only kind of bad that matters in the neoliberal US.

I started writing for FDL six years ago at the height of the Great Crash. Every Sunday since, and some weekdays, I’ve turned out a short essay on these matters. When I started, it seemed possible that we could bring about a change in economic structures. The theoretical economics framework, neoclassical economics, was an obvious failure, and that failure brought horrific damage to the middle class and even some members of the upper class, and of course, made the lives of the lower class miserable. I figured politicians would have to respond to that damage. Barack Obama was about to be elected, and though I knew he was a centrist, it was utterly impossible for me to think that he and his Attorney General and the regulatory agencies would refuse to investigate, let alone prosecute, the criminals on Wall Street. Every time a new report came out on the Great Crash, I had a momentary relapse into optimism for prosecution. Nothing. Nothing changed. It was clear that the Posners of the world were running the show, and that the economic system was beyond the reach of angry voters. Then those angry voters turned against the victims of the frauds and liars on Wall Street. That was incomprehensible to me.

Nothing I’ve written has made any difference.

This will be my last regularly scheduled post here at the Lake. I’m starting on a new project, and will be writing at Naked Capitalism and Emptywheel as I work out the tedious details. Jane and her staff, and particularly Ellie Elliot, have been great, and this is a marvelous place to think about policy and actions to affect policy. But the economic system is beyond the reach of any of us right now. That has to change.

Ed Walker

Welcome to the Sixteenth Century

“The Damned are taken to Hell and received by Demons” by Luca Signorelli and his school (1499-1504); San Brizio Chapel, Cathedral of Orvieto, Italy
Please don’t murder us in the streets. We work hard so we should be paid a living wage. Bankers should be treated as equal before the law. Please stop spying on us. We’ve lived here all our lives, don’t deport us to a foreign country. Please stop killing people everywhere in the world. We are entitled to be treated like other people. Please stop poisoning the dirt that grows our food and the water we drink and the air we breathe. The minimal nature of the demands of millions of protesters measures the decrepit state of our nation. It also tells us that the rich people who run this country loathe and despise us.

We killed your kids with impunity. Take that tiny paycheck, and supplement it with government benefits, and punch out before you clean up your work station. Bankers are the engines of prosperity and if they get a bit greedy, it can’t be prevented without destroying capitalism. We spy on you to protect you from immigrants with Ebola and sharp swords. Get back into that closet. You’ll eat and breathe oil and you’ll love it. OK, you noisy group can get married. Now aren’t you happy? Remember, we have the guns, the tanks, the tear gas, the pepper spray, the kettles, the rifles, the humvees, the assault rifles, the MRAPs, and the drones, and we have your data and your phones and your computers and your emails and your facebook pages and your tweets, and we know who you are. And just ignore those thugs on the roofs, those plain-clothes men with AR-15s, they’re either our regular troops or our irregulars, our vigilantes, just out to protect our private property.

As bad as this is, the worst part is that there are millions of people who aren’t elites, who aren’t rich enough to financially survive a lost job or a divorce or a sick kid, but who think this is just fine. Those people vote for the system not just in elections, but by their hatred for their neighbors. Who could have predicted so many citizens would enjoy watching their neighbors thrown out of their houses rather than figure out some way to help? Who would have thought so many citizens would be thrilled to see families broken up and deported? Who would have thought so many citizens would be happy to drink oil instead of water for any reason? Who would have thought that so many citizens would prefer not just to let corporations pay so little to their neighbors, but also to support cutting off all government benefits to those workers? Who would have thought so many citizens would be happy to have some government agent collecting their phones and email and internet search histories?

The optimists among us point to a bunch of liberal issues on which a plurality of citizens agree according to pollsters. That’s great, and it may even be true. But the fact is that our Constitution is set up to prevent government action against the will of a small minority. It gives tiny Red States plenty of 19th Century Senators who under Senate rules can block any action they don’t like. The House is thoroughly gerrymandered, so that the will of the majority isn’t even represented. Presidential candidates must win the money primary, insuring that they will support the interests of the richest and most retrograde among the top .01% who own 11% of the total wealth of the nation. The Supreme Court has always protected property at the expense of every other interest or value, so even if a decent piece of legislation passed, the five conservative hacks on the Court will strike it down.

