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Eastern Ukraine Referendum: Questions for Mainstream ‘News’

1:16 am in Uncategorized by fairleft

Posted at the once liberal and vaguely social democratic but now neo-liberal and neoconservative Guardian, at one time (perhaps?) a news service but now just another of the important mainstream propaganda sites:

What is wrong with having a democratic referendum on autonomy, on a federal rather than ‘Kiev controls all’ governmental structure for Ukraine? Why are pro-federalists called ‘pro-Russians’?

Why is it that the sponsors of the Kiev coup, we heard Victoria Nuland and the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine on the phone choosing the after-coup prime minister, aren’t subject to sanctions? Why aren’t we discussing sanctions for those providing massive economic and on-the-ground military support for the illegally installed junta?

What is wrong with opposing a government that openly employs armed fascists and neo-Nazis (Right Sector and Svoboda) in its National Guard? That employs tanks and heavy weapons against unarmed civilians (as anyone who can watch a youtube video can see)?

Why is the government that is explicitly and excruciatingly not involved in Ukraine unrest being subject to sanctions and asked to back its military 100s of miles away from its own border?

P.S. – Wow, this comment has more than doubled my previous ‘best’ at the Guardian: 280 recommends and counting. Never been a ‘Guardian Pick’ though, I have a clean record in that regard.

Here’s to a less prettied up, less distracted, less disguised 2014

11:43 pm in Uncategorized by fairleft

Cartoon versions of Republican elephant and Democrat donkey

“In the new year could we be less distracted by the manufactured b.s. … designed to make us hate the Reds or the Blues?”

Great quote in yesterday’s Counterpunch from John Stauber:

Democracy is all but dead, snuffed out by centuries of a corporate economic system that has concentrated wealth and thus political power in the hands of an elite. That elite sits astride a self-destroying economy that is eating up the earth to churn out consumer crap and the vision of a shopping mall utopia. Nothing will get better for the poor or the planet until we individually and collectively come to grips with this reality, and any propaganda that disguises or pretties up this ugly situation is detrimental.

I wonder if in the new year we could be less distracted by the manufactured b.s. — produced by the Democratic and Republican Parties — designed to make us hate the Reds or the Blues? Just a little less? Or if we can keep our eyes on the prize more steadily, the prize being changing the economy into one that makes full employment at good wages our number one ‘left wing radical’ priority. Why is the latter so hard to achieve, when it is what any developed economy can achieve (don’t let the austerians fool you) and what everyone outside the wealthy elite wants?

Well, if you really want to know, not that it really matters: “Wall Street — the West’s financial hierarchy and the established wealth it represents — is destroying the world, a case of class warfare by one class against the others. So general moral bankruptcy is not destroying the earth, but the moral bankruptcy of one class is.” But why are they destroying the economies that make them rich? I think the answer is two-fold: 1) power over the economy and over all of us non-elites matters more to the elite than (even) a healthy, growing economy, and 2) they’re blinded by short-term profitability and are incapable of taking a long-term perspective on their wealth. These are just the _wrong_ people, worse than even the manufacturing ‘class’, to have controlling the world economy.

Oops, think I might’ve just gotten you and me off-track from eye-ing the prize … see how easy it is?

Okay, nuff said. Here’s to a less prettied up, less distracted, less disguised 2014. Eyes on the prize and happy new year people!

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NY 8th: Vote Today for Race Hustler or Neoliberal

3:59 am in Uncategorized by fairleft

The New York City Council’s Charles Barron has made a career as a race hustler, a man who takes his working class and impoverished constituents’ legitimate anger at their economic and social conditions and channels that into racial resentment. For example, in 2010, during the worst economic downturn since the 1930s, Barron created a new political party and ran for governor against Andrew Cuomo, a neoliberal Democrat. But the main issue was not economics, no, Barron was fighting mad because no African-American was on the Democrats’ statewide ballot, which to Barron signaled a racist Democratic Party. This in a state where the governor in 2010 was an African-American Democrat. None of the preceding is to disparage the righteousness of many or even most of Barron’s causes (one of which particularly turned me on: his opposition to state and city freebies for an obscenely wealthy NBA owner so he’d locate his team in Brooklyn).

Barron is now running for the 8th Congressional District seat, primary today, and his main opponent in the Democratic Party is New York State Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries. Key fact about the race is that by mid-June Jeffries had raised $700,000 in campaign donations compared to Barrons’ $50,000. No need to wonder who is giving all that money to Jeffries: “Wall Street lawyers, hedge fund operators and charter school advocates … have poured money into stopping Barron’s bid for a Brooklyn congressional seat …” He’s also received all the wrong endorsements from the corporate media and all the wrong comparisons, such as to Cory Booker.

