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Posts Tagged ‘United States

Spotlight on the Mainstream Maniac Machine

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-Comrade Jack

Today’s enlightened rant is sponsored by Paul Krguman of the New York Times, as seen here. This observer has noticed this trend of madness that has become more and more acceptable in the ever more homogenized American infotainment/media/news(?)/crap sector. However, what this observer missed was how the recent right-wing lunatic murderers of abortion doctor George Tiller and the white supremacist shooting up the holocaust museum, show how right the Department of Homeland security was in a recent report. Jack did notice the report, and at the time and without much attention, believed it to be an over-exaggeration made by a department Jack never liked in the first place (mostly because of its connections with America’s dumbest president). It seems that all the critics of this report have some explaining to do. Jack feel a little humbled, and I’m sure the offended teabaggers and RNC flaks would if they weren’t so deluded by our media’s maniac machine.

Jack doesn’t blame the right wing for being upset by Obama winning the election, he would feel more than a little peeved if old man McCain had won. What he is bothered by is how more than a few folks on the right end of the American political spectrum have given in to what appears to be a media feed madness/temper tantrum. Obama is not the Antichrist, and no one should have to argue against that. A 3% tax hike is not “oppression”, and makes anyone who would claim it look like a douche (as in, try explaining to a Chinese factory worker that you’re being oppressed by a minor tax increase).

Perhaps most disturbing to Jack, is the idea that Obama is a Marxist. To anyone who will, (and they will) claim that Obama is a Marxist, please be prepared to defend your point based on Marxist principle (site actual Marxist theorists or you will be ignored). If you don’t think you can do that, it explains why you are not qualified to offer an opinion on who is or is not a Marxist. Let me clue you in on a basic fact ignored by almost every single person in North America. Government control is not socialism, per se. Socialism is direct democratic control of the economy. As the decisions of the Fed are not democratic, it is not a socialist body. Obama is a social democrat, a capitalist who believes in a social safety net and Keynesian economic theory. End point.

To return from Jack’s ideological rant tangent, what Krugman has shown us is that there is a serious problem in the lunatic right today. Unlike the American lunatic left, which today is mostly pacifistic and narcissistic (see Jack’s last rant), there is a tiny fragment of the right that is not only fanatically crazy, but homicidal at that. It is receiving serious ideological support from a large segment of the media that seems to have completely lost its mind. Jack would like to take this moment to speak to all Americans and ask for people to calm the f*ck down.

Bush nor Obama is the END OF THE WORLD. Put your guns back in their lockers, and try not to treat your fellow Americans like something you just scraped of your shoe.

Jack Fears that American Democracy is Eating Itself

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It is posts like this one that have me worried about the state of American democracy. Over thirty years of anti-government hysteria seems to have made Americans forget the point of us rebelling from the crown. What started out as a somewhat justified argument against a government too reliant on Keynesian economic tactics, has become an argument against democratic governance itself.

What was developed as a means to combat tyranny by affording a measure of control to citizens is now seen as the enemy of the citizenry. Cynical Americans rightly angry by abuses of power have reacted not by attempting to right American democratic institutions, but by eliminating them at every turn. Becoming less active in government and actively supporting measures and candidates who designs place more of the responsibility for the common welfare to business interests, who without evidence, are sighted as being more efficient in the tasks of the people. Never mind that businesses are, by the very nature, not in any way beholden to the public good. In practice, it has been shown again and again, that businesses pursue business interests, not public ones.

This belief is not necessarily partisan, and is shared by political gradations between the left and right. The major difference between the two sides lies in where they will accept some government control. Anarchists on the left are tolerant of government intervention in the form of a social safety net and domestic concerns such as labor and the environment, where the rightward libertarians will eschew government involvement except in defense, and imperial military escapades. However, this is not so much a support of democratic governance, but rather a placid support for government policies that they appreciate. When it comes to civic participation both sides are too often focused on their own narrow interests and personal politics.

The last point is of vital importance. Despite their often political leanings, both groups are more involved in a narcissistic individualism that is hostile to the idea of democratic governance. Anarchists abandon society and form walled off collectives, and libertarians only involve themselves in politics to advance policies that limit and de-legitimize the very idea of democracy. The former, although often compassionate at least in theory, do not realize that they do a disservice to their democratic principles by isolating themselves (even when they believe they are being inclusive). The latter, although they have an almost religious interest in the founding fathers, are openly hostile to the civic element of democracy, that they savage whenever possible.