It seems to me that this nation is infected by a nameless, faceless dread, a fear of something awful just beyond our ability to grasp. The media, right-wing politicians and demagogues, acting on behalf of their filthy rich patrons, actively exploit that fear to get what they want: a divided nation at war with itself. You don’t have to watch Fox News or listen to Rush Limbaugh or worse to get this; you can feel it in the air, and get all the examples you need from The Daily Show or Colbert or Oliver. Where does this come from? This is a country rich in resources, armed to the teeth, with a powerful technological infrastructure that should allow a lot of material progress and solutions to any real problems. And yet there’s this:

As of 2014, it’s estimated that nearly half of Americans — 49 percent — say natural disasters are a sign of “the end times,” as described in the Bible. That’s up from an estimated 44 percent in 2011.

How do you explain technological marvels sitting alongside this kind of pre-Enlightenment fright? One explanation comes from @Billmon1, a great Twitter follow. He says that a large part of the US missed the Enlightenment altogether. That part, largely the Red states, but all over the country, is embedded in the 16th/17th centuries:

To be more specific: rooted in 16th/17th century British isles — Scotland, English border lands & Ireland, to be precise. “Celtic fringe.”

About as backwoods, parochial, & religiously bigoted part of W. Europe as you could have found in that era — an era of religious bigotry.

We have a great recent example of this culture in Northern Ireland. After a century of war with itself and its Catholic neighbors, Northern Ireland has turned from religious bigotry to racial bigotry. There are plenty of problems in Ireland, many of which are the result of unbridled capitalism like the short-sighted decisions of the leaders to pay off all depositor loses caused by Irish banks and the outrageous tax schemes that enable the likes of Apple to screw the US out of needed tax revenues. But really, a few immigrants are the problem?

It’s a mirror image of the US. The “Other” is the problem. It isn’t the unjust distribution of wealth, it isn’t the exploitation of the worker by the filthy rich, it isn’t unequal schools, it isn’t poverty or any other structural condition. It’s witches. It’s demons. It’s unholiness. It’s impurity. It’s smoke.

It isn’t fixable. The most you can hope for is bottling up that rage and fear in fewer and fewer people. Instead the media stokes those fires. Self-ordained ministers tell people that it’s sin that cause fires and floods and earthquakes and eclipses. Rage freaks like O’Reilly and Limbaugh and the incomparably stupid Hannity tell their listeners that the end times are coming. Politicians like Lindsey Graham shriek that terrorists are coming to kill them while they sleep. These pre-moderns are now in control of both the House and Senate, and the Supreme Court.

I’m thinking about being a bit fearful myself. (more…)

Welcome to the Sixteenth Century

“The Damned are taken to Hell and received by Demons” by Luca Signorelli and his school (1499-1504); San Brizio Chapel, Cathedral of Orvieto, Italy
Please don’t murder us in the streets. We work hard so we should be paid a living wage. Bankers should be treated as equal before the law. Please stop spying on us. We’ve lived here all our lives, don’t deport us to a foreign country. Please stop killing people everywhere in the world. We are entitled to be treated like other people. Please stop poisoning the dirt that grows our food and the water we drink and the air we breathe. The minimal nature of the demands of millions of protesters measures the decrepit state of our nation. It also tells us that the rich people who run this country loathe and despise us.

