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maya1971: “Don’t ruin my country. Please. Don’t sink its people in a bath of blood.”

1:39 am in Uncategorized by fairleft

We all should know the Western ‘news’ media has uniformly reached new lows in embarrassing imperialist propaganda on the Ukraine coup/putsch/revolution, so we must search in somewhat odd places to find non-biased stuff, words that have that gritty real feel. The comment below by (I very much think) an authentic Ukrainian — maya1971* — hits that spot, and deserves as many readers as it can find. It is comment #62 under the ‘liberal’ Guardian’s absurdly fear-mongering ‘news’ report, ‘Russia puts military on high alert ((NO IT DIDN’T**)) as Crimea protests leave one man dead’. I’ve made many corrections to the grammar, spelling and paragraphing of, and added links to, maya1971′s original comment:

maya1971
26 February 2014 8:56pm
65 Recommend

I am a Ukrainian. Somebody has to be. I am not a cleaner or plumber or strawberries picker. Surprisingly, many of us have better aspirations in life and have managed to achieve them, but this is not the point.

I am appalled and shocked by what is happening to my country. We knew about corruption and abuse of power but to such an extent? But I am appalled even more so by how it is being ripped apart now. By a “democratic” opposition that lives in a bubble of luxury and absolute denial. By EU politicians who are now such frequent visitors to help us form the government. Absurd. Where else in the world do you see a representative of a foreign country, no matter how friendly and well-wishing, come to your country and tell you what sort of life you should have?

I suspect that these are all politicians who have failed badly in their own countries, with their own people, and are now trying desperately to secure their place in history, somehow, somewhere, by ruining and damaging a people already impoverished, deceived and betrayed by all.

They are offering a life of austerity to people who already live on 100 Euros a month. All of that will now be borrowed from people in other countries, equally living in the regime of austerity. Logic? If there is any?

And to the glamorous democratic opposition and your supporters! With no money in the budget, with the economy in ruins, the only thing you have done so far is to cancel the Russian language [See ‘The new Ukraine’s first law revokes Russian language rights’ and ‘Western media blacks out Ukraine’s revocation of Russian language rights’]. Why does it even matter? It does not seem to be a problem in civilized, calm and prosperous Switzerland with 3 languages. Or in Belgium with 2.

Has cancelling Russian miraculously increased your state budget? Created jobs? Or did it simply create smoke and mirrors as you are not capable of anything else? You did fight for power very hard, I can give you that. People died for you. But you must be terribly disappointed? There is nothing left for you to steal? So yeah, lets cancel Russian. One has to do at least something.

And have you forgotten that Maidan, even with thousands of people, does not represent 46 million? When some of you, our new “ democratic” leaders claim that the Nazi occupation was actually a liberation, have you asked my 77 year old mother whether she agrees with you? After all, she is a citizen of ‘a free and democratic Ukraine’(?) who survived 4 years of occupation as a child. She witnessed her village burnt to ashes by SS troops. Her father (my grandfather) was killed in one of those “mass-grave” battles in 1942. The same on my father’s side. My parents were the only people who survived out of their families. Have you asked many millions like her, which language does she want to speak, whether she wants you to shit on her memories?

Mind you, she is not an oligarch so her opinion does not count, does it?

Of course, she has only spent all her adult life, 55 years, working as a pediatric nurse. She survived war, ruins, hunger, cold, Stalin, communists, socialists, “perestroika”, collapse, capitalism, only so that people like you could come and steal everything from her. She survived again. So when there is nothing more that you can steal from millions like her, you want to rob them of their memories, and even their languages?

You claim that Ukrainian identity was robbed and ruined. Where? I grew up in Eastern Ukraine, often portrayed as pro-Russian. But in school, when it was still the Soviet Union by the way, I had as many hours of Ukrainian as of Russian. I speak both freely and fluently. (In fact, much better (grammatically and phonetically) than a famous boxer.)

And we never thought of ourselves as pro-this or pro-that. We just lived, studied, worked, moved forward. What were you doing all that time, I wonder? Why is there a need to label people as pro-this, pro-that? Did it not cross your arrogant and ignorant mind that they are simply scared, confused and once again betrayed?