Libertarians, who are viciously capitalist to a point of compassion-less zeal, seem to look past the many, of what they would decry today as needless government interventions, that their beloved forefathers pioneered. America did not just pioneer the modern democratic state, but “big government” interventions such as the police, firefighters, libraries, schools, hospitals, roads, prisons, etc. They also are unable to understand that the modern world is very different than the one the founders lived in. What other political movement would chose Ron Paul as their public face, a man who has not put forward a single political policy that hasn’t already been implemented before the 1830’s.

It is important to understand that the America of the founding fathers was one that was only beginning to experience the birth of capitalism and the industrial revolution. The model of society that existed 200 years ago is hardly an exact model for the present. The industrial revolution has dramatically changed the family unit, and increased specialization to the point where individuals are not able to exist in modern society without relying on others to a much greater degree. The idea of the self-dependent family may have been possible when industry was nearly non-existent, but in the era of hi-tech information systems, and complex manufacturing processes it is no longer possible for families to exist as such autarkic units. Unless anarchists and libertarians wish to return to a pre-industrial society (and some do), then they will have to accept the fact that we are all reliant on each other, and democratic governance is the only instrument that is capable of sustaining such a society without economic ruin and drastic inequality.

It is still surprising to this observer how the arguments in defense of elite’s interests have become the arguments of the vox popli. Mass participation in democratic governance is the only weapon the people have against elite interests. By abandoning civic instruments for privatized control the overwhelming majority of Americans unintentionally surrender power to the very elements of government they claim to despise. Whether it is the corporations despised by anarchists or the political elites despised by libertarians.

In terms of healthcare there is no greater example of what happens when democratic governance is forsaken. Corporations make money hand over fist and secure their dominance by paying off the political elites who keep the system private. In a business of life and death, leaving such affairs to the private sector has shown that they neither care about the public interest or that they have even necessarily secured efficiency. America stands alone as one of the most inefficient and least pluralistic healthcare systems in the developed world. Americans may have the choices between healthcare providers, but this turns out to be anything but freedom, for ultimately their care is dictated by the bottom line of their provider, not in anyway by their health.

The other developed nations have realized that a public good such as health is something that must be handled collectively. The interconnected nature of modern society does not afford us the possibility to ignore our neighbors, no longer is the argument strictly moral. True, issues arising through bad personal choices such as obesity, drug use, and promiscuous sexual activity should not be born by the public, but these are precisely the issues that should be decided by the public, not the oligarchy of private wealth. The other democracies have done this, and while deciding between what should be treated and what shouldn’t has proven difficult, it has been a decision made by their respective populations. They have proven that democratic governance can not only be fair, but efficient as well. It truly is a sad day when Americans have to be instructed in why democratic governance is a good thing.

Written by jackofspades83

June 12, 2009 at 2:11 pm

Too Little, Too Late: Salvaging the Economy and Our Infrastructure

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by E. Smith-Jones

Too little, too late certainly characterizes the handling of the U.S. economy by our political leadership. As of this writing, late January ’08, the Bush administration and Democratic and Republican leaders in the U.S. House had reached an agreement on an economic stimulus plan. According to an Associated Press article, “individual taxpayers would get up to $600 in rebates, working couples $1,200 and those with children an additional $300 per child. In a key concession to Democrats, 35 million families who make at least $3,000 but don’t pay taxes would get $300 rebates. The rebates would phase out gradually for individuals whose adjusted gross income exceeds $75,000 and for couples with incomes above $150,000.”

 

This plan is a pathetic political ploy masquerading as a serious economic stimulus plan. Both parties should be ashamed of themselves for offering the American people peanuts to palliate the pain of an ailing economy. Although worth around $150 billion, it’s only slightly more than 25 percent of the $576 BILLION (through Fiscal Year 2007) that, according to the Congressional Research Service, has been pissed away on U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and “other counter terrorism operations.” (A PDF of the CRS report, “The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Global War on Terror Operations Since 9/11,” updated in November 2007, can be downloaded at

http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/RL33110.pdf .)