We killed your kids with impunity. Take that tiny paycheck, and supplement it with government benefits, and punch out before you clean up your work station. Bankers are the engines of prosperity and if they get a bit greedy, it can’t be prevented without destroying capitalism. We spy on you to protect you from immigrants with Ebola and sharp swords. Get back into that closet. You’ll eat and breathe oil and you’ll love it. OK, you noisy group can get married. Now aren’t you happy? Remember, we have the guns, the tanks, the tear gas, the pepper spray, the kettles, the rifles, the humvees, the assault rifles, the MRAPs, and the drones, and we have your data and your phones and your computers and your emails and your facebook pages and your tweets, and we know who you are. And just ignore those thugs on the roofs, those plain-clothes men with AR-15s, they’re either our regular troops or our irregulars, our vigilantes, just out to protect our private property.

As bad as this is, the worst part is that there are millions of people who aren’t elites, who aren’t rich enough to financially survive a lost job or a divorce or a sick kid, but who think this is just fine. Those people vote for the system not just in elections, but by their hatred for their neighbors. Who could have predicted so many citizens would enjoy watching their neighbors thrown out of their houses rather than figure out some way to help? Who would have thought so many citizens would be thrilled to see families broken up and deported? Who would have thought so many citizens would be happy to drink oil instead of water for any reason? Who would have thought that so many citizens would prefer not just to let corporations pay so little to their neighbors, but also to support cutting off all government benefits to those workers? Who would have thought so many citizens would be happy to have some government agent collecting their phones and email and internet search histories?

The optimists among us point to a bunch of liberal issues on which a plurality of citizens agree according to pollsters. That’s great, and it may even be true. But the fact is that our Constitution is set up to prevent government action against the will of a small minority. It gives tiny Red States plenty of 19th Century Senators who under Senate rules can block any action they don’t like. The House is thoroughly gerrymandered, so that the will of the majority isn’t even represented. Presidential candidates must win the money primary, insuring that they will support the interests of the richest and most retrograde among the top .01% who own 11% of the total wealth of the nation. The Supreme Court has always protected property at the expense of every other interest or value, so even if a decent piece of legislation passed, the five conservative hacks on the Court will strike it down.

It seems to me that this nation is infected by a nameless, faceless dread, a fear of something awful just beyond our ability to grasp. The media, right-wing politicians and demagogues, acting on behalf of their filthy rich patrons, actively exploit that fear to get what they want: a divided nation at war with itself. You don’t have to watch Fox News or listen to Rush Limbaugh or worse to get this; you can feel it in the air, and get all the examples you need from The Daily Show or Colbert or Oliver. Where does this come from? This is a country rich in resources, armed to the teeth, with a powerful technological infrastructure that should allow a lot of material progress and solutions to any real problems. And yet there’s this:

As of 2014, it’s estimated that nearly half of Americans — 49 percent — say natural disasters are a sign of “the end times,” as described in the Bible. That’s up from an estimated 44 percent in 2011.

How do you explain technological marvels sitting alongside this kind of pre-Enlightenment fright? One explanation comes from @Billmon1, a great Twitter follow. He says that a large part of the US missed the Enlightenment altogether. That part, largely the Red states, but all over the country, is embedded in the 16th/17th centuries:

To be more specific: rooted in 16th/17th century British isles — Scotland, English border lands & Ireland, to be precise. “Celtic fringe.”

About as backwoods, parochial, & religiously bigoted part of W. Europe as you could have found in that era — an era of religious bigotry.

We have a great recent example of this culture in Northern Ireland. After a century of war with itself and its Catholic neighbors, Northern Ireland has turned from religious bigotry to racial bigotry. There are plenty of problems in Ireland, many of which are the result of unbridled capitalism like the short-sighted decisions of the leaders to pay off all depositor loses caused by Irish banks and the outrageous tax schemes that enable the likes of Apple to screw the US out of needed tax revenues. But really, a few immigrants are the problem?

It’s a mirror image of the US. The “Other” is the problem. It isn’t the unjust distribution of wealth, it isn’t the exploitation of the worker by the filthy rich, it isn’t unequal schools, it isn’t poverty or any other structural condition. It’s witches. It’s demons. It’s unholiness. It’s impurity. It’s smoke.