If you want to write a new chapter in history of Ukraine like responsible and honest people, please do it. But if you want to re-write the whole history and rob people of their own, then no, you won’t get a vote from me.

Luckily for you, I don’t believe in violence and manipulations. So I guess you have won once again.

Oh yeah, there is Mr. Putin of course. I actually don’t know the guy or have ever seen him in Ukraine in all these years. It’s a tad tiring though, the same old story: “Will give you gas, will not give you gas.” Whatever, make up your mind. Seems we have an unlimited amount of tires to burn anyway. They have kept us really ‘warm’ all these long winter months.

I am Ukrainian. But above all, je viens de la Terre, I come from Earth. And so do you. All of you, regardless where you were born. Don’t ruin my country. Please. Don’t sink its people in a bath of blood. Don’t poison it by division, lies, hypocrisy and hatred towards each other. But if you can’t speak the truth, could you please just have a glass of wine and keep quiet.

*maya1971′s profile

**As I pointed out in a Guardian comment and as reported by Aljazeera, the Russian drills are routine. As with any drill, participants are supposed to act like its the real thing, to pretend to be on high alert, and so that may have given the Guardian the opportunity for its blatant fear-mongering headline. Here are the key portions of the Aljazeera report:

Russian President Vladimir Putin issued battle drills for army, navy and airforce troops based in Russia’s western military district, which borders Ukraine, Belarus, the Baltic states, Finland and the Arctic. …

[Defense Minister Sergei] Shoigu said that “generally speaking, the drill is not in any way related to the events in Ukraine”.

Al Jazeera’s Rory Challands, reporting from Moscow, said that similar inspections were made regularly in Russia to ensure readiness.

The Growth Party vs The Neoliberal (and Green?) Parties, Part 1

7:17 am in Uncategorized by fairleft

Part 1: The Problem is Growth Party? Fuck That!

Don’t let the right wing economists steal reality from us. All that people value must be reckoned with when we assess growth and prosperity, whether or not it can be neatly counted.

The major political weakness of neoliberalism is that it is the economics of slow growth. Great on re-distribution up, which is why it is so popular with elites, but it slows economic growth even when it is not pushing austerity. But we leftists don’t exploit this weakness! Among the reasons for the preceding are that, like most citizens, leftists have been propagandized into misunderstanding economics, ignoring economic history and making right-wing or just wrong background assumptions that have no basis in reality.

Case in point is David Lindorff’s tragically subtitled — “The Problem is Growth” — piece in Counterpunch of a few days ago. (‘Tragic’ because only the left will lead us out of neoliberal hell, and a left that is anti-growth will fail.) Lindorff asserts baldly — in a piece whose actual title is also pretty ridiculous, “What’s Wrong with America” — that “economic growth … is a threat to life.” He comes to this conclusion in the usual way, from the global warming, pollution, overcrowding angle.

But Lindorff’s background assumption, about the meaning of “economic growth,” is wrong: he has assumed that it must mean increased factories, cars, buildings and similar. That is not true. Economic growth for real human beings means an increase in whatever individuals give economic value to. Do I value a pollution-free environment? Yes. Then for me an increasingly clean environment represents economic growth. Do I value a more egalitarian distribution of income? Yes. Then for me an increasingly egalitarian society represents economic growth.

Economic value and growth, then, are about what we value, or more specifically what each of us values aggregated together. That’s a real, human GNP. Yeah, it’s not something that is entirely measurable, but so what, that’s sometimes how reality goes. Mainstream economists nonetheless blithely and absurdly assert that economic value (and therefore economic growth) consists only of money and whatever else can be counted. But that destroys any real human meaning to the terms ‘value’ and ‘growth’ just to make economic growth, and by implication prosperity and even happiness, measurable. It isn’t, they aren’t.

If we understand economic value, and therefore growth, in the only way that makes sense to human beings, then left economics can and should be about economic growth and fairly shared prosperity. That, of course, doesn’t mean we support polluting, warming and destroying the planet. No, instead, economic growth and prosperity are for us to define in any way we like, subjectively and democratically. I sure hope and believe most people find great value in a clean and non-warming planet.

Hope I’ve disposed of the ‘Lindorff Objection’. (Of course, I may have done so here, but it is still out there …) But if I haven’t, let’s talk about it in the comments!