 

Sending each American a $300 to $600 check will do very little to improve this country’s faltering economy, which, depending upon which “expert” and TV talking head you choose to believe, already is mired in a recession or is careening towards one like a toboggan piloted by a meth addict. For instance, December 2007 unemployment edged up to 5 percent (from 4.7 percent in November; around a 6.3 increase in ONE month). The fact that unemployment rose during the all-important Christmas shopping season when normally it decreases because of temporary employment in the retail sector doesn’t bode well for the health of the economy.

 

There is a school of political thought that says any government handout has to be extended to the middle class in order to be supported by them. Supposedly many middle-class people resent having their hard-earned money given to poor people whom they think are disadvantaged merely because they don’t try hard enough to get ahead. The wisdom of the “if-you-keep-your-nose-to-the-grindstone, you’ll-get-ahead” belief is debatable. Putting that adise, it seems reasonable to wonder if individuals making UP to $75,000 and couples with incomes UP to $150,000 really need and deserve rebate checks from Uncle Sam? Even if they’re hurting, which many of them are because of the mortgage crisis, a one-time check of up to $1,200 is not going to be enough to stave off foreclosure.

 

These proposed rebates are an example of both parties conniving to buy middle-class votes cheaply–because they think that many voters will sell their allegiance for a relative pittance. They also represent another chronic failing of Washington: addressing the symptoms of a problem, in this case the economy, without dealing with the underlying structural problems that are dragging down that economy, one of which is a lack of serious investment in the infrastructure–roads, bridges, schools, etc.–that are necessary to have a viable economy. (Of course, It’s ironic that the party that is full of supposedly rock-ribbed conservatives who that claims to oppose hand-outs, public assistance and welfare–except for corporations– would be the one to first propose a handout; obviously, the GOP feels pressured to something, practically anything, at this point in an effort to improve its dismal chances in the November election. These rebates also add to the budget deficit; so much for the GOP and so-called conservatives commitment to the values of a balanced budget and fiscal restraint.)

 

We need a president and a Congress with the foresight to link improving our economic condition with serious steps to do something about our neglected infrastructure. This country’s infrastructure is crumbling. literally, around our heads while our so-called political leaders fiddle away oblivious to everything except maintaining their grips on power and feathering their nests. According to an article at metropolismag.com (“How to Fix America’s Crumbling Infrastructure,”

posted Aug. 9, 2005), the American Society of Civil Engineers, “judged the country on 15 infrastructure categories ranging from aviation, drinking water, and hazardous waste to rail, schools, and security. The resulting ‘2005 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure’ awards the U.S. an overall grade of ‘D’: a step below the cumulative ‘D+’ received in 2001, the last time the ASCE issued the report.”

 

The ASCE document also offers an analysis of each of the 15 areas, as well as breakdowns of infrastructure quality in each of the 50 states.” (Go to http://www.metropolismag.com/cda/story.php?artid=1528 to read the whole article.) The section that covers Florida noted, to cite just a few disturbing statistics, that “18% of Florida’s bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete” and that “57% of Florida’s schools have at least one inadequate building feature” and “80% of Florida’s schools have at least one unsatisfactory environmental condition.” (To read the whole section on Florida, go to http://www.asce.org/reportcard/2005/page.cfm?id=49)

 

An Aug. 2, 2007 article from the Christian Science Monitor reported that “According to engineers, the nation is spending only about two-thirds as much as it should be to keep dams, levees, highways, and bridges safe. The situation is more urgent now because many such structures were designed 40 or 50 years ago, before Americans were driving weighty SUVs and truckers were lugging tandem loads.”