A passionate advocate, Jeffries last year told charter school parents “that he would ‘always’ support their aspirations over those who would ‘defend the status quo.’” Ain’t that great, unionized public school teachers? Barron, in sharp contrast, has been a strong opponent of charter schools and the closing of public schools to make room for them. But how effective can your advocacy be when most New Yorkers rightly see your politics as fundamentally race-based? Not very.

Again, none of the preceding should disparage Jeffries’ resonable record of accomplishment as a New York State Assemblyman, especially on the ‘stop and frisk’ issue. But Barack Obama had a similar record in the Illinois Senate. Then he ran for the U.S. Senate, taking in huge amounts of money from Wall Street and corporations, and transformed himself into “Obama Inc.” My humble but well-educated guess is that Mr. Jeffries is undergoing a similar metamorphosis.

So, New Yorkers, a race hustler or a neoliberal, what do you say? I say vote for the Green Party candidate in the general election.

P.S. — Oh, one more thing, there’s this, which also indicates another source of Jeffries’ obscenely enormous warchest:

On June 11, 2012, former Mayor Ed Koch, Congressman Jerrold Nadler, Councilman David Greenfield, Assemblyman Dov Hikind gathered with several other elected officials to support Jeffries and denounce his opponent in the Democratic primary, Charles Barron. Barron was described as anti-Semitic, and his support of Zimbabwe ruler Robert Mugabe and former Libya ruler Muammar Gaddafi denounced. Barron responded that such attacks had not been raised when he spoke before Jewish groups in Brooklyn, and that his constituents were interested in discussing bread and butter issues not foreign policy.

So, looks like Jeffries will be a neoconservative in Congress as well as a neoliberal. For example, and no doubt pleasing his Israel-centered contributors, he’s taken an all options open stand on the attack Iran issue.

P.S.2 — There’s one more issue in the campaign that is being distorted in places like a MoveOn e-mail, which supports Jeffries. It’s about Barron’s opposition to same-sex marriages. To make this quick, here’s Wikipedia on that:

In November 2011, Barron said that he opposed same sex marriage, but at a June 2012 debate declined to state a position on the issue. Earlier, in 2010 while running for governor, Barron stated that he was a strong supporter of civil unions, adding, “I voted positively on all legislation in the City Council regarding civil union and gay rights. I believe homosexuals deserve equal protection under the law, like everyone else.”

Inverted totalitarianism: what we’re up against

10:44 am in Uncategorized by fairleft

How to persuade the reader that the actual direction of contemporary politics is toward a political system the very opposite of what the political leadership, the mass media, and think tank oracles claim that it is, the world’s foremost exemplar of democracy?

S.S. Wolin

I said: That [corporations are people] ruling was a nightmare in theory, but even if the SCt had ruled the other way, we’d just get more of what we have now, which is a completely corporation-dominated politics.

Donkeytale responded: That ruling was more than a nightmare in theory. It has huge practical implications. Watch and see.

And I elaborated: . . . corporations already more or less rule this country. The only thing they and theirs’re afraid of at this point is riots and shit like that, so they will occasionally throw the rabble a bone. This is the way it’s been for awhile; we’ve long been post-democracy in the U.S., the death knell was two or three decades ago.

BTW, I’m not saying we had anything more than a ragged, corrupt, semi-democracy from the 1930s to the 1970s, but it seems to me simply a fact that union members had more sway over the political system back then, and for awhile almost 50% of [working] U.S. adults were in unions. But it’s a minor point . . . At this point popular control through the normal electoral channels is close enough to nothing to be meaningless. That’s what matters and will matter going forward, and that all happened before the SCT’s big decision.

Only later did I stumble on Monday’s Chris Hedges essay, Democracy in America Is a Useful Fiction, which is an extended rant/riff on Sheldon Wolin’s Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism. Hedges’ essay is a fiery, intellectually intense deja vu of that little exchange with donk. He begins:

Corporate forces, long before the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, carried out a coup d’état in slow motion. The coup is over. We lost. The ruling is one more judicial effort to streamline mechanisms for corporate control. It exposes the myth of a functioning democracy and the triumph of corporate power. But it does not significantly alter the political landscape. The corporate state is firmly cemented in place.

The fiction of democracy remains useful, not only for corporations, but for our bankrupt liberal class. If the fiction is seriously challenged, liberals will be forced to consider actual resistance, which will be neither pleasant nor easy. As long as a democratic facade exists, liberals can engage in an empty moral posturing that requires little sacrifice or commitment. They can be the self-appointed scolds of the Democratic Party, acting as if they are part of the debate and feel vindicated by their cries of protest.