It isn’t fixable. The most you can hope for is bottling up that rage and fear in fewer and fewer people. Instead the media stokes those fires. Self-ordained ministers tell people that it’s sin that cause fires and floods and earthquakes and eclipses. Rage freaks like O’Reilly and Limbaugh and the incomparably stupid Hannity tell their listeners that the end times are coming. Politicians like Lindsey Graham shriek that terrorists are coming to kill them while they sleep. These pre-moderns are now in control of both the House and Senate, and the Supreme Court.

I’m thinking about being a bit fearful myself. (more…)

No Bribery Equals No Corruption

Zephyr Teachout
Zephyr Teachout’s book, Corruption In America, was the subject of a recent Book Salon. Teachout is a law professor at Fordham University, and was a candidate for Governor of New York in the recent primary against the incumbent Andrew Cuomo. Teachout traces the history of the idea of corruption in this country, from its roots in concerns about the legitimacy of government in a democracy, where elected and appointed officials might use their positions for private gain instead of the public good; to Citizens United, in which the Supreme Court determined that using your money to influence government for private gain was perfectly American. The Founders were no more perfect than any other group of wealthy people, but they were well-read, and the debates Teachout describes around the specific provisions of the Constitution sound like people trying to figure out how to govern well, not people trying to figure out how to manipulate things for their own benefit.

This is from Chapter 1:

A Republic flourished politically and culturally for centuries, until a slow corruption of public life by private concerns destroyed it. This republic sustained itself for as long as it did because of the moral habits of private men in their public roles, not because of the brilliance of individual leaders. Its decline, according to a famous interpreter, came from the power and increasing corruption o an elite group who had the power to remove its most powerful citizen. These guardians became increasingly involved in intrigue and abuse of power, lost a sense of civic virtue, and in so doing, lost the republic.

The republic was Rome, and the famous interpreter was Edward Gibbon, whose book The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire was published in phases as the Founders worked on the constitution. Teachout tells us that they were well aware of Gibbon’s work, and tried to avoid the outcome he describes. It was an article of faith with the Founders that people could separate their private lives from their public responsibilities, that they could act in the interests of all rather than in the interest of themselves or their hidden sponsors. Of course, that is an ideal, not necessarily a real-world outcome, but they built in what they hoped were enough checks and balances that the system could withstand a few bad apples. For example, the House of Representatives has a large number of members from relatively small districts, so that if one or a few were to sell out, the rest would outvote them.

Teachout contrasts this view of corruption as using office for personal benefit rather than public benefit with the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision where corruption is defined as bribery, as a quid pro quo of money for favors. Justice Kennedy says in the 5-4 decision: “For the reasons explained above, we now conclude that independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.“ There is a huge body of work showing just how inane and foolish, or worse, this bizarre sentence is, some of which I reviewed here.

What the Supreme Conservatives are saying is that there is no such thing as public morality, no such thing as trying to act in the best interests of the nation. What they are saying is that there is a marketplace of ideas, and the best will emerge from the rough and tumble of private interests. That is, I think, a fair statement of the outward justification of the neoliberal state. Of course, the reality is that the ones with all the money can and do drown out everyone who disagrees with them on pretty much any given issue. And that is the hidden justification for the neoliberal state.

One obvious sign of the decay of public morality is the revolving door from Goldman Sachs to the New York Fed and the Federal Reserve, most recently in the news because one of the revolvees got caught with confidential Fed documents provided by someone at the NY Fed. Of course, if he had not gotten caught with documents, but limited himself to a private meeting where he took good notes, he would have been just fine.

The Supreme Conservatives would not consider this to be bribery, though, because there is no quid pro quo. The insider at the NY Fed who gave the documents to his buddy did not get paid, and wasn’t promised anything. It was just a friendly hand up for a good guy getting started in a new job. It wasn’t corrupt to Anthony Kennedy, just good business practice in the marketplace of ideas. In fact, it isn’t clear it’s a crime at all, according to the New York Times Dealbook story.