Tough MyFDL Balancing Act (Or ‘Metalicious’)

4:12 am in Uncategorized by fairleft

Not to get all ‘follow the money’ Marxist on you but I think the following is a reasonable way to boldly frame the issue here and at many ‘conventional progressive’ websites: there’s money in FDL/MyFDL as an Obama quasi-campaign site but there’s also money in the site’s role as a communication space for the many who are way to the left of Obama. Can MyFDL/FDL get through these next five months doing both?

“Maybe not,” some here think. And so some are looking over our shoulders, wondering what the limits are, and when the ban hammer will come down. And, oh yeah, (just to make you twitch a little more readily) there’s been some banning in the past, and I hear once you have a taste …

Anyway, my sense is that it’s useful to try to get the above in-bold sense for what is probably going on here (in a meta sense) during this election season. Respect that context, and let’s not exacerbate the difficulty of Jane Hamsher’s balancing act.

On the other hand, let’s not overrate the importance of being allowed to speak to the, really, pretty tiny audience of fellow more-or-less-real way-to-the-left-of-Obama leftists here, who mostly all already agree on most things. There aren’t that many of us over here and out in the world for a reason, because there are fundamental flaws at the core of U.S. leftism, as David Seaton and many others have indicated. No one has a right here to get all self-righteous toward anyone else, even an Obama fan. Yeah it’s a bad year for the fake left but it ain’t working for the real left either. And the blame for the latter doesn’t all fall on the ‘fake left’. (‘Fake left’ said in a jocular, affectionate tone of voice.)

And, let’s all stipulate, another four years of Obama will probably be better than four years of Romney, except better basically on issues that I for one consider, in the present deep economic crisis, pretty minor big-picture-wise. But I respect, heck I like, those here who think those issues matter a great deal.

Now, does this meta matter? Yes, because this place has value because it eases communication among like-minded and leftist people.

Does this meta matter a lot? No, because most of us aren’t moving beyond mere communication. And there are good and bad reasons for not moving, but just sayin’.

Will this meta matter a lot in the future? Maybe, because I think the next five years you’ll see economic recession that may generate a rebirth of economic leftism and/or neo-Keynesian economic progressivism that will generate the 2016 Democratic Party presidential candidate. FDL and MyFDL can help that along, be a small but meaningful part of that transformation.

Will this meta matter a lot in the immediate future? Maybe, because on bread-and-butter issues the post-election November and December will actually be more important than the Presidential election, IMHO. The Obamney election contest will not speak a word about the post-election grand budget conference, but that is where the PTB will attempt to cut Social Security and Medicare. I can’t see anything wrong with MyFDL/FDL being ready and fully functioning and fighting the good fight when that begins to take place.

So, it seems the best outcome is that money is made here in both ways stated in bold above, things sorta hold together here and more or less no one gets banned, and then these five months are in the past. Unless somebody has a better idea.

Britain to Destroy Internet Anonymity?

5:11 am in Uncategorized by fairleft

Society needs weapons against cyberbullying, which can be a seriously harmful activity, and against libel that is shielded by anonymity. But somehow, surprise surprise, neoliberal governments are using those worthy goals, in Great Britain now (but in New York last month), to advance a sledgehammer attack on internet anonymity.

A Guy Fawkes (Anonymous) Mask

Photo: Frederik Hermann / Flickr.

I’m talking about this: New Law to Force Identification of Trolls Set to be Unveiled. Well, no, that headline is wrong: the new law would force identification of alleged trolls, without allowing the accused a chance to challenge that characterization in a court of law.

The new law is being pushed forward in the understandably emotional aftermath of the Nicola Brookes case, where cyberbullies set up a fake and slanderous Facebook page about her. Facebook was required to reveal the names and other identifying information about the bullies, which I for one 100% support.

But you’re wrong if you think all that the new law will go after are internet bullies who have really hurt people. Flexibility is already here, and offensive speech is what often matters, not evidence of injury:

In March, a British student was jailed for 56 days for tweeting racist abuse of a popular black soccer player, Fabrice Muamba, [after he] suffered an almost fatal heart attack during a match.

Joan Smith, a columnist writing in The Independent newspaper in Britain, condemned the abuse as stupid and unfeeling, but also accused the court that sentenced the student of bowing to public opinion.