Here’s another great paragraph by Hedges derived from Wolin:

Hollywood, the news industry and television, all corporate controlled, have become instruments of inverted totalitarianism. They censor or ridicule those who critique or challenge corporate structures and assumptions. They saturate the airwaves with manufactured controversy, whether it is Tiger Woods or the dispute between Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien. They manipulate images to make us confuse how we are made to feel with knowledge, which is how Barack Obama became president. And the draconian internal control employed by the Department of Homeland Security, the military and the police over any form of popular dissent, coupled with the corporate media’s censorship, does for inverted totalitarianism what thugs and bonfires of books do in classical totalitarian regimes.

Read it, it’s a fantabulous consciousness raising rant! I’m going out and getting the Wolin book, myself. Chalmers Johnson wrote an enlightening and enthusiastic essay of Wolin’s book back in May, 2008. (A minor point, btw, is that Wolin’s sense of the ‘real democracy-ness’ of the New Deal days matches my own) (emphasis added):

. . . Wolin introduces three new concepts to help analyze what we have lost as a nation. His master idea is "inverted totalitarianism," which is reinforced by two subordinate notions that accompany and promote it — "managed democracy" and "Superpower," the latter always capitalized and used without a direct article. . . .

Wolin writes, "Our thesis is this: it is possible for a form of totalitarianism, different from the classical one, to evolve from a putatively ‘strong democracy’ instead of a ‘failed’ one." His understanding of democracy is classical but also populist, anti-elitist and only slightly represented in the Constitution of the United States. "Democracy," he writes, "is about the conditions that make it possible for ordinary people to better their lives by becoming political beings and by making power responsive to their hopes and needs." It depends on the existence of a demos — "a politically engaged and empowered citizenry, one that voted, deliberated, and occupied all branches of public office." Wolin argues that to the extent the United States on occasion came close to genuine democracy, it was because its citizens struggled against and momentarily defeated the elitism that was written into the Constitution.

"No working man or ordinary farmer or shopkeeper," Wolin points out, "helped to write the Constitution." He argues, "The American political system was not born a democracy, but born with a bias against democracy. It was constructed by those who were either skeptical about democracy or hostile to it. Democratic advance proved to be slow, uphill, forever incomplete. . . ." Wolin can easily control his enthusiasm for James Madison, the primary author of the Constitution, and he sees the New Deal as perhaps the only period of American history in which rule by a true demos prevailed. . . .

On inverted totalitarianism’s "self-pacifying" university campuses compared with the usual intellectual turmoil surrounding independent centers of learning, Wolin writes, "Through a combination of governmental contracts, corporate and foundation funds, joint projects involving university and corporate researchers, and wealthy individual donors, universities (especially so-called research universities), intellectuals, scholars, and researchers have been seamlessly integrated into the system. No books burned, no refugee Einsteins. . . ."

The main social sectors promoting and reinforcing this modern Shangri-La are corporate power, which is in charge of managed democracy, and the military-industrial complex, which is in charge of Superpower. The main objectives of managed democracy are to increase the profits of large corporations, dismantle the institutions of social democracy (Social Security, unions, welfare, public health services, public housing and so forth), and roll back the social and political ideals of the New Deal. Its primary tool is privatization. Managed democracy aims at the "selective abdication of governmental responsibility for the well-being of the citizenry" under cover of improving "efficiency" and cost-cutting.

Johnson describes Wolin’s surprisingly optimistic conclusions and his own, far less so:

Toward the end of his study he produces a wish list of things that should be done to ward off the disaster of inverted totalitarianism: "rolling back the empire, rolling back the practices of managed democracy; returning to the idea and practices of international cooperation rather than the dogmas of globalization and preemptive strikes; restoring and strengthening environmental protections; reinvigorating populist politics [yada yada] and rolling back the distortions of a tax code that toadies to the wealthy and corporate power."

Unfortunately, this is more a guide to what has gone wrong than a statement of how to fix it, particularly since Wolin believes that our political system is "shot through with corruption and awash in contributions primarily from wealthy and corporate donors." It is extremely unlikely that our party apparatus will work to bring the military-industrial complex and the 16 secret intelligence agencies under democratic control. Nonetheless, once the United States has followed the classical totalitarianisms into the dustbin of history, Wolin’s analysis will stand as one of the best discourses on where we went wrong.

Consider reading both essays and maybe buying the book. I think Wolin’s perspective (along with his new vocabulary) may be the first satisfyingly complete grok of the deep, systemic ‘democracy problem’ we’ve all seen most clearly since 2000 in the U.S.