The Supreme Conservatives would obviously see no issue with the fact that the President of the NY Fed, William Dudley, is the former Chief Economist at Goldman Sachs. They wouldn’t care that bankers elect six of the nine directors of the NY Fed, and the other three are appointed by the Fed itself. In other words, the banks elect their own regulators. The Supreme Court wouldn’t have a problem with that either. As Dudley says, he’s a fire warden, not a cop on the beat. The Wall Street Journal quotes him explaining this bizarre idea:

“I don’t think our primary purpose as supervisors is a cop on the beat,” he said.

The New York Fed’s job is mainly about “ensuring the safety and soundness of the institutions that we supervise,” he said.

The Dodd-Frank financial regulation law gives the Fed much more regulatory responsibility, which they are exercising with the help of input from their friends in the banking business, when they bother to regulate at all. I know I feel a lot safer with Dudley uncorruptly making sure Goldman Sachs doesn’t set the financial world on fire. (more…)

Happy Days Are Here Again

Snap from Tom Tommorow’s Midterm Mayhem, click for full cartoon
Last week I asked who the Democrats should fire. This week we got the answer: no one. Everything’s coming up roses for the Party of the People, no need to change anything. Senate Democrats stuck with the flaccid leadership team of old white loser guys, Harry Reid and Dick Durbin, leavened with a woman, Amy Klobuchar, who was given the role of Chair of the Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee, a group responsible for dealing with interest groups when forming compromises. Reid appointed Elizabeth Warren to a new post of policy adviser, obviously a sop for liberals. She will attend leadership meetings and offer advice to the same people who managed for six years to have no plans on which advice would be useful. Advising this crowd of losers sounds like a loser to me. Given the makeup of the Senate, probably this is about the best we could hope for, because most of the junior senators are corporatists like Joe Manchin, Claire McCaskill and the independent Angus King of Maine.

There will be no change in the House either. Nancy Pelosi will remain as leader, despite the horrendous losses in the last election. Pelosi supports the incomprehensible policy of running the most conservative possible people against the crazy party, which she endorsed by appointing its driving force, Steve Israel, and then reinforced by offering him the same job after the debacle. Israel declined; he seems to want the post of Chair of the Democratic Steering Committee, which is currently held by the liberal George Miller, who is leaving that post. Israel has his defenders, according to the New York Daily News:

One Democratic strategist and former leadership aide said once the dust clears, House Democrats will appreciate Israel for outraising Republicans, boosting Democratic field operations and aligning messaging more closely with polling.

Nice quote from a “Democratic strategist”, who declined to be named, and who is apparently going to be strategizing for more losers in the future. It would be rude to point out that all that money went down the drain, and that Democratic field operations sucked, with turnout at miserable levels, especially among groups the Democrats need if they are going to win something sometime. And it would be even ruder to point out that aligning messaging with polling is a recipe for disaster in the absence of some demonstration that the party has some capacity to do anything at all for its supporters.

This is happening in the house, where 75 Representatives claim to be progressives. Apparently they are satisfied with the way things are. They certainly have no interest in accountability for that miserable loss, and no intention of insisting that the party run candidates who might join their caucus instead of the science project leftovers of the Blue Dogs and the corporate friendly Third Way crowd. Rump status is good enough for them.

As to liberal donors, they are perfectly satisfied that things are working out. Something called the Democracy Alliance met in DC to discuss things, and came up with their own strategy. These people, including “retired hedge-fund founder George Soros and Tim Gill, the country’s leading giver to gay-rights causes, as well as top labor-union officials.“ The group focuses its efforts on building party infrastructure. It created the Center for American Progress and Media Matters for America. In other words, the wealthy donor crowd is interested in mechanics: their goal is a six-year plan to lead the way to 2020: (more…)