 

Infrastructure has been forgotten during the Bush administration, which has been more interested in destroying Iraq to patch it together it incompetently than it has been in rebuilding America. An Aug. 31, 2007 article in The Huffington Post (http://huffingtonpost.com) noted that “In the wake of the deadly 35W collapse the House Transportation Committee called for a fuel tax hike. More specifically, Congressman James Oberstar (D-Minn.) indicated he would introduce legislation to fund bridge repairs and increase their inspections. According to Oberstar, a 5-cent increase in the gas tax would pay for a three year program that would generate some $8.5 billion a year.” The president dismissed this proposal, saying that “Before we raise taxes, which could effect economic growth, I would urge the Congress to examine how they set priorities.” (You can read the whole article, “The Other Bush Legacy: Our Crumbling Infrastructure, Booming Oil Company Profits” at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/raymond-j-learsy/the-other-bush-legacy-ou_b_62612.html ) Too bad, nobody in Congress apparently pointed out to the Idiot-in-Chief that if we weren’t doing “nation building” in Iraq we could afford to do it here WITHOUT raising any taxes.

Deteriorating infrastructure can have serious consequences. Exhibit No. 1 is the Aug. 1, 2007 collapse of the I-25 bridge in Minneapolis, Minn., which killed 13 motorists. Infrastructure has been forgotten for too long in this country while money was squandered on the unnecessary and disastrous war and occupation in Iraq. That war has consumed money that could have been used for infrastructure improvement, not to mention education, universal health care, environmental clean-up, etc.

 

Infrastructure is neither sexy nor exciting and it’s a hard sell because it doesn’t carry the sense of transcendent moral purpose that was offered by a war to overthrow a dictator with (non-existent as it turned out) weapons of mass destruction. As the article at metropolis.com pointed out, “Like most Americans, you probably don’t think about our nation’s infrastructure—the public works that serve as the backbone of our country—until something goes wrong: you find yourself snarled in a traffic jam, or hear a report about a possible contaminate in the water supply, or become frustrated at your plane’s two-hour delay.” Even then you may blame bad luck or incompetence, not a willful failure by our political leaders to spend the money necessary to build and maintain infrastructure properly and to order political priorities in such a way that all of us rather than just the military-industrial complex and big corporations benefit.

 

Fortunately, doing something about infrastructure can be accomplished at the same time we try to stimulate the economy. The solution is simple and it is one that has worked successfully in this country and others: massive public works projects that would create jobs, boost the economy, and lay the ground work for greater economic prosperity in the future by planting its seeds today.

 

These federal public works jobs should pay living wages–at least $10 an hour, more in areas with high costs of living. Unemployed and underemployed people could be put to work; doing something productive, which would help them and society.

 

It’s sad that the Democrats–once seen as the party of working people– haven’t proposed a robust public works program as an alternative to the GOP plan. They seem to forget that one of the greatest Democratic presidents, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, used public works projects and increased government spending to help pull the country out a devastating depression that had produced massive unemployment and homelessness and that threatened to tear apart the social fabric of our nation. They need to take inspiration from the courage of FDR’s convictions and the sweep of his vision for helping those victimized by economic forces that have strained their ability to cope to the breaking point. A massive public works program would improve the quality of life for Americans–driving on crumbling roads and bridges and sending kids to crumbling public schools are indeed quality of life issues– and the tens of billions of dollars spent on public works projects by newly employed people would provide a real shot in the arm to the economy since those people mostly would spend it on the basic necessities of life–rent, food, clothing, gas/transportation, etc.

 

Public works jobs would help the people who need it the most- people from minority communities and rural areas who usually have higher rates of un- and under- employment and typically earn lower wages. It makes sense to help people who genuinely need help. It doesn’t make sense to reward people who don’t need or deserve help and may not spend their rebate check anyway. In the long-term, of course, if they bank their checks that helps the economy since that money is available for capital investments that can improve productivity/GDP and create jobs. In the short-term, however, rebate checks whether or not they’re spent immediately will do little turn around the economy.

 

Some will quarrel with the idea of putting people to work through creating public-sector jobs. They will complain about increased government spending and an increase in the size of government. They may even denounce a federal public works program as (horrors!) socialism. At its most simple socialism is a scheme for the sharing of material goods and services. Isn’t it about time that the poorest among us shared in some of the wealth and prosperity of this country? Isn’t it about time they had decent jobs that allowed them to support themselves and their families with some comfort and dignity? A massive federal public works program would help achieve those goals and it would be a helping hand, not a hand-out, since it would be based upon earning the money not just having an address where a rebate check can be received.