“A custodial sentence is wildly excessive and has worrying implications for freedom of expression, which is too important a subject to be brushed aside on grounds of ‘public outrage,’ ” she wrote.

The bottom-line problem with the proposed law is that it would bypass the court system. Instead, those who allege they have been cyber-bullied or cyber-libeled simply go to the host site company, make the allegations, and if the company doesn’t respond by revealing the identities of the accused, the alleged victim can take the company to court. Left in corporate hands is the decision whether to carefully filter illegitimate complaints out of the process or to simply reveal anonymous identities to virtually every complainant. No, internet companies will not spend a significant chunk of monies that would otherwise be profits protecting your free speech.

Bigger-picture-wise, by removing from the court system and handing to private-profit corporations the decision on whether a cyberbullying or libel complaint is legitimate or illegitimate, we see how neoliberals typically respond to a social problem and how much value they put on free speech: privatize; hardly any.

Me, I like free speech, and if Mark Twain and Shakespeare thought anonymity was a useful tool, a useful protection, maybe it’s something worth preserving.

Obama on Jobs: ‘Nothing to Do But Wait’

7:46 am in Uncategorized by fairleft

The weak May job report has exposed the helplessness and denial of neoliberalism when faced with an economic crisis that ‘does not compute’. And Obama and his advisors are such true neoliberal believers:

So ‘Creating Jobs Ain’t Our Job’ is now the Obama jobs program? Jeff Madrick, citing research by Andrew Sum, tells us where we are at after two years of ‘recovery’ (emphasis in original):

… There has never been an economic recovery since World War II nearly as bad as this one.

Yes, there has been GDP growth, but it has almost all gone to profits, not pay. By most measures, there are still fewer jobs today than there were at the bottom of the recession. Just as disturbing, there has been no increase in wages. There are many measures of wages and salaries, but Sum and his group found that average hourly earnings of all private sector wage and salary workers were unchanged over the seven-quarter recovery. The typical or median full-time worker lost ground over this period. …

For the first time in more than sixty years, aggregate wages and salaries adjusted for inflation did not rise after seven quarters of recovery. What did rise was corporate profits — and sharply. Here’s the stunner, as Sum calculates: Pre-tax corporate profits in 2010 dollars rose by $464 billion and real wage and salaries in 2010 dollars fell by $22 billion.

But President Obama is a Reaganite when it comes to government being part of the jobs solution. This, from his Saturday radio address, is especially revealing:

Now, government is not – and should not be – the main engine of job-creation in this country. That’s the role of the private sector. But one thing government can do is partner with the private sector to make sure that every worker has the necessary skills for the jobs they’re applying for.

So, after arguing the self-evident (your opponents on the left are NOT asking government to be the MAIN engine of job creation, at most we’re asking it to create jobs for the unemployed 9.1%), Obama then transitions to the feeble role his mind does see government playing in the nation’s economic life. School and skills training. Pathetic.

What are we going to do with this President and these politics, knowing the Republicans are even worse on jobs? Well, on the one hand there is no reason the U.S. can’t have a strong, full-employment economy, while, on the other, there is the political corruption, ownership, of both parties by big corporations, the banks, and the rich. And that crowd, as part of the continuing program Madrick refers to of re-distribution from the middle to the top 5%, is hell-bent on bringing ‘European-style’ austerity to the U.S.

Far from being ready to spend more on job creation, both parties agree that it’s time to slash spending — destroying jobs in the process — with the only difference being one of degree. – Rule by Rentiers (Paul Krugman)

So we end up with this, Obama and the Republicans united on austerity, budget and job slashing during a deep, long-term recession.

In reaction to that, at minimum I hope the real left doesn’t use the next five years (it will take at least that long to de-neoliberalize) simply badgering ‘its’ party, the Democrats, to concede a little on jobs or cool it on neo-liberalist extremism. The President concedes or misleads for the election year and then after the election goes right back serving us corporations-and-banks-subservient neoliberalism.

That’s exactly what happened with Obama in 2008 and Clinton in 1992. Obama, selected through a political contest dependent on investor class, banker and big business money, may double-talk or lie to us again in 2012, but post-election he will be the same old servant of neoliberalism and corporate globalization. That’s what owns him. As for the party’s 2016 nominee, if he/she submits to the same thoroughly corrupted electoral process, we can reliably say he/she will be just another Obama.