Happy Days Are Here Again

Snap from Tom Tommorow’s Midterm Mayhem, click for full cartoon
Last week I asked who the Democrats should fire. This week we got the answer: no one. Everything’s coming up roses for the Party of the People, no need to change anything. Senate Democrats stuck with the flaccid leadership team of old white loser guys, Harry Reid and Dick Durbin, leavened with a woman, Amy Klobuchar, who was given the role of Chair of the Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee, a group responsible for dealing with interest groups when forming compromises. Reid appointed Elizabeth Warren to a new post of policy adviser, obviously a sop for liberals. She will attend leadership meetings and offer advice to the same people who managed for six years to have no plans on which advice would be useful. Advising this crowd of losers sounds like a loser to me. Given the makeup of the Senate, probably this is about the best we could hope for, because most of the junior senators are corporatists like Joe Manchin, Claire McCaskill and the independent Angus King of Maine.

There will be no change in the House either. Nancy Pelosi will remain as leader, despite the horrendous losses in the last election. Pelosi supports the incomprehensible policy of running the most conservative possible people against the crazy party, which she endorsed by appointing its driving force, Steve Israel, and then reinforced by offering him the same job after the debacle. Israel declined; he seems to want the post of Chair of the Democratic Steering Committee, which is currently held by the liberal George Miller, who is leaving that post. Israel has his defenders, according to the New York Daily News:

One Democratic strategist and former leadership aide said once the dust clears, House Democrats will appreciate Israel for outraising Republicans, boosting Democratic field operations and aligning messaging more closely with polling.

Nice quote from a “Democratic strategist”, who declined to be named, and who is apparently going to be strategizing for more losers in the future. It would be rude to point out that all that money went down the drain, and that Democratic field operations sucked, with turnout at miserable levels, especially among groups the Democrats need if they are going to win something sometime. And it would be even ruder to point out that aligning messaging with polling is a recipe for disaster in the absence of some demonstration that the party has some capacity to do anything at all for its supporters.

This is happening in the house, where 75 Representatives claim to be progressives. Apparently they are satisfied with the way things are. They certainly have no interest in accountability for that miserable loss, and no intention of insisting that the party run candidates who might join their caucus instead of the science project leftovers of the Blue Dogs and the corporate friendly Third Way crowd. Rump status is good enough for them.

As to liberal donors, they are perfectly satisfied that things are working out. Something called the Democracy Alliance met in DC to discuss things, and came up with their own strategy. These people, including “retired hedge-fund founder George Soros and Tim Gill, the country’s leading giver to gay-rights causes, as well as top labor-union officials.“ The group focuses its efforts on building party infrastructure. It created the Center for American Progress and Media Matters for America. In other words, the wealthy donor crowd is interested in mechanics: their goal is a six-year plan to lead the way to 2020: (more…)

Who Should the Democrats Fire?


Who are the Democrats going to fire after that mid-term debacle? The excuses are piling up in every corner of the media. They range from the stupid, like blaming Mark Udall’s defeat on his vocal support for women’s issues, to the utterly foreseeable, like failure of millenials to turn out. Then there are happy-talkers. We have demographic truthers, who are convinced that the long-term trends favor the Democrats, as the old white people die out and the young and what we used to call minorities who supposedly vote Democratic become the majority. Some people blame gerrymandered congressional districts. Some say the 2016 map is very favorable to the Democrats, and the Presidential election will counter the turnout problems, no doubt because the Republican candidates for President are buffoons and losers. And there are the die-hard Obama supporters who blame racism for the problems. The list of excuses is nearly endless. They all agree on one thing: no need for a circular firing squad, as Joan Walsh put it on Salon.

I disagree. When you have a debacle like this, there is only one question: who is responsible. The answer tells us who to fire.

I’m going to guess every single one of those excuses (Digby has a nice list) was pushed by a Democratic politician, a senior staffer, or a Democratic political consultant. It’s obvious that they do that to protect themselves from their own failure. It wasn’t my fault they claim, the stars were aligned against me.