 

Another long-term positive effect would be to increase wages for workers in the lowest-paid jobs, usually unskilled service employment. These workers might be attracted to public works jobs that paid a living wage as opposed to continuing to flip burgers at wages for minimum wage or a dollar or two above it. This in turn would force those employers to increase wages in order to keep and attract workers. Right-wing economists will complain that this would fuel inflation and reduce the number of low-wage service jobs, but those effects will be minimal and offset by the social good that will result from lower-paid workers earning more. If we have to pay a few cents more for a McGarbage burger, so what? Isn’t it worth it, if society benefits from having the lowest paid workers earning a little more and enjoying a little better standard of living? And if the business is there, service industries will continue to hire people, even if they have to pay them more. After all, they will still be making profits, and that’s the name of their game.

 

Hell likely will freeze over before any of the candidates in either party with a possibility of moving into the White House proposes anything so bold as massive federal public works projects to provide employment, rebuild infrastructure and raise wages, but it’s still important to remember that there other options besides doing nothing or too little. Imagination is an important part of trying to create a better and more just society.

 

Written by jackofspades83

February 20, 2008 at 11:12 pm

Taking Our House Back: The Press Weighs in

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It’s the third year or so of the endless campaign for the white house. Finally we’re getting close to the end, of both the eternal campaign and the nightmare of Bush II reign. Soon we’ll cast our vote for the 11 or so Democrats, and maybe our votes will be counted. So in case the national Democratic party decides not to give in to such “important” states like Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina; you may get to be counted. Yay, Democracy!

 

To those of you who read this regularly, you’re probably as pissed off as I am with the Democrats already. The fact that they can be scared by the political equivalent of house cats, and be bought off almost half as easily as the Republicans (a major feat in and of itself). Thank you national Democratic party fucks for kneecapping those of us here in Florida that still vote for your party.

 

So, if we get to vote in the primaries who should you vote for? Please allow us at the Press to tell you how to live your collective lives. It’s a lot less work for you, and hell, we’re going to voice our opinion regardless of whether anyone actually cares! So you may as well tag along for the ride.

 

We here at the Press are officially supporting John Edwards, for the presidency of the United States of America. Mr. Edwards is the only candidate who has constantly voiced a populist message, and has made fighting poverty and economic bondage the focus of his campaign. While many of the Democratic candidates this year would make at least a decent president, Mr. Edwards is the best of those who actually have a chance of winning.

 

Granted we love Kucinich, and he would probably be just as committed to fighting poverty while providing many other things the front runners are unwilling to do. However, even Kucinich knows that Kucinich isn’t going to win. His recent endorsement of Obama has been a strong indication of that. Not too mention that he lost in Iowa, which is, oddly enough, one of the most anti-war states in the country. If Kucinich can’t come close to winning there, he certainly cannot win at all.

 

Look, we don’t enjoy poking at Kucinich’s ardent followers, and his chances of winning. However, he won’t win if we just believe in him enough. I’d also strongly urge his other supporters against a symbolic vote. I don’t think any of us want someone as pro-war, and with as many corporate links as Clinton. Reality is a bitch, I know.

 

Mr. Edwards is a good candidate, who has strongly allied himself with unions and alternative economic theorists. He is far from perfect, but so is virtually everyone, with the possible exception of Jesus (especially since he can turn water into wine).

 

Mr. Edwards is in many ways like FDR, and we desperately need that sort of politician again. Just like FDR we cannot expect him to end all the follies of capitalism, but who else among the front runners (or any candidate!) is willing to fight so hard to do so? From listening to them, watching their votes, and seeing who they surround themselves with, only Edwards has made the push.

 

Much has been made about Mr. Edward’s wealth, and how it somehow revokes the legitimacy of his message. This sort of argument is patently ridiculous. Mr. Edwards has allied himself with a movement that would help to transfer political power from people of his wealth and status, to the population at large. If anything, his willingness to speak for reform that would go against his material gain only adds to his legitimacy.

 

In the end, Mr. Edwards can only be judged by his actions. However, among all the candidates, he is the best chance for brining the economic and social change that our country desperately needs after the wake of Regan and the Bush dynasty. It is for this reason that the Press has chosen to back Mr. Edwards in ’08.

Written by jackofspades83

January 17, 2008 at 10:39 pm