So, while this column by Robert Reich – Why the President Must Come Up With Demand-Side Solutions, And Not Go Over to the Supply Side – like many others is right about the immediate economic policy move that would’ve already happened if the President weren’t intellectually and literally sold out, and might still happen as a temporary election season treat, it’s missing the forest.

Yes, good progressives like you, me, Reich and RJ Eskow – If the President Won’t Do Something About Jobs, Who Will? – may browbeat the President into at least trying to pass (instead of attacking as he does now) a jobs bill, but this is not as if you’ve effected permanent change by enlightening the inside of the Obama’s brain. No, when the letter-and-email campaign quiets, the same old neoliberal ‘government is the problem not the solution’ President, the same old neoliberal party, goes back to advancing the interests of the money power that owns them.

Punditry advocating for what everyone knows is correct policy, neo-Keynesian stimulus, is easy but not enough anymore. Real left analysts need to do two additional things. First, tell us why this is happening, why both parties are pushing, very hard, economic policy sharply counter to the people’s interests. Paul Krugman has that diagnosis:

What lies behind this trans-Atlantic policy paralysis? I’m increasingly convinced that it’s a response to interest-group pressure. Consciously or not, policy makers are catering almost exclusively to the interests of rentiers — those who derive lots of income from assets, who lent large sums of money in the past, often unwisely, but are now being protected from loss at everyone else’s expense.

Second, however, Krugman and the best of the leftist writers must tell citizens what to do. What should we do with the knowledge that a rentier elite (or whatever you wanna call fat cats) owns economic policy? Krugman doesn’t do that. Certainly the solution can’t be “Do the Same Thing in 2012 I Said to Do in 2008, Vote Obama.”

In fact, maybe this terrible ‘Obama on Jobs’ week can teach us that a revolt against the rentiers and their allies will have failed if their number one ally – Barack Obama – remains in the White House, and it will also have failed if Barack Obama is replaced in the White House by a Republican even more subservient to that elite. A leftist punditocracy would be reminding us of those twin facts, and then would advocate for a non-neoliberal Presidential candidate, or at least a candidate not owned by large corporations, money, and transatlantic rentiers. James Galbraith or someone similar, come on down?

In a a comment a couple days ago I complimented Liz Berry (I hope that’s how she understood me) for getting our current politics right:

What you’re basically talking about is understanding our politics as class politics, and that the enormous amount of money given by one class to both parties means they are both on the upper-class side of the war. The rest of us, middle-class, working class, working poor and unemployed, are on the other side. …

metamars has a good point (and a good idea, to primary the heck out of the Democrats). What are we gonna do about it? … let’s keep our eyes on the prize. We should use the current era of economic insanity (cutting deficits during a deep recession) and leverage that into grabbing the political system away from the upper class. 2012 is a time to make our perspective known, but it’s only the first step toward a realistic prospect of victory in 2014 and/or 2016, if the economy gets worse as unfortunately it seems it will.

Obama vs. Social Security Trial Balloon up!

12:03 pm in Uncategorized by fairleft

According to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC poll, U.S. Voters Want to Soak the Rich in order to fight the deficit. Matthew Yglesias writes that the only measures a majority of voters supported were

lower Medicare benefits for the rich, higher Social Security taxes for the rich, higher income taxes for the rich, higher corporate income tax, and lower Medicare payment rates. That’s pretty much an aggressively leveling agenda.

(Like Yglesias I’ll note in passing that the WSJ headlined their ‘editorial pretending to be news’ on the poll "Voters Back Tough Steps to Reduce Budget Deficit.")

But, unfortunately for all but the ruling elite, for President Obama (through his appointed commission) the way to cut the deficit is to soak the old by cutting Social Security:

In addition to raising the retirement age, which is now set to reach age 67 in 2027, specific cuts under consideration include lowering benefits for wealthier retires and trimming annual cost-of-living increases, perhaps only for wealthier retirees, people familiar with the talks said.

On the tax side, the leading idea is to increase the share of earned income that is subject to Social Security taxes, officials said. Under current law, income beyond $106,000 is exempt. Another idea is to increase the tax rate itself, said a Democrat on the commission.