Well, here’s a story. On Saturday, Notre Dame, my alma mater, got clobbered by Arizona State. The quarterback, Everett Golson had a terrible day, with three ugly turnovers in the first 20 minutes that led to three easy touchdowns by the Sun Devils. The color announcer blamed the defense as much as the offense; he said they failed to answer the challenge of the turnovers. He was right. Part of their job is to clean up after the offense, and they failed.

In this mid-term, as in the last one, the political class of Democrats failed to overcome the challenges. There must be consequences for defeat. Someone needs to be fired. Sadly, it isn’t going to happen. In the immediate aftermath of the defeat, Nancy Pelosi offered the job of running the Democrat Congressional Campaign Committee to the incompetent Steve Israel, whose stupid strategy has been relentlessly exposed by Howie Klein. Israel had the grace to decline, thank heaven, but I’m sure Pelosi will find another failure to run that group.

Alison Grimes, running against Mitch McConnell in Kentucky, was fairly close most of the Summer. She spent most of the election running away from Obama. In the single debate with her opponent, she refused to say she voted for Obama. She claimed she would vote to fix Obamacare. And she rooted for coal. Who were the idiot consultants who advised this candidate? Those are three of the dumbest positions you could take. Coal is a dying industry, and nothing she says can change that. The number of coal miners in Kentucky is falling, and will continue to fall, and the solution is to tell the truth about that instead of obfuscating. And why would she refuse to admit she voted for Obama if she did? Or even if she didn’t?

Worst of all, Obamacare is a raging success in Kentucky, thanks to the excellent work of its Democratic governor, Steve Beshear. Grimes should have been bragging on that success and pounding the malevolent McConnell with his utterly insane statement that he would repeal Obamacare and leave the portal, Kynect, in place. Why didn’t she? I blame the consultants. Here’s a story from the National Journal from July 2013: (more…)

Who Should the Democrats Fire?


Who are the Democrats going to fire after that mid-term debacle? The excuses are piling up in every corner of the media. They range from the stupid, like blaming Mark Udall’s defeat on his vocal support for women’s issues, to the utterly foreseeable, like failure of millenials to turn out. Then there are happy-talkers. We have demographic truthers, who are convinced that the long-term trends favor the Democrats, as the old white people die out and the young and what we used to call minorities who supposedly vote Democratic become the majority. Some people blame gerrymandered congressional districts. Some say the 2016 map is very favorable to the Democrats, and the Presidential election will counter the turnout problems, no doubt because the Republican candidates for President are buffoons and losers. And there are the die-hard Obama supporters who blame racism for the problems. The list of excuses is nearly endless. They all agree on one thing: no need for a circular firing squad, as Joan Walsh put it on Salon.

I disagree. When you have a debacle like this, there is only one question: who is responsible. The answer tells us who to fire.

I’m going to guess every single one of those excuses (Digby has a nice list) was pushed by a Democratic politician, a senior staffer, or a Democratic political consultant. It’s obvious that they do that to protect themselves from their own failure. It wasn’t my fault they claim, the stars were aligned against me.

Well, here’s a story. On Saturday, Notre Dame, my alma mater, got clobbered by Arizona State. The quarterback, Everett Golson had a terrible day, with three ugly turnovers in the first 20 minutes that led to three easy touchdowns by the Sun Devils. The color announcer blamed the defense as much as the offense; he said they failed to answer the challenge of the turnovers. He was right. Part of their job is to clean up after the offense, and they failed.

In this mid-term, as in the last one, the political class of Democrats failed to overcome the challenges. There must be consequences for defeat. Someone needs to be fired. Sadly, it isn’t going to happen. In the immediate aftermath of the defeat, Nancy Pelosi offered the job of running the Democrat Congressional Campaign Committee to the incompetent Steve Israel, whose stupid strategy has been relentlessly exposed by Howie Klein. Israel had the grace to decline, thank heaven, but I’m sure Pelosi will find another failure to run that group.

Alison Grimes, running against Mitch McConnell in Kentucky, was fairly close most of the Summer. She spent most of the election running away from Obama. In the single debate with her opponent, she refused to say she voted for Obama. She claimed she would vote to fix Obamacare. And she rooted for coal. Who were the idiot consultants who advised this candidate? Those are three of the dumbest positions you could take. Coal is a dying industry, and nothing she says can change that. The number of coal miners in Kentucky is falling, and will continue to fall, and the solution is to tell the truth about that instead of obfuscating. And why would she refuse to admit she voted for Obama if she did? Or even if she didn’t?

Worst of all, Obamacare is a raging success in Kentucky, thanks to the excellent work of its Democratic governor, Steve Beshear. Grimes should have been bragging on that success and pounding the malevolent McConnell with his utterly insane statement that he would repeal Obamacare and leave the portal, Kynect, in place. Why didn’t she? I blame the consultants. Here’s a story from the National Journal from July 2013: (more…)

Frankenstein Promises to Save Net Neutrality


On the day before Halloween, late at night, Igor called the Wall Street Journal to whisper that the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission favored a hybrid plan for regulating internet carriage of communications. Igor the Leaker said that Tom Wheeler, spookily attired in a costume as lobbyist for cable companies, his former job, and with face made up to look like a determined protector of the public interest, believed his new plan meets legal requirements, unlike the two previous tries. The proposal, which Igor the Leaker didn’t call the Frankenstein Plan, will distinguish between wholesale and retail transactions.

It would apply utilitylike regulation to the wholesale portion, the exchange of data from the content provider to the Internet service provider for passage through to the end consumer. The retail portion, the transaction that sends data through the Internet service provider to the consumer and which allows the consumer to access any legal content on the Internet, would receive a lighter regulatory touch.

The rationale for the plan, explained Igor the Leaker, is that we wouldn’t want to burden the consumer with heavy regulation like we do to electricity, because that would bring out the twin zombies Discouraging Investment and Slowed Innovation, and we wouldn’t want that, now would we? As you know, the current regime of light touch regulation has so stimulated innovation and investment that we are now the proud nation of high cost for lousy service. A recent study looked at speeds of internet service and cost and found that US cities are slower and more expensive than cities in other countries. The industry claims that costs are higher and broadband access is lower here because the US is so big, but that argument is meaningless in the context of city to city comparisons, like the comparisons in the graphics here.

According to The Hill reporter Mario Trujillo put the work in to read that poorly written study: (more…)

Frankenstein Promises to Save Net Neutrality


On the day before Halloween, late at night, Igor called the Wall Street Journal to whisper that the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission favored a hybrid plan for regulating internet carriage of communications. Igor the Leaker said that Tom Wheeler, spookily attired in a costume as lobbyist for cable companies, his former job, and with face made up to look like a determined protector of the public interest, believed his new plan meets legal requirements, unlike the two previous tries. The proposal, which Igor the Leaker didn’t call the Frankenstein Plan, will distinguish between wholesale and retail transactions.

It would apply utilitylike regulation to the wholesale portion, the exchange of data from the content provider to the Internet service provider for passage through to the end consumer. The retail portion, the transaction that sends data through the Internet service provider to the consumer and which allows the consumer to access any legal content on the Internet, would receive a lighter regulatory touch.

The rationale for the plan, explained Igor the Leaker, is that we wouldn’t want to burden the consumer with heavy regulation like we do to electricity, because that would bring out the twin zombies Discouraging Investment and Slowed Innovation, and we wouldn’t want that, now would we? As you know, the current regime of light touch regulation has so stimulated innovation and investment that we are now the proud nation of high cost for lousy service. A recent study looked at speeds of internet service and cost and found that US cities are slower and more expensive than cities in other countries. The industry claims that costs are higher and broadband access is lower here because the US is so big, but that argument is meaningless in the context of city to city comparisons, like the comparisons in the graphics here.

According to The Hill reporter Mario Trujillo put the work in to read that poorly written study: (more…)