The next paragraph of the WSJ piece is the ‘get a clue’ one for those who still don’t ‘get’ Obama:

Even before the commission settles on a plan, many liberals are vowing to block any cut in retirement benefits. But the White House [that’s Obama] and the powerful senior group AARP appear open to a deal.

This simply reminds us of what we long should have known about Obama. Alan Nasser’s excellent "The Neoliberal Attack on Social Security" points out (emphasis added):

Reduced benefits and a shorter retirement are the favored starting points, in the name of reducing the deficit. But the Obama boys are too smart to talk about the coming blows to workers. Even as they are in the process of effecting the “reforms”, they’d have you worry about the Republicans. . . . Obama’s neoliberalism is his own, not a response to external pressure. He made it clear before his election that he holds the New Deal and the Great Society in derision, and regards Ronald Reagan as America’s most prophetic post-War president.

Yes, of course Obama is a ‘Social Security Crisis‘ neoliberal, as anyone who read "Obama’s 3 Right-Wing Economists" long ago should’ve realized. But, probably not a particularly entrenched one, as the second sentence below indicates:

It’s probably important to remember that Obama is both a member of the ruling elite and 100% a lawyer, and the basic approach in that industry is serving clients’ needs regardless of your own personal beliefs. I’m sure he has personal beliefs on [financial and health care reform], but they’re very general/flexible and not particularly important to his job. His job is to survive politically while serving his clients, a word he (like all mainstream politicians) interprets as meaning ‘campaign contribution heavy hitters’. And those clients’ fundamental demand is to write most of the specifics of laws, including ‘reforms’, directed at their industries.

To draw optimism from the above, "His job is to survive politically . . ." is the key. It’s fairly simple: Obama will do all he can for his clients but damn well wants 2010 not to be catastrophic and wants a second term in 2012. So there’s a way for the left, or just those that don’t want Social Security to be cut, to get to Obama. But the problem now is that the organized left utterly refuses to do so. We must threaten what Obama holds dear and now, when he is floating the cutbacks trial balloon in the WSJ, but the bureaucratic left continues to act as his mouthpiece on the issue. For example, writes Nasser, observe MoveOn, which

apparently wants you to know that there is a political movement among elites to assault Social Security, but you are to associate this threat with Republicans only. Not a word about alerting the electorate to Obama and his deficit reduction panel. No suggestion that the Democratic faithful announce that the president will lose their vote if he supports the recommendations of the panel.

And how will the Obama’s deficit commission’s new openness on planned Social Security cutbacks affect the Democratic Party? How should it affect the Democratic Party? Well, of course, Democratic Party Social Security mealy-mouthing and in fact anti-populism certainly right now is shedding voters. The people listen carefully, and do not hear "no cuts."

But client wants trump popular need if you can get away with it, and maybe Obama will. After all, there still is no alternative to the two-party monopoly, nor is there within the Democratic Party any insurgent anti-neoliberal movement to challenge Obama. This despite 10% plus real unemployment, flat-lined economy, a continued two-front war in the Middle East, capitulations to the health care and financial industries on ‘their’ legislation, failed labor law reform, and now open trial ballooning of ‘cut Social Security.’

Broadly, what we need to learn is that populist anger is the mark of a real left and an indication that politicians and activist bureaucrats (like those at MoveOn) are serious, or have been scared by voter anger into being serious, about this fundamental fight between big money and the rest of us. As I’ve said:

Solution: When the right does its fear thing, a real left should do its anger thing. Anger at the unfairness and the economic elites. This leads directly to appeals for populism, egalitarianism, and social democracy, which most people of the largest classes have a natural, reflexive attraction to. That the official left can’t even say, loudly, the words "populism, egalitarianism, and social democracy" tells you all you need to know: they’re really on the same side as the right, but want to carve out a space as the party of ‘slightly more charitable and empathetic rightists.’ Screw them and that.

Find the anger, be the anti-Obama anger, that protects and improves Social Security and the economic welfare of the rest of us.

P.S. — Look here for a group honestly trying to preserve and advance the best legacy of FDR rather than the immediate strategies of neoliberal Democrats. Listen to James Galbraith and NCPSSM’s Barbara Kennelly here on the recent Social Security facts and politics.